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Microsoft Announces New Windows 10 Start Menu Design, Updated Alt-Tab

Fri, 2020-07-03 10:00
Microsoft is testing a number of Windows 10 upgrades to a small number of testers, including changes to the Alt-Tab function and a new Start menu design. The Verge reports: "We are freshening up the Start menu with a more streamlined design that removes the solid color backplates behind the logos in the apps list and applies a uniform, partially transparent background to the tiles," explains Microsoft in a blog post. Essentially, the reduction in the color of the blocky tiled interface on the Start menu will simplify it slightly and make it easier to scan for the apps you use on a daily basis. It's a subtle change, but it certainly makes the Start menu look a little less chaotic and avoids many tiles sharing a similar blue color. Alongside an updated Start menu, the latest Windows 10 build includes some big changes to Alt-Tab. "Beginning with today's build, all tabs open in Microsoft Edge will start appearing in Alt-Tab, not just the active one in each browser window," explains Microsoft. This seems like a change that might be a little confusing for veteran Windows users, but Microsoft is thankfully allowing you to switch back to the classic Alt-Tab experience. Microsoft is also making some smaller changes with this new Windows 10 build. The default taskbar appearance will also now be more personalized with the Xbox app pinned for Xbox Live users or Your Phone pinned for Android users. This will be limited to new account creation on a PC or first login, so existing taskbar layouts will remain unchanged. Notifications now include an X in the top right corner to allow you to quickly dismiss them, and Microsoft is also improving its Settings app in Windows 10. Links that would typically push you toward the system part of the legacy Control Panel system page will now direct you to the About page in Settings. This will now house the more advanced controls typically found in that system section of the Control Panel, and Microsoft is promising "there will be more improvements coming that will further bring Settings closer to Control Panel."

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Core of a Gas Planet Seen For the First Time

Fri, 2020-07-03 07:00
A team of astronomers has discovered what they think are the rocky innards of a giant planet that's missing its thick atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the journal Nature. The BBC reports: Its radius is about three-and-a-half times larger than Earth's but the planet is around 39 times more massive. In this size range, the planet would be expected to have a significant component that's gas. Yet it has a density similar to Earth, appearing to be mostly rocky. The object, called TOI 849 b, was found circling a star much like the Sun that's located 730 light-years away. The core orbits so close to its parent star that a year is a mere 18 hours and its surface temperature is around 1,527C. Researchers aren't sure whether the core lost its atmosphere in a collision or just never developed one. If it was once similar to Jupiter, there are several ways it could have lost its gaseous envelope. These could include tidal disruption, where the planet is ripped apart from orbiting too close to its star, or even a collision with another planet late in its formation. If it's a "failed" gas giant, this could have occurred if there was a gap in the disc of gas and dust that it emerged from, or if it formed late, after the disc ran out of material.

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Inside the Plot To Kill the Open Technology Fund

Fri, 2020-07-03 03:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VICE News: [The Open Technology Fund is a U.S. government-funded nonprofit, which is part of the umbrella group called the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which also controls Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.] OTF's goal is to help oppressed communities across the globe by building the digital tools they need and offering training and support to use those tools. Its work has saved countless lives, and every single day millions of people use OTF-assisted tools to communicate and speak out without fear of arrest, retribution, or even death. The fund has helped dissidents raise their voices beyond China's advanced censorship network, known as the Great Firewall; helped citizens in Cuba to access news from sources other than the state-sanctioned media; and supported independent journalists in Russia so they could work without fear of a backlash from the Kremlin. Closer to home, the tools that OTF has funded, including the encrypted messaging app Signal, have allowed Black Lives Matter protesters to organize demonstrations across the country more securely. But now all of that is under threat, after Michael Pack, a Trump appointee and close ally of Steve Bannon, took control of USAGM in June. Pack has ousted the OTF's leadership, removed its bipartisan board, and replaced it with Trump loyalists, including Bethany Kozma, an anti-transgender activist. One reason the OTF managed to gain the trust of technologists and activists around the world is because, as its name suggests, it invested largely in open-source technology. By definition, open-source software's source code is publicly available, meaning it can be studied, vetted, and in many cases contributed to by anyone in the world. This transparency makes it possible for experts to study code to see if it has, for example, backdoors or vulnerabilities that would allow for governments to compromise the software's security, potentially putting users at risk of being surveilled or identified. Now, groups linked to Pack and Bannon have been pressing for the funding of closed-source technology, which is antithetical to the OTF's work over the last eight years. Pack is being pressed to fund Freegate and Ultrasurf, "two little-known apps that allow users to circumvent internet censorship in repressive regimes but currently have very small user bases inside China," reports Vice. "These apps are not widely trusted by internet freedom experts and activists, according to six experts who spoke to VICE News. That the OTF would pivot its funding from trusted, open-source tech to more obscure, closed-source tech has alarmed activists around the world and has resulted in open revolt among OTF's former leadership." More than half a dozen experts who spoke to VICE News "said the apps' code is out of date, dangerously vulnerable to compromise, and lacks the user base to allow it to effectively scale even if they secured government funding."

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Facebook Is Shutting Down TikTok Clone Lasso and Pinterest Rival Hobbi

Fri, 2020-07-03 02:00
Facebook confirmed that it's shutting down two of its little-known social media apps shortly after their launch. TikTok rival Lasso and Pinterest rival Hobbi will both be terminated on July 10. CNBC reports: Lasso, the more popular of the two, allowed people to record videos up to 15 seconds long and overlay music on top. It was launched a year-and-a-half ago. Lasso issued a push alert to users on Wednesday telling them that it will be shutting down. In order to try to compete with ByteDance's TikTok, which has been downloaded over 2 billion times, Facebook-owned Instagram has developed its own video-music mix feature called "Reels." Pinterest-rival Hobbi, which only went live on the Apple App Store in the U.S. in February, also issued a push alert to users on Wednesday letting them know that it was closing down. The app, designed by Facebook's New Product Experimentation team, allows people to document, share and organize their hobbies. It has received just 7,000 downloads, according to Sensor Tower.

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JPMorgan Drops Terms 'Master,' 'Slave' From Internal Tech Code and Materials

Fri, 2020-07-03 01:25
JPMorgan Chase is eliminating terms like "blacklist," "master" and "slave" from its internal technology materials and code as it seeks to address racism within the company, said two sources with knowledge of the move. Reuters reports: The terms had appeared in some of the bank's technology policies, standards and control procedures, as well in the programming code that runs some of its processes, one of the sources said. The phrases "master" and "slave" code or drive are used in some programming languages and computer hardware to describe one part of a device or process that controls another. "Blacklist" is used to describe items that are automatically denied, like a list of websites forbidden by a company's cybersecurity division. "Whitelist" means the opposite - a list of items automatically approved. While JPMorgan appears to be the first in the financial sector to remove most references to these racially problematic phrases, they're not the only company to do so. GitHub, Google, and Twitter are a few others who have made similar moves recently.

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Next-Gen Console Games Will Be $10 More Expensive

Fri, 2020-07-03 00:45
If NBA 2K21 is any indication, the price of $59.99 new console games is about to be over: "NBA 2K21 will cost $69.99 on PS5 and Xbox Series X, an increase of $10 compared to the recommended price for the current generation's AAA titles," reports TheGamer. From the report: NBA 2K21, which will be released across both generations, will cost $69.99 on PS5 and Series X. That's $10 more than the game will cost on PS4 and Xbox One. $59.99 is and has been the standard for AAA titles throughout the course of the current generation of consoles, and the generation before that for that matter. Although a recommended price of $69.99 might not apply to all of the next-gen's top titles, NBA 2K21's pricing certainly implies that will be the case. Comments from others in the industry have also hinted that the price will be upped across the board. Former PlayStation exec Shawn Layden suggested during a recent interview that the price of next-gen games would have to be increased. Either that or the length of AAA titles would have to be shorter. For games like NBA 2K21, that isn't really an option. Chances are developers won't want to sacrifice storytelling just so they can charge less for a game, so be prepared to pay a little extra for quality games in the years to come.

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BMW Wants To Sell Car Features On Demand

Fri, 2020-07-03 00:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: BMW is planning to move some features of its new cars to a subscription model, something it announced on Wednesday during a briefing for the press on the company's digital plans. BMW says that owners can "benefit in advance from the opportunity to try out the products for a trial period of one month, after which they can book the respective service for one or three years." The company also says that it could allow the second owner of a BMW to activate features that the original purchaser declined. In fact, BMW has already started implementing this idea in some markets, allowing software unlocking of features like adaptive cruise control or high-beam assist (in the United States, those options are usually standard equipment). Other features are more whimsical, like having a Hans Zimmer-designed sound package for your electric BMW or adaptive suspension for your M-car. Indeed, the company says that its forthcoming iNext will "expand the opportunities for personalization."

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India's Richest Man Takes On Zoom

Thu, 2020-07-02 23:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: India's Reliance Jio Platforms, which recently concluded a $15.2 billion fundraise run, is ready to enter a new business: Video conferencing. On Thursday evening, the firm -- backed by Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man -- formally launched JioMeet, its video-conference service that looks uncannily like Zoom. Like Zoom and Google Meet, JioMeet offers unlimited number of free calls in high definition (720p) to users and supports as many as 100 participants on a call. But interestingly, it's not imposing a short time limit on a call's duration. Jio Platforms says a call can be "up to 24 hours" long. The service currently has no paid plans and it's unclear if Jio Platforms, which has a reputation of giving away services for free for years, plans to change that. Jio Platforms, which began beta testing JioMeet in May this year, said the video conferencing service offers "enterprise-grade" host controls. These include: password protection on each call, multi-device login support (up to five devices), and ability to share screen and collaborate. Other features include the ability to switch "seemingly" from one device to another, and a 'Safe Driving Mode' for when a participant is in commute. Hosts can also enable a 'waiting room' to ensure participants have to ask for permission to enter a call. The company did not provide any more details, including whether people outside of India could use the service. On its website, JioMeet claims all the meetings are "encrypted" but does not elaborate whether these calls are end-to-end encrypted.

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New Free Speech Site Gets in a Tangle Over<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... Free Speech

Thu, 2020-07-02 22:41
The social network bills itself as a 'no censorship' bastion -- but it's already had to remind users what is and isn't allowed. From a report: In recent weeks, Donald Trump has started having his tweets factchecked and published with disclaimers when they contain misleading information. Katie Hopkins, the woman who once compared migrants to cockroaches and called for a "final solution" in relation to Muslims, has been banned from Twitter. And a subreddit called r/The_Donald has been banned after Reddit updated its hate speech guidelines -- Reddit said in a statement that "mocking people with physical disabilities" and "describing a racial minority as sub-human and inferior to the racial majority" will not be allowed. And so, naturally, people are asking where on earth they are supposed to go to get their daily dose of "free speech." Enter Parler, the new, supposedly unbiased free-speech social network that suggests, when you join, you follow people such as Rand Paul, Hopkins and Rudy Giuliani. Other rightwing politicians such as Ted Cruz and Devin Nunes are on it. So too are the much-overlooked members of the Trump family Eric and Lara, commentators such as Candace Owens, and Donald Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale. A glance at Parler might lead you to think that the platform is just a benign, more boring version of Twitter. Megyn Kelly is on Parler telling you she doesn't like Mary Trump's new book; Eric Trump is posting boring statements such as "Another great day for the market (amazing how the media and left have been very quiet about this incredible recovery)" -- which reminds you of why Don Jr is the more popular brother; the Daily Caller is retweeting (re-parlering?) a bunch of articles that look like they belong on the Onion. But since the platform's selling point is that it provides a safe space for people who want to use hate speech, the ugliness is there if you want to find it: Hopkins is equating Black Lives Matter protests with "thuggery" and posting comments such as "Our white girls pay the price. Every time" in a post about illegal immigration in Scotland. Andrew Torba -- who tried to make his own alternative free-speech network for those exiled from Twitter -- has called it a magnet for "Z-list Maga celebrities." His website, Gab, quickly became popular with extremists including antisemites and neo-Nazis -- including the Pittsburgh synagogue suspect Robert Bowers, who announced his intentions for mass murder on the platform. Torba's experience shows that regulating free speech on a platform that allows hate speech to run rampant is rife with its own challenges. After the attack in Pittsburgh, Gab was forced offline for a brief period after being dropped by its server, GoDaddy, who said that encouraging violence was in breach of its terms of service.

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'Fallout' TV Series From 'Westworld' Creators In the Works At Amazon

Thu, 2020-07-02 22:00
According to Hollywood Reporter, "Amazon Studios has licensed the rights to the best-selling video game franchise Fallout, with married writers and showrunners Joy and Nolan attached to oversee the potential TV series." From the report: The project is currently in development but has a series commitment penalty attached. That means that if Amazon execs like the script, Fallout would bypass the traditional pilot stage and go directly to series (or if it is passed over, all involved would be paid out as if it had). A writer is not currently attached. Making its debut in 1997, Fallout is set in the future envisioned by Americans in the late 1940s when the country explodes upon itself through a nuclear war in 2077. The series takes place in a harsh wasteland set against the previous generation's utopian idea of a better world through nuclear energy. Joy and Nolan will exec produce the series via their Kilter Films banner in association with game publishers Bethesda Game Studios and Bethesda Softworks. Kilter's Athena Wickham, Bethesda Game Studios' Todd Howard and Bethesda Softworks' James Altman will also exec produce.

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Microsoft Will Ban Forza Players Who Add the Confederate Flag To Their Digital Cars

Thu, 2020-07-02 21:22
Microsoft has just announced it will ban players who use the controversial confederate flag in Forza Horizon and Forza Motorsport, which both allow users to personalize their cars with custom designs. The Verge reports: In a statement posted on Twitter last Friday, Microsoft updated its enforcement guidelines to have a zero-tolerance policy for any player using the confederate flag or other symbols that represent "notorious iconography," including Nazi imagery and the rising sun, which can be a symbol of Japanese imperialism. Microsoft will not automatically ban players that create designs with these controversial images; instead, the original designer will need to be reported by submitting a ticket.

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Microsoft is Force-Feeding Edge To Windows Users With a Spyware-like Install

Thu, 2020-07-02 20:45
Sean Hollister, writing for The Verge: If I told you that my entire computer screen just got taken over by a new app that I'd never installed or asked for -- it just magically appeared on my desktop, my taskbar, and preempted my next website launch -- you'd probably tell me to run a virus scanner and stay away from shady websites, no? But the insanely intrusive app I'm talking about isn't a piece of ransomware. It's Microsoft's new Chromium Edge browser, which the company is now force-feeding users via an automatic update to Windows. Seriously, when I restarted my Windows 10 desktop this week, an app I'd never asked for: 1. Immediately launched itself 2. Tried to convince me to migrate away from Chrome, giving me no discernible way to click away or say no 3. Pinned itself to my desktop and taskbar 4. Ignored my previous browser preference by asking me -- the next time I launched a website -- whether I was sure I wanted to use Chrome instead of Microsoft's oh-so-humble recommendation. 5. Did I mention that, as of this update, you can't uninstall Edge anymore?

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Google's Fitbit Takeover Probed by EU Regulators

Thu, 2020-07-02 20:04
The EU is questioning whether Google's proposed takeover of Fitbit will harm competition, or give it access to too much personal data. From a report: Fitbit makes fitness-tracking watches that monitor the wearer's heart rate and activity levels. A group of 20 consumer groups and privacy advocates have called for Google's takeover to be blocked. Google said it would not use Fitbit data to target advertising and would be "transparent" about the data gathered. It announced it was buying loss-making Fitbit for $2.1bn in November 2019. The move would help Google expand its wearables business and offer its own-brand smart watches to rival the Apple Watch. But some are concerned that Google already has a wealth of personal information about many people who use its products. As part of its campaign opposing the takeover, Privacy International said: "We don't think any company should be allowed to accumulate this much intimate information about you."

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Boeing Quietly Pulls Plug on the 747, Closing Era of Jumbo Jets

Thu, 2020-07-02 19:24
Boeing hasn't told employees, but the company is pulling the plug on its hulking 747 jumbo jet, ending a half-century run for the twin-aisle pioneer. From a report: The last 747-8 will roll out of a Seattle-area factory in about two years, a decision that hasn't been reported but can be teased out from subtle wording changes in financial statements, people familiar with the matter said. It's a moment that aviation enthusiasts long have dreaded, signaling the end of the double-decker, four-engine leviathans that shrank the world. Airbus SE is already preparing to build the last A380 jumbo, after the final convoy of fuselage segments rumbled to its Toulouse, France, plant last month. Yet for all their popularity with travelers, the final version of the 747 and Europe's superjumbo never caught on commercially as airlines turned to twin-engine aircraft for long-range flights. While Boeing's hump-nosed freighters will live on, the fast-disappearing A380 risks going down as an epic dud.

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World's Pile of Electronic Waste Grows Ever Higher: Study

Thu, 2020-07-02 18:44
The world's mountain of discarded flat-screen TVs, cellphones and other electronic goods grew to a record high last year, according to an annual report released Thursday. New submitter Splyncryth writes: The U.N.-backed study estimated the amount of e-waste that piled up globally in 2019 at 53.6 million metric tonnes (59.1 million tons) - almost 2 million metric tons more than the previous year. The authors of the study calculated the combined weight of all dumped devices with a battery or a plug last year was the equivalent of 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2. Among all the discarded plastic and silicon were large amounts of copper, gold and other precious metals -- used for example to conduct electricity on circuit boards. While about a sixth of it was recycled, the remainder of those valuable components -- worth about $57 billion -- weren't reclaimed, the study found.

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Advertisers Will Be Back To Facebook 'Soon Enough', Zuckerberg Assures Employees

Thu, 2020-07-02 18:13
As the ads boycott grows, Mark Zuckerberg shows no sign of backing down. From a report: "My guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough" the Facebook chief executive has said. Campaigners accuse the tech firm of being too slow and reluctant to remove some hateful content. But Zuckerberg added: "We're not going to change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue." The comments were made to Facebook staff at a private meeting last Friday, and were subsequently leaked to the Information news site. The social network has confirmed they are accurate and also announced a fresh development: its chief executive is to meet the organisers of the boycott - Stop Hate for Profit. It illustrates the concurrent ways Facebook is dealing with the matter. The first is to be publicly conciliatory: offer smaller changes and hit home its message that hate has no place on the platform. The second is to privately play down the impact of the boycott: reassure advertisers and resist any fundamental changes to Facebook's business model.

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Facebook Says 5,000 App Developers Got User Data After Cutoff Date

Thu, 2020-07-02 17:39
Social media giant Facebook disclosed on Wednesday a new user privacy incident. The company said that it continued sharing user data with approximately 5,000 developers even after their application's access expired. From a report: The incident is related to a security control that Facebook added to its systems following the Cambridge Analytica scandal of early 2018. Responding to criticism that it allowed app developers too much access to user information, Facebook added at the time a new mechanism to its API that prevented apps from accessing a user's data if the user did not use the app for more than 90 days. However, Facebook said that it recently discovered that in some instances, this safety mechanism failed to activate and allowed some apps to continue accessing user information even past the 90-day cutoff date. Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, VP of Platform Partnerships at Facebook, said engineers fixed the issue on the same day they found it.

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One Out of Every 142 Passwords is '123456'

Thu, 2020-07-02 16:48
In one of the biggest password re-use studies of its kind, an analysis of more than one billion leaked credentials has discovered that one out of every 142 passwords is the classic "123456" string. From a report: The study, carried out last month by computer engineering student Ata Hakcil, analyzed username and password combinations that leaked online after data breaches at various companies. These "data dumps" have been around for more than half a decade, and have been piling up as new companies are getting hacked. The data dumps are easily available online, on sites like GitHub or GitLab, or freely distributed via hacking forums and file-sharing portals. Over the years, tech companies have been collecting these data dumps. For example, Google, Microsoft, and Apple, have collected leaked credentials to create in-house alert systems that warn users when they're utilizing a "weak" or "common" password.

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Apple and Google Block Dozens of Chinese Apps in India

Thu, 2020-07-02 16:08
Two days after India blocked 59 apps developed by Chinese firms, Google and Apple have started to comply with New Delhi's order and are preventing users in the world's second largest internet market from accessing those apps. From a report: UC Browser, Shareit, and Club Factory and other apps that India has blocked are no longer listed on Apple's App Store and Google Play Store. In a statement, a Google spokesperson said that the company had "temporarily blocked access to the apps" on Google Play Store as it reviews New Delhi's interim order. Apple, which has taken a similar approach as Google in complying with New Delhi's order, did not respond to a request for comment. Some developers including ByteDance have voluntarily made their apps inaccessible in India, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. India's Department of Telecommunications ordered telecom networks and other internet service providers earlier this week to block access to those 59 apps "effective immediately." Websites of many of these apps have also become inaccessible in India.

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WeWork Founder Warned Staff in 2016: 'You Do Not Get a Chance Like This Again'

Thu, 2020-07-02 15:33
To many of its employees, WeWork was much more than a job. Adam Neumann, the co-founder and former chief executive officer, kept workers motivated by invoking a higher calling to community-building and promising a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. From a report: "None of us want to look back and say, 'I could have done more,'" Neumann said in a 2016 staff meeting, captured in hours of tape obtained by Bloomberg. "That's not acceptable. You do not get a chance like this again." In this episode of Foundering, a former WeWork executive assistant, Cody Quinn, describes the tumultuous experience working inside WeWork's New York headquarters. According to Quinn, most employees worked until near-burnout, then were rewarded with trips to Summer Camp and Summit, WeWork's famously raucous companywide parties. And she details the strange things she saw at the office: an executive smashing a printer on the floor, 2 a.m. meetings with Neumann and an elaborate technique designed to lure investors called "activating the space."

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