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Published: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 12:53:22 -0800

Last Build Date: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 12:53:22 -0800

 



$49 Windows tablets, $1,000 PC discounts, and 50% off Xbox games highlight Microsoft deals

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 12:50:00 -0800

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may have come and gone. But that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from publishing some fairly amazing deals over the next 12 days, half of which you’ll need to visit a brick-and-mortar Microsoft store to score.

Since the deals kick off on December 5, you have until Monday to plan your purchases. And you will need to plan them, too: The 12 Days of Deals unlock each day and are only good “while supplies last.” Naturally, you’ll have to line up at a physical Microsoft Store if you want to score a “doorbuster.” 

Some of the deals are well worth the trouble. Microsoft will offer up to $1,000 off on select PCs on two separate days, for example, and there are a number of half-off deals on Xbox One games, too. Another intriguing deal is a $49 Windows tablet on Friday, December 9. Microsoft’s best deals, however, are shrouded in mystery: The company isn’t revealing which tablet will be $49, or what PCs it will be discounting by $1,000. 

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Amazon's new Amazon Go convenience store will let you take what you want

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 11:27:00 -0800

Amazon.com is still figuring out how to use robots to fill store shelves, but it's about done with clerks. Next year, the company will open a convenience store in Seattle where shoppers can walk in, take what they want -- and leave.

The Amazon Go store is on the corner of 7th Avenue and Blanchard Street in Seattle, in the heart of Amazon's new campus development and a few blocks from the company's headquarters.

Amazon wants people to walk in to the store and then just walk out with what they want.

It's not giving the goods away, though.

To figure out who to charge, and how much, Amazon will identify shoppers by scanning QR codes on their phones as they walk in, and use sensors and computer vision technology to determine which items they take.

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Google releases Android 7.1.1 images for Pixel and Nexus devices

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 10:33:00 -0800

If you own a recent Nexus or Pixel, Android 7.1.1 is on its way. Earlier this morning, Google dumped a slew of factory and OTA images for users who want to manually update their phones, rather than wait for them to roll out to each device.

The 240MB update consists of under-the-hood changes in the form of stability improvements and bug fixes, as well as the monthly security patch for December. The phones that are eligible for the update include:

  • Pixel
  • Pixel XL
  • Pixel C
  • Nexus 6P
  • Nexus 5X
  • Nexus 9
  • Nexus Player

You can grab the 7.1.1 factory images here and the OTA images here. If it’s your first time manually updating your phone, Google also supplies step-by-step instructions.

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Google's Trusted Contacts pings your loved ones when you need them most

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 09:44:00 -0800

Google’s Android services already work overtime to make our life easier, but its new app may actually be able to save it. Called Trusted Contacts, it connects you with the closest people in your life to allow them to find you in an emergency.

To set up the app, you simply need to designate the people you would like to share your location with, and Google will ping them with your request. Unlike Familio or GeoZilla, however, Trusted Contacts isn’t for meet-ups. The app is primarily designed for situations where you need immediate assistance from your loved ones (or they need yours). The next time you’re in an emergency, you can use it to send your location to one of your contacts, or if you can’t reach your phone, it will automatically beam them your location if you don’t respond to a request within 5 minutes.

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67% off iClever BoostCube 40W 4-Port USB Wall Charger with Foldable Plug - Deal Alert

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 09:07:00 -0800

This 40W/8A 4-port output wall charger from iClever detects the charging capacity of each device, and provides the fastest possible charge of up to 2.4 amps per port, charging any four USB-enabled devices simultaneously. Its compact design features a foldable plug.  It contains multiple internal protection mechanisms to guarantee the safety of your device. iClever's BoostCube averages 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon from nearly 1,000 people (read reviews). It's typical list price has beed reduced 67% to just $19.99. See it on Amazon.

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Chrome 55 pushes Flash into the background

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 08:49:00 -0800

Chrome version 55 rolled out late last week and drove another nail in the coffin for Flash on the web. Google announced in August that Chrome 55 would default to HTML5 video instead of Flash, effectively blocking Adobe’s web plugin from running on most sites. The company has yet to confirm that Chrome 55 did in fact roll out defaulting to HTML5. We have asked Google for comment and will update this story should the company respond.

Part of the original plan, which actually reaches all the way back to May, was that Flash would be click-to-play on sites that were still exclusively using Flash, although a select number of sites would be “whitelisted” to use Chrome’s Flash functionality automatically. 

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Chrome bug triggered errors on websites using Symantec SSL certificates

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 08:45:35 -0800

If you've encountered errors over the past month when trying to access HTTPS-enabled websites on your computer or Android phone, it might have been due to a bug in Chrome.

The bug affected the validation for some SSL certificates issued by Symantec, one of the world's largest certificate authorities, as well as by GeoTrust and Thawte, two CAs that Symantec also controls.

The bug was introduced in Chrome version 53, but also affected the Android WebView component that Android apps use to display Web content, said Rick Andrews, senior technical director at Symantec in a blog post Friday.

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Lenovo promises 12 new Moto Mod add-ons per year

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 08:27:00 -0800

The Moto Z has quickly become the gold standard for modular phones, and it looks like it’s about to get a whole lot more expandability. Speaking at a press briefing last week, Moto promised that a whole new family of new snap-on accessories is on the way.

Moto previously floated the idea of a possible Tango mod, but now CNET reports that the company is committed to releasing 12 magnetic modules per year designed to expand the Moto Z well beyond the capabilities of a normal handset. You can already buy things like a Hasselblad zoom lens, JBL speaker, and Incipio battery pack for the Z, but Moto Mods director John Touvannas said the company’s goal for 2017 “is to get more Mods out this year than we did last year, no question.”

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Microsoft pauses Windows 10 previews to shift to radical new update system

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 08:01:00 -0800

Microsoft quietly announced on Friday that Insider Preview builds are being put on hold. It’s not clear how long Windows 10 fans will have to go without a new build, but the reason may make the life of an Insider easier in the long run.

Insider builds are seeing a brief pause so that Microsoft can transfer Insider builds to the company’s new Unified Update Platform (UUP). The UUP allows Microsoft to deliver differential downloads—also known as delta updates. This means that upgrading to future Insider builds of Windows 10 will only require users to download and install the code that has changed since their last update, rather than the entire update.

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The Samsung Galaxy Note7's extreme thinness may be behind battery explosions

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 07:50:00 -0800

It’s been a while since Samsung has been in the news for its exploding Galaxy Note7 batteries—and we sincerely hope any of our readers who bought one has returned it to the company for a refund—but a team of enterprising engineers and developers who solve problems for a living may have discovered the root cause of the disaster.

Samsung has been mostly mum about the issue since it announced in October that it was suspending production of the popular phablet (more than a month after the first cases were reported), but all the while Instrumental has been researching the battery boondoggle behind the scenes. What it found is that the batteries themselves weren’t faulty; rather, Samsung’s push to make the case as thin as possible likely comprised them:

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OpenAI releases Universe, a platform for training AIs to play games, use apps

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 07:49:09 -0800

OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research company, wants to let AIs loose in their own universe, where they can learn to play games, use apps and interact with websites.

Universe is the name of OpenAI's tool for training AIs on, as it puts it, "any task a human can complete with a computer." Using a VNC (Virtual Network Computing) remote desktop, it allows the AI to control the game or app using a virtual keyboard and mouse, and to see its output by analyzing the pixels displayed on the screen. It's essentially an interface to the company's Gym toolkit for developing reinforcement algorithms, a type of machine learning system.

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Oculus Touch controller review: Putting virtual worlds at your fingertips, with caveats

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 07:00:00 -0800

Before we talk about Oculus’s motion-tracked Touch controllers, I want to take a moment to discuss how badly the company miscalculated.

Back in April when the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and its competitor, the Valve-backed HTC Vive, launched it was easy for me to give them equal scores and say it was a toss-up. Sure, I had an inkling that once you dabbled with the Vive’s room-scale VR it would be hard to go back to the mostly-stationary (whether seated or standing) experience proffered by Oculus. But it was just an inkling, based mostly on anecdotal evidence. Would room-scale actually catch on? Would people even have space for it? Those questions loomed large.

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Amazon Takes $80 off Fire Tablet and Tap When Bought Together, Today Only - Deal Alert

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 06:37:00 -0800

Today only, if you bundle together Amazon's Fire Tablet and Tap, you'll save $80 on the two. The bundle includes the Fire Tablet with 7" Display, Wi-Fi, and 16 GB of storage, and Amazon Tap, the Alexa-Enabled Portable Bluetooth Speaker. With the Fire tablet from Amazon you can enjoy millions of movies, TV shows, songs, Kindle e-books, apps and games. It features a rich 7" IPS display and 1.3 GHz quad-core processor. Available in four colors. Amazon's portable Tap device uses the Alexa Voice Service when connected to Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot to play music, read the news, provide weather reports, automate your home, and even order a pizza. Provides up to 9 hours of playback and comes with a charging cradle. Bought separately right now you'd pay $199.98, but buy them together today and pay just $119.98 for both. See the discounted bundle on Amazon.

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Excel Date & Time functions tutorial: EDATE, YEARFRAC, EOMONTH, NETWORKDAYS.INTL

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 04:45:00 -0800

The Excel Date & Time functions I’m covering here—EDATE, YEARFRAC, EOMONTH, and NETWORKDAYS.INTL—are four of the many used for counting days. For each function listed below, I’ll define it first, then show the function’s arguments, which are the values that functions use to perform calculations. Then I’ll show a sample of the function’s syntax—how the formula is arranged, which includes the function’s name, parentheses, comma separators, and its arguments.

Note that Arguments are always surrounded by parentheses, and individual arguments are separated by commas.

EDATE()

EDATE is a practical function for returning a date some number of months in the future or past, using a positive value for future dates, a negative value for past dates. For instance, you can use this function to calculate a retirement date or expiration date, to calculate someone’s age from a birthdate, or to add a given number of years to a specified date.

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Apple's 'excited' about self-driving car potential

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 04:39:00 -0800

Apple has said in comments to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it is “excited” about the potential use of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.

The company’s director of product integrity Steve Kenner wrote that Apple is “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”

Kenner did not say if the company would design or make self-driving vehicles or perhaps only license some of its machine learning software to car makers, reflecting Apple’s continued reticence on its plans for the automated vehicles market. The company could not be immediately reached for more information on its plans.

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How to collaborate on a document in Dropbox Paper

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 04:27:00 -0800

People have used Dropbox Paper to create more than a million documents since it launched in private beta a year ago. But if you haven’t yet tried it yet, you’re missing out on an impressive collaboration tool, particularly if you’re already using Dropbox to store your files. You can share and co-author documents, enter comments, and pull in images directly from Dropbox. Here’s how to start using it.

Create a new Paper document

Open Dropbox in your browser and select Paper from the left sidebar menu on the main Dropbox page. By default, this takes you the Docs page. (As you create more projects in Paper you’ll be able to navigate between your Docs, Folders, and Favorites using the menu on the left.) Click the Create new doc button on the right. When your new document opens, you’ll be prompted to give it a name and a contextual description.

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8 apps to help you take the stress out of holiday travel

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 04:00:00 -0800

Here are some apps and services that can reduce some of the misery that accompanies keeping track of all those details.


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Support open-source projects this giving season

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 03:30:00 -0800

The holiday season is a time to panic and have eggnog-fueled meltdowns relax with family, give gifts, and eat far too many carbs. It’s also traditionally been a time when charities see big bumps in donations. Giving even has its own day, “Giving Tuesday” to follow the weekend bounded by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There are plenty of charities to give to, but if you use free and open-source software, why not give back to the projects that create those tools that you use without charge?

The phrase  “freedom isn’t free” is usually applied to the military, but it also applies to free software. After all, somebody is paying for the server that a project lives on. If a project offers a bug bounty, that money comes from somewhere. As community projects, open-source software relies on the community’s contributions (labor) and donations (money).

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How to reinstall Windows 10 without any bloatware

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 03:00:00 -0800

Patrick Scott bought some laptops for his kids, but they were so slow the kids stopped using them. This is a common issue with bloatware-laden consumer laptops, sadly. He performed a “factory reset,” with the hopes of reinstalling the OS without all the crap that was preinstalled. To his horror he discovered the factory reset reinstalled all the bloatware, leaving him back where he started. 

Luckily for Patrick, there’s a way to get a clean installation of Windows 10, without all the apps that came with your PC. Here’s how it works. 

1. From Windows 10’s Start menu, go to Settings > Update & security > Recovery. You can also get there from the traditional Control Panel by clicking Recovery. At the bottom of that window, click the long hyperlink that reads, “If you’re having problems with your PC, go to Settings...

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The Full Nerd episode 12: The best PC hardware, laptops, and games of 2016

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 08:02:00 -0800

This week on The Full NerdGordon Mah UngBrad Chacos, Hayden Dingman, and Adam Patrick Murray debate the best PC hardware and games of the year. 10-core Intel chips or AMD’s new generation of APUs? The Radeon RX 480 or Nvidia’s beastly GTX 10-series graphics cards? Battlefield 1 or Forza Horizon 3? The gang chimes in on all that and more.

Spoiler: Some of the picks are so close that we needed to turn to the Facebook Live audience, as a tie-breaker—which helps to highlight that these picks are just the favorites of the Full Nerd cast, not official PCWorld awards. Subscribe to PCWorld's Facebook page and you'll be notified when we go on-air, giving you the chance to make your mark on the show when we film it live every other week.

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How Windows 10's data collection trades your privacy for Microsoft's security

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 03:00:00 -0800

Windows 10’s aggressive data-collection capabilities may concern users about corporate spying, but enterprises have control that consumer-edition Windows users do not: Administrators can decide how much information gets sent back to Microsoft.

But enterprises need to think twice before turning off Windows telemetry to increase corporate privacy. That’s because doing so can decrease the effectiveness of Windows 10’s security features.

Microsoft isn’t merely vacuuming up large amounts of data because it can. The company has repeatedly reiterated its stance that Windows 10 does not collect the user’s personal data, but rather anonymized file data that is then used to improve overall user experience and Windows functionality.

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Microsoft's 'Holoportation' will virtually beam you into another room

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 05:27:00 -0800

Microsoft is bringing a whole new level to remote social interaction with “Holoportation.”

The prototype technology allows users to see, hear, and interact with others remotely as if both are present in the same physical space. 3D cameras capture and record a users movements and construct a temporally consistent 3D model. That data is then compressed and sent out to be reconstructed anywhere in the world. 

Because interactions are recorded, they can be replayed and manipulated (such as by shrinking), giving users the sense of reliving that moment in time. 

Researchers have now made the system mobile by installing it in a car. 

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Intel's silence on Optane SSDs raises questions about launch and focus

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 05:23:00 -0800

There’s a lot of excitement about Intel’s superfast Optane SSDs, but products won’t be on shelves this year as the chipmaker had earlier promised.

Intel is currently making Optane in a factory in China, and production will “ramp” up next year, said Stacy Smith, executive vice president of manufacturing, operations, and sales at Intel.

Smith declined to comment on when Optane products will hit the market, maintaining a consistent pattern of silence among Intel executives on the topic. He spoke at the Credit Suisse 20th Annual Technology, Media, and Telecom conference in Scottsdale, Arizona this week.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said sample Optane products will ship to more testers next year, and that “it’s really a 2018 ramp for that product,” according to a transcript of an October earnings call, posted on Seeking Alpha.

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Watch Dogs 2 review: A fresh, interesting rebirth that ditches the stale Ubisoft formula

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 05:19:00 -0800

Bear with me for a bit. I’m going to get around to Watch Dogs 2, but it’s going to be by way of a semi-lengthy tangent into Assassin’s Creed—particularly, what Assassin’s Creed II meant to that now-juggernaut of a series.

It’s easy to forget, with almost a decade of sequels under our belt, that there was a time when Assassin’s Creed could’ve conceivably died off. Early on, too. After garnering quite a bit of hype, the original Assassin’s Creed released in 2007 to middling reviews. “Disappointing,” said many, or “Repetitive.” It had some great ideas, but was a boring mess of a game.

That might have been the end, but no. Assassin’s Creed II released in 2009, ushering in the “Ubisoft Formula” that propelled the publisher to new heights and then became the butt of industry jokes: 1) Climb towers 2) Unlock a million icons on the map 3) Grind out some missions 4) Repeat. Sure, it’s trite now, but at the time it marked a huge shift in the open-world genre.

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Russia claims it foiled a cyber attack from a foreign spy service

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 14:25:47 -0800

The Russian government claims to have foiled a "large-scale" cyber attack from foreign intelligence services meant to destabilize the country’s financial system.

The government’s Federal Security Service made the statement on Friday without blaming a specific country, but said the attack was meant to be carried out on Dec. 5 against a number of major Russian banks.

The hack would have also included the use of social media and SMS text messages to circulate posts claiming a crisis in Russia’s financial system. Several dozen cities in the country had been targeted, the Federal Security Service claimed, stating it had already neutralized the threat.

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Report: Microsoft's Home Hub will chase Amazon's Alexa and Echo as a software service

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:51:00 -0800

Microsoft’s rumored Home Hub was once thought to be a device rivaling Amazon Echo or Google Home. A new report suggests it will instead be a Windows 10 software service aimed at families, complete with a new Cortana assistant that will run on upcoming Windows 10 PCs.

Just like in real families, Home Hub will put an emphasis on sharing, according to the source of the report, Windows Central. The site said it would have a communal, interactive calendar, presumably touch-based like Windows 10’s current Calendar app.  

Microsoft may also be planning to create a family-friendly version of its Cortana digital assistant that will be the primary, voice-driven interface. According to the site, the new Cortana—code-named “FamTana”—will surround her classic blue circle with an orange one, to signal users that they’re on a shared service.

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47% off CyberPower CSP600WSU Surge Protector 6-AC Outlet Swivel with 2 USB (2.1A) Charging Ports - Deal Alert

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 12:56:00 -0800

The CyberPower Professional Series CSP600WSU Surge Protector is ideal for Home/ Office protection with 1200 joules, 6 swivel outlets, 2 USB charge ports (2.1 Amp shared), and a convenient wall tap design. The surge protector is ideal for protecting personal computers, phones/ fax/ modems, printers, stereos, and other electronics. Its two USB are perfect for keeping tablets, smart phones, and other rechargeable electronics ready to use.  With Amazon's current discount of 47% you can buy it now for $9.86 (See it on Amazon). 

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This week in games: Free Titanfall 2 weekend, Star Wars Battlefront meets Rogue One

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 12:00:00 -0800

First things first: If you’re coming in here for the usual onslaught of trailers, you’re not going to find much this week. Most anything worth anything aired last night during the 2016 Game Awards, and we’ve rounded all those up over here for you. That leaves the barest of leftovers for our wrap-up this week.

In non-trailer news, Titanfall 2 is free this weekend, Rocket League is getting a new Halo-esque map, Pathologic emerges from the Kickstarter cave, and Grand Theft Auto IV got patched. Yes, that's GTA IV, not GTA V.

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Random iPhone 6s shutdowns due to faulty battery component, Apple says

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 11:31:00 -0800

A problem with iPhone 6s products randomly shutting down comes from a battery flaw found in a small number of models, according to Apple.

After a Chinese consumer watchdog group reported the issue, Apple is offering a fix free of charge to any eligible iPhone 6s user through its customer support sites.

On Friday, Apple explained on its Chinese site that the problem was found in iPhone 6s devices containing a faulty battery component. This component was “exposed to controlled ambient air longer than it should have” before it was assembled into the battery packs, Apple said.

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Researchers find a way bypass the iOS activation lock

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 10:23:00 -0800

Two researchers claim to have found a way to bypass the activation lock feature in iOS that’s supposed to prevent anyone from using an iPhone or iPad marked as lost by its owner.

The first report came Sunday from an Indian security researcher named Hemanth Joseph, who started investigating possible bypasses after being confronted with a locked iPad he acquired from eBay.

The activation lock gets enabled automatically when users turn on the Find My iPhone feature via iCloud. It links the device to their Apple IDs and prevents anyone else from accessing the device without entering the associated password.

One of the few things allowed from the activation lock screen is connecting the device to a Wi-Fi network, including manually configuring one. Hemanth had the idea of trying to crash the service that enforces the lock screen by entering very long strings of characters in the WPA2-Enterprise username and password fields.

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