YouTube Kids to give parents more control over output

Google says it will add new parental controls to its YouTube Kids app, after inappropriate videos were repeatedly discovered on the service.

One of the new options prevents channels that have not been vetted by human moderators appearing on the app.

Parents will be able to choose between human-curated playlists and letting YouTube’s algorithms decide what children get to watch in the app.

But one expert said the changes were “still nowhere near good enough”.

Children’s presenter and parent Ed Petrie, who has hosted programmes for Nickelodeon and the BBC, asked: “Why are these features only an option?

‘Ethical need’

“Nickelodeon shows don’t have an option for your kids to stumble across an animation of SpongeBob SquarePants having his liver removed.

“YouTube just can’t get their heads around the fact that when you’re expressly providing content for kids, there is an ethical need for an actual human being viewing it with their eyes and ears before it gets inside a child’s brain.”

Children’s charity NSPCC said the stricter controls were “encouraging” but “long overdue”.

“Parents should have the confidence that a platform designed for children only shows appropriate content, and that videos which some children might find distressing or upsetting do not slip through the net,” said a spokesman.

YouTube currently uses algorithms to decide which videos can appear on YouTube Kids.

Any video uploaded to the regular version of YouTube can theoretically appear on YouTube Kids if the company’s algorithms judge it to be suitable. The company says its machine learning processes can take several days to evaluate a video.

However, inappropriate videos have repeatedly appeared on YouTube Kids. One, found by the BBC’s Newsround programme, showed characters from children’s cartoon Paw Patrol on a burning plane.

Settings optional

On Wednesday, YouTube announced plans to add three new settings to its Kids app.

These will let parents:

  • choose “trusted collections” that their children are allowed to watch, from brands such as Sesame Street
  • hand-pick every individual video and channel they are happy for their children to see, if they wish to do so
  • stop the app offering any videos from channels that have not been approved by a human moderator

Parents will be prompted to switch the settings on or off when setting up the app, but they will remain optional and will not all be released at the same time.

‘Higher quality’

One parent has gone as far as setting up his own video app after becoming concerned that his children had been exposed to inappropriate content online.

Hugo Ribeiro, founder of video app kiddZtube, said: “YouTube is abusing an asset they have and not thinking enough about safety.”

Rather than relying on algorithms, kiddZtube uses human moderators – four schoolteachers – to curate playlists and approve every video that appears in the app.

“We believe it’s better to have fewer videos, with higher quality,” he told the BBC.

The teachers also write quiz questions to accompany each video, to make watching a more interactive experience.

However, unlike YouTube Kids, which is free to download, kiddZtube costs £4.99.

“It’s a different business model,” he said.

“YouTube does not want an app that is more narrow in its scope. There are costs to that.

“But in terms of our children, we don’t want them to pay that cost.”

In addition to the new settings in YouTube Kids, which will be made available in the coming months, YouTube will also let parents block videos they do not want children to see.

“We’ve never stopped listening to feedback and we’re continuing to improve the app,” said YouTube’s Malik Ducard.

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Facebook sales soar ‘despite challenges’

Facebook’s quarterly sales rose by nearly 50% in the social media giant’s first results since a privacy scandal over users’ data.

The company said that revenues rose to $11.9bn in the first three months of the year, compared to $8bn previously.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said: “Despite facing important challenges, our community and business are off to a strong start in 2018.”

He added that the firm is “taking a broader review of our responsibility”.

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For better or worse, Samsung has been the undisputed leader in the solid-state drive world with the fastest NVMe drives. While many have tried to dethrone the South Korean electronics firm’s undisputed lead, just as many have failed to deliver the same level of speed.

Leave it to the hard drive titan, Western Digital, to come up with a solid-state drive that goes toe-to-toe with Samsung’s best. Not only does the new WD Black NVMe SSD keep up with Samsung’s latest 970 Evo, it’s also the fastest-writing drive we’ve ever tested.

 Features and price

Western Digital’s fastest SSDs start at a surprisingly affordable $119 (£109, AU$189) price for 250GB and getting double the capacity basically doubles the price to $229 (£199, AU$359). For a full terabyte, you’ll have to pay out $449 (£377, AU$659) for the largest Black NVMe SSD currently available.

Prices for the Samsung 970 Evo line up perfectly with WD’s pricing scheme with 250GB drives starting at $119 or £106 (about AU$160), followed quickly by $229 or £205 (about AU$300) 500GB and $449 or £400 (about AU$590) 1TB capacities. The one outlier is you can get this mid-range SSD in an obscene 2TB capacity for an equally absurd $849 or £749 (about AU$1,120).

In terms of speed these two driving rivals are nearly equally matched as well. The WD Black NVMe SSD clocks in with 3,400 MB/s sequential reads and 2,800 MB/s sequential writes. Comparatively, the Samsung 970 Evo read data a little bit faster at 3,500 MB/s, but can’t write to disk nearly as fast at only 2,500 MB/s.

Western Digital’s new SSD is significantly faster than the previous Black PCIe SSD, which only topped out at 2,050 MB/s and 800 MB/s sequential read and write speeds, respectively. That’s a serious performance improvement any way you slice it and to get here the storage maker engineered the world’s first 96-layer 3D NAND memory.

Each Black NVMe SSD drive also incorporates a sliver of SLC (Single Level Cell) 3D NAND, which is famed for being the fastest form of flash memory even though it can only really move a small amount of bits. A larger portion of the drive relies on Triple Level Cell (TLC) 3D NAND that’s more suited read uses (i.e. storing data), but WD has implemented tiered caching to speed up the overall system.

For example, if you were to move a mass of photos, the drive would first attempt to move as much data using its dedicated SLC blocks because they’re designed for burst workloads such as this. Any spillover would move over to the slower, read focused TLC NAND. At the same time the drive will also use the SLC blocks whenever possible to move data through faster through an ‘aggressive evacuation’ policy.

Basically, the WD Black NVMe SSD is designed to use its fastest flash memory at all times and reduce latency with plenty of other ‘house cleaning’ and ‘garbage collection’ background processes.

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The WD Black NVMe SSD might seem overly complicated compared to Samsung’s straightforward use of 64-layer V-NAND, but it definitely delivers results. This drive keeps in step with the 970 Evo in sequential reads and gets a significant lead while writing data to its NAND memory.

When it comes to random data transfer speeds, the Black NVMe SSD is a little slower on the read and disappointingly behind on writes despite having such an impressive showing with its sequential speeds. This also ends up hampering the drive in our data transfer tests, where the drive took a tick longer to move a 10GB file and folder.

Final verdict

The WD Black NVMe SSD is an incredible step up from the company’s previous PCIe drive, delivering a massive increase to read and write speeds. Thanks to the latter being the highest we’ve ever recorded, it manages to step slightly out from the shadow of the Samsung 970 Evo. If you’re in the market for the ridiculously fast, but still approachable storage, you should definitely give the WD Black NVMe SSD a shot.

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Xiaomi Redmi 4A Review

We’re late to the game on this Redmi 4A review. Xiaomi has already announced and is currently selling its successor, the Redmi 5A, and yet we’ve decided to go ahead with it anyway. Why? Because the Xiaomi 4A is STILL one of the most popular budget phones around.

Although it has been superceded, there’s really very little difference between the 4A and 5A. There’s a new metal body, but all the key specs are the same. The Xiaomi Redmi 4A has a higher-capacity battery at 3120mAh (against 3000mAh), but it’s also stuck on MIUI 8.5. The Redmi 5A, by comparison, runs MIUI 9.5. Both are based on Android, though not immediately recognisable to those who haven’t tried MIUI before.

Another difference key to your purchasing decision is that the Redmi 4A’s age means it can be found at rock-bottom prices, and where it is still in stock there are some enticing deals.

Also see: Best budget Chinese phones

Xiaomi Redmi 4A

Xiaomi Redmi 4A Price & Availability

To buy the Redmi 4A in the UK or other territories in which Xiaomi does not officially sell smartphones you need to go through a Chinese importer such as GearBest, which supplied our review model.

We’re reviewing the Global model, and we strongly recommend that’s the model you plump for. It comes with Google services preinstalled, and it supports all 4G LTE bands used in the UK (not true of all versions).

With 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage the Global version of the Redmi 4A currently costs £83.25 (US$115.74) at GearBest.

By comparison, a 2GB RAM, 16GB storage version of the Redmi 5A is available from Amazon UK for £96.69. The Redmi 4A appears cheaper, but don’t forget to include import duty (20 percent of the value printed on the shipping paperwork). It also has double the amount of storage, of course (though both can be expanded using microSD cards up to 128GB in capacity).

Xiaomi Redmi 4A

Xiaomi Redmi 4A Design & Build

There’s one major down side to the Redmi 4A’s design, and that is its plastic body with rear-facing mono speaker. We’re past the days now where budget phones meant plastic phones, so this seems a little bit old hat. (Almost certainly why Xiaomi upgraded the device and gave it a full metal jacket.)

But while it’s plastic, the battery is not removable, and that means there’s no creaking and flexing to this case. It also doesn’t get as warm as some metal phones, and plastic can be a better material for reception (with no need for antenna lines running across the rear).

We actually really like the way the Redmi 4A feels in the hand. It has a 5in display with reasonably slim bezels to either side, which means it’s just 70.4mm wide and fits comfortably in the palm. It’s also 8.5mm thick and 131g in weight, neither of which are disappointing at this price.

But while the bezels to either side are on the slim side, there’s quite a lot of room up top and below. The Android-standard multi-tasking, home and back buttons sit below the screen, and the earpiece and selfie cam up top. It’s not a modern design, but the 18:9 screen hasn’t taken over the market just yet so 16:9 here works just fine.

Xiaomi Redmi 4A

The screen itself is a 5in HD (1280×720) panel, and at this size perfectly clear. The screen isn’t hugely bright, but colours are vibrant and viewing angles strong. The size offers a nice compromise between getting a compact design and a large screen for enjoying media.  

Elsewhere you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack (a bonus of older phone designs) up top, alongside the mic and, amazingly, an IR blaster. These are increasingly rare. At the bottom is a Micro-USB port, which is another sign of its ages but also very useful when you have 20 Micro-USB cables to hand and your single USB-C has gone walkies.

Xiaomi Redmi 4A Core Hardware & Performance

As with the newer Redmi 5A, the 4A is fitted with a quad-core Snapdragon 425 processor clocked at 1.4GHz. There’s also 2GB of RAM in this model, and a generous 32GB storage. As we mentioned, you can bolster this using a microSD card (up to 128GB in capacity), though it takes the place of the second SIM in this otherwise dual-SIM dual-standby handset.

In real-world use the Xiaomi is capable for casual gaming, browsing the web and firing off emails. But it’s no speed demon, and performance is no better than we would expect from a budget phone.

Xiaomi Redmi 4A

In Geekbench 4 it clocked 670 points single-core and 1775 multi-core, which is more than the Vodafone Smart N8, a £79 budget phone sold in the UK, and a little behind the Moto G5S (now superceded by the Moto G6).

In common with the G5S it clocked 14fps in the GFXBench T-Rex graphics test, which again was higher than the Smart N8. In the more intensive Manhattan it recorded 6fps, but didn’t attempt Car Chase.

We also ran the Redmi 4A through the Jetstream JavaScript benchmark, where it turned in an uninspiring 17.8 – but, again, ahead of the Smart N8.

The 3120mAh battery should easily last all users a day, and some users more. There’s no demanding hardware here, so it’s really just dependent on how much and in what way you use your phone. 

In terms of connectivity there’s the aforementioned dual-SIM capability and infra-red blaster. The Xiaomi also supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 and GPS. You won’t find NFC here, though, and there’s no fingerprint scanner either.

Xiaomi Redmi 4A Cameras & Photography

Camera specs are another thing that hasn’t changed in the Redmi 4A’s upgrade, and you won’t find a dual-camera at this end of the market. The rear camera is okay at this price, a 13Mp lens with single-LED flash.

We were actually surprised by how well it handled low-light without the flash, lighting up the scene and clearly differentiating between blacks, but in normal daylight conditions it’s clear just how much detail is lost. There’s a lot of blurring here, and that’s only amplified by HDR mode (which doesn’t otherwise make a huge amount of difference). On a nice sunny day, though, colours are vibrant.

The camera app is pretty decent, offering various scenes and the standard shooting modes. There are real-time filters and HDR, too, though the latter is on or off with no automatic mode. You can use the volume buttons to trigger the shutter too, which is handy.

The Redmi 4A is also capable of shooting full-HD video, though the default is HD, and it benefits from a 5Mp selfie camera. Not the best, but useful for Snapchat selfies and video chats.

You can check out our Auto, HDR and low light test shots below.

Xiaomi Redmi 4A

Xiaomi Redmi 4A

Xiaomi Redmi 4A

Xiaomi Redmi 4A Software

The Redmi 4A is not running standard Android, but its MIUI 8.5 operating system is based on Android Nougat. No upgrade to MIUI 9.5 (Oreo) is available on our device.

Typically speaking Xiaomi phones don’t come with Google services preinstalled, and instead have their own comparative apps. That’s not a problem with MIUI 9.5, to which it’s quick and easy to add Google, but it can be more difficult with the older OS.

Fortunately that’s not something we have to worry about, since this is the Global model. All Google services are preinstalled, and the phone is easy for anyone to pick up and use.

Xiaomi Redmi 4A

There are still some major differences in the user interface, and particularly in the Settings menu which has been completely redesigned. The search function is your friend here. You’ll also note there’s no app tray, with everything on the home tray.

Some additional features found within MIUI 8.5 include Dual Apps, which let you run two instances of the same app (handy if you’re making use of the dual-SIM functionality and want, for example, two WhatsApp accounts), Second Space, and App lock for individually password-protecting certain apps.

Read next: Best Chinese phones

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Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4 review

The MediaPad M5 8.4 is a metal-bodied iPad Mini alternative, offering Android users premium design, sound quality, power and battery life. 

If you’re wondering how big this tablet is, the clue’s in the name, with the M5 8.4 sporting an 8.4-inch portrait screen, although with identical internals and screen resolution to its bigger brother, the M5 10.8, this is definitely a case of mini and mighty from a specs point of view.

Sound quality is also excellent thanks to a stereo speaker setup, which, combined with the 2K display, gives the slate strong multimedia credentials.

The MediaPad M5 8.4 is available in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB storage options, and there’s also microSD card support. 

The power under the hood is similar to that found in 2017’s Huawei phones, the P10 and P10 Plus, in the shape of a Kirin 960 processor paired with 4GB RAM. The entire MediaPad M5 series is also available in both Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + LTE combinations.

Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4 price and availability

  • Starts at around £309
  • Don’t expect to see it in the US

In the UK the entry-level 32GB MediaPad M5 8.4 with Wi-Fi only is priced at £309. That’s the only model we have pricing for right now, but based on the Euro pricing for the other models we’d expect the 64GB Wi-Fi model to come in at £350 or a bit more, and the 128GB Wi-Fi model to be around £400, with the LTE variants costing up to £50 more. 

We also expect the MediaPad M5 8.4 to come to Australia, but we don’t have any word on pricing or availability yet.

Adding some context to these prices, Apple’s iPad Mini 4 starts at £399, so around £90 more than the MediaPad M5 8.4, and Huawei’s slate offers a larger, more traditional widescreen display and slightly better battery life, and so its likely to appeal to Android phone users looking for a tablet for YouTube, Netflix and the like.

Design: Good looking and comfortable to hold

  • Premium look and feel
  • No headphone jack

Machined from metal and glass, the MediaPad M5 8.4 is off to an excellent start design-wise. It’s a traditional-looking tablet with minimal distractions, and it feels as good in the hand as it looks. 

Above the 8.4-inch 2K screen on the front of the tablet are a small selfie camera and the Huawei logo, while below it is the fingerprint scanner/optional home key.

The glass curves along the very edges into the metal body adding to the rich, tactile experience. Meanwhile, the antenna strip is machined into the metal, a stylish way of making sure signal strength is solid, while no chunks of plastic disrupt the clean aesthetic.

A lone USB-C slot sits pretty on the bottom of the M5 8.4, while a headphone port is noticeably absent. All the buttons are on the right-hand side of the tablet, positioned towards the rear of the edge.

This makes them invisible when you’re looking at the tab head-on, which is a nice design touch, although expect some fumbling when trying to find them with your fingers in the first few days of using the tablet.

A beefy camera bump suggests that the MediaPad M5 8.4 packs some serious shooters, while lines of perforations along the top and bottom edges indicate the tablet’s speaker placement when held in landscape orientation. 

Screen: 2K goodness, not greatness

  • Sharp at 2K resolution
  • Good quality, though not class-leading

The Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4 screen has a 2K resolution – 2560 x 1600 to be exact. To put that into context, the iPad Mini 4 has a pixel density of 324 pixels per inch, while the MediaPad 8.4 boasts 359 pixels per inch.

The M5 8.4’s IPS screen tech offers strong viewing angles and great brightness levels. You can tune the screen to suit your preference, with colour balance controls in the settings. 

There’s also a ‘Vivid’ viewing mode to boost the tablet’s saturation, giving it AMOLED-like vibrancy, even if it can’t deliver the deep, inky blacks of an AMOLED screen.

A blue light filter means eye protection is integrated at an OS level, and you can also drop the screen’s processed resolution to save a little battery. 

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AVG Ultimate 2018 antivirus review

AVG Ultimate is a solid security suite that’s well worth considering if you’re in the market for new antivirus software. Here, we review AVG Ultimate and compare it with the best antivirus for PC.

With AVG being owned by Avast, we initially had low expectations after recently reviewing Avast Premier and finding that some key modules were only ad-supported trial versions.

Our first happy surprise was the price. Whereas Avast Premier is £59.99/US$79.99 for one PC, AVG Ultimate is £69.99/$99 for unlimited installs, which is great value for families.

An integrated password manager, VPN and driver updater are value-added extras, but equivalents can be obtained free or at low cost from elsewhere.

Also included in the price is PC Tuneup. This is thorough, and takes a while to complete all its tasks including disc defragmentation. The laptop upon which we tested AVG Ultimate is only eight months old, but defraging the dual disc drives still took over an hour. With so many possible speed-up changes, it’s good to know there’s a “rescue center” included that enables you to undo any tweaks.

In terms of protection, there’s a lot of overlap with Avast. The central core of the product consists of file and behaviour shields.

The file shield scans all files when programs attempts to open them, and the behaviour shield prevents programs suddenly acting in a suspicious or malicious way.

As with an increasing number of other AV products, it’s good to see so-called “next gen” features like this making their way into domestic products.

The web shield scans all files downloaded from the internet and blocks known web attacks, and the email shield protects you from receiving unsafe attachments.

Like so many other AV products, a built-in firewall adds another layer of defence. Unlike many other products, however, this firewall allows you to see all connections made to and from your computer in real time.

This is useful for diagnostics, but for the lay person it can be quite scary to see how many connections a running Windows system has with the rest of the world. And guess what? You can resize the interface, so looking through the logs isn’t like reading a newspaper through a letterbox. Other vendors should take note.

There’s also an explicit ransomware module. This has a “smart” mode, which takes decisions about which programs to trust with access to your personal files.

Backing this up is “strict” mode, which means that you must agree to any and all actions that change or delete the files in your protected folders. Speaking of folders, it’s also easy to add new ones to the list.

Also included is a data safe, into which you can place sensitive files. Encrypted with 256-bit AES technology, not even the security services would be able to look the content without having the key.

For some reason, the anti-spam shield isn’t installed by default, and requires a system reboot when you click its install button. This detects the increasingly large number of phishing campaigns plaguing the internet.

Finally, the fake website shield detects bogus sites to keep you safe when accessing your bank, while shopping online, and so on.

There are also several types of system scan, including a dedicated USB / DVD analysis. Like the anti-spam shield, the boot-time scan needs installing by clicking its button. It’s well worth doing so and running it every now and then.

The idea is that it will scan your discs the next time the computer is booted up, and runs before Windows (and any stealth malware) starts up. You can also right click files and scan them, or shred to delete them forever.

The Android version has the look and feel of Avast’s offering. AVG Ultimate, however, is better equipped, and isn’t ad-supported.

Along with scanning, you also get anti-theft to locate and remotely wipe your phone, a photo vault to keep your memories safe, a WiFi security tester, and broadband speed test.

There’s also App locking, whereby you can insist on a PIN to run certain programs. You can also install the integrated AVG Cleaner. This is free, but ad-supported, with auto-cleaning being available in the paid version.

An enhanced photo gallery is also available and is ad-supported. As with Avast, you can install Alarm Clock Xtreme, which learns your sleep patterns so that it wakes you at the right point in your cycle. Finally, you can also install a free trial of the AVG VPN.

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Hotel door locks worldwide were vulnerable to hack

Millions of electronic door locks fitted to hotel rooms worldwide have been found to be vulnerable to a hack.

Researchers say flaws they found in the equipment’s software meant they could create “master keys” that opened the rooms without leaving an activity log.

The F-Secure team said it had worked with the locks’ maker over the past year to create a fix.

But the Swedish manufacturer is playing down the risk to those hotels that have yet to install an update.

“Vision Software is a 20-year-old product, which has been compromised after 12 years and thousands of hours of intensive work by two employees at F-Secure,” said a spokeswoman for the company, Assa Abloy.

“These old locks represent only a small fraction [of the those in use] and are being rapidly replaced with new technology.”

She added that hotels had begun deploying the fix two months ago.

“Digital devices and software of all kinds, are vulnerable to hacking. However, it would take a big team of skilled specialists years to try to repeat this.”

Assa Abloy’s locks are used by some of the world’s biggest hotel chains – including Intercontinental, Hyatt, Radisson and Sheraton – although it has not disclosed which properties still use a compromised version of the Vision by VingCard system.

The F-Secure researchers said they began their inquiry after a colleague’s laptop was stolen from a hotel room without the thief leaving behind any sign of unauthorised access.

“We wanted to find out if it’s possible to bypass the electronic lock without leaving a trace,” explained Timo Hirvonen, describing the Ghost In The Locks exploit.

“Only after we thoroughly understood how it was designed were we able to identify seemingly innocuous shortcomings [and] come up with a method for creating master keys.”

He added that data scanned from any discarded VingCard could be used to mount the attack, even if the card’s access privileges had long expired or had been used to open a garage or other parts of the targeted hotel rather than a bedroom.

The hack can also be applied to access other areas of a hotel – including sending a lift to a VIP floor of a property – if it is protected by the same system.

F-Secure has confirmed it will not be sharing the hardware and software tools it used to demonstrate its attack with others.

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