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Published: Tue, 24 Jan 2017 15:05:40 -0800

Last Build Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2017 15:05:40 -0800

 



If you want to be an Xbox Insider, Microsoft says you'll now have to earn it

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 14:31:00 -0800

If you want Microsoft to let you through the velvet of rope of its Xbox Insider programs, be prepared to earn it—and up through four different tiers of beta access, to boot.

A Microsoft support post from Monday night confirms that there are now four rings of beta access within the Insider program, not one, and that applicants will literally be judged on how they participate to earn access. Only the most worthy will get to try out upgrades like the excellent Creators Update features for the Xbox One being rolled out now.

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In PC comeback, ARM will battle Intel in Chromebooks and Windows 10

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:50:19 -0800

ARM tried to break into the PC market but had a disastrous outing starting with Linux-based smartbooks and then tablets with Windows RT.

But ARM is launching a comeback in PCs, and the third time could be a charm. ARM chips could emerge as a threat to Intel's x86 as super thin laptops get smartphone-like usability with cellular connectivity and long battery life.

The comeback for ARM is starting with Chromebooks, with more models hosting the chip architecture. Lenovo's new N23 Yoga Chromebook -- a 2-in-1 with an 11.6-screen -- has MediaTek's quad-core MT8173c chip, based on ARM.

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GPG Suite updated for secure email on OSX Sierra

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:30:32 -0800

GPG Suite, an application that brings encrypted email to Mac OS, is now available in public beta for Sierra.

The software package had been compatible up to El Capitan but wasn't working with Sierra, which was released by Apple in September. The new software can now be downloaded from the GPG Tools website.

It adds support for the OpenPGP encryption standard, which is an open-source version of the PGP encryption package first developed in 1991.

Four software apps are contained in the package:

-- GPG Mail is a plugin for Apple Mail that allows users to encrypt, decrypt, sign, and verify mails sent using OpenPGP.

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Microsoft's mobile apps will get better image capture and OCR via the Office Lens camera app

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 12:47:00 -0800

Currently, Microsoft’s Office Lens is a specialized mobile application for pulling images of whiteboards and other visual information into Word documents and PowerPoint presentations. But Microsoft says it will soon become much more powerful.

Office Lens originally debuted on Windows Phone, but it moved to Android and the iPhone in April 2015. It was handy for classrooms and meetings because you could take a picture of a whiteboard, for example, and Office Lens automatically aligned the photo so it would look like a screenshot.

Office Lens was originally a standalone app, but as of this week it’s built right into the Word and PowerPoint apps within iOS and Android. That makes it marginally more useful, but what’s more exciting is what’s coming down the pipe: optical character recognition, or OCR. Soon when you snap a photo of a presentation, Word will extract the relevant details for easier integration into your notes. 

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Lenovo tunes N23 Yoga Chromebook for Android apps with ARM processor

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 12:16:05 -0800

Some Chromebooks released this year will be able to run Android apps from the Google Play Store. Lenovo has tuned its new N23 Yoga Chromebook 2-in-1 to effectively run Android mobile apps.

PC makers are taking a page from smartphones and tablets and adding touchscreens to Chromebooks. Many new models can be interchangeably used as laptops or tablets.

More Chromebooks are also getting ARM processors -- which dominate in smartphones and tablets -- to effectively run Android apps. Most Chromebooks today have Intel x86 chips, which dominate in PCs, but Android apps best run on ARM processors.

Lenovo, for the first time, is using an ARM chip in the N23 Yoga Chromebook 2-in-1, breaking its long-time reliance on x86 chips. The device has an 11.6-inch touchscreen, and it can be used as a tablet or laptop thanks to a hybrid design.

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Final Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview lands, bringing iOS support

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 12:07:00 -0800

As promised last year, Google has released the fifth and final version of the Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview, paving the way for the full release of the wearable OS and urging developers to get their apps ready for next month’s launch.

While the release mostly brings bug fixes and general performance improvements, there are a few standout features. Most notably, the new version brings iOS support for the new on-watch Play Store, letting iPhone users enjoy the same standalone application experience as Android users. Additionally, Android Wear apps running on watches paired with iOS devices will be able to perform phone “hand-off flows” for launching web pages on the linked iPhone. The new update also optimizes the available network bandwidth for standalone apps, in an effort to save battery life.

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Here's what the Windows Defender Security Center will look like in Windows 10's Creators Update

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 11:27:00 -0800

From Windows Defender to the Windows Defender Security Center
(image)

Image by Microsoft

Chances are that you only think about your PC’s security when there’s a data breach, or an increased risk of being hacked. Microsoft’s Windows Defender Security Center, available in the upcoming Creators Update, is designed to provide a clearer view of any risks your PC may face.

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Report: Snapdragon 835 will launch first in Galaxy S8, others have to wait

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 10:57:00 -0800


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HP recalls over 100,000 more laptop batteries for fire hazard

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 09:48:00 -0800

HP is expanding its recall of laptop batteries with overheating issues that can cause computer damage and even fire.

The company is recalling an additional 101,000 batteries in some laptops sold between March 2013 through October 2016. This is an expansion of the recall initiated in June 2016, which involved HP recalling 41,000 batteries.

The batteries are in laptop brands including HP, Compaq, ProBook, Envy, Compaq Presario, and Pavilion laptops. Battery packs sold separately are also affected.

Batteries are being recalled in the U.S, Canada and Mexico. Most are in the U.S., while 3,000 are being recalled in Canada, and 4,000 in Mexico. The laptops were sold through big-box retailers and online.

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LG leaks seemingly reveal G6, co-designed Google watches

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 09:32:00 -0800

With the Mobile World Congress show just about a month away, rumors are starting to ramp up, but we might have already seen the biggest leak of all. With Samsung bowing out of MWC to fine-tune the Galaxy S8 a little longer, the star of this year’s show might very well be the LG G6, and the first purported partial image of the new handset is already in the wild.

The Verge has published what appears to be an official product shot of the G6, and it looks like it’s going to be a stunner. As expected, the handset features narrower bezels than the G5 and a 5.7-inch Quad HD LCD screen with a unique super-wide 2:1 ratio. According to the site, the phone will dispense of the modular chin that the G5 introduced, focusing instead on turning heads with an all-glass design.

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Cisco's all-in-one Spark Board puts the cloud on a wall

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 09:05:02 -0800

Cloud-based collaboration software has helped enterprises take meetings beyond the conference room. Now Cisco Systems is bringing its Spark cloud platform back inside.

On Tuesday, Cisco introduced the Spark Board, an all-in-one collaboration device that can be a screen-sharing presentation tool, a digital whiteboard and a videoconferencing display. It’s designed to make it easier to set up and use connected conference rooms, taking the place of a hodgepodge of components that are managed and operated separately.

After selling various voice and video tools for years, Cisco has made Spark the centerpiece of the company’s collaboration portfolio. It’s a text messaging, voice, videoconferencing and presentation platform that runs completely in the cloud, with encryption, so meeting participants on the road can use all those functions. Through the cloud, a Spark session can also incorporate older Cisco tools like WebEx and Telepresence.

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Box launches standalone Notes app to help teams collaborate

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 09:00:00 -0800

Box Notes is getting its own standalone web app and a new desktop app for Windows and Mac. It's a new turn for the product, which allows users to collaboratively edit documents in real time.

Notes gives users a workspace for jotting down ideas and sharing them with others. Those notes can include rich text elements like embedded images, tasks and tables, in addition to plain text.

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/A__2RIzkvUE?rel=0" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen">

The service is designed to give users a shared workspace in the cloud for discussing ideas and working on them with other people. Making Notes a standalone app could help it appeal to a broader audience and increase its usage. 

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Amazon Echo's new 'Computer' wake word lets you fulfill your Star Trek fantasies

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 08:33:00 -0800

Amazon quietly added a new option to the wake words on Amazon Echo devices that will make the dreams of every Star Trek fan come true. If Echo users open the Settings area of the Alexa app they should see a fresh wake word option: Computer.

Yes, soon everyone can live the dream of saying, “Computer, what are the current environmental conditions of this Class M planet?”—though I can’t promise Alexa will come up with an appropriate response. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

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Cloud services accounted for half of revenue growth at SAP in 2016

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 07:58:15 -0800

SAP's revenue from cloud subscriptions and support grew so quickly in 2016, the company has raised its forecasts for 2017 and 2020.

Full-year cloud revenue grew 31 percent compared to a year earlier, accounting for over half of the company's revenue growth. Total revenue reached €22.1 billion (US$23.8 billion), up €1.3 billion on 2015, while revenue from cloud subscriptions and support grew €707 million to €3 billion, the company reported Tuesday.

Profit after tax rose to €3.6 billion from €3.1 billion in 2015.

SAP is keen to see more of its software business move to the cloud because, unlike traditional software licenses that bring a bump in revenue at the moment a deal is signed, it represents a predictable source of revenue. Together with software support, the company says that the growth in cloud services means 61 percent of its revenue now comes from more predictable sources.

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Court denies U.S. government appeal in Microsoft's overseas email case

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 07:57:00 -0800

A U.S. appeals court will not reconsider its groundbreaking decision denying Department of Justice efforts to force Microsoft to turn over customer emails stored outside the country.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a 4-4 decision Tuesday, declined to rehear its July decision that denied the DOJ access to the email of a drug trafficking suspect stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland. Microsoft has been fighting DOJ requests for the email since 2013.

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Severe vulnerability in Cisco's WebEx extension for Chrome leaves PCs open to easy attack

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 07:31:00 -0800

Anyone who uses the popular Cisco WebEx extension for Chrome should update to the latest version pronto. Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy recently discovered a serious vulnerability in the Chrome extension that leaves PCs wide open to attack.

In older versions of the extension (before version 1.0.3) malicious actors could add a “magic string” to a web address or file hosted on a website. The magic string was designed to remotely activate the WebEx browser extension. Once the extension was activated the bad guys could execute malicious code on the target machine. 

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22% off Kingston Digital 64GB Dual USB 3 and C Flash Drive - Deal Alert

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 07:28:00 -0800


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Google begins live testing of Instant Apps that load without installation

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 07:22:00 -0800

At last year’s I/O conference, Google demonstrated a sneak peak of an exciting new initiative that lets users interact with pieces of an app without needing to go through the whole download process. Called Android Instant Apps, it was designed to streamline the process of installing apps, and now Google is finally ready to let us try it out.

While only available in a “limited test” with just four developers—BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope, and Viki—Instant Apps could dramatically change the way we interact with apps on our phones. For example, under the current system, if someone sends you a link to an item for sale in the Wish app and you don't have it installed on your phone, you would be first redirected to the Play Store, where you would need to download and install the app, find it on your phone, open it, type in the item, and hit search. With Instant Apps, tapping the link would automatically bring up that page in the app, whether it’s installed on your phone or not. From there you could buy it or save the link to your home screen, all without needing to go through the whole tedious download process.

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D-Wave's $15 million quantum computer runs a staggering 2,000 qubits

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 06:14:00 -0800

For D-Wave, the path to quantum computers being widely accepted is similar to the history of today’s computers. The first chips came more than 30 years ago, and Microsoft’s Basic expanded the software infrastructure around PCs.

Quantum computers are a new type of computer that can be significantly faster than today’s PCs. They are still decades away from replacing PCs and going mainstream, but more advanced hardware and use models are still emerging.

“A lot of that is unfolding and will have a similar dramatic change in the computing landscape,” Vern Brownell, D-Wave’s CEO, said in an interview.

D-Wave is the only company selling a quantum computer. It sold its first system in 2011 and is now pushing the speed limits with a new quantum computer called the D-Wave 2000Q, which has 2,000 qubits.

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Microsoft tries to expel Chromebooks from schools with Intune app and low-cost PCs

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 06:00:00 -0800

For years, Apple Macs dominated the classroom. Then Chromebooks took over. Now, Microsoft is once again pushing for kids to learn via new, cheap Windows 10 PCs, managed by a new Intune application designed specifically for education.

Chromebooks aren’t much more than web browsers built on top of a bare-bones OS. That can be a drawback for businesses, which demand a rich platform for computing. In classrooms, though, the relative simplicity of the platform can be a positive, as they’re easier to manage.

(image) Microsoft

Microsoft’s Intune for Education dashboard allows classroom PCs to be quickly set up and managed, Microsoft says.

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If we show you how to back up your PC for free, will you finally do it?

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 05:22:00 -0800

If we show you how to back up your PC for free, will you finally do it? Beyond simple hard drive failure, your PC could fall prey to user error, thieves, and all sorts of nefarious malware. The only way to ensure that none of your personal files or programs are lost in a catastrophe is to back up everything regularly.

While backing up your data can be as simple as dumping critical files on an external hard drive every now and again, you’ll ideally want backups that let you recover not just yesterday’s version of a lost file, but last Tuesday’s as well. Backups should be easy to do, or they won’t get done. And ideally, you should have more than one backup in more than one location.

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How to create Live Tiles for your Steam games in Windows

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 05:00:00 -0800


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The essential Android business apps

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0800

Your phone is now your digital briefcase, your ever-present business companion.


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Jam Voice Bluetooth Speaker with Amazon Alexa review: Leave this one on the shelf

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Amazon is enabling lots of other manufacturers to build their own hardware that taps its cloud-based digital assistant, Alexa. That’s a smart strategy if Amazon’s objective is to make Alexa ubiquitous in the smart home and home entertainment markets. But the online retailer should also be careful not to allow too many subpar products like Jam Audio’s Jam Voice to be associated with the Alexa brand.

Even after Jam Audio slashed the Jam Voice’s asking price from $79.99 to $59.99 in the wake of the $129 Google Home and Amazon’s own $49.99 Echo Dot, the Jam Voice is merely a so-so product. And in a market where the competition is so good, being only so-so is a big no-no.

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MyCharge RazorPlatinum review: Portable, yet powerful

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 02:00:00 -0800

The myCharge RazorPlatinum is a $99 battery pack that’s designed to do more than just charge your phone. Looking at the myCharge listing for the pack, it’s clear this is a battery pack designed for MacBook users who need some extra juice while on the go.

That said, the RazorPlatinum gets the job done when it comes to charging any USB-C device. With an overall capacity of 13,400 milliamp-hours (49.6Wh), the pack is one of three packs we’ve tested to fall short of 80 percent efficiency — 77.23 to be exact — when discharging at 5V/2.4A.

(image) Jason Cipriani

You’d need to stack two Pixel XL’s to get the thickness of the RazorPlatinum.

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Pompeo sworn in as CIA chief amid opposition from surveillance critics

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 23:35:00 -0800

Mike Pompeo was sworn in late Monday by U.S. Vice President Michael Pence as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, amid protests from surveillance critics who worry about his conflicting views on a number of key issues.

The oath of office was administered to him after the Senate voted in favor of his confirmation in a 66-32 vote.

Critics of Pompeo, a Republican representative from Kansas, are concerned that he may weigh in with the government on a rollback of many privacy reforms, including restrictions on the collection of bulk telephone metadata from Americans by the National Security Agency under the USA Freedom Act. There are also concerns that the new director may try to introduce curbs on the use of encryption and bring in measures to monitor the social media accounts of people.

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Meet DATEDIF(), Excel’s secret Date & Time function that's still handy

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:17:00 -0800

DATEDIF(), which means Date + Dif, is a compatibility function left over from Lotus 1-2-3 that Microsoft adopted in Excel version 2000, which is the only version that explains how this function works. It’s operational in all Excel versions, but it’s not on the Formulas menu or in the Help menus after Excel 2000. If your spreadsheet experiences began with Lotus, which is true for many thousands of users, you’ll be happy to know that this old Lotus function is still alive and kicking.

The purpose of this function is to calculate the time between a user-specified starting and ending date in days, months, or years. The arguments for this function are:

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Trump names net neutrality foe Ajit Pai to lead the FCC

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 16:59:00 -0800

President Donald Trump has named Commissioner Ajit Pai, an outspoken opponent of the FCC’s net neutrality rules, as the next head of the agency.

The choice was widely expected after Trump’s election last November. Pai is the senior Republican on the commission, having served since 2012. He doesn’t need to be confirmed by the Senate because he is already on the Commission.

Pai attacked the reclassification of broadband as a utility in 2015, saying it would place excessive burdens on service providers, other internet players and consumers. The expansion of broadband service through a competitive marketplace has been one of Pai’s themes as a commissioner.

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Samsung sees 2016 profit jump despite Note 7 debacle

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 16:54:00 -0800

Samsung Electronics said its profit rose almost 20 percent in 2016 despite nearly flat sales and the costly recall of the Note 7 smartphone.

The company reported an annual net profit of 22.7 trillion won (US$19.5 billion), up 19.2 percent, on sales of 201.9 trillion won (US$173.5 billion), up just 0.6 percent.

Samsung saw some of its biggest sales gains in memory chips on the back of strong demand from smartphone makers. The company is one of the world's biggest memory chip manufacturers.

The mobile division saw sales fall 3 percent in 2016 to 97.8 trillion won. It's Samsung's biggest division by sales and was hit by the recall of the Note 7 smartphone and slowing demand for high-end phones.

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Microsoft expands FastTrack migration service

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 16:46:04 -0800

Microsoft is expanding the free services it offers to help enterprise customers adopt its products.

The company announced Monday that its FastTrack services now encompass Dynamics 365, Windows 10 and Microsoft Teams. Those come in addition to Office 365 and the Enterprise Mobility Suite, which were already covered under FastTrack.

Each service is designed to help companies get the most out of products they've already subscribed to and adopt products that the company has recently released. FastTrack includes adoption guides, tools to find a Microsoft partner company to help with migration, and consulting help from Microsoft employees on particular issues.

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