Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Moto Z

Nintendo 2DS

Update: There's a new 2DS model in town and it's called the new Nintendo 2DS XL. This addition to the DS family combines the clamshell design of the 3DS with the two dimensionality and affordability of the original 2DS. Check out our full review of the console right here

Original article continues below...

If you still think the 2DS is completely bonkers, you probably haven't wrapped your hands around one yet. Putting out a two dimensional version of the 3DS with all the other features might seem odd on the face, but pick one up and it all starts to make sense.

This isn't a gaming device for the real gamers. At £110 ($130) it's a way for Nintendo to get younger children (and possibly even their parents) tapping into the 3DS game library.

The problem with Nintendo as of late is that it's been getting itself into a bit of a muddle when it comes to explaining why we need its consoles in our lives.

With the 2DS, it needs to yell its message loud and clear: the 2DS is cheaper and more robust handheld, and, therefore, perfect for kids.

2DS

Dropping the clamshell design, Nintendo's 2DS comes in a wedge-shaped slate design that feels (and looks) pretty weird at first. It's also the first non-hinge handheld since the GBA Micro.

But within minutes of holding it we found that these feelings faded away and that, actually, the 2DS is surprisingly comfortable to hold. It's not the most ergonomic thing in the world though certainly better than what we expected.

All the buttons found on the 3DS are here except there's also been a slidable sleep button added to compensate for the lack of hinge-closing functionality. Meanwhile the home button has been blown up a bit and sits under the bottom display.

The start and select buttons can now be found to the right of the screen and the circle pad and d-pad are now further up on the left.

2DS

The 2DS comes in either blue and black, red and black, or, if you live in the US, black and red. But the Nintendo 2DS doesn't feel like a piece of premium tech. Instead Nintendo has opted for something that feels cheaper and more plasticky than the 3DS and 3DS XL.

We reckon you could chuck this at something with a fair bit of force and it would be ok, which we guess is sort of the point. Kids and hinges don't tend to get along; kids and delicate touchscreens don't really see eye to eye either.

2DS

So the 2DS is sturdy and able to take a bit of a knocking. But after enough tossing around even the 2DS will start picking up scratches. So we'd recommend pairing it with a protector case if you plan to put it under the Christmas tree for someone this year.

Although there's logic in the "stripping down" thought process, we do think Nintendo could have still offered something a tad nicer for the price. For example, the 2DS now comes with just one speaker on the console, which means it loses the stereo sound of the 3DS. It's a noticeable shame.

2DS

The camera is perhaps the most curious part of the 2DS. While the handheld no longer owns a 3D display, Nintendo has chosen to keep the two cameras on the back. This means you can still take 3D pictures but won't be able to make them pop unless you transfer them to someone else who has a 3DS.

It also means that you'll be looking at some pretty grainy shots on the 2DS screen given . Really, a better 2D camera would have fit in better here.

2DS

We can't see many kids making an effort to get their pictures in full stereoscopic action. Really, we'd have rather Nintendo dropped a camera and added another speaker instead.

The 2DS screens measure at the same size as those found on the standard 3DS: the upper screen is 3.53 inches and the bottom is 3.02 inches.

We talk about them like they're two separate things but actually it's one big touchscreen divided by a bit of plastic and with another layer of transparent plastic covering the top half of the display.

2DS

Anyone who's got used to the more spacious dimensions of the XL might find it hard adjusting their eyes back to the smaller displays but quite honestly we find them substantial enough.

It's certainly a rival to the Vita, but there's enough screen real estate for likes of Pokemon and even flying around on Kingdom Hearts was as good as ever.

Nintendo says you'll get about 3.5-5 hours of play with 3DS games and 5-9 hours with older DS titles. We found that was pretty accurate though online play obviously sucks that down a fair amount.

The even better news is that the 2DS actually comes packed with a mains charger this time, not making the same bizarre move of the 3DS XL.

2DS

As mentioned, the 2DS can play all your 3DS titles and your DS games too. If you're familiar with the 3DS then there's nothing new to tell you here in terms of what titles are on offer

In terms of how you play, removing 3D on most of the games won't affect gameplay, but there are a few exceptions such as Mario 3D Land where parts of the game will become more challenging as a result.

There are a few puzzles in Mario 3D Land that rely on trickery with the 3D, and without that in place it makes the experience a tad more frustrating.

2Ds

The other small thing to note is any games that normally require you to close the 3DS system at any point (and there are only a couple) are now dealt with by sliding the sleep button on and off again.

But the 2DS arrives in time for the new Pokemon games - X and Y - and it's unlikely that this is a coincidence, especially as the new pocket monster installment doesn't really utilise the 3D effects on the 3DS at all.

As for other games, you'll get a 4GB SD card with the 2DS which will let you download a few titles but anything more than three or four big games and you'll want to get something bigger. Trust us.

We liked

The 2DS is a great way of entering Nintendo's handheld family without spending too much money to do so, but we're really talking to kids and parents here. Come Christmas day there's sure to be a lot of these around trees and hopefully pack with some of the excellent games currently available for the handheld.

It's that excellent lineup of games that makes it even easier to recommend the 2DS. With a generation of kids familiarising themselves with quick and easy games like Angry Birds, it's important for Nintendo to show them how much better gaming can be. And even better, then 2DS is a hell of a lot sturdier than a smartphone.

We disliked

There are a few things we'd change. First, we'd drop the 3D camera abilities - who's really going to bother with it? Then we'd add another speaker for stereo sound. We'd also think about the overall feel. It's not bad, but that wedge form could be a little less defined, in our opinion...

Final verdict

If you're a gamer who hasn't jumped into the DS game yet, the 2DS is not the place you'll want to start. But if you're buying for someone younger who's been pestering you for the new Luigi's Mansion, the 2DS could be exactly what you need.

Not only can it withstand some heavyhandedness, it's all the more affordable for it with its cheaper design. It makes a lot of sense for Nintendo to push this out - let's just hope it can get the message across.



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Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017)

AppCheck Free

Developed by the Korean security company CheckMAL, AppCheck is a comprehensive and easy-to-use anti-ransomware tool for Windows.

AppCheck offers three layers of protection. The first is a real-time detection system which monitors processes for ransomware-like behaviour, and blocks anything suspect. This doesn't use signatures, so in theory should catch even brand new and undiscovered threats.

It takes time for any anti-ransomware tool to realize you're under attack, and that means some of your files may already be encrypted. AppCheck's Ransomware Guard deals with this by tracking changes made to vulnerable files, allowing them to be recovered later.

The third layer of protection, Ransom Shelter, can back up important files in real-time as they're being modified. That requires a little extra disk space, but not as much as you might think. Most of your important files – JPGs, MP3s, videos and so on – are saved or overwritten, but then never get modified.

All these features are free for personal use. Upgrading to AppCheck Pro adds MBR (Master Boot Record) and GPT (GUID Partition Table) protection, automated malware removal, and an extra backup function to regularly save your most important data.

AppCheck's free build will probably be enough for experienced home users, but if you need its extra features, AppCheck Pro is relatively cheap. Prices start at $11 (£8.80) for the first year of a one PC, one-year subscription, and paying just $54 (£43) covers five PCs for two years.

Setup

AppCheck is a very lightweight package, taking under 15MB of space on our test PC. From what we could tell it uses a maximum of two background processes. The main AppCheck Windows service normally uses around 5MB RAM, while the interface grabs 5-10MB.

Browsing the AppCheck program files revealed no issues. Everything was well organized, the files were correctly digitally signed, there was no apparent reliance on third-party products.

We tested AppCheck's vulnerability to attacks, which might allow ransomware to disable the program. Attempts to delete AppCheck's files, change its registry settings or close its process in Task Manager were blocked with an 'Access Denied' message, and didn't affect performance.

In regular use AppCheck was very well-behaved. It didn't interfere with our antivirus, or trigger any false alarms. Mostly it was just another icon in our system tray, and we could forget it was there. The only activity we noticed was an occasional alert to tell us about a program update, but even that didn't force us to do anything. If it was inconvenient we could just close the message and carry on with whatever we were doing.

Performance

Measuring the performance of anti-ransomware apps is a challenge, especially in a single review. The tools normally sell themselves on the claim that they can detect brand new and undiscovered ransomware, but we can't assess this until we have samples of the threats.

What we can do is test the product against a known ransomware strain, just to confirm it works as expected. We pitted AppCheck against a recent sample of Cerber, and the program correctly detected the threat, blocked the offending process and recovered our files.

Unfortunately, our test virtual machine was still seriously affected, locking up and refusing to boot properly next time. This might reflect an issue with AppCheck, but it could also be something to do with our setup, so we're not going to count it as a major point against the program.

Next, we turned to a couple of test programs which simulate ransomware activity, but in a controlled way: KnowBe4's RanSim, and RanTest, a custom tool of our own.

RanSim runs 10 tests covering different types of ransomware behaviour, and AppCheck blocked nine on our Windows system. It runs two further tests which it says should be allowed, but AppCheck blocked one. Not quite perfect, then, but enough to show that AppCheck was providing very real extra protection for our PC.

One problem with using RanSim is that it's a very well-known simulator, and it's possible that anti-ransomware developers may have tweaked their products to pass its tests. To counter this we developed RanTest, a simple ransomware-like program that no security product in the world will ever have seen before. Would it be able to bypass AppCheck's defenses?

Well, no. We launched RanTest and AppCheck killed it in a fraction of a second, after it had destroyed only 20 files, and every one of those was recovered immediately.

The free version of AppCheck doesn't remove malware files, but has a few tools which might help. A log showed us the name of the file responsible for the attack, we could open its folder in a couple of clicks, and investigate the file further.

RanSim and RanTest make no attempt to hide what they're doing, so AppCheck's success here doesn't guarantee protection against stealthier malware. But again, this demonstrates that AppCheck detects even brand new threats, and ensured we didn't lose a single file.

Final verdict

AppCheck is lightweight, easy-to-use, and blocked known and brand new threats during testing. It didn't fully recover our system after one attack, but this was easy to fix manually, and overall AppCheck is well worth a try.



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MacSentry

As you'll probably guess from the name, MacSentry is a VPN targeted very much at Mac, iPhone and iPad users. But that's not as restrictive as it seems, because the service can also be manually set up on Windows, Linux, Android and other devices.

MacSentry offers only 18 locations, less than many competitors. They're well chosen, though, with servers spread across North America and Europe, as well as Costa Rica, Korea, Singapore and South Africa.

The website provides some welcome detail on the network. A server list gives the server names and any supported protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2 and/or L2TP/IPsec), while a status page has an uptime report covering each server for the last seven days.

The core MacSentry service includes everything you'd expect. There's support for up to five simultaneous connections, P2P is permitted on all servers, there are no bandwidth limits and the company offers 24/7 email support if you have problems.

Mac users also get a small bonus in the shape of three free system tools: a network connection monitor, drive clean-up tool and battery status app.

Prices are a little below average. A one-year subscription costs $3.58 (£2.85) a month, billed annually. Six months are reasonably priced at $5 (£4) a month, and monthly billing can be yours for $10 (£8). PayPal, credit cards and Bitcoin are supported for payment.

There's no free product or trial, unfortunately, but MacSentry does state that "if you are not 100% satisfied with our service within 7 days we will give you a full refund." There's no sign of sneaky clauses like ‘as long as you've not transferred more than 100MB data’, so you should have plenty of opportunity to test the service.

Privacy

MacSentry's website has a clear "no logging" statement on its front page, but experience has taught us that you can’t always take this at face value. We decided to dig deeper.

The single-page FAQ is emphatic, but just as lacking in detail: "we do not store any logs whatsoever".

We headed off to the brief privacy policy, which explained that some data is recorded when you connect – "username, internal IP, length of the session, and the amount of data transferred" – but adds that "this data is not retained and purged after the user disconnects as it is no longer relevant."

This is still distinctly short on information, and other providers go much further. MacSentry does at least rule out both activity and session logging, though, and that works for us.

The terms and conditions page had much more information, but there was a catch: most of it seems to have been cut and pasted from a general contract template, complete with irrelevant references to details like an apparently non-existent ‘returns policy’. Professional? No. But at least it means the company hasn't been hand-crafting sneaky legal clauses to try and catch you out, and that works for us, too.

Performance

The MacSentry signup process is much like many other – choose a plan, select your payment method (card, PayPal or Bitcoin), and fill in your details as usual.

One click later, we arrived at MacSentry's client area. It's a simple and straightforward home page which lists key account details, has links to software downloads and setup guides, and points you to a support knowledgebase if you need help.

Unsurprisingly, MacSentry is easiest to set up on Macs and iOS devices. There are simple clients available that handle all the basics for you.

The website has setup guides for other devices, too, but these aren't nearly as straightforward to follow. The Window instructions asked us to manually download a separate OVPN configuration file for every MacSentry location we wanted to use, for instance, then import them, one by one, into OpenVPN. Life would be much easier if we could download everything in a ZIP and drag and drop the files we needed into OpenVPN's Config folder, but that's not an option here.

There's also very little background information. MacSentry tries to help you block IPv6 leaks, for instance, but the site has no explanation of the consequences, of how you can check for them, of what IPv6 is, or of when and if you might need it. All you get is a single sentence pointing you to a Microsoft tool for disabling IPv6 permanently. That could be interesting if you're an expert who didn't know Microsoft had a ‘disable IPv6’ tool, but beginners will be left baffled.

It's not all bad news. MacSentry has been making efforts to improve the situation, adding many articles in recent months. There's email support if you need it, and even beginners will get the service set up eventually.

Once we were up and running, we benchmarked MacSentry's servers using various tests*, and found performance was very acceptable. Speeds could vary, but European and US servers were never lower than 20Mbps, and occasionally topped 35Mbps, competitive with many of the best VPNs. The distant locations were more of a problem – Korea's server barely gave us 1Mbps – but if you can live with that, MacSentry should deliver the speed you need.

We completed our review with some privacy checks, and there was more good news. Checking our server IPs showed they were all in the promised locations, and the service fully protected our identity without any DNS or other leaks.

Final verdict

MacSentry's speedy European and US servers are appealing, and the service represents good value overall. There are no advanced features or configuration options, though, and Windows and Android users will have to set up MacSentry manually.

*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds. We then compared these results to other VPN services we've reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.



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Monday, 18 September 2017

Piriform CCleaner

Update

It recently emerged that CCleaner version 5.33 had been hit by a malware infection. The infected version of the software has now been pulled, and Avast (the owner of developer Piriform) is investigating how the security breach happened. If you're currently using version 5.33, you should update to the current version of CCleaner immediately.

Piriform CCleaner is a free system tool that removes unnecessary or redundant files, fixes errors and optimizes software to speed up your PC and protect your privacy. It's one of the most popular PC cleanup tools around, and for good reason.

Simply select a drive to scan it, and CCleaner will show you how much space you can save, and which tweaks it can make. Choose what to remove or fix, and the software will do the rest.

CCleaner also boasts a registry cleaner to remove unused entries and correct errors that could slow down your PC, plus a secure file shredder for erasing confidential information.

User experience

In theory, everything CCleaner does could be accomplished using Windows' own optimization tools, the Task Manager and your browser settings, but that would take time that many of us simply don't have to spare. CCleaner's clear, well designed interface makes it incredibly simple to keep on top of the housekeeping it's easy to ignore (even though you know you shouldn't).

CCleaner's key cleanup features are:

A registry cleaner, which can remove unused registry entries, file extensions, ActiveX controls, ClassIDs, progIDs, uninstallers, shared DLLs, fonts, help files, application paths, icons, and invalid shortcuts. This is particularly helpful if you're having trouble installing a new version of a previously installed program.

A browser cleaner, which can remove temporary internet files, history, cookies, download history and form history, plus index.dat files from Internet Explorer. This is a convenient way to purge tracking cookies.

A Windows cleaner that clears the Recycle Bin, recent documents, temporary files, log files, clipboard, DNS cache, error reporting, memory dumps and jump lists. This is best used carefully – restoring accidentally deleted files can be a nightmare, even with tools like Piriform's own Recuva.

A third-party program cleaner, which deals with non-system apps like Windows Media Player, eMule, Google Toolbar, Microsoft Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat and WinRAR.

Each element is explained clearly and you can deselect anything you don't want to be cleaned up so you don't accidentally remove anything that you might later need. For example, CCleaner can erase usernames and passwords saved by your web browser, but only if you explicitly tell it to.

These are all very handy to have, though the tool likely to have the greatest impact on system speed is the startup program manager, which lets you pick and choose which apps start at the same time as Windows.

How often you run CCleaner is a matter of personal choice; its settings give you the option to run it every time your PC starts, but you may prefer to run it manually from time to time instead for faster boot times. The free edition of CCleaner doesn't include automatic updates, so it's worth clicking 'Check for updates' in the bottom right periodically.

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T-Mobile deprioritization threshold reportedly growing to 50GB

T-Mobile Un-carrier 3 event

T-Mobile currently offers the highest deprioritization threshold of the four major U.S. carriers, and soon the gap between it and its competition could grow larger.

T-Mobile will allegedly increase its “Fair Usage threshold” to 50GB on September 20th. That’s according to reports Android Central and TmoNews.

This deprioritiztion threshold is not expected to change every quarter and will no longer involve a specific percentage of data users on T-Mobile. The new limit is expected to work just like the current one, though, which means that T-Mobile customers that use more than 50GB of data in a single month may have their data speeds slowed at times when the network is congested for the remainder of that billing cycle.

T-Mobile’s deprioritization threshold is already well ahead of the other big U.S. carriers, with Sprint’s limit at 23GB and both AT&T and Verizon at 22GB. While some customers likely won’t be happy that a deprioritization threshold is still in place, it’s unlikely that we’ll see that limit completely disappear, at least not for some time. At least increases like this give customers more data to use before having their usage deprioritized.



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