Microsoft unveils new Windows OS
In pre-release version, subject to change, Microsoft has announced their most anticipated product: Windows 10. The new version of the operating system has been rebuilt from the ground up, in an effort to keep up with customer and developers’ expectations.
Covering all of the new changes could take quite a while, but here are the top ten things you should know about Windows 10.
Windows 10 is hardware-indifferent (Continuum)
Windows 10 will operate across the board with one product. There is no need to download different versions for different devices. It will works regardless of whether you are using a PC, tablet, or mobile device. This again is thanks to the change the Microsoft developers made at the ground level.
Since it works on all devices, it will display the same across all devices, except for a few minor usability issues needed to take advantage of hardware-specific features. These exceptions should not effect the way a page looks and operates however. This is also being dubbed “Continuum.” Windows will be able to tell what mode your device is in and seamlessly switch the user interface accordingly. Should a manual switch be needed, you can do this from the Action Center.
Cortana: Microsoft’s Virtual Assistant
Cortana made her debut last year with the Windows Phone 8.1 and was well-received. Now, she’s being introduced to a winder audience via the Windows 10 desktop. Cortana can answer questions, initiate a web search, and perform various trigger functions, or at least that is the plan.
Currently, Cortana refers quite a few questions she receives to Bing, but future updates should help Cortana be able to do things like creating calendar entries, texts, and such, especially since Windows 10 is still in the early stages of developmental tweaking. Cortana for desktop resides in a taskbar box, where you can ask your questions or pop it out by addressing her directly with, “hi, Cortana.”
Spartan Debuts as an IE Alternative
We previously covered the Spartan release with excitement at seeing Microsoft offer something other than Internet Explorer in the way of browsing. The bad news is it seems like Microsoft is going to keep the little black cloud of browsers around, but they will not be relying on it as much. It will integrate with Cortana and offer features like distraction-free reading and grouped tabs.
Currently, IE is not an app, it’s part of the OS; by making Spartan an app, Microsoft would be able to update it more quickly, but would also run the risk of people not bothering to download it as Microsoft reportedly want to keep IE on Windows 10. Hopefully as plans progress and prototypes are tweaked, Spartan will become and integral part of Windows 10 and we can say bye-bye to IE, or at the very least have IE as the option rather an integral part of the OS.
Following in the steps of Apple and Google, Microsoft is finally making universal apps available to everyone. With Windows 10, you will be able to download an application on your phone and install it on your desktop or tablet in the blink of an eye. Buy your app once, and use it everywhere.
Xbox Live on Windows 10
Microsoft is upping their gaming ante, by bringing some of Xbox’s favorite features to Windows 10. This includes the ability to play Xbox Live content on the desktop, compete with other players online, record your game play and capture a screenshot of the action. This is a big plus for heavy gamers.
Photos in the Cloud
Microsoft is also upping their photo game: in Windows 10, the official Photos app will show photos stored on all your connected devices (a bit like the iOS camera roll). Simply take a picture with your phone and you’ll be able to see it immediately across all your Windows 10 devices. You can also use the Cloud with OneDrive and back everything up, seamlessly. .
As we’ve already reported, Microsoft is showing off it’s hybrid idea of merging virtual reality with real world experiences in form of the HoloLens headset. They allow you to see a virtual 3D environment and interact with it in by immersing yourself in your surroundings. You will be able to adjust prototypes with gestures, take designs for an actual test run and immerse yourself in a new environment before actually traveling there.
There isn’t a screen to touch or a mouse to click. Use gestures to create, shape, and size holograms. Use your eyes to navigate and explore and your voice to communicate with your apps. This enables you to interact with content and information in the most natural way possible. Pretty futuristic and the gestures are comparable to what Google Glass was going for with its design.
Surface Hub for Businesses
Microsoft announced their new solution for enterprise: the Surface Hub. Surface Hub is an 84-inch touch screen monitor designed to take center stage in your office. It comes complete with a full range of work-specific features; from making creating and sharing presentations, to built-in Skype integration everything is centered around the business user.
New Start Menu
The somewhat drastic changes to the Start menu were not quite what Windows fans expected. The Start menu cannot be re-sized, but you can maximize it. Sound confusing? Basically, the Start menu can become a Start screen by clicking a button and the change will be remembered when you click the Start button the next time.
The new Start menu/Start screen option is a way to please everyone, as some users prefer one over the other. Tiles are also handled differently: you can sort tiles into groups by dragging-and-dropping, as well as, rename and reposition.. You can also move and entire group of tiles by clicking the header of the tiles and dragging. The only way to add new tiles is from the Start menu.
Microsoft has decided to permanently disable Charms Bar for Desktop users in Windows 10. The Charms Bar will only show on touch-enabled devices in Windows 10. Desktops and laptop users will not see it in their Windows. In Windows 8, you can activate the bar by going to the top or bottom right corner of your desktop and the bar will open.
In Windows 10, Microsoft has removed that functionality and placed these Charms inside modern apps with a small drop down in the top left corner. Again, this is subject to change.
Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for all Windows 7 and Windows 8 users (allegedly). It should be noted, tech gurus have found Windows 10 does have a few more bugs than any other version, but this is to be expected since they are launching a whole host of new features. Hopefully, the majority of these bugs will be worked out before final release. A tentative release date has been set for the fall of this year, but as well all technology: plans can change.
Airbnb has blocked 50K+ bookings for being too big during COVID-19
(NEWS) Airbnb has cancelled a huge number of reservations as a security precaution during COVID-19 in the past year or so.
In the last year or so, Airbnb has purposefully prevented at least 50,000 people from making irresponsible reservations on their properties, in many cases blocking those people from the platform itself. This prevention, at least in theory, helped cut down on the number of COVID parties during the pandemic.
According to The Verge, Airbnb’s head of trust and safety communication, Ben Breit, acknowledged blocked reservations in several cities across the United States, including Dallas, San Diego, and New Orleans. Breit confirmed that this response was an attempt to prevent large gatherings and parties during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic during which many areas banned group activities involving more than a few people.
While some requests for reservations were simply denied or “redirected”, many users were blocked from using Airbnb entirely. Airbnb noted that the number of blocked requests outpaced the number of people who were blocked, signifying that some accounts attempted to make more than one reservation before being removed from the platform.
Airbnb reportedly stated that “Instituting a global ban on parties and events is in the best interest of public health” prior to enacting a total ban on rentals at the beginning of 2020, a decision that gave way to the blocks and redirections in the last 12 months.
The evaluation system used to flag problematic reservations is relatively simple, according to Breit: “If you are under the age of 25 and you don’t have a history of positive reviews, we will not allow you to book an entire home listing local to where you live.”
But Airbnb didn’t entirely remove multiple-body listings or large rentals. The Verge reports that flagged users with the aforementioned criteria were still able to book both small rentals in local locations and larger rentals in reasonably distant locations.
Regardless of the optics here, Airbnb’s policy efficacy can’t be ignored. Multiple cities reported comparatively “quiet” holiday seasons–something that may contribute to Airbnb’s decision to extend their policy through the end of this summer.
The hosting company is also offering increased security measures, such as noise detection and a 24-hour hotline, at a discounted rate to property owners.
As both the vaccine gap and the proliferation of the Delta variant of COVID-19 continue to contribute to outbreaks, one can reasonably expect Airbnb to hold to this policy.
TL;DV summarizes video meetings so folks can catch up in quickly *with* context
(TECHNOLOGY) TL;DV makes catching up on video team meetings slightly more tolerable and easily digestable.
2021 was the year of virtual meetings, and while there are some perks associated with remote collaboration (I’m looking at you, pair of work pants that I didn’t have to wear once this year), these meetings often feel exponentially more arduous than their dressed-up counterparts. TL;DV, a consolidation app for Google Meet, looks to give back a bit of your time.
TL;DV (an acronym for “Too Long; Didn’t View”) is a Google Chrome recording extension that helps users specify important sections of meetings for anyone who needs to view them asynchronously. Users can tag specific segments in Google Meet sessions, transcribe audio, and leave notes above tagged sections for timestamp purposes, and the subsequent file can be shared via a host of both Google and third-party apps.
While the extension is only available for Google Meet at the time of writing, the TL;DV team has included a link to a survey for Zoom and MS Teams users on their site, thus implying that the team is looking into expanding into those platforms in the future.
The mission behind TL;DV is, according to the website, to empower users to “control how we spend our precious time” in the interest of combatting FOMO and meeting fatigue. By dramatically shortening the amount of time one must spend perusing a meeting recording, they seem well on their way to doing so.
Of course, the issue of human oversight remains. It seems likely that meeting facilitators will drop the ball here and there while tagging sections of the recording, and employees who miss crucial information in a recorded session are sure to be frustrated in the process–just not as frustrated as they might be if they attended the entire meeting live.
The current (free) version of TL;DV is in Beta, so users will have a three-hour cap on their videos. The development team promises a professional version by the end of 2021, with the added bonus of leaving prior recordings available for free for anyone who used the Beta. This is certainly an extension to keep an eye on–whether or not you’re remaining remote in 2022, virtual conferencing is no doubt here to stay.
Hiding from facial recognition is a booming business
(TECH NEWS) ‘Cloaking’ is the new way to hide your face. Companies are making big money designing cloaking apps that thwart your features by adding a layer of make up, clothing, blurring, and even transforming you into your favorite celebrity.
Facial recognition companies and those who seek to thwart them are currently locked in a grand game of cat and mouse. Though it’s been relentlessly pursued by police, politicians, and technocrats alike, the increasing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, workplaces, and housing complexes remains a widely unpopular phenomenon.
So it’s no surprise that there is big money to be made in the field of “cloaking,” or dodging facial recognition tech – particularly during COVID times while facial coverings are, literally, in fashion.
Take Fawkes, a cloaking app designed by researchers at the University of Chicago. It is named for Guy Fawkes, the 17th century English revolutionary whose likeness was popularized as a symbol of anonymity, and solidarity in V For Vendetta.
Fawkes works by subtly overlaying a celebrity’s facial information over your selfies at the pixel level. To your friends, the changes will go completely unnoticed, but to an artificial intelligence trying to identify your face, you’d theoretically look just like Beyonce.
Fawkes isn’t available to the general public yet, but if you’re looking for strategies to fly under the radar of facial recognition, don’t fret; it is just one example of the ways in which cloaking has entered the mainstream.
Other forms of cloaking have emerged in the forms of Tik Tok makeup trends, clothes that confuse recognition algorithms, tools that automatically blur identifying features on the face, and much more. Since effective facial recognition relies on having as much information about human faces as possible, cloaking enthusiasts like Ben Zhao, Professor of computer science at the University of Chicago and co-developer of Fawkes, hope to make facial recognition less effective against the rest of the population too. In an interview with The New York Times, Zhao asserts, “our [team’s] goal is to make Clearview [AI] go away.”
For the uninitiated, Clearview AI is a start-up that recently became infamous for scraping billions of public photos from the internet and privately using them to build the database for a law enforcement facial recognition tool.
The CEO of Clearview, Hoan Ton-That, claimed that the tool would only be improved by these workarounds and that in long run, cloaking is futile. If that sounds like supervillain talk, you might see why he’s earned himself a reputation similar to the likes of Martin Shkreli or Ajit Pai with his company’s uniquely aggressive approach to data harvesting.
It all feels like the beginning of a cyberpunk western: a story of man vs. machine. The deck is stacked, the rules are undecided, and the world is watching. But so far, you can rest assured that no algorithm has completely outsmarted our own eyeballs… yet.
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