Web Warp Blog has been retired. For new posts please head to dmather.com.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Skype and Windows Messenger

Microsoft's aquisition of Skype in October 2011 meant that Microsoft have been running two services along side each other which largely do the same thing: Skype and Messenger. Looking forward to April 2013 they will be merging these services into one brand, Skype. Skype have become a household name for video calling over the internet in much the same way that people refer to vacuum cleaners as a Hoover.

This was achieved by offering free video calling through an easy to use app which is available on  multiple platforms. A Mac user can call a Windows user and then the Windows user can phone another friend who's out and about with their smartphone.

Microsoft are encouraging you to merge your contacts into one Skype service. They are emailing customers with the following:
Starting April 8th, we will begin upgrading customers from Messenger to Skype. The process will take a few weeks to complete. April 8th is the first day you may be required to upgrade. This is a bit later than the March 15th date we previously mentioned to some of you as we wanted to give you more time to make the transition.
Having tried out the merging process I can report that it was surprisingly easy. Just download the latest version of Skype for your operating system. Log in using your Microsoft (MSN) account. Choose 'I already have a Skype account' and sign in with that account. Click 'Merge Accounts' and you are done.

All of your existing Messenger contacts are in a separate list and you can instant message them from within Skype itself. By linking your Facebook account too you can use Skype to contact Facebook friends using Facebook Messenger. Facebook is also cross-platform so they can be in a web browser on the Facebook website or using the various Facebook Messenger apps for iPhone, Android etc.

With the new version of Skype comes a slightly darker shade of blue for the logo which is simplified to reduce the 3D effect which it previously had. The simple bold logo fits more with Microsofts branding in Windows 8 and it's services such as Outlook.com.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Meteorite explodes over Russia

It was yesterday morning (UK time) whilst people were planning to look to the skies to see meteor DA14 pass only 17,200 miles from the Earth (which happened later that evening) that over 1000 people in Russia received minor injuries in a dramatic meteorite explosion. The meteorite exploded over the Chelyabinsk region causing an air shockwave which smashed windows. As yet reports are only of minor injuries.

It is common practice for vehicles in Russia to record video of their journey, presumably to assist in appointing the blame following any incidents with other road users. These cameras have proven to be an extremely valuable resource for recording the meteorite. Russia Today have put together the below compilation of some of the best footage from across the region.

So why weren't we warned on the potential impact of this meteor, when we know exactly when DA14 was due to pass close to the Earth? It's a scale issue. The Russian meteor was only around 15 metres across and weighed approximately 7000 tonnes. DA14 for comparison 45 metres across.

Astronomers are tracking hundreds of Near Earth Objects (NEO's), and the number grows each year with new teams and new technologies. The fact is that they concentrate on larger NEO's first in the hope that if we know it's coming we can launch an Armageddon or Deep Impact style rescue mission to save the planet.

Smaller meteorites like this cause 'airbursts' but we shouldn't worry about them too much, as damage is usually limited and more often than not they would hit un populated areas, unlike the typical disaster film scenarios!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Free Online Storage

So there are load of Cloud Storage Options out there and in this series of blogposts, tagged Cloud Storage, we are exploring the market. Today we are going to focus on free services. How much bang can you get absolutely no buck?

So here's a summary of the free services available. As you can see 5 GB seems to be the typical free limit. Many of the services have maximum file size limits, although this is typically the same as the service capacity. Dropbox allows you to increase to 8 GB for free by earning 250 MB each time you share their service with your friends. You even get 250 MB extra space free by finishing their tutorial.

The best feature of any of these online storage products is that you can store files securely and access them through a web browser. You never need to worry about losing a USB stick again.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Online storage sites are about to be joined by a new player: mega.co.nz. Created by Mega Upload's founder Kim Dotcom (yes that is his real name) the new service offers a huge 50 GB of free space. Kim's previous website Mega Upload was seized by the FBI and closed by the US Department of Justice in January 2012. Mega Upload made money from advertising webpages where it's users shared copyrighted material such as Hollywood blockbusters and chart-topping music.

The new site, Mega, promises to focus of privacy of it's users. Mega encrypts 'on the fly' your uploaded files and Mega has no way to access them. This is a 'turn a blind eye' approach as they still allow users to share links to access these files. These links operate a similar way to the traditional online storage sites, however they include the encryption so that on download the user receives the original file unencrypted.

The question is will users turn to Mega to share copyrighted material in the same way that they did with Mega Upload, or will Mega become a haven for businesses looking to store data on an encrypted service which focuses on the privacy of their users. BlackBerry certainly gained a huge market share as mobile emails took off by focusing on the securing the emails (and BBM) of business executives.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Cloud Storage Options

There are a lot of companies out there ready to sell (and give away!) space in the cloud to store and backup your documents, photos and music. But the costs, features and limitations vary between companies. If you are looking for a clear cut comparison of cloud services available today, you have come to the right place!

The criteria I have focused on in this blogpost is cost vs storage space. Some of these services do have other features which can be useful though. Microsoft's Skydrive has an Xbox app for example, and most of these services can be accessed from your smartphone.

Looking at services which cost up to £100 a year, be it a monthly or annual charge, you get a big variation in storage space. For example for a 100 GB account with Dropbox (£74.40) you are paying twice the cost that Google Drive charges (£37.20).

Prices correct as of January 2013, and are likely to keep changes as these companies compete with one another for your custom.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Update to Apple TV

Apple TV's 2nd & 3rd Generation have been updated to software version 5.2. To get the update just turn on your Apple TV and wait for the auto prompt to update, or manually check for updates in the settings page. The new update keeps the general look and feel of Apple TV but it seems snapper to switch to different apps.

Click image to see Apple TV on Amazon
There are some new features though, and one is particularly surprising! Just like when an update unlocked the ability for an iPod Touch to connect over bluetooth, the Apple TV's bluetooth has now been activated! You can connect an Apple Wireless Keyboard (connects via bluetooth) to control your Apple TV. It can be used to navigate the menus's and is particularly helpful when searching for content with text entry. Perhaps a future update will include email or Safari for web browsing?

Other new features include iTunes in the Cloud. This lets you listen to your iTunes purchases streamed direct from iTunes over the internet. This can be done with your whole library already if you subscribe to iTunes Match.

The Up Next feature brings Apple TV inline with iTunes 11 which allows you to build a playlist on the fly by adding tracks to 'Up Next'. iTunes 11 is available on Mac and PC.

For guidance on how to connect your Apple Wireless Keyboard to your Apple TV just click here for the Apple support page.