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Tip of the Week

Fotor Photo Finisher

There’s no shortage of free photo editing programs out there and some of them are very good indeed but here’s another one that is definitively worth the price of a download. It’s called Fotor and it’s available for Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac, and it has some truly impressive features up its sleeve, some of which you won’t find, at least not all together, on any other image editor. However. The big selling point – not that it is going to cost you a bean – is how easy it is to use. Simply load up your image and choose what you want to do to it from an extensive list of scene presets, crop options, manual adjustments, effects, borders and you can also add text and titles to your snaps. It even has a Tilt Shift effect, which is really unusual on a freebie editor. Each category brings up a list of sub menus and thumbwheels showing what each effect or preset will do. There’s also an EXIF data viewer, zoom, flip, rotate and compare tools, save and share functions, and there’s plenty more to explore when you get bored with that little lot. You can use it to create collages and apply changes, borders and effects to batches of images. That’s just a quick taste of what it can do but try it for yourself and see. The install is clean with no hidden toolbars but there is one thing to watch out for. If and when you want to uninstall it, it can be a bit sticky. The built-in uninstall options appear a tad flaky but it’s no match for the excellent Revo Uninstaller, which does a bang up job of cleaning it from your machine, so if you haven’t already done so, install that first.


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Dodgy Diallers

Our thanks to PCWorld (the US webzine, not the shop) for alerting us to something new to worry about. It appears that some smartphone apps, and Facebook Messenger has been cited as an example, may have a security loophole that could be exploited to make expensive premium rate phone calls. It’s all down to the way some apps display a phone number as a link. Danish software developer has discovered that some apps do not enable the necessary warning or permission step and will make the call without asking the user. He has found a way to use this behaviour on a web page, using JavaScript code, so in theory all the unwary user has to do is click on a link to visit a web page on their mobile, the code is triggered and the phone dials the premium rate number, which the user may not know about until they get their next bill. So far this vulnerability doesn’t seem to have made it into the wild and been used for malicious purposes, and hopefully now that app developers have been warned it won’t become a threat but it would be wise to take care when clicking on web links and keep an eye on your phone when doing so, to make sure it’s not racking up your bills.


Smart Earphones

Yes, we all know that smartphones have built-in microphones that can listen in on your conversations but now, thanks to Wired, a new threat has been uncovered in the shape of the gyro motion sensor chips installed in most devices. It turns out that the chips, which are used to determine a device’s orientation and motion are also sensitive to vibrations, sufficiently so to be able to pick up speech, albeit in a fairly crude way. Apparently it’s legible enough, researchers have found, to be able to distinguish some words and the speaker’s gender. What makes it really worrying is that unlike a device’s built in microphone, apps do not need a user’s permission to function, nor is there any way to turn it off. It’s still a long way from being a real threat but given time and effort it is possible that it could be developed to the point where is can be used to distinguish numbers, something to bear the next time you’re giving out your credit card details…



Goodbye IE?

Farewell Internet Explorer, at least all versions before IE 11. Don’t worry, it’s not going to happen until January 2016, but according to the Microsoft IE Blog from the 12th of that month security updates and support will be withdrawn. Microsoft are closing the door on old versions of the browser because it says the latest incarnations are much safer, and better able to handle the demands of the latest web standards, which will help developers no end, who often struggle to maintain backwards compatibility, and as an added bonus its faster, has greater compatibility with web apps and future developments and it is more secure. For most users I won’t be an issue as the latest versions of IE are automatically installed during updates but for some commercial users, who, for one reason or another are locked into web pages and apps that rely on older versions Microsoft will continue to develop and support the Enterprise Mode for IE 11 until January 2020, which maintains backwards compatibility with older web standards.