Eight things you need to know about the cloud

Confused by the cloud? Here’s all you need to know about the technology that has transformed computing.

With all the talk about ‘the cloud’ these days, you’d be forgiven for thinking that technology has somehow harnessed the weather to deliver all manner of clever applications, from catching up on missed TV programmes to keeping your important files safe.

In reality ‘the cloud’ is just a shorthand term for ‘cloud computing’, which itself just refers to the idea of using someone else’s computers (usually, but not always, operated by a business) on the Internet for things we previously used our own for like storing data and running programs.

Here are eight things you need to know about the cloud.

1: The cloud is everywhere

Just like its meteorological namesake, the cloud is everywhere – or at least anywhere where there’s a computer and an internet connection.

A cloud application usually runs on multiple (sometimes hundreds) of powerful Internet-connected computers spread around the world.Not that you need to be aware of any of this – you just sign into the application using any web browser and it’s available instantly.

  1. It’s incredibly powerful

The reason the cloud has caught on in such a big way is that it allows organisations to provide sophisticated applications that can be used by lots of people around the world all at the same time. And with someone else’s computers doing all the hard work, the specification of users’ computers becomes much less important.

Running an application like Microsoft Office, for example, needs a powerful PC with lots of hard disk space – something not everyone can afford. The cloud-based office suite Google Docs, on the other hand, provides much the same features, even on very low-spec PCs.

This, together with the ‘everywhere’ nature of the cloud, also makes applications much more flexible. In the past, documents and applications were locked on one computer — unless you carried them around (and risked losing them) on a floppy disk or USB flash drive.

Now, cloud applications let you access your documents and applications anywhere where’s there’s a computer with an Internet connection. That means you can use them at home, at work, at a friend’s house and even on your smartphone.

3: No-one owns the cloud

Like the Internet, the cloud isn’t owned or managed by any one organisation – it’s a collective term for a variety of applications operated by many different ones.

Of the dominant forces, Google is a major cloud player as is YouTube for video sharing. Amazon and Microsoft are also major cloud companies, along with a host of others that operate behind the scenes to make cloud applications possible. Lots of well-known applications are also cloud-based, including Flickr and BBC iPlayer. BT has it’s own cloud service – BT Cloud.

4:  More and more applications are using the cloud

No one needs to use the cloud, but with so many applications now cloud-based, it can be difficult to avoid. And there are some genuine advantages to switching to the cloud.

Cloud file storage applications such as BT Cloud, for example, are a simple and effective way to keep your files safe and secure. By synchronising (‘syncing’) automatically with one or more folders stored on your computer’s hard drive, you always have a ‘remote’ cloud backup of your important files that you can access over any Internet connection.

Renting or buying video and audio from the cloud also means you don’t need to store anything on your PC, smartphone or tablet – which is great if it doesn’t have much storage space. Better still, watch a video on YouTube or use BBC iPlayer’s catch-up service and you don’t even need to wait for it to finish downloading. Instead, the video ‘streams’ from the cloud to your computer straight away, so you can enjoy it more or less immediately.

5: The cloud is generally free

Many cloud applications are free (though you’ll need an Internet connection to use them), but some require a paid subscription for a certain level of service.

BT Cloud offers from 50GB to 500GB of file storage space free to all BT Broadband customers, depending on the service they use – that’s enough for up to 250,000 photograpsh.

One attractive feature of many paid-for cloud applications is that payment is by monthly subscription, so you can pay for when you need access and stop when you don’t. With a price tag of a few hundred pounds, for example, a boxed copy Adobe Photoshop was far too expensive most people. Photoshop CC (short for Creative Cloud), however, can be downloaded for nothing and used for less than £9 a month, making it ideal for occasional home users.

6: The cloud is connected

All cloud applications need an Internet connection at some point, but not all require a constant connection – after all, mobile users can’t stay connected at all times.

Some applications even offer an ‘offline’ mode for use anywhere, and you only need go online when you want to sync the files you’ve been working on back to the provider’s cloud storage. Many don’t depend on a fast internet connection, either – although your connection speed obviously affects how quickly you can download and upload files.

Cloud-based entertainment applications usually do require a speedy connection, but most can compensate for slower ones. Netflix adjusts video quality to suit individual Internet connection speeds, for example, and will work at relatively slow data transfer speeds of just 0.5Mbit/s – although watching high-quality HD content requires 5Mbit/s. Similar speeds apply to BBC iPlayer, but it also allows you to download programmes if your connection is too slow for streaming.

7: The cloud uses data

The cloud does depend on data — and often lots of it. Watching a 30-minute BBC iPlayer programme, for example, can involve downloading around 180MB of data, and uploading files to cloud storage can involve considerably more.

This will soon eat into a home or mobile broadband tariff which has a capped data allowance. That means if you are planning to use cloud applications a lot, sign up for a broadband tariff with unlimited data. BT Broadband customers are at advantage here, as file transfers to and from BT Cloud storage are excluded from any data allowance.

8: The cloud is secure

Storing your own files and personal information on someone else’s computer has obvious security implications, but data is always password-protected and cloud application providers also use encryption to make it difficult for hackers to get at.

In many ways, however, storing your stuff in the cloud is even more secure than keeping it on your own computer. If a computer is stolen, for example, everything stored on it is stolen too. When those files are also stored on the cloud, downloading them to a new computer is simple.

Google and it’s biggest rival use this approach for purchases from the app store. Although apps, music and movies are still stored on your smartphone or tablet, you can restore everything you’ve bought to another mobile device simply by signing it into your app store account.

Make Battery Last Longer

Make Battery Last Longer

Many people buy laptops so that they can have a computer to use while they are on the move. There are all types of chargers available to help you out in this endeavor but there are also times when you are unable to use any type of power source to make use of these chargers. That is when the laptop really depends on the life and longevity of the batter.

When you have to use you laptop on the go however, you might not be about to use a car charger in some situations. This is when you need to learn how to properly conserve your laptops battery while you are using the computer. The most power-hungry part which takes probably the most power from your laptop battery is the screen. Screen takes huge power to keep the display bright. You can save huge battery power by lowering the brightness.

The second thing that you can do even right now is to make sure that the backlight on the laptop is on the lowest setting possible. The backlight really only helps when you are fighting the glare of a powerful light such as the sun. Other than that it can stay on the lowest setting and not affect what you are doing on the laptop.

Most laptops comes with built in Wi-Fi capabilities. Wi-Fi drains battery power in two ways. First if it is connected, it takes batter power to function or secondly, if it is not connected, it continues to look for networks which also takes much batter power. If you are away from Wi-Fi zone and cannot use it, you can turn off Wi-Fi.

Another thing you can do is limit the amount of programs that start up when you turn your computer. This will make more efficient use of the processor. If you have too many programs running then you will waste processing time on programs that you are not even using. This will also increase the time that the processor is at full throttle. This is when the processor drains the maximum amount of energy it can drain.

Simple tricks to speed up your tablet or smartphone

It doesn’t take long for cutting-edge mobile devices to become all but obsolete because they run so slowly. Here are some easy ways to restore the performance of your Android or Apple tablet or smartphone.

Smartphones and tablets tend to slow down over time, and for good reason. What once were cutting edge specifications soon become yesterday’s technology, and updates to both operating systems and apps can place extra strain on processors, memory and storage space. Components that can’t be upgraded, course.

That’s not to say the only solution is to buy a better model and there are steps you can take to ensure your smartphone or tablet, (whether you own an iPad or a Tesco Hudl) lasts for as long as possible. So if a simple restart hasn’t restored your gadget to its usual speedy self, here’s what to try next.

iPad and iPhone (iOS 8)

Tip 1: Turn off visual effects

Each new version of iOS brings new visual effects that look marvellous on the very latest iPhones and iPads, but they have a habit of making older models grind to a near halt. Fortunately, most are easily disabled.

Most lurk in Settings – General – Accessibility. Start by tapping Reduce Motion to enable the option and disable the 3D effect on the lock screen and Home screen wallpaper — you’ll just see a static background image, instead.

Next tap Increase Contrast and turn on the toggle to disable the see-through effect for iOS. It won’t looks quite so pretty, but it will run faster.

Tip 2: Turn off background searching

iOS has a few tools that run in the background to make your iPhone or iPad a little slicker to use, but turning them off will increase performance.

Go to Settings – General – Spotlight Search and tap every ticked item in the list to untick it. This will disable the search option that appears when you pull down on the Home screen, but it’s worth it for the extra performance you’ll gain. Still in Settings – General, now tap Background App Refresh and switch it off at the top of the screen. This will prevent apps from updating when you’re not using them, so you may no longer get notifications for certain apps. All will work normally once you open them, however, and you’ll get better battery life, as well as improved overall performance, as a result.

Tip 3: Increase free storage space

Insufficient free storage can also slow down an iPad or iPhone, so check how much you have left. Go to Settings – General – Usage and look under the Storage section. If Available is less than 1GB, you may run into problems, so tap Manage Storage and look down the list of apps to see which are taking up the most space.

You can tap Music, Photos & Camera and Videos to delete individual files within each, but the only option for the rest is to delete the app and all the data it uses. Unless you’re very careful with your app downloads, you’re bound to have a few you never use (despite your best intentions), so get rid of them.

Tip 4: Reset all settings

As a last resort, resetting your iPad or iPhone settings can work wonders. This will undo any changes you’ve made to iOS and usually helps fix any issues with responsiveness. It won’t affect your apps or data (but make a backup just in case), but it will wipe any wi-fi passwords you’ve entered, so you’ll need to re-enter them to connect to those networks.

Android smartphones and tablets

As with all things Android, differences between versions and manufacturers make it difficult to give definitive instructions to suit all smartphones and tablets, but the steps below should work for everyone — although some minor changes might be involved.

Tip 1: Increase free storage space

Many Android devices have a memory card slot, but the operating system can only use internal storage for many of its functions. To free up internal storage, go to Settings – Apps and tap Internal Storage at the top of the screen to see which apps are using internal storage.

Tap an app and you should see buttons to Deinstall it, or to move it to external storage (sometimes shown as Move to SD Card or Move to phone). It’s also worth checking the Cache size for all apps at this point and tapping the Clear cache button for any with very large stores of these temporary files.

Tip 2: Limit visual effects

Android also has a range of visual effects to make it appear more sleek and sophisticated, but these too can affect performance.

Go to Settings – Developer options. If you can’t see this, instead go to Settings – About phone (or similar) and find the Build number section. Tap this section seven times and you should see a message along the lines of “You are now a developer”.

Tip 3: Remove widgets and live wallpapers

Widgets and animated ‘live’ wallpapers are a key feature of Android, but they can affect performance dramatically — so turn them off.

How you do this depends on your version of Android, but you can usually tap and hold a widget on the Home screen to remove it. Tapping and holding a blank area of the Home screen usually brings up the wallpaper options, too, so select a static image to remove a live wallpaper.

Five things Microsoft needs to do to make Windows 10 better

Windows 10 is working well for most people, but that’s not to say there still isn’t room for improvement. Here are our top five missing features.

Love it or loathe it, Windows 10 is here to stay.

The general consensus is that Windows 10 is a success and it’s certainly a huge improvement over Windows 8. That’s not to say it’s perfect, of course, and there are still plenty of problems to iron out when it comes to getting it to work as expected.

Thankfully, Microsoft’s new approach of regular automatic updates means that any remaining Windows 10 wrinkles should be ironed out in short order, as well as bigger, major updates such as the Anniversary Update which included some new features.

Bug fixes are one thing, though, but what about fixing the features that are supposedly working as intended? Here are five of our biggest complains with Windows 10 that we’d love Microsoft to address.

  1. Sort out the Start menu

Windows users worldwide breathed a huge sigh of relief when they discovered Windows 10 would come with a Start menu, but it’s not a perfect implementation.

Microsoft did improve the Start Menu in the Anniversary Update but there’s still some work needed.

The Live Tiles aren’t to everyone’s taste, but they’re easily hidden to create a more streamlined Start menu. The problem then is that there’s no way to customise the list of apps that appear.

  1. One interface to rule them all — please?

Microsoft has done a pretty good job of combining the bizarre split personality of Windows 8 into a single interface in Windows 10, but there are still some areas where things just don’t gel.

Above complaints aside, the Start menu works well (if you like Live Tiles), but the Control Panel is still a bit of a car crash. Any by ‘Control Panel’, we mean ‘Settings’ — err, or do we?

In fact there’s both a Control Panel and a Settings screen in Windows 10, though we’re not sure why. Settings is accessed from the Start menu and controls commonly used features. ‘Controls’ is a charitable term, though — just go to Start > Settings > Devices > Printers & scanners to see how much control you have over your printer from there…

Control Panel is hidden on the Start button’s right-click menu and is much more useful. But it still looks much like the Control Panel from Windows XP, which sticks out a bit next to Windows 10’s otherwise slick design.

  1. Come back colour, all is forgiven

‘Slick design’ is open to interpretation, of course, and we’re not huge fans of the flat and colourless parts of Windows 10. Even enabling all the colour options under Settings > Personalisation has little effect on Explorer windows and other parts of the interface, which all lack any kind of personality as a result.

Microsoft did something similar with Office 2013, whose bland white interface looked like the programmers had run out of time. Thankfully, Office 2016 has largely fixed the problem and so hopefully Microsoft will put some similar colour back into Windows 10’s cheeks before too long.

  1. Family settings need fixing

Windows 10 has a wide range of sophisticated features for managing multiple user accounts for other adults and children in a household, along with parental controls to help ensure kids stay safe online.

The problem is that to use any of them, you need to provide an email address for each user. That’s fine for anyone who uses email, but we doubt many PC-using six-year olds are signed up for their own email accounts. Even those that are won’t be likely to click the link in the email they’re then sent asking them to confirm they knew account details.

  1. Media Centre is missing

Although people who are really interested in such things tend to use other software to power their living room PCs, Windows Media Centre was a handy freebie for those who didn’t want to spend all their spare time fiddling with a computer under the telly.

‘Was’ being the operative word here, since Microsoft removed Media Centre from Windows 10 and there so far no way to restore it. We suspect Media Centre was used widely enough to merit the overhaul needed for Windows 10 and while there are similar third-party alternatives, none work quite so seamlessly as Microsoft’s. At least Media Player is still there — much to the relief of anyone who’s confused about the two apps.

Explained: What is an IP address and how can I find it?

Did you know that every device that’s connected to the internet uses something called an IP address?

IP stands for internet protocol and it’s a sequence of numbers which acts as a unique identification code. Think of it like a phone number which lets computers communicate with each other. Here we explain how IP addresses work how you can discover yours.

What is an IP address?

A standard IP address (which is known as the IPv4 protocol) consists of four sets of up to three digits, usually represented as XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX. Everything that’s connected to the internet has an IP address and, since they run on computers that are also connected to the internet, websites have one, too.

Try entering ‘193.113.9.164’ into your web browser’s address bar to see where it takes you.

How do I find a website’s IP address?

Web addresses aren’t what you think they are – URLs such as bt.com are only there for our benefit as they’re easy to remember, but actually these web addresses correspond to an IP address as well.

So when you type bt.com, behind the scenes it’s actually going to 193.113.9.164. This is thanks to something called the Domain Name System, or ‘DNS’, which translates IP addresses into character-based URLs.

You can find the IP address of any web site using Windows’ Command Prompt. Search for “command prompt” on a PC. When the Command Prompt window opens, type ping the web address, for example: ping bt.com and press the Return key. The IP address of the web address you used will then be displayed.

What is your computer’s IP address?

Your computer’s IP address is assigned by your ISP and you can find out what it is by visiting www.whatismyip.com. The site will also show which city and country you’re in, and the name of your ISP. IP addresses are allocated on a per-country basis and ISPs then allocate them to customers based on geographical location.

This information can all be gleaned from an IP address, so never be alarmed if a web site appears to know your whereabouts.

IP addresses and home networks

The IP address shown by www.whatismyip.com is that of the device connected directly to your internet connection and, in most cases, this is a home router. ISPs only assign one IP address to each customer, but when several devices are connected to the same router, each also needs its own IP address to distinguish it online. Routers get around this problem using something called network address translation, or NAT.

In simple terms, a router assigns its own internal IP address to every device that’s connected to it, usually of the form 192.168.XXX.XXX. The router then keeps track of these internal addresses when they communicate with the internet to ensure that the correct web page, for example, is delivered to the device that originally requested it. You can see your router’s NAT settings (sometime referred to as DHCP) in its settings.

Find an internal IP address

If you’re having problems getting a computer online at home, establishing its internal IP address (or lack of) will tell you if it’s successfully connected to your network. Open a Command Prompt by searching on your PC, type ipconfig /all and press Return.

A long list of information will appear – look for the line “IPv4 Address” to find the internal IP address assigned by your router. If there isn’t one, or if it doesn’t begin with “192.168.”, then the computer isn’t connected to your network.

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Over Charging Bad For Your Phone Battery Life?

The answer is mystery for years. Probably most of us have a common doubt on this particular problem. Some say that over charging may damage your phone’s battery life. Some may argue “But, the purpose of the battery is to charge and discharge”, then what’s exactly over charging meant. Over charging doesn’t means charging the battery above its capacity. But, exactly what happens when charging and discharging, the ions in the battery moves back and forth, during this process the battery generates heat. This is the actual problem while charging.

During dissipation of heat some ions in the battery began to drain out, then the process of charging cycle begins again. This continuous process may cause swelling up the battery size and damages battery life, but now we needn’t worry about these swelling in batteries because technology has a solution to it.

But we should worry about the heat that is generated during the process of charging. Sometimes there is a rare possibility that our phone might blow. The answer for this question is: Does your battery gets damaged if it continues to charge even after it’s full capacity? Finally, the myth is busted. Your phone is smarter than you think. Once it’s fully charged, it automatically stops charging. So stop worrying about your phone.

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Motherboard, expansion discs and memory: Discover what’s inside your PC

Upgrading a PC is a straightforward task, but it does depend upon some skill with a screwdriver and some familiarity with its hardware. Fortunately, it’s easy to see what’s inside a desktop PC by simply removing the case and taking look — a luxury that laptop owners, unfortunately, can’t enjoy.

Before you begin

Most desktop PCs have a case that can be opened by removing a few screws on the rear panel and a screwdriver usually isn’t required — just make sure that the PC is unplugged before you start.

It’s also worth investing in an anti-static wrist-strap (£2-6) before ventu

Disk drives and power

What you see inside a PC depends on how big the case is, how many components it has and how neatly it’s been assembled. At the very least, you should see one of more ‘drive cages’ behind the front panel that holds the CD/DVD and hard disk drives, with cables coming from the back of each — these may be wide or narrow, depending on the age of the PC.

The cables can be disconnected and the drives removed from the cages (usually after undoing some screws) if one needs to be replaced.

You’ll also see a large metal box at the back of the PC where the mains cable connects. This contains the power supply and several other cables emerge from this to connect to other parts of the PC — including the various disk drives at the front.

Even when the PC is unplugged, its power supply can still be dangerous, so while it’s safe to disconnect its cables from other parts of the PC, leave the power supply itself alone.

Expansion cards

Below the power supply you may see one or more ‘expansion cards’, or you may just see the empty expansion slots on the motherboard they plug into.

A graphics card is a type of expansion card (one with a large fan and/or metal heatsink, usually) and it’s held in place with a screw at the back of the PC’s case. The back edge of the graphics card pokes through a hole in the back of the PC’s case so that a monitor cable can connect to it.

Other expansion cards use a similar arrangement and you may see power cables from the power supply connecting to some of them.

The motherboard

Expansion cards plug into slots on the PC’s motherboard, which is the large circuit board that covers the bottom or side of the case. Disk drives and other components connect to this so that they can communicate with the rest of the PC, so don’t be surprised to see it covered with cables.

You may also see a large fan, usually with an elaborate heatsink, on one part of the motherboard — this is the cooling system for the processor that sits beneath it. In turn, the processor plugs into a square socket on the motherboard, although you probably won’t be able to see this under its fan.

Memory slots

Long, thin memory modules — ‘DIMMs’ — are also slotted into the motherboard. There are usually at least two slots and at least one will be occupied, although this depends on how much memory is installed. The slots have a small slip at each end to hold the memory module in place.

Ports

The back side of a motherboard also pokes through the back of the PC’s case to expose its various ports — USB, network and so on — although these are only visible from the outside. The back of the case also often has a large fan to suck warm air from the inside, keeping the PC cool, and there may also be one on the front to suck cool air in.

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Increase Battery Life

These days, we get a lot of our work done on laptops, which means battery life is a huge priority for any laptop user. Wouldn’t it be good, then, to learn how to prolong the life of your laptop battery? Here are a few useful tips to do just that.

They can’t be overcharged, even though you leave your battery plugged in for a long period of time. When the battery hits 100%, it’ll stop charging.

Leaving your battery completely drained will damage it. Batteries have limited lifespans. So no matter what you do, yours will age from the very first time you charge it. This is because as time passes, the ions will no longer be able to flow efficiently from the anode to the cathode, thereby reducing its capacity.

Besides its being naturally prone to deterioration, your battery can degrade due to higher-than-normal voltages, which happens when you keep your battery fully charged at all times. Even though a modern laptop battery cannot be overcharged, doing so will add a stress factor that will harm your battery.

Both extremely high temperatures and low temperatures can also reduce battery capacity and damage its components. The same goes for storing a battery for long periods of time, which can lead to the state of extreme discharge. Another factor is physical damage. Remember that batteries are made up of sensitive materials, and physical collision can damage them.

Now that you know some facts about your laptop battery, it’s time to learn how to delay its demise: Never leave your battery completely drained. Don’t expose your battery to extremely high or low temperatures.

If possible, charge your battery at a lower voltage. If you need to use your laptop for a long period of time while plugged into a power source, it’s better to remove the battery. This is because a plugged-in laptop generates more heat which will damage your battery. When you need to store your battery for a few weeks, you should recharge your battery to 40% and remove it from your laptop for storage. These are just a few tips on extending the life of your hardware. There are many more ways you can maximize your hardware efficiency and extend its longevity.

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Longer Laptop Battery Life

We’ve all been there. You’re in a meeting, or on the road, or in a classroom, and you find, to your horror, that your laptop is nearly dead. Maybe you forgot your power adapter, maybe there isn’t an available outlet. For whatever reason, your battery power is dwindling, and you still have stuff to get done. Hope is not lost, however. There are some things you can do to buy more time on that almost-dead battery so you can meet a deadline or respond to an important email before it’s too late.

Some of these techniques are for when you need to stretch your battery at that very moment, while others are preventative measures, best implemented before your battery life comes up short. There is some of overlap between the short- and long-term strategies we’ll outline below, but even when the actions are the same, the reasons behind them may be different.

Short-Term Battery-Stretching Strategies
If you’re in a tough spot right now, there are things you can do to extend the battery life immediately. None of these actions will actually increase the amount of power left in the battery, but instead will reduce the amount of power the laptop is using, letting you squeeze in a few more precious minutes before the battery goes kaput. The name of the game in these instances is power consumption, and you need to reduce yours to as little as possible.

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How to Charge Your iPhone Faster

When your iPhone’s battery is depleted, it can’t charge fast enough. Being stuck without your phone often means being stranded without social contact, your map, your music library and your video game collection among other things.

The iPhone doesn’t have quick charging technology built-in like some Androids do, but there are a few things you can do to make your iPhone charge slightly faster. The less your iPhone is doing, the faster it’s battery will recharge. This is why many believe switching your phone into Airplane Mode helps it charge more quickly, since this cuts off the phone’s ability to connect to the Internet and fetch information. If you still want to receive texts and calls while charging, there are some other settings you can change to make your iPhone charge faster. Turning off Wi-Fi, lowering the screen brightness, and disabling app notifications can help.

Apple also says removing your iPhone’s case may help it preserve battery life, especially if it’s overheating. If you have an iPad charger readily available, try charging using it to charge your iPhone to speed up battery replenishment.

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