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Published: Tue, 06 Dec 2016 02:27:58 -0800

Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Dec 2016 02:27:58 -0800

 



Microsoft's new Zo chatbot dodges politics, doesn't always make sense

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 21:19:01 -0800

Microsoft is taking another shot at giving users a friendly AI-driven bot conversation partner. On Monday, the company released Zo, a chatbot that users can converse with on Kik, the popular messaging platform. 

Zo is a follow-up to Tay, the tech giant's first foray into friendly, English-speaking chatbots. It's clear that the company has learned from its first attempt, when the friendly chatbot was turned into a font of white supremacist propaganda by malicious users. 

In contrast, Zo adamantly refuses to discuss political matters. Even a casual mention of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's conversation with the leader of Taiwan led the bot to say that it wasn't interested in discussing politics. 

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Privacy groups urge investigation of 'internet of toys'

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 21:05:02 -0800

Privacy groups in the U.S. and seven European countries will ask consumer protection agencies to investigate the maker of two internet-connected toys for violations of laws designed to protect children's privacy.

The complaints are scheduled to be filed Tuesday against Genesis Toys, maker of the My Friend Cayla and I-Que Intelligence Robot toys, and Nuance Communications, the provider of voice-recognition software for the products.

The complaints, to be filed in the U.S., France, Sweden, Greece, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway, may be only the beginning of actions taken by consumer and privacy groups targeting a lucrative slice of the internet of things market, the so-called internet of toys.

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Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube will share terror content info

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 20:12:00 -0800

Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google's YouTube have agreed to share with one another identifying digital information of violent terror content that they find on their platforms.

When they remove "violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos or images" from their platforms, the companies will include in a shared industry database the hashes, or unique digital fingerprints, of the content.

Other participants can use the shared hashes to help identify matching content on their hosted consumer platforms, review against their respective policies and definitions, and remove the content when appropriate, according to a statement by the companies on Monday.

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AT&T means business with a 5G trial at Intel

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 17:53:02 -0800

5G and its multi-gigabit cellular speeds probably won’t hit the market until 2020, but one corporate customer of AT&T is about to taste what it may be like.

AT&T is launching its first customer trial of 5G technologies – the first 5G trial for any business user in the U.S., the carrier believes. But this is no average customer that happened to draw a golden ticket. The trial will take place at an Intel facility in Austin, Texas. It will last about a month, use just one cell site, and cover an area with a radius of approximately 300 meters, AT&T said.

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How to get a word count with Microsoft Office for iPad

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:55:00 -0800

A reader asks: 

“How can I see the word count of a document when using Microsoft Office for iPad?”

In the Office for iPad app, open the document you want to see the word count for, and do the following:

  • Tap the “Review” tab in the Ribbon.
  • Tap the second icon from the left—it has three long lines, three short lines, and “123.”

Tapping this icon will reveal the number of pages, a word count, and the number of characters (with and without spaces).

For more on Office for iPad: 

This tip was originally published on IDG Answers, a reader-powered help desk for answering tech questions.

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How to password protect a PDF before sending it by email

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 15:45:00 -0800

A reader asks:

“Is there any way to password-protect and lock a sensitive PDF file before sending it as an attachment through email? I cannot afford Adobe Acrobat Pro and free primopdf didn’t work for me. Any help will be appreciated!”

The quickest way to do this is to ZIP the PDF file and protect the ZIP file, or use Microsoft Office’s built-in encryption tools to create a password. If you use Outlook, you can use Adobe Acrobat IX to password protect PDFs. You can also try programs like NitroPDF and PDF Encrypt to set the password protection to your PDF file without Acrobat.

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How to get rid of image burn-in on an LCD display

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 15:05:00 -0800

A reader asks:

“I use a 32-inch LCD TV for my home office display, connected to my PC using HDMI. I also use it for my PS3 and Wii to prevent a Shining ‘all work and no play’-type incident, so it gets quite a lot of use every day. I left town over the weekend and unthinkingly left a fixed image on the display. When I got back, I found that the image had burned in. I thought LCD displays wouldn’t do that, but I was clearly mistaken. The ocean image that was displayed left shadows of the waves across the display. Is there a way to get rid of this problem, or at least minimize it?”

It was a widespread myth for a while that transmissive displays like LCDs weren’t subject to image persistence (a.k.a. burn-in), but it is more accurate to say that they are less subject to burn-in than phosphor-based displays such as CRTs and color plasma. The good news is that on an LCD it can usually be reversed but on a CRT it is usually permanent. 

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Obama's cybersecurity plan faces uncertainty with Trump

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 15:01:00 -0800

U.S. consumers could one day see cybersecurity ratings on technology products, much like today's EnergyStar ratings, if the findings of a government-sponsored cybersecurity commission are heeded. Although like much in Washington right now, a lot depends on  incoming U.S. President Donald Trump and his views on cybersecurity are far from clear.

The report, published on Friday by the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, also suggests usernames and passwords are replaced with something more secure and wants 150,000 cybersecurity experts trained over the next four years to help the U.S. defend against hacking threats.  

The commission has the support of President Obama and began its work in February this year, with executives at Microsoft, IBM, Uber and former U.S. government officials. However, in releasing its findings, Obama acknowledged it’ll be up to the next president and U.S. Congress to more fully implement what the commission has recommended.  

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Start hoarding SSDs: Prices are expected to spike as supply gets tight

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 14:12:00 -0800

Time to add SSDs to your hoarding list. Citing a transition in technology and increased demand, NAND prices are expected to begin heading north next year, analysts say.

NAND chips revenue had already increased by 19.6 percent due to increased demand in the third quarter of this year and will be even tighter as we close the year out, wrote Sean Yang, research director of DRAMeXchange. 

Part of the tight supply is attributed to an industry transition from older, less dense 2D NAND to 3D NAND. That’s reduced supply at a time when consumption continues to go up to feed smartphones, PCs, and all things digital.

“3D NAND is still ramping up at most suppliers, and as a consequence, there is an expected shortage in flash memory that will occur in the not too distant future—not sure if this is the next few months, that depends upon demand,” said Thomas Coughlin of Storage Visions. “However flash memory for enterprise applications has special requirements and may be in short supply.”

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23% off iClever Backlight Bluetooth Folding Keyboard for Smartphone, PC, or Tablet - Deal Alert

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 14:07:00 -0800

This lightweight and super portable keyboard from iClever features a compact design with full standard-size keys, but folds down into ⅓ of the size. This model has a convenient backlight feature with red, blue, or green selectable at two brightness levels, so you can type in every environment from a dimly-lit classroom to a dark airplane cabin. Its Broadcom Bluetooth module has a generous operating range of 30 feet, and connects quickly with your devices when you simply unfold the keyboard. The iClever backlit folding keyboard averages 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon (read reviews) where its typical list price of $59.99 has been reduced 23% to $45.99. See it now on Amazon.

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How to fix a limited connectivity problem on a Windows 7 PC

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 13:49:00 -0800

A reader asks:

“When connecting my personal laptop (which is running Windows 7) to my office’s wireless network, I keep getting a “limited connectivity error.” I can connect fine at home. What can I do to resolve this?”

To start, try the following steps:

  • Go to Control Panel\Network > Internet\Network > Sharing Center.
  • From the left pane, choose “manage wireless networks,” then delete your network connection.
  • After that, choose “adapter properties.”
  • Under “This connection uses the following items,” uncheck “AVG network filter driver” and retry connecting to the network. (Yours might read “Hotspot Shield” instead; uncheck this option.) It will work immediately, even without restarting the system.

If that doesn’t work, try these steps:

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HP shutting down default FTP, Telnet access to network printers

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 13:27:00 -0800

Security experts consider the aging FTP and Telnet protocols unsafe, and HP has decided to clamp down on access to networked printers through the remote-access tools.

Some of HP's new business printers will, by default, be closed to remote access via protocols like FTP and Telnet. However, customers can activate remote printing access through those protocols if needed.

"HP has started the process of closing older, less-maintained interfaces including ports, protocols and cipher suites" identified by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology as less than secure, the company said in a statement.

In addition, HP also announced firmware updates to existing business printers with improved password and encryption settings, so hackers can't easily break into the devices.

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AWS wants to dominate beyond the public cloud with Lambda updates

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 12:56:36 -0800

Amazon Web Services' big Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas brought a plethora of new features and upgrades to its cloud platform. But there was one key set of upgrades that set the stage for Amazon's expansion outside its own public cloud data centers.

Two years ago, AWS CEO Andy Jassy made a big splash at Re:Invent when he introduced Lambda, a service that lets developers write snippets of code that execute in response to event triggers. Amazon does the work to provision servers to run that code, so developers don't have to think about the infrastructure overhead.

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$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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