Satya Nadella spotted heading into the woods with a shovel and dufflebag

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2019 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows phone, ios, Android, cortana, Alexa

It has been an interesting week to be Microsoft, as they have had to suggest to their user base that they might be better off moving to a competitor's product.  Sebastian has already informed you about the fact that Cortana and Windows Search are going through a somewhat amicable divorce, but today we find Satya Nadella suggesting that Cortana will become an optional skill which you can choose for Alexa or Google Assistant; if you don't see any better perks for that level.  Apparently they will also "be again completely consumer businesses" by offering consumers the same licensing scheme as they forced upon enterprise businesses, of which many have expressed strong feelings about since it was introduced.

What must really burn is their admit that Windows 10 Mobile is indeed as dead as the proverbial parrot, which has forced them to suggest that current users move to a different device as Microsoft will no longer even offer token support for that OS after the end of the year.  People paying attention to this may remember that the last major update to the OS was pushed in 2017.

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"Microsoft's guidance for customers is to "move to a supported Android or iOS device" and use the range of Microsoft applications on one of those platforms instead."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

PC Perspective Podcast #529 - HyperX Cloud MIX, G-SYNC Compatible Monitors

Subject: General Tech | January 17, 2019 - 07:02 AM |
Tagged: video, Threadripper, podcast, Optane, micron, Intel, hyperx, g-sync compatibility, g-sync, freesync, cortana, 3dmark

PC Perspective Podcast #529 - 1/16/2019

This week on the show, we look at a review of a new wireless gaming headset from HyperX, talk about the new G-SYNC Compatibility program for FreeSync monitors, look at ray tracing performance in the new 3DMark Port Royal benchmark, and more!

Subscribe to the PC Perspective Podcast

Check out previous podcast episodes: http://pcper.com/podcast

Show Topics
01:34 - Review: HyperX Cloud MIX
05:19 - News: G-SYNC Compatible Monitor Driver
13:38 - News: Threadripper NUMA Dissociater
15:47 - News: HardOCP Interview with AMD's Scott Herkelman
21:35 - News: Intel-Micron 3D XPoint Split
24:34 - News: Cortana & Windows 10 Search
29:38 - News: 3DMark Port Royal Ray Tracing Benchmark
35:53 - Picks of the Week
46:24 - Outro

Sponsor: This week's episode is brought to you by Casper. Save $50 on select mattresses by visiting http://www.casper.com/pcper and using promo code pcper at checkout.

Picks of the Week
Jim: iPhone XS Max Battery Case
Jeremy: 3D-Printed Resistor Storage
Josh: ASRock X470 Taichi Motherboard
Sebastian: Koss KPH30ik Headphones

Today's Podcast Hosts
Sebastian Peak
Josh Walrath
Jeremy Hellstrom
Jim Tanous

Microsoft Separates Cortana and Search in Latest Insider Build

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2019 - 06:08 PM |
Tagged: windows insider, windows 10, search, microsoft, cortana, build 18317

In their announcement of the latest Windows 10 insider preview build (18317) Microsoft has revealed their separation of Cortana from Search. The news was posted on the Windows Blogs site this morning:

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Yes, this is Microsoft's official graphic from the announcement

"Going forward, we’ll be decoupling Search and Cortana in the taskbar. This will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases. Some Insiders have had this update for a few weeks now, and we appreciate all the feedback we’ve received about it so far! For those new to this update, when it rolls out to you, you’ll find clicking the search box in the taskbar now launches our experience focused on giving you the best in house search experience and clicking the Cortana icon will launch you straight into our voice-first digital assistant experience.

Other available Search and Cortana settings have also now been split between the two, along with the familiar group policies."

Whether or not this change means that Cortana can be removed entirely without removing Search remains to be seen, though the known processes for completely disabling/removing Cortana are currently more involved than just unchecking a box in settings, to say the least.

Source: Microsoft

Cortana shall babble about cat videos no more!

Subject: General Tech | January 4, 2019 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, cortana

The most widely used OS on the planet has finally received an upgrade worth getting excited over.  Anyone who spends time imaging machines is all to familiar with the voice of Cortana emanating from a fresh machine, to the point where the dive for the mute button is reflexive and doesn't require any thought.  Until today, there was no way to stop the inane advice about logins and WiFi but now, for non-Home versions of Windows 10, Cortana will be gagged by default during the setup process.

For those wondering why this is such a wonderful thing; check out the video at The Inquirer and taste the pain.

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"Actually, it's not quite as simple as that. Cortana will only be gagged if you're installing Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise or Education - the voice assistant is still its perky, annoying self on Home installations."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Cortana's feeling vulnerable; that's why she's always eavesdropping on you

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2018 - 12:39 PM |
Tagged: security, windows 10, cortana, microsoft, spectre

If your Win10 machine did not go beep in the night, you might want to get on that reboot as there are numerous security patches waiting to install.  One of them is a long standing flaw which effects those who haven't disembowelled the Cortana search assistant on their computer.  For those that have managed to subdue Cortana, rest assured she is not listening to you at all times; those who haven't should be aware that she is always listening, even in her sleep.  As creepy as that already is, it has also been a way to take advantage of long standing security flaw in the assistant.   This, as well as a patch for a Spectre variant and a variety of other patches is waiting your installation. 

You can check out information on Cortana's bad habits over at The Inquirer.

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"Lane Thames, a senior security researcher at Tripwire, spoke out about the long-standing flaw with Cortana, that meant the AI helper was always listening for commands, even when a PC is locked."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft and Cyanogen to Integrate Cortana in Cyanogen OS

Subject: Mobile | September 12, 2015 - 06:30 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, CyanogenMod, cyanogen, cortana

A few months ago, Cyanogen and Microsoft have agreed to bring some of the latter's services into the former's distribution of Android. While apps like Skype and OneNote will likely be the same experience as if the user just downloaded the apps directly, other Microsoft services could benefit from a tighter integration, such as OneDrive -- although we don't have any news on that front.

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Another example is Cortana, and Cyanogen's CEO has just announced that the digital assistant is coming to the next version of Cyanogen OS. One of the distribution's goals is to create a version of Android that is not reliant upon Google's services, which initially sounds like they aim to eliminate these low-level services. With this announcement, it sounds more like they just want to inject third parties in its place, with Microsoft being at least the early partner.

This is a definite win for Microsoft on the services side of things. While I'm sure that many fans of the corporation believe that Microsoft is watering down their ecosystem, the company no longer views their software platform as the bounds of their market share. This deal is clearly acceptable to them, because they made it.

Source: ZDNet

Cortana for Android Invite-Only Beta Launches

Subject: Mobile | July 19, 2015 - 06:43 PM |
Tagged: Android, microsoft, windows, windows 10, cortana

When it graduated from high school, Microsoft was voted “least likely to have an open relationship with itself”. Well who's laughing now, member of the Yearbook Committee? You thought you were so clever, sitting in the back of the late bus for students in extra-curricular activities, giggling as you doodled in your Five Star binder. Even though they always hogged the Windows seat, maybe they would have opened it up for a little fresh air in the Summer time had you taken the time to ask.

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Image Credit: Ars Technica

While Cortana is first and foremost a Windows 10 feature, it will appear on iOS and Android as well. Peter Bright of Ars Technica got in on the pre-release, invite-only beta and walked through the features. He notes that, while many have complained about crashes, his experienced wasn't marred with stability issues. On the other hand, because Cortana is not as deeply integrated into the operating system, despite the laundry list of permissions it requests, he expects that most users looking for a digital assistant will look to Google Now on their Android devices, even if they use Cortana on Windows 10.

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Image Credit: Ars Technica

There really wasn't a whole lot of note in the article though, at least in my opinion. There are a few interesting screenshots, but it basically looks like someone grafted the Cortana fly-out menu from Windows 10 onto a fullscreen mobile device. Even though I already saw the similarities in the Windows 10 Technical Previews, it is funny to see it so explicit.

No release date has been set for Cortana on Android or iOS.

Source: Ars Technica

Lenovo Tech World: REACHit Announced with Cortana

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, reachit, microsoft, Lenovo, cortana

Yesterday during briefings at Lenovo’s North Campus just outside of Beijing, the Contextual Computing group took the opportunity to discuss their unique integration of a technology called REACHit with Cortana on Windows 10.

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REACHit is an indexing program that Lenovo has developed which is aimed at helping users find their documents among many different services and contexts. Once you authenticate REACHit with your accounts such as Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, or your local computers, Lenovo makes an index of the files which you keep there to help you more easily locate what you are looking for.

The most unique feature of REACHit comes in how you issue a search query. Lenovo has developed multiple contexts which they think will be useful in locating files, such as File Type, File Actions, Location, Calendar Events, and time frames. They are indexing the files you give them access to for these specific prompts, and hoping to present them in a more useful fashion.

One of the examples we were walked through involved the prompt, “Where is the presentation I was working on at Starbucks last week?”. In this case, Lenovo is looking at the file types (PPT), whether or not a file was Saved/Opened, the geolocation which this occurred at, and the time frame at which these operations took place.

We didn’t see a live demo of these searches working, and haven’t had hands-on time with the software yet so it’s hard to say if Lenovo has succeeded at their goal, but the technology seems like an interesting solution to a common problem.

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There are also security concerns about giving Lenovo access to all of your files, and letting them build an index your metadata. We have been told there is encryption being handled on Lenovo’s server side, but they couldn’t get into any further details about this.

REACHit at this point is purely integrated with Microsoft’s Cortana in Windows 10, and there is no other option for running a search or external API access. Lenovo expects REACHit to be available at the Windows 10 launch for Lenovo machines only, and is currently opening sign-ups for the private beta at Cortanareachit.com

Source: Lenovo

Windows 10 Consumer Briefing Predictions

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2015 - 09:45 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, spartan, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX, cortana

Microsoft will hold a briefing tomorrow (Wednesday, January 21st at 12pm EST/5pm UTC) about “The Next Chapter” of Windows 10. This has been described as the Consumer keynote, mirroring the original one that was supposedly intended for the enterprise. Otherwise, there are few official comments regarding the event, but there are also things that we can speculate on.

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Here is what I expect to see:

A New Build for Windows 10

Maybe it will not be released on the same day as the speech, but it cannot really be too far behind. We are about two-thirds through January and December was skipped, so it must be happening soon. When 9879 was released, Microsoft said that it would be the last build of 2014 and that “We'll have something new to share with you early in 2015”. Whatever that is (or those things are) will probably be discussed at the event, which means that the build is probably not too far behind it.

DirectX 12

When the graphics API was announced, they specifically said the following (see our recap for the second slide that was posted at 10:48am PST):

  • Targeting Holiday 2015 games
  • Preview release coming later this year
  • Don't want to wait that long? Early access!

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The preview release later in 2014 did not happen, but the early access did. As such, I am guessing that the date slipped to either the next Windows 10 build, or maybe a build or two after. Whenever it happens specifically, I am guessing that it will be mentioned at this event and available for developers soon (and not just a hand-picked group of Early Access members). Sure, it could wait until Build 2015 in April, but the original slide sounds like they were targeting the end of 2014.

Also, the DirectX 12 Twitter Account just retweeted the live stream and Phil Spencer will be there.

'Spartan' Browser (Maybe with DirectX 12 Support?)

Speaking of DirectX 12, its goal is to utilize GPU shader cores as efficiently as possible, reducing the time it holds up the CPU and balancing its load across multiple cores. This leads to power efficiency and the ability to load many more tasks on the GPU.

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Image Credit: cnBeta.com via TheVerge

These are all things that a web browser vendor would love! Web standards are inherently difficult to multi-thread, because they are designed as sets of stages which build upon other stages. DirectX 12 could probably help immensely, at least with the drawing stage. Web content tends to be fairly simple, but there can be a lot of it, especially for complex Canvas animations (and especially for mobile devices).

It was also recently rumored that Trident, the rendering engine behind Internet Explorer and the not-quite-confirmed Spartan browser, was forked into two maintained versions. The expectation is that this was for compatibility reasons, where the new version can be developed to W3C (and other) standards without worrying about legacy, Internet Explorer-based compatibility cruft. If porting a DirectX 11 applications to DirectX 12 will be annoying, I can see why Microsoft chose to draw the compatibility line just behind that initiative. And honestly, how many people care about rendering, power, and multi-core performance increases for IE8-designed, and therefore desktop-based, web applications?

Continuum, Cortana, and Other Changes

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Again, this is what Microsoft considers a Consumer event. As such, it would make sense for them to describe an ideal consumer device, which probably includes two-in-ones. Cortana should also be discussed as well, which is intended to bring value to the users and probably lead them to Bing services. Leaks have also suggested that they are preparing a dark theme.

Am I right? We'll see tomorrow.

Source: Microsoft