Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for May 11th, 2017

SEATTLE—At its Build developer conference, Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 has now passed 500 million monthly active devices. Little over a year ago, the company said that the operating system had reached 300 million systems . As the operating system nears the end of its second full year on the market, it’s clear that it’s going to fall a long way short of the company’s original estimates. At launch, the ambition was to reach 1 billion devices over the first two to three years of availability, but this estimate assumed that Windows 10 Mobile would be a going concern, selling something of the order of 50 million or more devices a year. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Mozilla) The Thunderbird e-mail client still has its supporters, but for the past couple of years, Mozilla has been making moves to distance itself from the project . In late 2015, Mozilla announced that it would be looking for a new home for Thunderbird, calling its continued maintenance “a tax” on Firefox development. Yesterday, Mozilla Senior Add-ons Technical Editor Philipp Kewisch announced Mozilla’s future plans for Thunderbird—the Mozilla Foundation will “continue as Thunderbird’s legal, fiscal, and cultural home,” but on the condition that the Thunderbird Council maintains a good working relationship with Mozilla leadership and that Thunderbird works to reduce its “operational and technical” reliance on Mozilla. As a first step toward operational independence, the Thunderbird Council has been soliciting donations from users, which Kewisch says has become “a strong revenue stream” that is helping to pay for servers and staff. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Astronomy needs expensive things, and lots of them. You might remember that astronomers almost literally turned the Earth into a telescope just to see a black hole, by combining lots of existing radio telescope dishes. Read more…

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Illustration by Danielle Dufault The armored beasts of the Cretaceous known as ankylosaurine dinosaurs don’t get as much love as the charismatic T. rex . But now, one of the world’s only complete ankylosaurid skeletons has been acquired and analyzed by the Royal Ontario Museum—and the artifact even has a significant amount of mummified tissues like skin. At this point, there’s no denying that this creature, whose body was covered in spikes, horns, and scales like a medieval dragon, has earned the wholly scientific designation of “badass.” In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science , Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator . Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Anyone with a color printer knows that selling replacement ink cartridges is the quickest way to become a millionaire. But what if your printer never needed a single drop of ink to produce color images at impossibly high resolutions? A new laser printer can already do that by etching microscopic patterns onto sheets… Read more…

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Enlarge / Tesla is starting pre-orders on smooth and textured black glass solar roofs. (credit: Tesla) Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter on Wednesday that the company’s solar roof panels would be available for pre-order that afternoon. In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Tesla and SolarCity executives said the roof would be cheaper, on the whole, than installing a regular tile roof (although not cheaper than an asphalt roof). Pre-orders require a $1,000 payment to secure a place on the list. Tesla also rolled out a calculator on its website using data from Google Sunroof , a 2015 project from the search giant that used 3D modeling to map out every house’s potential for solar panel output. Tesla’s calculator factors in the cost of a 14kWh Powerwall, although purchase of a Powerwall is not required to get a solar roof, as well as any tax incentives that a customer might receive in their state. The “energy value” number featured most prominently is calculated over 30 years, which is the length of the warranty covering power production from the tiles. (Tesla is offering an “infinity warranty” on the tiles themselves.) Tesla Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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An anonymous reader writes: The audio driver installed on some HP laptops includes a feature that could best be described as a keylogger, which records all the user’s keystrokes and saves the information to a local file, accessible to anyone or any third-party software or malware that knows where to look. Swiss cyber-security firm modzero discovered the keylogger on April 28 and made its findings public today. According to researchers, the keylogger feature was discovered in the Conexant HD Audio Driver Package version 1.0.0.46 and earlier. This is an audio driver that is preinstalled on HP laptops. One of the files of this audio driver is MicTray64.exe (C:windowssystem32mictray64.exe). This file is registered to start via a Scheduled Task every time the user logs into his computer. According to modzero researchers, the file “monitors all keystrokes made by the user to capture and react to functions such as microphone mute/unmute keys/hotkeys.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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At its Build developer conference today, Microsoft announced that Ubuntu has arrived in the Windows Store. From a report: The company also revealed that it is working with Fedora and Suse to bring their distributions to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in Windows 10. At the conference last year, Microsoft announced plans to bring the Bash shell to Windows. The fruits of that labor was WSL, a compatibility layer for running Linux binary executables (in ELF format) natively on Windows, which arrived with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update released in August 2016. Microsoft also partnered with Canonical to allow Ubuntu tools and utilities to run natively on top of the WSL. By bringing Ubuntu to the Windows Store, the company is now making it even easier for developers to install the tools and run Windows and Linux apps side by side. Working with other Linux firms shows that Microsoft’s deal with Canonical was not a one-time affair, but rather part of a long-term investment in the Linux world. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Enlarge / Project Neon in the Groove Music app. (credit: Tom Hounsell ) SEATTLE—Earlier this year, pictures of a new Windows look and feel leaked . Codenamed Project Neon , the new look builds on Microsoft Design Language 2 (MDL2), the styling currently used in Windows 10, to add elements of translucency and animation. Neon has now been officially announced, and it has an official new name: the Microsoft Fluent Design System. The awkward MDL2 name exists because the original codename for the geometric, text-centric style introduced with Windows Phone 7 and incrementally iterated ever since was subject of a trademark dispute. That look and feel was internally named Metro, but Microsoft had to stop using the Metro name after pushback from a German supermarket chain . The company didn’t initially have any particularly good name to refer to the styling formerly known as Metro, so many people continued to use that term for lack of anything better. It wasn’t until a couple of months after dropping “Metro” that a new name, “Microsoft Design Language,” was settled on. Our understanding is that Neon befell a similar fate; someone out there is using the Neon name, forcing Microsoft to pick a different appellation. This time around, however, the company has recognized that it’s important to have an official name for the style that it can talk about and describe, giving us “Microsoft Fluent Design System.” Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Microsoft Windows 10 was a big improvement over Windows 8.1 in most important ways, but it made a big change to the way OneDrive syncing worked. In Windows 8.1, you could see all the files you had stored in OneDrive, but the operating system would only actually download and open the file when you needed to open it. At least for PCs that usually have Internet connections, this was a neat way to offer cloud file syncing without consuming gigabytes of space for infrequently used files on every computer you were signed into. But the behavior could be error-prone—apps could attempt to open the placeholder files created by OneDrive rather than the files themselves—and it could create confusion about which files were actually available offline. So in the initial releases of Windows 10, Microsoft changed the behavior to be more Dropbox-esque . All OneDrive files are now downloaded to your PC when you sign in, though as with Dropbox you can choose to only sync selected folders based on what you need to have available at all times. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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