Saturday, 21 November 2015

10 enthralling visions for the future of computing

Check out what's coming: Virtual and augmented reality, gesture and facial recognition, holograms and more.

For years, our personal computers were made up of monitors, keyboards, and a big beige box. Then laptops came along and changed everything—until a small, flat plate of glass encased in metal, dubbed the iPhone, showed up and changed everything again, followed shortly thereafter by an even larger plate of glass called the iPad that changed things even more.
As exciting as the iPad was, the original came to us five years ago. Today, we once again face major shifts in for computing. What will that future look like, both in the near term and the slightly further-off future?
Peering into that which hasn’t happened yet is a perilous business, but here are some new visions for computing that technology companies are rolling out soon—as well as a few radical, yet compelling dreams that are still years away from becoming tangible.

Nexus 6P review: This is the way Android phones should be



I am in love with a Nexus phone.
This is not an exaggeration. I wasn’t crazy about the Nexus 6P when I first laid hands on it, but now I’m totally and completely enamored.
I didn’t think it was possible for Google to make a Nexus phone that could excite me. Frankly, I’ve never been that interested in Nexus devices because they were always missing some particularly important feature that Samsung, HTC, or LG did better—or they weren’t compatible with Verizon’s network.
Android has undergone serious evolution in the last year. It’s no longer quite the open-source minefield it used to be. Google’s worked hard to ensure there’s a somewhat consistent experience across devices, and those who don’t abide have started to feel the wrath of the community. We’re seeing drastic changes on the horizon, including the fact that Google now has its very own, bona-fide flagship device that can compete with the hottest phones from other manufacturers.

Surface Book vs. MacBook Pro: It isn't twice as fast. It's three times as fast

Microsoft figured out how to put a discrete GPU into the Surface Book, and it paid off.


Of course we had to pit the Surface Book vs. the MacBook Pro. It’s like Ford vs. Chevy, or Coke vs. Pepsi. Each side has its diehard fans, plus others who just want to know which is better.

Microsoft claims its new Surface Book is “twice” as fast as its equivalent MacBook Pro. Well, we ran some benchmarks, and hate to say it, but Microsoft lied. The Surface Book isn’t twice as fast.

It’s three times as fast.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Cheat sheet! Microsoft releases printable Windows 10 key shortcut list

And we made it better.

How well do you know your Windows key shortcuts in Windows 10? If you need a cheat sheet, Microsoft has just published one that you can download and print.
While Microsoft already offers online documentation on keyboard shortcuts, the format of the page can be difficult to sift through. Fortunately, Microsoft now offers an offline version in Word .DOCX format. (Hat tip to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley for spotting it.)
There are 42 shortcuts in total, mostly dealing with window management, the Start menu, the Task view, and Cortana. Keep in mind the list only includes Windows key shortcuts, not shortcuts involving Ctrl or Alt.
But Microsoft didn’t do a great job formatting its new document. The gigantic header takes up half of the first page, splitting the document across three pages as a result. That’s hardly ideal if you want to print out the list or view them on a single screen.
With a simple edit, however, you can delete the header, and everything will fit on two pages. When viewed in “Multiple Pages” mode, you can view the full list of shortcuts on a single screen. We’ve posted our modified version on Dropbox. Otherwise you can grab the official document straight from Microsoft.
Why this matters: Microsoft has added several new Windows key shortcuts in Windows 10, and they’re especially important if you want to snap programs side-by-side on a single display, manage multiple monitors, or juggle several Virtual Desktops. Taking a moment to print or save these shortcuts could save you lots of time in the long run.

Lumia Windows 10 phones Cityman and Talkman fully revealed in leaked images

In October, Microsoft will likely announce its first flagship Windows phones in more than a year and a half. Here’s what they could look like.


A pair of leaked images are offering a complete look at Microsoft’s first flagship Windows 10 Mobile phones, codenamed Cityman and Talkman.
As revealed by Evan “evleaks” Blass, evleaks, the phone with the cyan rear cover is Cityman, and is the larger of the two devices with a 5.7-inch, 2560-by-1440 resolution display. Talkman is slightly smaller with a 5.2-inch display (same resolution), and appears in black. While the two phones have slightly different button and camera configurations, they both appear to have dedicated camera buttons, as with previous Microsoft Lumia phones
Another image, surfaced by Neowin’s Brad Sams, shows the Cityman connected to a small device via USB-C cable. According to The Verge, this is the rumored “Wizard” device that connects to an external monitor, enabling a full-screen mouse-and-keyboard interface via Windows 10’s Continuum feature. As Microsoft has said before, Continuumwill not work with existing Windows phones, so it looks like Cityman and Talkman will be the first devices to support this featureOther details on the two phones were previously revealed by Windows Central. Aside from the display size differences, the Cityman has a slightly more powerful Snapdragon 810 processor and larger 3,300 mAh battery, compared to Snapdragon 808 and 3,000 mAh battery on the Talkman. The Cityman will also work with Microsoft’s Surface pen and a flip cover with a circular opening for notifications, both sold separately. Both devices will have 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 20-megapixel PureView rear camera, a 5-megapixel front camera, and microSD card slot. They’ll also include an iris scanner forWindows Hello and Qi wireless charging.

Microsoft may announce the two flagship phones at a rumored press event in October, alongside the Surface Pro 4 and second-generation Microsoft Band wearable. The final product names for the phones will reportedly be Lumia 950 for Talkman, and Lumia 950 XL for Cityman.
Why this matters: While we’ve seen plenty of details about Cityman and Talkman already, this is the first good look we’ve had at their design. It doesn’t seem like Microsoft is shaking things up on this front, so we’ll likely see the company pitch Continuum, Windows Hello, camera quality, and deep hooks into Windows 10 as the big selling points.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Google says its self-driving cars have been in only 11 accidents over 1.7 million miles

Google says its self-driving cars can make driving safer because they pay better attention to the road than humans do—though there have been dings along the way.
While smartphones and other in-car distractions can fatally hinder a driver’s concentration, “a self-driving car has people beat on this dimension of road safety,” says Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program. With 360-degree visibility, the newest sensors in Google’s fleet can keep track of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians to a distance of nearly two football fields, he wrote in a post on Medium on Monday.
Still, Google’s cars have been involved in 11 accidents in the six years the company has been testing them, Urmson reported. The fleet of 20-plus cars has covered 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving in that time.
In all cases, there was only light damage and no injuries. And not once did a Google car cause the accident, he wrote.
Urmson’s post appeared after the Associated Press reported on Monday that Google’s cars had been involved in three accidents just since September. The post lays out some of what Google has learned so far in testing its cars, including observations on drivers’ actions that can lead to collisions.
The post also highlights an issue that Google and other autonomous driving hopefuls must address before self-driving cars go mainstream: how to recognize and respond to the wacky driving habits of humans.
Take intersections: To account for the possibility of another driver running a red light, Google has programmed its cars to pause briefly after a light turns green before proceeding into the intersection.
With their software and sensors, Google’s cars can take action earlier and faster than an alert human driver, he wrote. But sometimes they can’t overcome the realities of speed and distance, and they get hit just waiting for a light to change.
Out of the 11 reported accidents, Google’s cars have been hit from behind seven times, according to the post. That happened mainly at traffic lights but also on the freeway.
The company’s cars have also been side-swiped a couple of times and hit by a car rolling through a stop sign, the post said.
Google’s cars now average 10,000 miles of autonomous driving a week, mostly on city streets near Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.
The post also illustrates some of the ways in which Google’s cars have successfully reacted to human drivers’ erratic actions. Google says it has observed drivers making right turns from the lane to the left of its self-driving cars, cutting sharply across the Google car’s path.
In those cases, Google’s car will slow down, Urmson wrote, “to avoid the car making this crazy turn.”

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Classic Shell and Start10 banish Windows 10 Live Tiles, bring back Windows 7 look

While the Windows 10 Start menu brings back some elements from Windows 7, it's not exactly the same as it used to be. Here are two ways to make the menu more familiar.

For anyone having regrets about upgrading to Windows 10, there are now two good options for bringing back the look of Windows 7.
This week, Classic Shell officially added Windows 10 to support for its free Start menu and File Explorer replacement. With this program (pictured above), users can switch to Windows 7’s dual-column view, with pinned and recent applications on the left, and common folders and locations on the right. Classic Shell also includes a classic version of the Windows File Explorer, with a customizable toolbar and a more useful status bar that shows both free disk space and the size of any selected folder.
Meanwhile, Stardock has just released Start10 out of beta for $5. Much like Classic Shell, Start10 allows for a two-column view that resembles the Windows 7 Start menu, and brings back the ”all programs” menu that groups applications into folders. There’s also an option to hide Cortana from the Windows 10 taskbar, while restoring program and file search in the Start menu proper.I gave each of these programs a quick go-round, and in practice the differences between them are subtle. If you’re just looking for the familiarity of Windows 7, either one should do the trick (though Classic Shell has the advantage of costing nothing). Start10 may be more useful for people who still want access to Windows Store apps, as you can preserve them in the right-hand column while tweaking other aspects of the Start menu. Both apps have plenty of customization options, however, and are far more flexible than the default Start menu.
While Classic Shell is free, Start10 does offer a 30-day free trial, so you can try them both to figure out which Start menu replacement suits your needs.
Why this matters: Although Microsoft has dialed back some of the radical changes that it made to the Start menu in Windows 8, it can still feel pretty unfamiliar coming from Windows 7. If you’re not really using Windows Store apps, the emphasis on Live Tiles in Windows 10 isn’t much help, especially since it comes at the expense of Jump Lists, quick Control Panel access and the old Recent Items shortcut. It’s unlikely that these replacements will see the tens of millions of downloads that they did with Windows 8, but they’re still helpful for people who’d rather keep things the way they used to be.

The first Skylake laptops are Lenovo's Thinkpad P50 and P70 graphics workstations

These high-end machines sport other dream-checklist items including DDR4, Thunderbolt 3 and real USB 3.1.

Your chance to get a laptop with Intel’s newest Skylake CPU is almost here. On Monday at the Siggraph show in Los Angeles, Calif., Lenovo announced two new mobile workstations stocked with the 6th-gen mobile chip and a dream checklist of advanced features.
How next-gen? Think up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, true PCIe SSD performance, Thunderbolt 3 and true USB 3.1 too. There’s even a new Nvidia GPU.
Of course, the new ThinkPad P50 and ThinkPad P70 both pack Intel’s Xeon E3-1500M v5 CPUs, based on the Skylake microarchitecture. We reviewed the desktop Skylake chips last week, or if you’re into the brevity thing, you can just read this short FAQ. For mobile users, beyond saying unlocked, overclockable versions would be available, Intel has been mum.
Why this matters: Few want to buy a Pentium II the day before the Pentium III comes out, so many wait for the latest CPU before taking the plunge. With Windows 10 now here, the second part of that WinTel formula just dropped, meaning it’s “safe” to buy the latest and greatest.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Sorry, PC vendors: The free Windows 10 upgrade means users won't be buying new PCs

Microsoft’s decision to offer free upgrades to Windows 10 was terrific news—for users, but not the PC industry.
IDC said Thursday that it expects PC sales to decline further in 2015, by 6.2 percent, versus an actual drop of 2.2 percent in 2014. In part, that’s because the analyst firm doesn’t see a need for users to invest in new PCs to run Windows 10. “[C]hanges like the free upgrade option for consumers and platform integration aren’t expected to drive a surge in new PC shipments,” IDC wrote.
Unfortunately, the only segment that will move quickly on Windows 10 is the segment that won't pay for it, IDC noted. "The consumer transition to Windows 10 should happen quickly, but the free upgrade reduces the need for a new PC." Instead, the firm predicted consumers will buy more mobile devices: "Many consumers will continue to prioritize spending on phones, tablets, and wearable devices like the Apple Watch during the holiday season.”
Not even the business sector is expected to jolt the PC market to life with Windows 10. "The commercial segment is expected to evaluate the OS before deploying it and most new commercial PCs will be replacement systems," the firm said. 
In all, IDC said that it expects 289 million PCs will be sold this year, made up of 167.2 million notebooks and 121.8 million desktops. The future's slightly brighter: IDC predicts that 294.1 million PCs will be sold in 2019. That represents a mere 0.4-percent compound annual growth rate—but at least it’s growth. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

How to get started with Linux: A beginner's guide

The world of Linux is ready to welcome you, with a shower of free open-source software you can use on any PC: hundreds of active Linux distributions, and dozens of different desktop environments you could run on them. It’s a far cry from the one-size-fits-all, this-is-just-what-comes-with-your-PC vision of Windows.
Everything from software installation to hardware drivers works differently on Linux, though, which can be daunting. Take heart—you don’t even need to install Linux on your PC to get started. Here’s everything you need to know.

Choose and download a Linux distro
Unlike Windows, there’s no single version of Linux. Linux distributions take the Linux kernel and combine it with other software like the GNU core utilities, X.org graphical server, a desktop environment, web browser, and more. Each distribution unites some combination of these elements into a single operating system you can install.
DistroWatch offers a good, in-depth summary of all the major Linux distributions you might want to try. Ubuntu is a fine place to start for former (or curious) Windows users. Ubuntu strives to eliminate many of Linux’s rougher edges. Many Linux users now prefer Linux Mint, which ships with either the Cinnamon or MATE desktops—both are a bit more traditional than Ubuntu’s Unity desktop.
Choosing the single best isn’t your first priority, though. Just choose a fairly popular one like Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora, or openSUSE. Head to the Linux distribution’s website and download the ISO disc image you’ll need. Yes, it’s free.
linux usb installer on windows crop
You can use the Universal USB Installer to easily create a bootable thumb drive using an .ISO image of a Linux distribution.
You can now either burn that ISO image to a DVD, or use a tool like the Universal USB Installer to copy that Linux system to a USB drive. Placing it on a USB drive is a better idea, if possible—the live system will boot and run faster. But if you plan on installing it immediately, a disc is also fine.
That’s the way it’ll work on a typical Windows PC, anyway. If you want to use Linux on a ChromebookRaspberry Pi, or another type of device, there are special instructions you’ll need to follow.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The BBC has unveiled a new microcomputer as part of its 'Make It Digital' campaign to help students learn to code.

The Micro Bit will be available to secondary schools in the UK, and the BBC says enough will be available for every Year 7 student to have one. 

Similar to the Raspberry Pi, the computer is about the size of the credit card and can handle Linux operating systems. 

BBC says the "Micro Bit will allow kids to learn the basics of coding as a fundamental part of their education, placing it on par with other "basics" such as math and literacy." 

In the wake of the announcement of their Apple Watch smartwatch and fitness tracker, Apple has removed competing fitness devices from its stores.

Apple had previously offered the Jawbone Up, Nike+ FuelBand and The Mio. 

The new Apple Watch goes on pre-order April 10th, to ship on April 24th. The Apple Watch has a plethora of fitness features, and can track your steps, distance, heart rate and much more. 

Liz Dickinson, CEO and founder of Mio, said Apple notified them the Mio would be removed from stores a few months ago: "They said they brought in a new executive in the marketing area who wanted to rework branding for the stores, and to make the Apple brand more front and center and clean up and minimize the number of accessories," Dickinson said. There was no mention of the Apple Watch. 

Earlier this week, Apple expanded their public beta program to encompass iOS, beginning with iOS 8.3.

The beta will allow developers and fans to submit feedback on bugs in the operating system before it launches for the public. 

"For the first time ever, we are broadening the program to include the all-new iOS Beta. The feedback you have provided on the OS X Yosemite Beta continues to help us shape OS X, and we would like to offer you an invitation to the iOS 8.3 Beta," read the email sent to Apple fans who were testers of Mac OS X Yosemite. 

An iOS beta makes perfect sense for Apple as they look to avoid a launch as disastrous as iOS 8 was last year. The initial launch required fixes for Wi-Fi and other key features, and version 8.0.1 was so bad it even bricked some phones. 

What's coming in iOS 8.3? "The iOS 8.3 Beta includes improved performance, increased stability, bug fixes, and a redesigned Emoji keyboard. This release also provides additional language and country support for Siri: English (India, New Zealand), Danish (Denmark), Dutch (Netherlands), Portuguese (Brazil), Russian (Russia), Swedish (Sweden), Thai (Thailand), and Turkish (Turkey)." 

Among other big news revealed this week, Microsoft has also announced that it is trying out Windows 10 software that can effectively turn an Android device into a Windows device.

The company is testing the ROM with Xiaomi Mi 4 users and sources says "that it effectively overrides Android, turning the Xiaomi phone into a Windows 10 device complete with Microsoft services." 

Of course, the overall goal is to have the new software impress users so that they might move away from Google and towards Microsoft, which may be a hard task. Microsoft was quick to note that the software is not a dual-boot option, but a full ROM, similar to Cyanogen and other developers have used to push their operating system to existing devices. 

Says Microsoft: "As part of the Windows Insider Program, Microsoft will partner with Xiaomi to offer Windows 10 free downloads to a select group of Xiaomi Mi4 users. Xiaomi Mi4 users will get the ability to flash their phones with the new Windows 10 OS and provide feedback to Xiaomi and Microsoft on their experience. This partnership will allow Xiaomi and Microsoft to get direct user feedback and continue to improve the experience for China. Microsoft is thrilled to see Xiaomi embracing Windows 10 and offering this great value to their customers. We're excited to see the feedback we receive from this audience.

Xiaomi is a leading phone manufacturer in China undergoing significant global expansion. We are excited to partner with them in China and jointly gather feedback from Chinese users on their experience with Windows 10 to jointly collaborate on product and services development for the platform."
 

If there is to be global availability, that announcement will come over the summer with the launch of Windows 10.