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Preview: PC World


Published: Fri, 20 Jan 2017 02:09:05 -0800

Last Build Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2017 02:09:05 -0800


Microsoft’s standing to sue over secret US data requests in question

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:29:44 -0800

Microsoft’s lawsuit objecting to the indiscriminate use by U.S. law enforcement of orders that demand user data without the opportunity to inform the customer may run into questions about the software giant's standing to raise the issue on behalf of its customers.

A government motion to dismiss Microsoft’s complaint comes up for oral arguments Monday and significantly the judge said on Thursday that the issue of whether Fourth Amendment rights are personal or can be “vicariously” asserted by third-parties on behalf of their customers would have to be addressed by both sides. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizure of property.

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Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:00:00 -0800

Excel’s Date & Time functions ease the workload for bookkeepers, project planners, HR departments, and other jobs where time is money. The four functions covered here—ISOWEEKNUM, WEEKNUM, WORKDAY, WORKDAY.INTL—are complicated, so we’ll walk you through detailed instructions and examples.

Note: Each function is defined first, followed by the function’s arguments (the values that functions use to perform calculations), followed by the function’s syntax—how a formula is arranged, which includes the function’s name and its arguments.

Remember: Arguments are always surrounded by parentheses, and individual arguments are separated by commas.

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Microsoft kills Cache, its note-taking experiment with Evernote-Google Keep aspirations

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 17:58:00 -0800

When Microsoft launched its Cache note-taking experiment last year, we hoped it could become Microsoft’s version of Google Keep, if Microsoft devoted enough resources to it. Sadly, that’s not the case.

In a note to users, Microsoft said Thursday that it would shut down Cache at the end of February, and would no longer market it as a standalone service.

“Over the course of this year, we learned that there was an appetite for a service like Cache, but more importantly, your feedback taught us a lot about the extent of the challenges people have with managing and organizing their work,” Microsoft said in an email from the Cache team.

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Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15014 officially adds ebook support

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 17:37:00 -0800

It's official: With Windows 10’s Insider Preview Build 15014 for PCs and phones, Microsoft’s officially opened its ebook store, adding some nifty disk- and power-management features, too.

Strategically, the ebook wing of Microsoft's Store app is probably the most important for the company. But you’ll probably get more out of the build’s ability to clean up your unused disk space, as well as balance the performance and power consumed by specific apps. Unfortunately, not all of you will be able to experience the new functionality quite yet.

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Inside Intel's bold plan to personalize live 3D sports broadcasts

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 14:42:00 -0800

Viewers may soon see a big change coming in the way they experience the chills and thrills of live sports broadcasts. It'll be customizable, interactive, and it will put them at the center of the experience.

If it goes as envisioned, Intel's multi-year plan will allow viewers to tailor their own live sports broadcasts, and watch events as if they were on the field.

The live sports broadcasts will be available for VR headsets, PCs, and even TVs. The experience will be unlike live sports today, in which the views and angles are selected by the broadcasters.

Instead, viewers in real-time will be able to create their own 3D broadcast of a sports event. Viewers will be able to select any type of view or camera angle they want for the live broadcast.

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Assange seeks to discuss his US extradition with the feds

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 14:06:00 -0800

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he stands by an earlier pledge to face trial in the U.S., but he is first urging federal investigators to name the exact charges against him.

"I stand by what I said," Assange stated during a webcast on Thursday. "We look forward to having a conversation with the DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice) about what the correct way forward is."

Assange previously made his pledge on the condition that President Barack Obama grant clemency to Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. soldier who was jailed for disclosing sensitive documents to WikiLeaks back in 2010.

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XCOM 2's eagerly anticipated Long War 2 total conversion mod released in Steam Workshop

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 13:20:00 -0800

The Long War mod for the original XCOM: Enemy Unknown is legendary, and for damned good reason. The vanilla XCOM reboot was a long, complex, and outstanding tactical game, and Long War made it longer, more complex, and even more outstanding with new classes, equipment, items, and features. It was so delectably great that Firaxis worked closely with the team behind Long War to prep official mods for the launch of the even-better XCOM 2—which wound up being one of the 10 best PC games of 2016.

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53% off WizGear Universal Air Vent Magnetic Car Mount Holder with Fast Swift-Snap Technology for Smartphones - Deal Alert

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 13:18:00 -0800

Setting your phone on a mount in your car has never been easier! WizGear Air Vent Car Mount for smartphones saves you the hassle of placing your smartphone securely to make sure it doesn’t fall just push it in the air vent! The WizGear Air Vent Mount features a magnetic technology, which means your smartphone will be secure and have no chance of falling. When a phone is secure in place, it becomes easier to use for GPS navigation too.  With over 12,000 reviews on Amazon, it averages 4.3 out of 5 stars (read reviews). Its typical list price of $16.99 has been reduced by 53% to $7.99. See the discounted WizGear Universal Air Vent Magnetic Car Mount now on Amazon.

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Avaya says bankruptcy is a step toward software and services

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 12:08:21 -0800

Networking and collaboration vendor Avaya declared bankruptcy on Thursday, calling the move part of its transition from a hardware to a software and services company.

Avaya emerged from Lucent Technologies in 2000 with a focus on phone switches, enterprise networking gear, and call-center systems. But with the shift toward mobile phones and cloud-based tools for communication, and a tight market for enterprise network equipment, the company has been changing its focus.

It plans to keep operating during the bankruptcy thanks to its cash from operations and US$725 million in financing that still needs approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Avaya said its foreign affiliates aren’t included in the filing and won’t be affected.

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PowerPoint tips from Duarte's Five Rules Presentation

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 11:33:00 -0800

One of the coolest PowerPoint slideshows I have ever seen is one of PowerPoint’s own templates; it’s called "Duarte’s Five Rules." It uses animation, graphics, fonts, layout, design, sound, narration, and timing perfectly. The tips below explain and illustrate how many of the effects in this slide were created.

First, open PowerPoint, type Duarte’s Five Rules in the Search box, then press Enter. Click the Duarte icon when it appears, then click the Create button in the popup window. When the presentation appears, select Slideshows > From the Beginning or press F5. Click through the first two slides (the rest is automatic), turn up the sound, then sit back, watch, listen, and learn how to create a very professional presentation. And if you’re wondering “how did they do that,” the tips below will help.

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As with PCs, you can now customize Raspberry Pi-like computers

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 11:20:00 -0800

The Raspberry Pi 3 is a great product, but it can't be customized. People may desire more storage or a faster processor, but have to settle for features on the board computer.

The lack of customization with board computers is driven by their low prices. Buyers get features commensurate with the low price of boards like the US$35 Raspberry Pi and $15 Pine64.

No one's complaining about the low prices, but the one-size-fits-all nature may not be for everyone. Taking a page from PC makers, Via Technology is now making it possible to configure board computers to specific needs through its website.

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Encrypted email service ProtonMail is now accessible over Tor

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 11:17:05 -0800

The creators of encrypted email service ProtonMail have set up a server that's only accessible over the Tor anonymity network as a way to fight possible censorship attempts in some countries.

ProtonMail was created by computer engineers who met while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The service provides end-to-end encrypted email through a web-based interface and mobile apps, but the encryption is performed on the client side, and the ProtonMail servers never have access to plaintext messages or encryption keys.

On Thursday, Proton Technologies, the Geneva-based company that runs ProtonMail, announced that it has set up a Tor hidden service, or onion site, to allow users to access the service directly inside the Tor anonymity network.

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Google reveals its stealthy moves to keep Android phones free from malware

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:55:00 -0800

Way back when Android 4.2 Jelly Bean was released, Google added a feature called Verify Apps that sought to protect users who inadvertently may have downloaded a piece of malware and attempted to side-load it onto their phone. The service, which is enabled by default on all Android devices, scans apps that are installed from sources other than the Play Store, and warns the user if they may be potentially harmful.

It’s so silent and unobtrusive, most users don’t even know Verify Apps is running, which also means they don’t know when it’s not running. As Google explains in a blog post, that could be the result of an app that has snuck by its gate-keeping and purposefully turned it off, opening the door for potential problems. Google calls these devices Dead or Insecure (DOI), and in turn, if an app has a high percentage of DOI devices downloading it, it will be considered a DOI app. That’s where Google’s security wizardry comes into play.

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27% ASUS VivoStick TS10-B017D Intel Atom Z8350 - Deal Alert

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:43:00 -0800

The innovative ASUS VivoStick plugs directly into an HDMI port to turn any HDMI monitor into a productive Windows 10 PC or any TV into an enhanced Smart TV. With 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, VivoRemote mobile app and USB 2.0 & 3.0 ports, VivoStick uniquely combines versatility and portability, and measures only 5.3” x 1.4” x 0.6”. See the discounted VivoStick on Amazon, where its typical list price of $119 has been reduced to $87.

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Prices plummet for AMD's beastly Radeon Pro Duo graphics card ahead of Vega's release

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:30:00 -0800

The long, confusing lifecycle of AMD’s beastly Radeon Pro Duo is quietly entering its final days as retailers clear the deck for the forthcoming Radeon Vega graphics cards.

The $1,500 MSRP Radeon Pro Duo sits reigns as AMD’s graphics champion with not one but two high-end Fiji graphics processors, exotic high-bandwidth memory, and integrated closed-loop water cooling that kept the board running at chilly temperatures. But the timing and messaging around the graphics card just felt wrong from day one.

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EU antitrust regulators praise audiobooks deal from Apple, Amazon

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:24:00 -0800

Antitrust regulators from the European Union have welcomed an agreement between Apple and Amazon to end exclusivity deals for audiobooks.

The agreement between Apple and Amazon and its Audible service to remove the exclusivity obligations allows Audible to supply its downloadable audiobooks to third-party platforms beyond iTunes, the European Commission said Thursday. In addition, the agreement will allow Apple to source audiobooks from new suppliers and will allow publishers to enter into distributions agreements directly with Apple, the Commission said.

Audible and Apple's iTunes store are two of the world's largest distributors of downloadable audiobooks to consumers. Audible, owned by Amazon since 2008, is the world's largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks.

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China Oceanwide, IDG Capital agree to acquire IDG, publisher of PCWorld and Macworld

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:20:00 -0800

China Oceanwide Holdings Group and China-based IDG Capital have agreed to acquire tech journalism pioneer International Data Group, publisher of PCWorld, Computerworld, and hundreds of other tech publications worldwide.

Tech analyst firm IDC and venture capital firm IDG Ventures are included in the deal, announced Thursday. The size of the deal was not officially released, although a Wall Street Journal story put the price at less than US $1 billion.

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Resident Evil 7 joins Microsoft's ambitious Play Anywhere program for PCs and Xbox One

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:03:00 -0800

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Nintendo's bringing Super Mario Run to Android in March, but Fire Emblem's coming first

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:33:00 -0800

Android users have been waiting patiently to play Super Mario Run on their phones since the side scroller launched exclusively on the iPhone in December, but it looks like it won’t be too much longer until they can join in Princess Peach’s rescue. In a tweet from Nintendo Japan, the company announced that the popular auto-runner will be released in the Play Store in March, though surprisingly it won’t be the first Nintendo game available for Android.

On Feb. 2, Fire Emblem Heroes will launch on both iOS and Android with “fight battles customized for touch screens and on-the-go gameplay.”

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Attackers start wiping data from CouchDB and Hadoop databases

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:17:56 -0800

It was only a matter of time until ransomware groups that wiped data from thousands of MongoDB databases and Elasticsearch clusters started targeting other data storage technologies. Researchers are now observing similar destructive attacks hitting openly accessible Hadoop and CouchDB deployments.

Security researchers Victor Gevers and Niall Merrigan, who monitored the MongoDB and Elasticsearch attacks so far, have also started keeping track of the new Hadoop and CouchDB victims. The two have put together spreadsheets on Google Docs where they document the different attack signatures and messages left behind after data gets wiped from databases.

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Vizio adds Google Home support to its SmartCast TVs and home audio gear

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:04:00 -0800

In 2016, Vizio was big on building Google Cast support (the underpinnings of Chromecast) into its TVs, home theater displays, soundbars, and wireless speakers via the SmartCast line.

For 2017, Vizio's adding Google Home compatibility. Instead of casting media from a phone or tablet (like a sucker!) Vizio owners can now verbally order Google Home to play music from Spotify on the living room speakers, or start binge-watching Netflix’s The Crown in the den.

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Mac, Linux malware discovered targeting biomedical research

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:29:00 -0800

A Mac malware that’s been spying on biomedical research centers may have been circulating undetected for years, according to new research.

Antivirus vendor Malwarebytes uncovered the malicious code, after an IT administrator spotted unusual network traffic coming from an infected Mac.

The malware, which Apple calls Fruitfly, is designed to take screen captures, access the Mac’s webcam, and simulate mouse clicks and key presses, allowing for remote control by a hacker,  Malwarebytes said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The security firm said that neither it nor Apple have identified how the malware has been spreading. But whoever designed it relied on “ancient” coding functions, dating back before the Mac OS X operating system launch in 2001, said Malwarebytes researcher Thomas Reed in the blog post.

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LinkedIn's redesigned website isn't a cluttered mess anymore

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:27:00 -0800

LinkedIn’s desktop interface is getting a fresh coat of paint. The professional social network unveiled Thursday the largest overhaul to the desktop version of its website since the service launched.

The redesign is all about bringing changes from the company’s mobile app to its desktop experience, according to Chris Pruitt, LinkedIn’s director of engineering. Users will see a redesigned feed, tweaked profiles, new messaging capabilities and a revamped search box.

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The company wants to unify the experience of using its desktop and mobile products, something that Pruett said LinkedIn’s most engaged users have been clamoring for. What’s more, the changes should make the product more useful and less cluttered.

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Switches coming out this year will drive open networking forward

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:00:06 -0800

Two moves by open networking vendors this week are likely to chip a little bit more off the monolith of proprietary, appliance-like equipment that still moves most packets around enterprise data centers.

On Thursday, network OS supplier Cumulus Networks introduced turnkey switches based on standard hardware from Edgecore Networks running Cumulus software. They’re designed to allow customers who are new to open networking to get started quickly and easily.

Earlier in the week, on the cutting edge of the movement, Barefoot Networks announced that Edgecore and another Taiwan-based manufacturer called WNC would start shipping switches that use the company’s fully programmable chips.

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Sniper Elite 4 preview: More sniping, less shooting

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:00:00 -0800

It’s easy for me to poke fun at the Sniper Elite series. It is, after all, predominantly known for over-the-top violence and the ability to shoot Nazis in their *ahem* testicles. And that’s still true as we head into the fourth Sniper Elite iteration—I saw plenty of exploding rib cages and skulls during my demo last week.

Sniper Elite 4 is a proper evolution though. While the series may never wholly shed its grindhouse B-movie feel, there’s an increasingly smart stealth game hidden underneath the fountains of blood and guts.

Technology is to thank. I’d actually forgotten, but Sniper Elite 3 was one of the last “cross-generation” games, better looking than its predecessor but still shackled by the limitations of the last console generation. And so while Sniper Elite 3 took some tiny steps forward, giving the player multiple paths to objectives and allowing for a bit more creativity, it still felt somewhat like a linear series of arenas.

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21% off Polaroid ZIP Mobile Photo Printer with ZINK Zero Ink Printing Technology - Deal Alert

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05:49:00 -0800

Enjoy the power and fun of a Polaroid camera without the Polaroid camera. This little standalone photo printer connects to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, and is powered by a rechargeable lithium polymer battery, so it's designed to be portable, easy and fun to use. On a single charge the gadget will print 25 photos -- without ink. Instead, it uses heat to produce deep, vibrant colors that are completely smudge-proof, on 2x3 paper that is waterproof, tear-proof and backed with adhesive so you can peel-and-stick for added fun. Paper is easy to find on Amazon and comes in packs of 20, 30 or 50 (on sale here). A compact and protective carrying case is also available at what seems to be a reasonable price (found here).  The Polaroid ZIP mobile printer currently averages 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon from over 1,400 customers (read recent reviews). Its typical list price of $129.99 has been reduced by 21% to $102.14, a price you'll reveal only after adding the product to your cart. If you're looking for a fun and unusual summer gift idea for yourself or someone on your list, see the discounted Polaroid ZIP mobile printer now on Amazon.

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Facebook plans new data center in Denmark

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05:15:27 -0800

Facebook has chosen Odense in Denmark as the site of its third data center outside the U.S.

Denmark's moderate climate will allow the company to use outdoor air and indirect evaporative cooling to keep temperatures in the data center down, and servers will be powered entirely with renewable energy, the company said Thursday.

Most of Denmark's renewable energy comes from wind power, a highly variable resource. On one day in 2015, it was able to satisfy the nation's entire electricity demand with wind power, and also become a net exporter of electricity. At other times, around a quarter of the country's electricity demand is met by wind power, according to the latest figures from Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency.

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Mini PC invasion: These radically tiny computers fit in the palm of your hand

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05:14:00 -0800

The PC goes ultraportable

Image by Gordon Mah Ung

Some of today’s desktops can make even the sleekest of laptops seem downright bulky.

Computers have been shrinking for years, and the revolution has only accelerated in recent times. As chipmakers focus on creating processors that sip power without sacrificing performance, thermal concerns have largely been alleviated in modern CPUs. Because of that, today’s pint-sized PCs offer enough performance to play HD video and satisfy Office jockeys, the opposite of the janky, compromised experience of yesteryear’s microcomputers.

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Halo Wars 2 campaign preview: Polished, pretty, but not as exciting as Blitz mode

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05:11:00 -0800

When last we saw Halo Wars 2, it was to take an all-too-brief look at its creative Blitz multiplayer mode—one part deck-building game, one part MOBA, and definitely different than what I’ve come to expect from the stagnant real-time strategy genre. It got me excited.

The campaign mission I played last week? Not so much—though to be clear it was only a single mission.

First, the good: It’s Halo. There’s a certain novelty, seeing the Halo universe from a perspective we’ve only seen once before. You’ve got miniature Warthogs circling around, chain guns firing at groups of enemy Grunts. A pair of Wraiths strafe in, balls of blue plasma arcing through the air. A Spartan moves in and leaps on the Wraith’s back, hijacking it and using it to blow up its former partner.

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How to change the 'Hey, Cortana' wake word in Windows 10

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05:00:00 -0800

Voice-controlled gizmos are quickly taking over our digital lives, but an annoyance is coming with them: Why can’t I personalize their wake words? Who among smart-home fans isn’t tired of saying. “Hey, Google” to Google Home, for example?

There’s a third-party program that aims to solve this problem for Cortana on Windows 10. MyCortana by the Sourceforge users LazyGuyz lets you change the “Hey, Cortana” wake word on your PC to anything you want.

If you’re a Star Trek fan you might prefer a simple command like “computer” or “dammit, Jim.” A political junkie might like a Trumpism such as “hey, failing pile of garbage.” I tested these wake phrases with MyCortana and they all worked exactly as expected—even “cat” worked just fine. That said, I did get a few false positives from time to time, so be aware that words with common sound combinations may confuse the program.

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