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Windows dual booting no longer looking likely on Pixebooks

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in chrome os, dual boot, Google, linux, Microsoft, open source, Tech, Windows | 0 comments

Google's Pixelbook.

Enlarge / Google’s Pixelbook. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Just under a year ago, there were signs that Google was modifying the firmware of its Pixelbook laptop to enable dual booting into Windows 10. The firmware was updated to give the Pixelbook the ability to boot into an “Alternative OS” (“AltOS” mode). The work included references to the Windows Hardware Certification Kit (WHCK) and the Windows Hardware Lab Kit (HLK), Microsoft’s testing frameworks for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 respectively.

Google now appears to have abandoned this effort. A redditor called crosfrog noticed that AltOs mode was now deprecated (via Android Police). Pixelbooks are going to be for Chrome OS only, after all.

The dual boot work was being done under the name Project Campfire. There appears to have been little development work on Project Campfire since last December. This suggests that Google actually decided not to bother with dual booting many months ago.

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Source: Ars Technica

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Windows 10 will automatically remove updates, drivers that break booting

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in Microsoft, Tech, updates, Windows | 0 comments

failed update screen

Enlarge / Genuinely the worst.

Windows appears to be getting a little smarter about updates that go wrong. A newly published support page (spotted by Windows Latest) describes what the operating system does when a recent update causes a boot failure. First, Windows will uninstall the update and revert to a configuration that should work correctly. It will then block the update for 30 days.

The page states that this approach will be taken for both driver updates and the regular monthly Patch Tuesday updates. It’s not unusual for Microsoft to have to issue blocks for these updates to prevent them from being distributed to certain system configurations after problems are found. But this policy allows for more fine-grained blocking, wherein systems will impose a temporary block on themselves should they have to. In most cases, when problems with updates are discovered, they’re fixed and the updates are re-issued within a few days or weeks. So a 30-day block should typically give enough time for the update to be fixed prior to the attempted reinstallation.

It’s not clear if this approach will be used for the twice-yearly feature upgrades or just the regular monthly Patch Tuesday updates. Microsoft’s terminology usually distinguishes between “updates” (which are the things released on Patch Tuesdays) and “upgrades” (which come out twice a year). The description only mentions updates and driver updates. The install mechanism used by upgrades is completely separate from that used by updates, with its own separate rollback logic, so we’d suspect that nothing has changed for those.

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Source: Ars Technica

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Windows 7 end-of-life nag messages will start showing up next month

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in end of life, Microsoft, support, Tech, Windows, windows 10, windows 7 | 0 comments

Licensing and support lifecycles are not really the easiest topics to illustrate.

Enlarge / Licensing and support lifecycles are not really the easiest topics to illustrate. (credit: Peter Bright)

As the end of Windows 7’s free extended support period nears, Microsoft is going to do more to tell Windows 7 users that their operating system will soon cease receiving security updates.

Starting next month, the operating system will show users a “courtesy reminder” to tell them that security updates will cease and that Windows 10 (and hardware to run it on) exists. Microsoft promises that the message will only appear a “handful of times” during 2019 and that there will be a “do not notify me again” checkbox that will definitely suppress any future messages.

For those organizations that intended to keep using Windows 7 beyond its January 14, 2020 cut-off date, Microsoft has up to three years of paid fixes through its new Extended Security Update (ESU) scheme. These will be available to any organization with a volume license and will have a ratcheting cost structure that doubles the price each year.

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Source: Ars Technica

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Red’s Hydrogen One smartphone won’t actually get those camera modules

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in Tech | 0 comments

Late last year, professional movie camera company Red dove into the smartphone market with the extremely industrial-looking Red Hydrogen One. It was big, ugly, and built with carbon fiber and aluminum, just like Red’s ~$20,000 movie cameras. But other than a 3D display and the aggressive design, the $1,300 Hydrogen One was built from mostly standard smartphone parts. The main sales pitch for the device was Red’s modular accessory system, which someday promised to bring a real Red-developed camera sensor to the Red smartphone. It now sounds like the modular system is dead. Red has scrubbed the mention of the modules from its website and announced “radical changes” to its smartphone program that seemingly include a new device with a Red sensor built in.

Anyone familiar with the company would naturally expect a Red smartphone to come with a great camera. Instead, Red used off-the-shelf smartphone parts and turned in a device with standard camera performance. The modular accessory system was due out in 2019, and it was supposed to work via a set of copper contacts on the back. Besides a promised power pack and expandable storage modules, this was supposed to be the way to finally put Red’s camera magic into its smartphone. The “cinema grade camera module” would have doubled or tripled the thickness of the phone, but it would have come with a Red sensor and a removable lens system.

The camera module photo and any other mention of modules was quietly removed from Red’s website almost a month ago (you can compare this archive to the live site). After Red forum members started to notice, Red founder Jim Jannard made a vague and incoherent statement addressing the move. Jannard admitted that the Hydrogen smartphone project ran into “a series of obstacles,” and he said that “changes” were coming to the program. At no point did Jannard say that the modular system would continue to be developed, and with the removal of the photos, we’re going to call the modular system dead.

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Source: Ars Technica

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Bandersnatch was a hit, so Netflix plans to make more interactive shows like it

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in Bandersnatch, Gaming & Culture, Netflix, streaming, Tech, tv | 0 comments

<em>Bandersnatch</em> was an interactive story that was loosely part of Netflix's <em>Black Mirror</em> speculative fiction series.

Enlarge / Bandersnatch was an interactive story that was loosely part of Netflix’s Black Mirror speculative fiction series.

According to a Netflix executive, the interactive film Bandersnatch was such a success that Netflix will double down on the format, with plans to make new interactive TV series across multiple genres.

Netflix Vice President of Product Todd Yellin delivered the keynote address at Mumbai-based media conference FICCI-Frames, in which he talked about plans to double Indian content production. But he also discussed the company’s future plans for interactive TV. Here’s what he said, as quoted in entertainment industry publication Variety:

It’s a huge hit here in India, it’s a huge hit around the world, and we realized, wow, interactive storytelling is something we want to bet more on. We’re doubling down on that. So expect over the next year or two to see more interactive storytelling. And it won’t necessarily be science fiction, or it won’t necessarily be dark. It could be a wacky comedy. It could be a romance, where the audience gets to choose—should she go out with him or him.

The announcement is not surprising; Bandersnatch was the talk of social media for a brief period after its release. When multiple Ars staffers assessed it in our “choose-your-own-opinion” review format, most impressions were relatively positive.

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Source: Ars Technica

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Fitbit Inspire HR review: A worthy $99 investment in your health

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in alta HR, Apple Watch, Features, fitbit, fitness tracker, Gadgetology, inspire, inspire HR, Tech, versa, versa lite | 0 comments

Fitbit Inspire HR review: A worthy $99 investment in your health

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Apple may be dominating the wearable space, but Fitbit isn’t far behind. Long before Apple even made smartwatches, Fitbit made fitness trackers for all types of people who would like to become healthier or advance their training to the next level. And as of late, Fitbit’s $129 Alta HR surpassed others as our favorite simple-yet-powerful fitness band that could work for almost anyone.

But now, Fitbit is retiring the Alta HR and replacing it with the new $69 Inspire and $99 Inspire HR fitness trackers. These devices are meant to not only fix some of the shortcomings of the Alta HR but to also attract users who have never worn a wearable before. There are plenty of those people, and Fitbit is betting that a good portion of them don’t want a smartwatch and would jump at the chance to spend less on something that’s just as capable when it comes to fitness.

We recently spent about a week with the Inspire HR to see for ourselves if Fitbit had taken what Ars saw as the best tracker out there and in fact made it better. And perhaps more importantly to this fitness brand, how compelling is this new wearable for newbies?

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Source: Ars Technica

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Amazon may make a free, ad-supported streaming service for Fire TVs

Posted by on Aug 29, 2018 in ad supported, Amazon, fire tv, free dive, IMDB, prime video, roku, streaming service, Tech, twitch | 0 comments

Amazon's Fire TV Cube

Enlarge / The Fire TV Cube itself is a small, glossy cube with IR emitters built into its sides. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Amazon may be gearing up to launch a new video-streaming service, but one that differs greatly from Prime Video. According to a report by The Information, the online retailer’s subsidiary IMDb is developing an ad-supported streaming service that would be available to all Fire TV device users.

Free Dive is the purported name of the service, and it’s said to be similar to The Roku Channel on Roku streaming devices. Roku’s service offers a bunch of licensed shows, movies, and other video content for free to Roku device users, but viewers have to watch advertisements peppered throughout that content. Roku recently expanded The Roku Channel to Web users in the US as well, so those who do not have a Roku streaming device can also watch that content for free.

The Information’s report estimates that Amazon could reach the 48 million Fire TV users with this ad-supported service. That’s a lot of potential eyeballs, many of which will be amenable to sitting through a few advertisements to watch free movies and shows.

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Source: Ars Technica

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Leaked benchmarks show Intel is dropping hyperthreading from i7 chips

Posted by on Jul 25, 2018 in Coffee Lake, hyperthreading, Intel, processors, Tech | 0 comments

Enlarge / An 8th generation Coffee Lake processor. (credit: Mark Walton)

While Intel’s naming scheme for its processors is often best described as “obtuse,” there have been some patterns that the company seemed to follow. For desktop processors, the i7 branding denotes chips with hyperthreading enabled, running two threads on each core. i5-branded parts had the same number of cores but with hyperthreading disabled. i3 parts in turn had fewer cores than i5 parts, but once again with hyperthreading enabled. The 8th generation chips changed this pattern a little—the desktop i3s don’t have hyperthreading, just fewer cores—but the relationship between the i5s and i7s remained.

It looks like the next batch of Intel processors, probably branded 9th generation, is going to shake this situation up further. Benchmarks found in the SiSoft Sandra database list a Core i7-9700K processor. This increases the core count from the current six cores in the 8th generation Coffee Lake parts to eight cores, but, even though it’s an i7 chip, it doesn’t appear to have hyperthreading available. Its base clock speed is 3.6GHz, peak turbo is 4.9GHz, and it has 12MB cache. The price is expected to be around the same $350 level as the current top-end i7s.

For the chip that will sit above the i7-9700K in the product lineup, Intel is extending the use of its i9 branding, initially reserved for the X-series High-End Desktop Platform. The i9-9900K will be an eight-core, 16-thread processor. This bumps the cache up to 16MB and the peak turbo up to 5GHz—and the price up to an expected $450.

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Source: Ars Technica

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A look at Chrome’s new tab design

Posted by on Jul 14, 2018 in Tech | 0 comments

Chrome is getting a major redesign soon, and this week new changes have started to land in the Chrome’s nightly “Canary” build. Google is launching a new version of Material Design across its products, called the “Google Material Theme,” and after debuting in Android P and, it’s starting to roll out across other Google’s major products. On Chrome, this means major changes to the tab and address bar. Remember, this is just a nightly build, so things could change before the stable release. But these changes line up well with previous Chrome redesign documents.

The first thing you’ll notice is the tab bar. Tabs now have a rectangular shape with rounded corners instead of the trapezoidal shape of the current design. Tab separation has also undergone a lot of changes. With a single tab open, you won’t see a distinct tab shape at all. The current tab is always white, and in single-tab mode, the background of the tab bar is white too so everything blends together. I like the general idea here: if you aren’t using multiple tabs, there’s no need to show all the tab-separation cruft.

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Source: Ars Technica

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Faster and farther: Bulls Cross E8 electric bike review

Posted by on Jul 14, 2018 in Ars Approved, arsapproved, bulls, cross e8 step-thru, ebikes, Tech | 0 comments

Enlarge (credit: Eric Bangeman)

As the managing editor of Ars Technica, one of my duties is to monitor the daily torrent of news tips and PR emails. The overwhelming majority of them is deleted after a glance, and the news tips and story ideas are passed along to the appropriate writer. Sometimes a product announcement will catch my eye, and I will follow up. Once in a blue moon, I’ll say, “please send me one so that I may review it.” And that’s how I ended up riding an electric bike around the Chicago suburbs for two weeks.

I’m one of the hardcore cyclists at Ars, along with Jay Timmer and his new-as-of-last-fall road bike as well as copyeditor Kerry Staurseth. I love cycling, and it was a major factor in my dropping 120lb over a 12-month period starting in the summer of 2009. My daily rider/errand-runner is a 1998 Gary Fisher Marlin mountain bike. For longer rides, I use my 2009 Trek XO2 cyclecross bike. I’ve made a few modifications to it, including removing the bumpy cyclecross tires and swapping out the front 46-tooth chainring for a 50-tooth one. I went with a cross bike over a road bike because I’m still a Clydesdale, and I like the slightly longer wheelbase of a cross bike. I’ve also briefly owned a 2011 Trek Madone 5.9, which I sold not long after I bought it due to severely screwing up my right knee.

But electric bicycles—e-bikes—are new territory for me. Broadly speaking, there are two basic options in e-bike land: power-on-demand and pedal-assist. With the former, the rider can control the speed with a throttle instead of just pedaling. Think moped but with an electric motor instead of internal combustion. Pedal-assist, by contrast, requires the rider to do some of the work. The electric motor won’t engage unless the rider is pedaling.

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Source: Ars Technica

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