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Four Things You Need To Know About Windows 10

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 3:10pm

Microsoft has finally shown the world its plans for its next major Windows release, the one that will succeed the much-maligned Windows 8. It's not Windows 9 or Windows Threshold—not even Windows One, as Microsoft executive VP of operating systems Terry Myerson briefly teased at one point during a presentation in San Francisco.

Meet Windows 10. Why is Microsoft skipping Windows 9? Your guess is as good as mine. More on that below.

The Big 10

The new operating system, which Microsoft is targeting for release by mid-2015, aims to correct many of the most criticized features of the Windows 8 desktop mode—the one most business users are familiar with. The colorful touch-oriented interface, which Microsoft calls the Modern UI, still exists, but didn't get much attention today. Microsoft promises more events at which it will talk about other Windows 10 features.

In general, one of Microsoft's big goals is to make it easy for users to move to Windows 10. That was a big problem for Windows 8, whose new and unfamiliar interface threw a lot of users.

"Windows 10 will be familiar to end users, whether they're coming from Windows 7 or Windows 8," Myerson said.

Here are four big takeaways from today's event.

The Start Menu Returns

In probably the biggest change from Windows 8, Windows 10 will bring back the Start Menu. That feature, a popup panel that gave access to installed programs and common features like the control panel, went missing in action in Windows 8. As long rumored, the new Start Menu will incorporate Modern-like tiles (see the above picture), some of which will display real-time information a la the current Modern interface.

Microsoft says the Start menu will be fully customizable. Users can change its shape and size, swap programs and other elements in and out, search for apps and even type in commands for which the operating system will then offer autocomplete options.

Desktops Go VirtualMicrosoft operating-system VP Joe Belfiore introduces virtual desktops

Windows 10 will also feature "virtual desktops," which are collections of apps that users can rearrange for better multitasking. It's a reasonably easy concept to learn by messing around, although it's more difficult to describe.

In the photo above, Microsoft operating-system VP Joe Belfiore is pointing to four separate "desktops"—those little icons at the bottom of the screen. Each one features a distinct arrangement of different program windows, making it possible to group, say, various social-media apps in one, open files related to a particular project in another. Users will create, delete and switch between these desktops using a "task switcher" button next to the Start button.

Touch For Tablets, Keyboards For Desktops

Finally, Windows 10 is designed to switch between the desktop and the Modern touch interface depending on whether it detects an attached keyboard. This feature is apparently still under development, as Microsoft operating-system VP Joe Belfiore had to rely on a video instead of an actual product demo. He had previously warned that Windows 10 code is still early in development: "There will be rough spots, and things may go wrong," he said.

No One Can Explain The Name "Windows 10"

So, why name the new OS Windows 10? Myerson stumbled a bit as he tried to explain it during a Q&A with reporters:

Really, y'know, this is a, this product, when you see the product in its fullness, it's a more appropriate name for the breadth of the product family that's coming.... We have tested it with many people, and it was a name that resonated best for what we'll deliver.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley offered this translation: "It's going to be the last major version of Windows and Microsoft wanted to signify it will be a big and cross-platform release." In other words, 10 was a nice big round number, so why not skip the inferior "9" and move on?

That bit about the "last major version" of Windows, by the way, refers to the rumor that Microsoft is moving away from big "tentpole" releases toward a steady flow of smaller updates that have the effect of updating the OS in a more continuous fashion. Near as I can tell, Microsoft hasn't officially announced this plan yet, which might explain why Myerson was having trouble explaining the name.

Microsoft plans to release a technical preview build of Windows 10 to the public on Wednesday. You can start trying to download it at 9am PT at this link. I'll be grabbing it as soon as I can get through and will let you know more once I get my hands on it.

Photos by David Hamilton for ReadWrite

Categories: Technology

Pinterest May Start To Act Like Facebook, If You're Not Careful

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 3:06pm

Pinterest is unveiling some changes that will make it behave a lot more like Facebook, that is, if users choose to opt in.

Beginning on October 19, Pinterest will use information gleaned from your browsing history and from its advertising partners to recommend products to Pinterest users.

Pinterest will now be using Facebook’s tactics for collecting data, but not its methods. If you don’t want to be part of the new program, you’ve got a month to let Pinterest know. On your Settings page, simply toggle all the relevant permissions to “no.”

Just turn those red toggles from "yes" to "no."

With the new changes to the privacy policy, Pinterest will have the ability to show you Promoted Pins based on your gender, your recent Internet history, and anything Pinterest’s ad partners happen to already know about you. It will collect log data, cookies from recent sites, and the devices you visited them on.

Previously, Pinterest prided itself on predominantly using your interests to advertise to you in the form of Promoted Pins: ostensibly relevant images that brands pay to put in your dashboard. Pinterest wants to show you products and experiences you’ve already indicated you’re interested in by pinning similar things in the past.

See also: Behind Pinterest's Crackdown On Paid Pins: Stopping Visual Pollution

Earlier this year, Pinterest made a major effort to crack down on “paid to pin” programs, in which users are incentivized through cash, contest entries, or any other reason to pin a photo to their boards that otherwise doesn’t mesh with their interests. That’s because the primary information Pinterest has about users is what they’re pinning.

Apu Gupta, CEO of Pinterest analytical service Curalate, told ReadWrite how Pinterest’s audience targeting can differentiate from traditional advertising:

“In a traditional demographic based ad, I might give you an ad for camping equipment because you’re 25 to 35 and male. But on Pinterest, I’d advertise it because you’re pinning a lot of camping equipment. I don’t care that you’re actually 55. I know you’ll be a buyer.”

See also: How Pinterest Is Slowly Learning How To Make Money

It doesn’t seem like outside data logs and cookies could be more accurate than what you’re pinning. Some people use shared computers; others may access sites for business as well as pleasure, sites that don’t 100% reflect their favorite things.

However, this change isn’t for Pinterest’s benefit. It’s for Pinterest’s advertisers:

“We want to help advertisers better understand how their Promoted Pins are doing,” wrote Julie Park, head of partnerships. “For example, an advertiser may want to know how often their ads are showing on Pinterest or how many people bought a product after clicking on a Promoted Pin. In the future, we’ll report that info to them.”

If you don’t care about making it easier for advertisers to sell you stuff, Pinterest has been remarkably transparent, offering a full month for users to leave the program. 

Photo via Pinterest blog

Categories: Technology

Mac OS X Yosemite Takes Another Step Closer To Launch

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 2:16pm

To Mac desktop fans anticipating the launch of the latest version of OS X, Yosemite: It looks like the new software is approaching the tarmac.

Apple has now released its first candidate for the Golden Master build to developers. Golden Master versions precede the public launch of new Apple software, so with Candidate 1.0 on the books, Yosemite takes one more step toward its grand debut. 

See also: Apple Unveils OS X Yosemite, Uniting iOS And The Mac At Last

This major version of the desktop and laptop software was designed to bridge the gap between its iOS iPhone software and its Mac machines. It incorporates iOS’ flatter look, as well as several changes intended to make switching between smartphone and computer more seamless. Candidate 1.0’s arrival comes on the heels of Apple releasing the iOS 8.1 beta version to mobile app developers Monday. 

The new Mac software is expected to launch for the public next month, but developers can work with the latest by downloading the 857MB “build 14A361c” file from the Mac App store today. 

Categories: Technology

Pebble: It’s A Real Fitness Tracker Now And Cheaper, At $99

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 1:00pm

Pebble announced Tuesday that its smartwatch has officially become a bona fide activity tracker—and an affordable one at that.

Last year, its PebbleKit software developer kit gave app makers access to the device’s accelerometer. Now that effort has born fruit with a new breed of more robust fitness-tracking features from partners Swim.com, Jawbone and Misfit. 

This news alone might appeal to fitness buffs, but Pebble—the little Kickstarter startup that sparked the recent smartwatch trend—had another announcement that could give this news a major boost: a steep price cut. The watch starts at just $99.  

So for a price that costs less than many standalone step counters or smartwatches, customers can have both in one device. 

Track This, Quantified Selfers

Several existing Pebble apps promise some fitness-tracking features, but they’ve been a bit half-baked. Some merely channel and display details from a companion smartphone app. Others use the accelerometer, but are roughed out and can only run when the relevant Pebble app has been launched.

See also: Pebble's Eric Migicovsky On How To Make Smartwatches People Want

Not so with the new Pebble-sanctioned troika of quantified fitness, which take advantage of a new update that lets them run in the background continuously.  

Yes, you can swim with this: Swim.com's Pebble watch app

As the name suggests, the Swim.com app tracks swim workouts, including distance, pace, times, strokes and efficiency while people swim with their Pebble watches (which are water-resistant up to 5 atmospheres). The watch app can then sync the data to the phone and over to the cloud. 

Look, ma! No wristband: Jawbone's UP step-counting watch face

Jawbone has been very busy, opening its API (see our API explainer) so developers can work with its system, launching a new wristband-free mobile app, and developing for the Pebble platform.

Now it’s ready to launch its new activity-tracking watch face. In some ways, it manages to do what its full-blown step-tracking bracelet can’t: It puts the data directly on your wrist. The physical Jawbone wristband has no display. 

Steps and sleep—maybe even both, if you sleepwalk: Misfit's newly updated Pebble app

Misfit’s watch app, which first debuted in June, now gets an update that takes advantage of round-the-clock tracking to reveal steps, show weekly activity and log sleep. 

These are likely only the first waves of this new class of Pebble apps. Earlier this month, the company issued an iPhone update that let loose some handy features, like iOS 8 compatibility and the ability to dismiss notifications right from the wrist. But for activity tracking, the more interesting tidbit is the new support for the watch’s built-in compass. 

Not only can users download the company’s free, basic Compass app now, but developers can also support it for geo-caching features or even full-fledged mapping. Those could come in very handy for runners, bicyclists, hikers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts.

If you don’t want those watch apps to sync to your phone or the cloud, they don’t have to, since they don’t require companion smartphone apps. So if you only want Jawbone on your watch, but not your phone, you have that option. According to a company rep, Pebble can hold about a day’s worth of data, should you choose to record the numbers elsewhere. 

Stepping Things Up 

All that background tracking makes the device more useful, but it will also affect battery life. However, according to Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky, the hit isn’t as bad as you might think. “The average Pebble user gets a six-day battery life,” he said. Part of the secret to that sauce is the low-power, non-touch e-paper display. End result: “When you run activity tracking in the background, the power implications are roughly half a day,” Migicovsky said. 

If that holds true, it should result in four-to-five day battery life, which seems average for dedicated fitness trackers. My Jawbone UP24 lasts for at least five to seven days; the Basis fitness watch offers three to five days. (The next-generation Basis Peak heart rate monitor, tracker and watch promises to improve on that.) The Fitbit One claims to offer at least 10 days.

As for smartwatches, competitors like Samsung, LG, Motorola and Sony can't hold a candle to Pebble's battery life—with or without full-fledged activity-tracking enabled. I’ve tested several of those devices, and while those beautiful color touchscreens are far more beautiful than Pebble’s display, they are a major factor in that downright depressing battery life. 

Samsung Gear Live, Pebble Steel, LG G

By all accounts, Apple’s upcoming wearable won’t improve on that experience either. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, his Watch will require daily charging. So it will only last one day, at best. Possibly even less.

Migicovsky considers the Apple Watch interesting, but as “an expensive, high-quality luxury watch made of high-class materials,” it’s a different category of device than his Pebble. He’s not wrong. Smartwatches from major companies run roughly $250 to $350, with Apple hitting the high end of that range. Pebble—in its new fruity colors—is what he deems a “fast fashion” wearable, with a fast price set to move units. 

See also: Fruity Pebbles And The New Crop Of Stylish Wearables

The classic plastic model takes off about a third of its $149 retail price, landing at $99. The more grown-up steel version chopped about $50 off, for a $199 price tag. For the money, users get new activity-tracking features (with more on the way), longer battery life, a bustling watch app store and dual-platform support for Android and iOS. 

For a while there, it looked like Pebble was getting eclipsed by far bigger tech companies’ smartwatch initiatives and their ambitious health and fitness ambitions. Android Wear gadgets have Google Fit, and the Apple Watch will boast its homegrown Health app and HealthKit system for health and fitness monitoring. Now Pebble rolls in, armed with a new round of fitness watch apps and boasting a few things even the big boys can’t touch.

It’s great timing. How apropos for a smartwatch company. 

Photos and Pebble watch images by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite. Actual Swim.com, Jawbone and Misfit screenshots courtesy of Pebble.  

Update: Perhaps emboldened by new features that keep it competitive in a landscape filled with giants, Pebble couldn't resist throwing a little shade in one's direction. On Getpebble.com, the landing page takes a poke at Apple design honcho Jony Ive's reverence for his own work, which includes the Apple Watch. We'll see if this scrappy smartwatch maker didn't just wake a sleeping giant. 

 

Categories: Technology

Ello Was Briefly Over—For Almost An Hour

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 10:30am

Ello went temporarily dark over the weekend due to a possible distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack by an unknown actor. Total downtime: 45 minutes.

See also: What The Ell Is Ello? The Ad-Free Social Network Everyone's Talking About

DDOS attacks flood servers with fake connection requests, frequently overloading them and forcing them off the Web. This was the new social network’s first major outage.

Ello, which promises an ad-free, pseudonymous-optional environment, recently rose to popularity at the same time that its largest competitor, Facebook, was promising the opposite experience. “You are not a product,” reads Ello's manifesto.

The resulting popularity surge led to the site fielding more than 34,000 Ello invite requests every hour. To avoid a freeze on new users it  reportedly considered, Ello limited invitations to five per member. eBay users capitalized by hiking invite prices up to $100.

According to Ello Status, the “potential denial of service attack” was resolved by blocking the IP addresses of malicious individuals on Sunday afternoon.

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock

Categories: Technology

After 12 Years Together, eBay And PayPal Will Separate

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 10:19am

On Tuesday, eBay Inc. announced it was splitting up into two companies—its eBay marketplaces unit and PayPal, its faster-growing payments unit.

The move, expected to be completed in 2015, essentially reverses eBay's 2002 acquisition of PayPal.

Dan Schulman, formerly head of American Express's online and mobile businesses, is taking a job as PayPal's president and will become CEO of the company when it spins off from eBay Inc.

In 2002, PayPal was largely dependent on eBay for its business. Merchants on the auction site used PayPal instead of waiting for buyers to mail checks—and preferred PayPal despite eBay's attempts to get them to use an internally developed payments service. 

See also: PayPal Slams Apple In Full-Page Newspaper Ads

Now, PayPal sees its business in mobile applications—and eBay is just one more reference customer. (It's not even a particularly good or loyal one: The eBay Now same-day delivery service, for example, no longer accepts PayPal.)

Schulman's first challenge will be making sure that Bill Ready, CEO of PayPal's recently acquired Braintree subsidiary, stays put. After the abrupt departure of David Marcus as PayPal's president, ReadWrite among others suggested Ready might become the payments unit's next chief.

PayPal's strategy now centers around two products: its consumer app, which lets people pay for products in stores and place orders with nearby businesses, and Braintree, whose software powers payments for mobile apps like Uber and HotelTonight. As an independent company, it will face a variety of payments competitors, like Square and Stripe. It will also have to figure out a way to work with Apple, which pointedly excluded it from the launch of Apple Pay.

eBay Inc. CEO John Donahoe, who's been running PayPal on an interim basis, will join the new company's board, but he won't remain chief of eBay after the spinoff. Devin Wenig, an eBay executive, will run the independent marketplaces business.

Categories: Technology

Apple Addresses Bash Bug With New Patch

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 10:05am

No more command line input or complicated workarounds: Apple has released a downloadable patch for fixing the bash “Shellshock” bug.

The patch is available not only for OS X Mavericks v10.9.5., but also older versions of Apple software: OS X Lion v10.7.5, OS X Lion Server v10.7.5, and OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.5. There is currently no fix for machines running test versions of Yosemite.

Last week, an Apple spokesperson said that “The vast majority of OS X users are not at risk to recently reported bash vulnerabilities.” However, the company acknowledged it was working on the bash patch released Monday.

See also: New Security Flaws Render Shellshock Patch Ineffective

Security researchers recently discovered that bash, a UNIX command shell and language included in OS X, includes a 22-year-old vulnerability that allows hackers to sneak prompts in as variable names with the computer being none the wiser. As researchers discover more and more related flaws, new reinforced patches have been released every day.

Photo by Steven Tom

Categories: Technology

"Selfie" Is The Sitcom We Deserve, Not The One We Need

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 10:00am
Karen Gillan is Eliza Dooley in ABC's Selfie.

Selfie is a terrible name for a sitcom. On that, plenty of people on the Internet agree. But, like the show itself, it could be worse. 

The new ABC sitcom, premiering at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 30), doesn’t have a laugh track, for example. (I’m looking at you, Big Bang Theory.) It does have Karen Gillan (Amelia Pond, Scots companion to the 11th Doctor, Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy). Listening to Gillan spew witty Urban Dictionary lingo at lightning speed with a more-entertaining-than-passable American accent never gets old. 

And if you’re a fan of John Cho, he’s there, too. Even the post-Pygmalion premise—in which a dude attempts to make a woman more fit for society, and in so doing embiggens himself—isn’t entirely offensive to women. (Comparatively speaking.) 

"Quit curating your life for appearances' sake online and start curating your life for appearances' sake OFFLINE, like the olds did," is the message Selfie seems to be going for. "That's better because ... reasons!"

But Selfie isn't exactly the indictment of tech-obsessed narcissism that it thinks it is. In fact, there’s an awful lot about social media fame and popular culture in general that Selfie doesn’t quite get. But if you wanted a document for our era, you should’ve watched The Shat in S*** My Dad Says. (Just kidding.)

Antisocial Media On TV

If ABC’s unavoidable multi-platform Selfie ad campaign hasn’t made this abundantly clear—or if you can’t be bothered to Wikipedia Pygmalion or My Fair Lady—this is what the show’s about. 

Social media obsessive Eliza Dooley turns to her company’s marketing guru Henry Higgs for some personal re-branding after a messy incident involving airline barf bags goes viral, revealing her husk of an existence. (Dooley and Higgs—see what they did there?)

And right there, you’ve got a problem. Eliza suffers mass humiliation following sexual relations with a married co-worker and spilling barf bags on her designer outfit in front of a jet-load of her co-workers, who thoughtfully Vine and Instagram the crap out of it. 

Obviously, Internet humiliation is an issue if you’re "Star Wars Kid" Ghyslain Razathe or the unpopular wallflower Eliza’s character once was. For adult Eliza however, or anyone who’s harnessed the power of social media, even the most unwanted or unflattering of viral imagery is easily finessed.

Can you imagine Kim Kardashian curling up into a catatonic ball in a similar situation? The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco turned her leaked topless beach pics into comedy gold. Cuoco can dine out on that story infinitely, if she so desires. 

Then there is Higgs' vocal distaste for America’s very intimate relationship with our mobile devices. His character is right, of course. Our insistence on sharing every thought or food product on the Internet while ignoring the real humans around us is pretty gross. 

But a “marketing guru” who fails to recognize the advertising power of mobile devices and social media is, well, not much of a marketing guru these days. On the other hand, if you suspended your belief for Lost’s final seasons, this might not seem like much of a stretch.

Then there are Eliza’s hipster saviors, a group of tattooed ukulele-playing, book reading stereotypes meant to represent women who have real lives outside of technology. A quick look at the smartphone-focused hipster zombies roaming Greenpoint, Brooklyn, would be enough to see that social media obsession crosses all social subculture barriers. But you know, whatever. It's TV.

That Isn't All "Selfie" Gets Wrong

One big element that wouldn’t play well on the Internet or with Pygmalion's feminist author George Bernard Shaw is the show's portrayal of Eliza’s sexuality. The implication is both that she has a lot of sex and that this is part of her “problem.” We could talk until we’re blue in the face over that tired sitcom trope. And there's probably a decent thesis in how Pygmalion is regressively de-feministed with each fresh iteration, if universities still ask for those sorts of things.

But hey! Karen Gillan! She’s great, and not just because she was on Doctor Who. Plus, as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy, she totally shaved her trademark ginger locks. So if Selfie makes it to a second season, at least we can talk about whether she's wearing a passable weave. What's not to "Like"?

Lead image from the Selfie trailer

Categories: Technology