Alexa and Cortana integration slightly different than planned

Alexa and Cortana integration slightly different than planned 3

Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa can now communicate and interact with one another. The collaboration between the two virtual assistants was announced in 2017 and was originally planned to be released in the same year. After some delay, it’s now possible to have them talk to each other.

Microsoft showed off how the integration would work at its Build conference earlier in 2018. The feature rolled out on the 15th of August and it seems to be a little different from what was demoed at the conference. Cortana devices (PC, Xbox, the exclusive Harman Kardon speaker) can launch Alexa by saying “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” to switch the user over to Alexa, which allows the user to shop, ask for the weather, and so on.

The opposite interaction on an Alexa to Cortana can be activated by saying “Alexa, open Cortana” which will launch Microsoft’s VA to launch your to-do list, check your calendar, or even check your emails.

Over time, we can expect that improvements will shorten the incantation users must say before interacting with the other device. If an Echo device would simply let you speak directly to Cortana and a Windows PC directly to Alexa without the switch, it’d be a lot more convenient for users without needing to affix the VA’s name.

After all, users need to say the name of the device they want t interacts with anyway- so why bother going through more hoops just to switch.

There have also been rumors that Windows PCs may ship with Alexa support in the near future.

Souce: ArsTechnica

Image: Amazon

Chrome 68 adds native Windows notifications

Chrome 68 adds native Windows notifications 4

Earlier this week, Chrome users using the newest version of Chrome on the Windows 10 platform began seeing notifications from the world’s most popular web browser in their Action Center. Chrome notifications will use the same design and style as the standard Windows notifications and will show up in the Action Center (the bottom-right corner of the screen on a traditional desktop layout).

Google is rolling out the new version in waves. The update was released on August 8th and 50% of users with the stable and most updated version of Chrome (Chrome 68) will be automatically opted-in to the new notifications system. Chrome users who don’t want to wait for the rollout and want the update right now can easily do so:

  • Update to the newest version of Chrome- Chrome 68.
  • Launch Chrome and type in “chrome://flags” in the address bar and hit Enter.
  • Turn on the “Enable native notifications” option.

This will force Chrome to enable the native alerts immediately.

This update will make Chrome’s notifications work with Windows settings.

For example, if you’re a user of Focus Assist (AKA Quiet Hours), which allows users to block notifications during a videogame or when the screen is being mirrored, Chrome won’t bug you with notifications and will respect your Windows settings. Users with lots of notifications from Chrome (Facebook, Twitter, Calendar, Slack, Stocks, Gmail, etc.) will have all their alerts silenced when needed rather than showing up when they’re not welcome.

Source: ArsTechnica

Chrome Browser getting a new UI overhaul with Google’s Material Design Theme

Chrome Browser getting a new UI overhaul with Google's Material Design Theme 5

The Chrome Browser is getting a major UI redesign soon. New changes have already been live in the Canary build. The new version is focused on Material Desing across all its products for a similar look and feel. It’s officially dubbed the Google Material Theme after already being debuted in Android P and Gmail. Now it’s going to roll out to the Chrome Browser.

The tab and address bar are underway for some significant changes. The tab bar now shows a rectangular shape with rounded corners and tab separation is also different. If you’re using a single tab, there’s no distinct tab shape at all. The focused tab is white and the background of the tab bar is also white so it blends into one bar. If you’re using only a single tab, it makes sense.

Chrome Browser getting a new UI overhaul with Google's Material Design Theme 6

When you have multiple tabs, then the background switches to a light grey and then background tabs will get vertical pipe separators rather than their own tab.

Getting a new tab has also been replaced with a huge plus button rather the current blank, unlabeled button. On Macs, it’ll be on the left-hand side instead of the right.

The address bar is rounded now just like on Android phones. The autocomplete drop down is a rectangular box instead of a bar. A new account button for Chrome Sync is also more apparent and shows your profile picture instead of the name.

Material Design is Google’s new theme and they’re really pushing it out. It’ll roll out to Windows and Mac platforms soon after it gets into the Stable channel for release.

Surface Go announced – Get pricing, specs, and details

Surface Go announced - Get pricing, specs, and details 7

Microsoft announced the newest member of the Surface line of computers- the Surface Go.

After many weeks of rumors, speculation, and leaks, it’s about time that the tech giant went ahead and confirm the news. The latest attempt before the Surface Go was the Surface 3, which was a budget tablet but didn’t really take off. The Surface Go is likely what the Surface 4 would’ve been if the same branding was used.

Let’s talk specs.

The Surface Go features a smaller screen compared to the Surface Pro. It has a 10” 1800 x 1200 display and an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y (two core, four thread Kaby Lake CPU). It also has only 64GB of storage via eMMC. It’s pretty much a weaker version of the Pro. It’s even got a reduced battery runtime at 9 hours.

But all this makes it a lot more affordable- it’s priced at $399 for the base model versus $799 for the base Surface Pro.

Besides the specs, it still has all the same Surface design elements. It’s got the variable kickstand, 8MP rear 5MP front cameras, Windows Hellow facial recognition, Surface Connect magnetic charging dock and port, 10-finger multitouch display with Surfcae Pen support. It even still has the microSDXC card reader and 3.5mm headset jack with a USB 3.1 gen 1 Type-C port. Because it has a samll size, it’ll accompany new smaller Type Covers and won’t work with the Surface Pro fittings. A new Surfaece Mobile Mouse will be launched for it if you need an external pointer.

The target demograhpic remains the same- professionals ans students. With a more affordable model of hte Surface line, it can compete with mid-priced laptops and gain more exposure for the Surface products.

Preorders for the Go will offer two hardware variants at four price points available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Taiwan, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Malaysia, and Thailand.

At $399, you get the base model which has 4GB RAM/64GB eMMC storage and Windows 10 Home. For an extra $50, you get Windows 10 Pro. For $150 etra, you get 8GB RAM/ 128GB SSD.

The Surface Go Type Covers are also available at $99 or $129 for the fabric-covered Alcantara materials. The pointer is $24.99. Hardware is due on August 2, 2018.

Later on, the Surface Go will include LTE and 256GB SSDs. It seems like Microsoft is trying to expand to the educational market with the lower price point- making it easier for students to afford the device and utilize its capabilities to the fullest. It’d be a shame to let it go to waste at this price point.

Image via Microsoft.

Source: ArsTechnica.

Apple’s repair program for butterfly switches fixes them for free

Apple's repair program for butterfly switches fixes them for free 8

Apple has announced that the butterfly switches in some Macbook Pro and Macbook computers have glitches where they would either stick, repeat characters, or characters fail to register. It launched a new service repair program that promises to fix these issues for consumers for free– whether or not it was purchased through AppleCare.

If consumers paid previously for this fix through an authorized repair center, they’ll refund the cash.

“Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will service eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, free of charge.”

The repairs covers a wide range of recent units. Specifically:

  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12­-inch, Early 2016)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, 2017)
  • MacBook Pro (13­-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2016)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2017)

AppleInsider went through a repair record dataset and came to the conclusion that butterfly switches on the 2016 MacBook Pros had nearly twice the amount of repair events related to keyboards compared to the 2015 models with the cichlet design. The 2017 models were on-par with the 2015 units.

Butterfly switches save space for other hardware and some users say they’re faster to type on since they have less travel and “clicker.” But they have just as many complaints on the opposing consumer spectrum.

Regardless, if you believe you have any of these issues, you can request a repair. It covers the following:

  • Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly
  • Letters or characters do not appear
  • Key(s) feel “sticky” or do not respond in a consistent manner


New Oculus Rift software requirements; Windows 10 only supported OS

New Oculus Rift software requirements; Windows 10 only supported OS 9

Oculus has recently announced some new changes to the Rift’s software requirements and recommended specs in order to run it smoothly. The hardware hasn’t really changed, but there are a few things to note.

You’ll still be able to get the same VR features and functions you have today, including things like responding to platform notifications, interacting with friends on the platform, managing your device, and running VR apps that don’t require Windows 10. You can still use Windows 7 and Windows 8 with most of Rift Core 2.0’s core functionality, but things like Oculus Desktop require Windows 10, as does the ability to run Dash as an overlay.

First, Windows 10 is the only supported OS that meets the minimum requirements in order to run the Oculus Rift to run its required software. Windows 7 and 8.1 will both work for the basic software. Oculus states that this is necessary in order to “take advantage of the latest technology.”

Older versions of Windows aren’t actually being updated anymore other than security patches anyway, and over 95% of the userbase use Windows 10. Thus, the change isn’t really that big of an issue.

Physical hardware remains the same- an Intel i3-6100, 8GB of RAM, and 1050Ti or higher. Or Ryzen 3 1200/FX-4350 and an AMD Radeon RX-470 for the AMD crowd.

Rift Core 2.0 features a new UI, multitasking, and a Home panel.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 1000 (SDM1000) can compete with Intel for lower-power chipsets

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 1000 (SDM1000) can compete with Intel for lower-power chipsets 10

Details regarding the new processor rumored as the Snapdragon 1000 (SDM1000) has surfaced. You’re probably already familiar with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 850 CPUs which are used in PCs. They’re essentially a faster version of the same chip you’ll find in a typical smartphone.

The Snapdragon 1000 (or should we call it the “K?”) is built for computers from the start. It has a giant footprint compared to the previous ARM chipsets, which measure 20mm x 15mm compared to 12mm x 12mm for the 850, and would use about 12W of power across the system. It’s a direct competitor to Intel’s line of low-power CPUs.

A design found in import databases gives some new hints about what to expect from this new powerful chipset:

  • It could be hooked with up to 128GB storage models- two of them
  • It could have up to 16GB of RAM
  • A possible gigabit Ethernet and socketed CPU design
  • 6.5W power draw with a total of 12W for the entire SoC
  • Utilizes ARM’s Cortex-A76 architecture for faster speeds (35% increase)
  • 802.11ad WiFi
  • Gigabit LTE
  • Power management controller

The SDM1000 is still very much classified, although one of its employees mentioned working on the chip as a Windows multimedia Project Engineer. With its speed, low-power consumption, and applications, it can be a good rival chip for Intel’s related chips. ARM-powered computers are already starting to trend in the market with their cheaper pricing and on-par performance that meets demands of typical consumers.

Image via Qualcomm

Google launches Messages for Web – text from your computer

Google launches Messages for Web - text from your computer 11

Android’s default messaging client just got a new web version on the 20th of June.

Google officially announced it just last week and says that it’ll roll out to everyone over the next week. If you didn’t receive the update yet, sit tight. And if you’re curious about what’s new in the messaging app, here it is in detail.

Android Messages first began as a basic SMS app, but the new web client turns it into their ninth messaging program. Why so many? It’s Google. Who knows. They’re currently servicing Google Talk, Google Voice, Google Buzz, Google+ Messenger, Google Hangouts, Google Spaces, Google Allow, and Google Hangouts Chat.

Now, we have Messages for Web.

If you have no idea what this is, it’s basically your Messages app but an online version of it that connects to a computer so you can text from your computer.

It was first announced about two months ago when Allo was going to be abandoned. The team then moved over to Android MEssages to focus on improving the app with a mix of Allow features, like a web interface. Google would give up on building a messaging service altogether and just improve upon this SMS/RCS app.

The server-side update is live for your phone’s app and you’ll be able to simply tap the menu button and then launch “Messages for Web” and that’s it. It uses a QR-code login system instead of your typical Google Account, which means you can only log into one computer at a time. And it’s connected to your phone number, which means you don’t want to be switching phone numbers or computers.

Since it’s just a web client, there’s no direct and easy way to get a computer connected to it all the time, unlike Hangouts with Chrome.

Microsoft announces new Surface Pro devices, Andromeda, HoloLens, and next Xbox

Microsoft announces new Surface Pro devices, Andromeda, HoloLens, and next Xbox 12

Microsoft will have some pretty neat future hardware, as their plans have been leaked so we can all ogle at what we have in store.

In 2019, there’s a new version of HoloLens codenamed Sydney. The documents hint that it’ll hit the market for developers and possibly commercial availability also. it’ll be a lot cheaper than the current version, lighter, more comfortable, and with an improved display. It’ll also likely use a sensor package from Project Kinect for Azure announced at the Build developer conference last May and include the newer, second-gen holographic CPU.

Next, Microsoft’s pocketable two-screen device named Andromeda is supposed to hit the shelves in 2018. It’s a product in its own market which will define a new hardware form factor. Like the Surface Pro, it’ll be a completely different piece of hardware that’s currently not in existence. It’ll have to offer similar appeal to the Surface Pro and be able to be widely used at the same time.

There’s also a new line of Surface Pro devices with codenames Carmel, Libar, and Andromeda as mentioned already. Carmel is the next device in the like of the Surface Pro. It’ll feature new Intel CPUs as Intel is refreshing their mobile processors later this year. The two CPUs in question are codenamedWhiskeyy Lake and Amber Lake- with power consumptions of about 15W and 4.5W, respectively.

Lastly, the next Xbox was confirmed to be in development and is due for release in 2020 with the codename Scarlett. It’ll likely be a family of devices rather than a single piece of hardware that keeps backward compatibility for games, as that’s what Microsoft has a history of doing. It’ll also likely just be a faster version of the current Xbox One X- to put it simplified.

Google blocks crypto miner extensions from Chrome Web Store

Chrome is blocking crypto miners from the Chrome Web Store.

Google has finally decided to get rid of any Chrome extensions that are mining for crypto.

Before this removal, Google allowed Chrome Web Store extensions to mine for cryptocurrencies as long as they clearly stated that they did such a thing and did nothing else but mine. This was the strict rule. Guess how it went?

Only about 10% of extensions actually followed this guideline whereas the rest didn’t. They would mine surreptitiously without user consent, which often increased resource usage and drained batteries faster.

Now, Google has decided to just cut off any crypto miners on the platform. You can now no longer submit your extension if you’re a developer and any current ones will be removed in June 2018. Sorry to the 10% of you. It’s the 90% that did this. Google has done right in this manner with the majority clearly not playing by the rules. They’re doing it to protect the end user anyway.

Google has announced that they would begin blocking any third-party applications from injecting code into Chrome. Accessibility and input software will be fine, but everything else will be halted. This is to stop malware from stealing passwords, tracking users, and doing other nonsense that harms users. Chrome 66 will warn users about injected code. Chrome 68 will only allow code to run after a warning. And in 2019, Chrome will block code injection completely.

Photo: Pixabay.

Amazon buys WiFi doorbell maker Ring for 1B

Ring was acquired by Amazon for about 1B.

Amazon has purchased WiFi doorbell maker Ring.

Ring is a startup that makes WiFi doorbells in terms of security. It lets owners view whoever is at the door on your phone. It can also be connected to other lighting systems to turn them on when a stranger is knocking and walking. Currently, Ring is valued at over 1B according to Reuters.

Ring first made headlines when it was featured on Shark Tank back in 2013. The CEO, Jamie Siminoff, had no bites other than Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’ Leary), but of course, he didn’t take the (often greedy) offer. Siminoff has then expanded the business into a huge success- enough for Amazon to purchase it.

Siminoff got the idea for WiFi because he would work in his garage being the inventor that he is and couldn’t get the door. So he made Ring, which would send a notification to his phone when someone rang the doorbell. Soon, it was developed into a whole security system where it could detect whoever was on the premises.

Ring could work well with Amazon Key (their in-home dropoff delivery). Both could work together to create a safer delivery ecosystem and perhaps help ease consumers into trying this new way of deveining packages. Amazon getting into security devices that synch with their existing products is only a way forward in the world of fast-moving tech.

Check out Ring’s homepage.

Image via Ring.

Amazon’s Alexa will become more “humanlike” with voice recognition

Amazon's Alexa will recognize your voice.

Amazon’s Alexa gained the ability to recognize different voices in the household last month. With this feature, Amazon will be able to use its voice assistant to even further customize its weather reports, traffic, jokes, and of course, ordering process. Developers have been testing this ability out and it should be rolling out to more … Read more

Lenovo’s IdeaCentre AIO 520 (27”) is a sweet all-in-one desktop

lenovo AIO 520

Lenovo’s new IdeaCentre all-in-one 520 computer has everything the aspiring entrepreneur, business owner, or even employee could want in 2017. I don’t own one of these, but just judging from the pictures, this is one of the slimmest AIO desktop computers I’ve seen. The box is neatly installed behind the 27” slim monitor and doesn’t stick out … Read more

Ubisoft releases a musical platformer indie game called “Ode”

Ubisoft Ode game.

Ubisoft just launched an experimental game called “Ode.” It was a soft-launch that I wouldn’t have seen if I weren’t digging through my daily (bad) habit of searching random things on Google News. The studio behind the game is the same one that made Grow Home, which was released in 2015- Reflections Studio. They’re pretty … Read more