Windows 10 Review: New, Yet Familiar

With Windows 8, Microsoft dared to reimagine desktop and mobile computing. The future, it envisioned at the time, would revolve around touch interfaces. The company introduced its Metro UI (since re-branded to Modern UI) to address the growing touch-capable devices market. Unfortunately, its ambitious bet didn’t sit well with users.

The problem was simple. had put so much emphasis on the touch interface, that it made the operating system hostile for traditional keyboard and mouse users – the vast majority of its user base at the time, and even now.

In the three years that Windows 8 has existed, the company has released two major updates to its desktop operating system: Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update. To give you an idea of its impact (or lack thereof), all versions of Windows 8 put together have a market share of under 25 percent. In comparison, the six-year-old Windows 7 and decade-old Windows XP combine to power around 70 percent of all computers, as per the latest stats from marketing research firm Net Applications.

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Microsoft hopes to change that with Windows 10, which is now available across 190 countries. The new operating system represents several major strategic changes for Microsoft. To ensure that there’s no repeat of the Windows 8 fiasco, the company has taken many precautions and bold new steps. Hoping to attract users and convince people to upgrade from older versions, it has made Windows 10 free for the vast majority of users.

But that’s not all. In an unprecedented move, on September 30 last year, Microsoft announced the Windows Insider program for developers and eager beta testers, and also released a premature developer preview of Windows 10 nine months ahead of the final release.

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The reasoning was simple: in order to make sure Windows 10 was well received, Microsoft wanted to let users decide and suggest the things they would like to see in the final release and what things they could live without. With Windows Insider, Microsoft tempted enthusiasts to try out the new operating system and provide feedback. Over the course of the last nine months, the company has carefully listenedto users and has also made lots of useful changes.

But that’s not all. Microsoft is making a huge bet on Windows 10. It says that the new operating system will be the last version of Windows it will ever sell. It is changing its stand on how it perceives and distributes its desktop operating system. Instead of being sold as a product, Windows will soon become a subscription service, with constant incremental updates rather than major new versions. But how that pans out won’t be clear for a few years.

Getting Windows 10
If you are an existing Windows 7 or Windows 8.x user, you can get Windows 10 for free via Microsoft. Hopefully, you reserved your copy in advance. If yes, the update should show up soon, though there are some things you can do to speed up the process. If not, you can download the Windows 10 ISO or buy a fresh copy off retail, probably on a USB drive.

Installing Windows 10 is as easy as installing any other recent version of Windows. It is also pretty fast. Once the download is complete, or if you are installing it from a USB drive, it should not take more than half an hour

As always, there are various variants of Windows, though the choice is not as complicated as before. Here’s a little something we wrote earlier to help you decide.

Initial setup doesn’t take long either. Much like Windows 8, there aren’t many things that Microsoft forces you to bother with. The activation process should also ideally not be any problem. Microsoft says that it will automatically activate PCs upgraded from licensed versions of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Windows Insider members will also get the final Windows 10 build for free that will come pre-activated.

The company announced that users who don’t have any prior version of Windows installed on their computers, and those who are using pirated versions of Windows, will also be able to download and install Windows 10, but those copies won’t get activated until a valid Windows license is entered.

Design and interface
Before we look at the design changes and user interface in Windows 10, it is important to first look back and see how we got here.

Eight years ago at the D5 conference, veteran journalist Walt Mossberg asked Bill Gates and Steve Jobs if either of them were working on bringing a radical change to the desktop user interface. The Windows and OS X UIs had largely remained unchanged over the years.

Sure, icons and layouts have become more pleasant to look at, and thanks to ever-increasing pixel counts, more information can fit on one screen. But it is still largely the same interface Xerox showcased decades ago.

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It was Microsoft that took the bold step to reinvent the user interface three years ago. Modern UI was the best shot – perhaps the only shot – at giving us a new perspective on what desktop operating systems can be.

“Touch, ink, speech, vision – those things come in, but they don’t come in as radical substitutes. I think you’re underestimating the degree of evolution because you have lived with it year by year,” said Gates in reply to Mossberg’s question. “These natural interface things are the revolutionary change.”

That’s true. Many don’t realise this, but the reason the current user interface became an instant hit had a lot do with its striking resemblance to real-life hustle and bustle. The overlapping windows on your desktop feel at home because that’s how things look in the physical world. You have a table with plenty of documents lying on top. You look at one page and that page holds the centre of your attention. Later, when you pull out a different page, that’s where your attention shifts. This underlying congruity between physical and visual aspects is what makes the UI work.

And it seems we will be stuck with it for years to come, which should be a good news to many. Microsoft is making sure that Windows 7 and Windows XP users don’t see Windows 10 as an operating system that brings crazy design changes. In fact, in a recent promo video, Microsoft touted the similarity between Windows 10 and Windows 7 as one of the USPs that it hopes will convince users to upgrade.

To do so, Microsoft is undoing many of the things people hated about Windows 8. The Start Menu, which got the axe in Windows 8, is making a return in Windows 10. The new Start Menu comes with some handy new features. For instance, it is now also home to Live Tiles that can live side-by-side with traditional application icons.

For those unfamiliar, Live Tiles are icons for Modern apps. They automatically update and display contextual information without the need to be clicked on. For instance, the Live Tile for a weather app will show you the temperature and forecast right there. Also, you can customise the size of the Start Menu as you see fit.

The logon screen is finally dumping the traditional square frame with a user’s photo plastered over a plain background. Instead, the company is making things visually appealing in the logon screen in Windows 10.

The taskbar has undergone a visual revamp as well. It now sports a more flat and metallic look. The Windows/ Start icon has been revamped as well, but perhaps the most significant addition to the taskbar is the inclusion of a search box. This could come really handy to users.

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Windows themselves have become flatter than ever. The File Explorer looks refreshing. The ribbon menu tab in it now sports more options, as a result of which it looks denser and more organised. It now offers quick shortcuts to view the properties of a folder and to create a new folder.

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The navigation buttons have become wider and flatter, and they look more elegant this way. The taskbar is also getting a minor makeover. In addition to the pinned and on-screen applications, the taskbar is now also the home to new system functions such as Cortana, Action Centre, and Task View.

Features
An operating system is as useful as its built-in features. This is another area where Windows 10 fares with flying colours. Here are some features that you will find interesting.

Cortana
Formerly exclusively available on Windows Phone, Cortana is easily one of the most fascinating features of Windows 10. The digital voice assistant amazingly understands your general queries. It accurately understood when we asked for the weather by simply saying “What’s the weather like?” and cracked corny jokes when we asked it to. You can also ask it to do mathematical calculations and look up bits of information.

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In Windows 10, Cortana is your go-to search box for anything and everything. It is always ready for queries that you can make by typing in the text box or clicking on the microphone button and speaking out loud. You can also use the phrase “Hey, Cortana” to initiate a search query without moving your hands. By default this option is disabled, but you can enable it from the settings. Just ask Cortana to open “Cortana and Search Settings.” The first few hours could be annoying as Cortana might not pick up your accent and inflections, but it quickly adjusts and starts recognising your voice.

You can also use Cortana to set reminders for meetings and perform other tasks. One friendly reminder: be careful about the timings of reminders and appointments, as once you have saved that information, Cortana doesn’t let you edit it.

Cortana automatically checks things like weather and traffic conditions and suggests that you should leave early for your appointment if necessary, though this feature may not be available in all regions. Microsoft says that Cortana can become even more useful if you also use it on your smartphone. It will also be arriving on Android and iOS soon, in case you don’t own a Windows Phone device. In fact, an Android beta was leaked earlier this month.

That’s not all. You can have Cortana write emails for you. It can understand your dictation pretty well. You can also use it to open applications, play music and do a plethora of other tasks. Cortana can also keep you from getting bored. Much likeGoogle Now, it also maintains a dashboard that contains information such as updates from ongoing sports events, weather information, a curated list of stories recommended for your taste, and updates from the stock market.

Microsoft says that it is expanding Cortana’s functions to a handful of regionsincluding India. Once that happens, Cortana will be able to understand more local accents, idioms and phrases. We are looking forward to the rollout, though it needs to said that even without official support, Cortana seemed to work pretty well for us. Having Cortana significantly improves the computing experience. It doesn’t take long before you realise that.

Microsoft Edge
Windows 10 ships with a new Web browser called Edge. When it was announced, the company claimed that Edge is designed to handle modern Web design technologies. We can confirm that Edge doesn’t disappoint and works flawlessly.

Microsoft says that Edge is faster than Chrome, a conclusion it reached by pitting the two browsers against each other in three different benchmarking tools.

In our time with Windows 10, Edge worked just as fast as Chrome. It loaded Web pages without any layout problems. Edge also lets you annotate and doodle on Web pages, and comes with quick sharing option that can help you share pages you like with your remarks intact with friends and co-workers.

The new browser also has a reading mode that can strip distracting elements out of a page and create a clean layout with just the story text and images. Edge also integrates with Cortana, and there are several voice commands that you can use while browsing.

There’s one problem, however. While Microsoft claims that Edge will run Chrome extensions, it hasn’t shared when exactly will it push that support for public usage.

Modern apps
One aspect of Windows 10, which is a continuation of the Windows 8.x era, is the availability of Modern apps. Apps including Mail, Calendar, News, Music, and Photos can be downloaded from the built-in Windows Store. They still feel largely aimed at touch capable devices and don’t look so great running as desktop programs. Things haven’t really changed since their introduction in Windows 8, but Microsoft still hopes that users will give them a try.

The Photos app offers a number of handy new editing features, while Music sports a nice interface. The same can’t be said about the Maps app, which lacks depth. You can only view the map in aerial view or live traffic view, and there’s no way to send the directions to your phone.

The Windows Store too feels immature at this point of time. Microsoft touts features such as Universal Apps, apps that work on both desktop and mobile with the same binary. The idea is that you don’t have to purchase the same app twice on your phone and PC/ tablet, and it’s less work for developers as well. Unfortunately, there’s no indicator on the store right now to suggest if an app is universal.

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Virtual Desktops
A major feature that can bolster your productivity, Virtual desktops lets you create and compartmentalise different virtual spaces in which you can group program windows together however you see fit.

Virtual desktops can be controlled using the Task View icon on the taskbar. You can drag-and-drop windows between virtual desktops, allowing you to quickly switch between them. Microsoft says you can create as many virtual desktops as you like.

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To make it work, click on the Task View button (shaped like overlapping rectangles) available on the taskbar. It will open the a new pane. You will find the option to addNew Desktop in the bottom-right side. You can switch between different desktops by using the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + Tab. The Task View doesn’t yet let you change wallpapers in different desktops.

This is a feature power users will love, and anyone who doesn’t want to use it can ignore it. Several Linux distributions and OS X have offered similar features for many years.

Action Centre
Action Centre is one of the handiest features that Microsoft had introduced in Windows Phone 8.1. And now it is bringing it to the desktop platform.

The Action Centre shows all your system-level notifications and application updates in one place. It also gives you quick toggles for settings such as Airplane mode. You can also do handy things like activate your VPN and check network settings right from the Action Centre, just like a smartphone’s notifications panel.

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t is quite similar to the Notification Centre available in OS X. It doesn’t look half as slick, but offers twice as many features.

Continuum
Hybrid 2-in-1 devices are amazingly useful, but going back and forth between tablet and desktop modes can feel jarring. With Continuum, a Windows 10 feature, Microsoft aims to fix that. As soon as you unplug your keyboard from a touch-capable device or fold it away, you will be prompted to switch the system into tablet mode.

The moment you do that desktop icons change their size, and other UI elements are adjusted to make things easier for you to operate by touch alone. For instance, when you switch to tablet mode, you won’t see the same Start Menu when you tap the Start button; instead you will be shown a full-screen panel of live tiles just like the Windows 8 Start screen, which is more convenient in that context.

Snap Assist
Another handy feature that we liked in Windows 10 is Snap Assist. Windows has had the capability to place different app windows next to each other for some time now. With the new operating system, Microsoft is taking it to the next level.

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The new Snap Assist feature allows users to tile up to four apps side-by-side. To try this out, drag a window to any corner of the screen. If you still want only two apps to be placed side-by-side, drag each window to opposite edges of the screen.

Security
Security is one of the headline features in the new operating system. While a large chunk of security features – such as Passport and Device Guard – are designed for business and enterprise users, a couple will come in handy at home as well.

Windows Hello is a new security feature that lets you sign into your PC without typing in your password. Using your computer’s built-in camera, the system will be able to detect if it’s actually you trying to sign in or someone else. It can also let you in using a fingerprint or iris scan.

The feature requires specialised hardware, for example Intel’s depth-sensing RealSense 3D Camera, which isn’t available on many computers yet, and a Trusted Platform Module chip on the motherboard.

Other than that, several built-in features have their own security layers. Microsoft Edge, for example, includes a feature called SmartScreen that can detect and block access to malicious websites.

Other stuff
There are plenty of other parts that are moving forward. For instance, the new operating system supports DirectX 12, which should please gamers. The latest version of Microsoft’s API to make use of your system’s graphics card and processor holds the potential to significantly improve how games perform. There isn’t any game that supports DirectX 12 as of now, but there will be by the end of 2015.

Speaking of gaming, Xbox One users will be able to mirror their games onto their PCs using the Xbox app. You can find more information about that here.

Windows 10 also comes with a tool that can let you record your on-screen activities. It’s a handy feature that could help a lot of people make videos without needing a third-party app.

Inconsistencies 
As well as Windows 10 has shaped up in the last year, it still doesn’t seem fully ready yet. There are noticeable glitches all around the new operating system. At times, the volume button, the Start button, and the Action Centre icon become unresponsive. In addition, the company’s stand on pushing updates to Home users, which recently broke some computers, suggests that those who value stability should wait a while before making the jump.

There’s also the question of app compatibility, since some legacy applications may not be compatible with the new OS. Check Microsoft’s compatibility centre to see if an application you depend on will work with Windows 10.

Verdict
Windows 10 is a welcome updated to the world’s most popular PC operating system update that should please a lot of users. Features such as Cortana, the new Start Menu, and Continuum make it very tempting to jump at the chance to upgrade for free. But the inconsistencies are a bit of a downer, and perhaps many will be better off holding out until the first major update to the OS is out, as it is likely to address many of these problems.

If you grew up with Windows, you should feel right at home in Windows 10, with the new features really adding to your overall experience. If you are amongst the minority you actually liked running Windows 8, the additions shouldn’t take away much from the things you enjoy right now.

 

Microsoft announces Windows 10, skips version 9 to emphasize advances

SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft Corp announced its ‘Windows 10’ operating system on Tuesday to replace the largely unpopular Windows 8, skipping a number to mark a leap toward unifying the way people work on tablets, phones and traditional computers.

The next version of Microsoft’s flagship product, which still runs the vast majority of personal computers and is used by 1.5 billion customers worldwide, is aimed at recapturing the lucrative business market, which generally ignored the new-look Windows 8.

Windows 10 will be “our greatest enterprise platform ever,” said Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s head of operating systems, at an event in San Francisco. Only 20 percent of organizations migrated to Windows 8, which was released two years ago, according to tech research firm Forrester. Many PC users disliked the touch-optimized interface and bemoaned the loss of the traditional start-button pop-up menu.

He said Windows 10, long known by the project name ‘Threshold’ internally, represented a new type of system for the company, as it seeks to unify computing as mobile devices proliferate. The name represented that leap, he said.

“Windows 10 adapts to the devices customers are using, from Xbox to PCs and phones to tablets and tiny gadgets,” said Myerson.

Microsoft faces an uphill struggle in reigniting excitement about Windows. With the rise of Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPad, and Google Inc’s Android devices, Windows no longer plays a central role in many people’s on-screen lives.

From a virtual monopoly on personal computing 10 years ago, Windows now runs only about 14 percent of devices, according to research firm Gartner.

pic::Start menu of Windows 10

Reaction to the news was cautious. Microsoft shares fell 8 cents to $46.36 on Nasdaq.

“It’s a bold statement for Microsoft to make,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. “So far there’s not as much meat on the bone as we would have wanted, although it’s still very early days.”

An early version of the software, demonstrated on stage by Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore, showed two modes, one optimized for touch-controlled tablets, and one for PCs using a mouse and keyboard. Users can switch between the two depending on the device.

Myerson did not say exactly how or when the new Windows would be rolled out, but other executives said Microsoft was aiming for a full release in spring 2015. A technical preview can be downloaded from Microsoft’s website, starting on Wednesday, for users to try out and give the company feedback.

“They were trying to start the messaging for a product that won’t actually ship until sometime around the middle of next year,” said Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans at the event. “This was to tell the PC installed base that there is a future and it doesn’t have to be covered over in brightly colored tiles, or force them to abandon everything they’ve learned over the past 15 years.”

Myerson said his team toyed with calling the new product Windows One to emphasize the unity of all the companies’ products, but noted that name had already been used.

video::http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfveyXCsiA8

Beyond touch id:where mobile fingerprint scanners are headed

pic::HTC One Max’s Finger Print scanner is on the back.

LAS VEGAS:

Apple isn’t the only one looking to shove a fingerprint sensor onto its smartphone.

There will be several high-profile smartphones that will include fingerprint scanners, according to Michael Maia, vice president of sales for the biometric division of touchscreen and touchpad

company Synaptics. Its product will ship in the first quarter, and more phones should come out in the second half, he said.

Fingerprint recognition technology hit mainstream awareness when Apple decided to make it its marquee feature on the iphone5s. Pretty soon, millions of people were putting their finger on the home button to unlock their phone.

Now, other companies are looking to add the same feature to their own flagship smartphone.

The HTC OneMAX was the first to follow the iPhone 5S to include a fingerprint sensor, which was supplied by Validity, the fingerprint ID company that Synaptics purchased last year. Like previous fingerprint ID systems, the HTC One Max required a person to swipe down with their finger to unlock the phone.

It’s similar to the thin fingerprint sensor found in laptops. Validity had virtually the entire share of that market and continues to support PCs under Synaptics.

In contrast, Apple used a different technology from Authentec, which it acquired in July 2012. Rather than swipe, a person just has to place their finger on the home screen, where it is scanned and recognized. Analysts have noted that the placement of the scanner on the home button, a natural place for a finger to rest, makes it easier for consumers to warm up to it.

The HTC One Max’s sensor is on the back, and Maia said a lot of smartphones with a fingerprint sensor would likely include them somewhere on the back. He noted that Apple has the luxury of placing it on its physical home key,while many phones running Android  or Windows phone

lack the space on the front of the phone. Either the phone has capacity touchscreen buttons, or the bezel around the phone is too small to allow for a physical key.

The Holy Grail, Maia said, is to get the fingerprint scanner embedded under the glass, negating the need for a physical scanner. But he noted that was likely still far away — certainly more than a year from now.

Meanwhile, Synaptics is working to create different versions for different handset makers looking to stand out. Unfortunately, Maia wouldn’t comment on which vendors were looking at his technology.

At least one big player, Samsung Electronics, had looked at the technology. Samsung initially planned to include a fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy Note3, people familiar with the device told CNET, which would have beaten Apple’s iPhone 5S with the feature. However, Samsung scrapped the plan before the device’s September unveiling because the technology proved to be unreliable and complicated, the people said.

Samsung could be including fingerprint-reading technology, but the latest word is that the company may use an iris-scanner instead.

Apple wasn’t the first to use a fingerprint scanner either. Motorola, before getting absorbed by Google, came out with the Atrix, the first phone with a fingerprint scanner embedded on the top of the device. It used technology made by Authentec, although it was clunky and also used the swipe method.

Beyond biometrics, Synapsis showed off a few prototypes of laptop keyboards with built-in capacity sensors beneath them. Allowing you to do gesture controls by swiping across keys, or lighting up the keys just by touching them. The company said laptops with this feature might come during the holidays.


Microsoft gives Windows 8.1 some Fresh Paint

Microsoft finalizes its new digital-painting app Fresh Paint and plans to ship it with Windows 8.1 when it debuts next week.

 

pic::The Fresh Paint app for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 provides people with a realistic painting program for free.

 

Microsoft Paint lovers who scratched their heads at the lack of a native Windows 8 drawing app can rejoice: the new Fresh Paint will ship on Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.

Fresh Paint is a free painting app for the “Metro” mode of Windows 8 (download) and Windows Phone 8 (download). When it announced the beta preview of the app, Microsoft said that it started out as a “research project” to make a realistic digital-painting app.

Fresh Paint, which had been downloaded more than 1 million times as of February, will be available October 18 on Windows 8.1, and October 14 on Windows Phone 8.

“[W]e do a lot of real-world painting to make sure we get our algorithms right,” Microsoft’s general manager for its startup business group Ira Snyder wrote in the blog post.

The app lets you paint with a variety of tools, including watercolor, graphite pencil, and oil. It lets you mix colors, change canvases and brushes, and erase unwanted marks. Despite the similar name to Microsoft Paint, the long-standing Windows drawing app, it’s not a direct replacement for MS Paint. Fresh Paint is only available in Metro mode, while MS Paint, with a new Ribbon toolbar, is still available in Windows 8’s Desktop mode.

The updated version of Fresh Paint that will ship next week offers improved reactions to stylus pressure; new ways to incorporate photos into your painting; in-app artistic “inspirational” tools thanks to an Inspire Me feature; and the ability to make high-quality prints of your painting thanks to a partnership with CanvasPop.

The CanvasPop deal is interesting because Microsoft has figured out how to scale digital paintings to large-format canvas prints by analyzing your painting at the pixel level, using bilinear filtering, and then smoothing out the pixels. The technique, Microsoft says, will let people who use small devices such as Windows Phones make big prints of their paintings with no resolution loss.

pic::Thanks to a deal with CanvasPop, you can print your paintings on large- or small-format canvases.

 

Fresh Paint connects to CanvasPop thanks to a CanvasPop API, the first imaging program to do so. Printing with CanvasPop is not free, although Microsoft will be offering sign-up deals when Windows 8.1 launches.

The app also hooks into Microsoft SkyDrive, so you can sync your paintings across devices. However, a Microsoft representative wasn’t sure if app settings will sync across devices.

Microsoft has been marketing the app as a way for artists and children to get comfortable with Windows 8 touch screens, and has made the app available for use in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

Hardware ahoy: Adobe to sell its Mighty digital pen in 2014

The software company will become a hardware company, too, with its digital pen for iPads in the first half of 2014. The “Napoleon” digital ruler remains a work in progress.

The Adobe Mighty stylus has been updated since its prototype days to incorporate a narrower, more precise tip.

The Adobe Mighty stylus has been updated since its prototype days to incorporate a narrower, more precise tip.

 

Like Google and Microsoft, Adobe Systems has been bitten by the hardware bug.

The software company announced Tuesday that it will begin selling its Mighty digital pen — a stylus for iPads that it first demonstrated in prototype form in May. And it announced two new iOS apps, Parallel and Contour, that make use of the Mighty and a related product, a digitally connected ruler called Napoleon that Adobe hasn’t committed to bring to market.

The Mighty is designed to close the gap between drawing on paper and using a tablet, with a Bluetooth link to the tablet software and drawing technology that Michael Gough, Adobe’s vice president of experience design, said is precise and responsive.

“It’s kind of surprising how good it feels to get that tactile feedback while you’re drawing. I think there’s going to be a lot of analog in the next generation of digital tools,” said Gough.

The Bluetooth link can communicate pen status information such as how much pressure an artist is exerting on it, and it also optionally links out to Adobe’s Creative Cloud service. That brings network-based features such as tools that import a pen user’s color-scheme ideas or elements copied to a virtual clipboard.

The Mighty is geared to attract the next generation of creative types — a potentially much larger market with an Instagram-trained population willing to experiment.

“When you were three or four or five years old, you could draw, then one person told you your drawing was crap, and you stopped,” Gough said. “A number of new platforms and tools out there are convincing a generation that they’re all creative. A new motivation for Adobe is to make it possible to feel creative and, in the case of Mighty, convince people that they can draw.”

The Adobe Mighty and Napoleon devices are designed to work with iPads for now, but since they just work by simulating the human finger, they could work on Android devices with appropriate software.

The Adobe Mighty and Napoleon devices are designed to work with iPads for now, but since they just work by simulating the human finger, they could work on Android devices with appropriate software.

 

Adonit partnership
Adobe has signed a partnership with Adonit, maker of the Jot tablet stylus, to make the Mighty, Gough said. One of the changes in the new version is a tip that’s narrower than the original’s 5-millimeter width, he said.

“They brought interesting technology to bear, and we brought interesting technology to bear,” Gough said. “They seemed very aligned [with Adobe] around the idea that hardware drives software and software drives hardware in this virtuous cycle.”

Adobe debuted Mighty at its Max conference in May along with the Napoleon digital ruler, which also interacts with tablet software so people can create not just straight lines but also shapes and other figures. There’s no word on whether Adobe will sell Napoleon rulers too — unlike with Mighty, there’s not a ready supply of existing technology companies in the market.

The two new iPad apps are designed to take advantage of the hardware devices’ abilities. Parallel is a drafting app, and Contour is designed to capture shapes from people’s photos so they can be imported into Parallel. By releasing a software developer kit, Adobe expects others to build software that use the devices, Gough said.

“We’ll build communities around these apps and enable other people to make apps and services like [them],” Gough said.

Though Adobe’s devices can benefit from a Creative Cloud subscription, the company hasn’t worked out what to make freely available. Such devices will work better with the $50-per-month Creative Cloud subscription, though, and Adobe hopes to see others developing hardware that takes similar advantage, Gough said.

Pricing also remains undisclosed. Higher-end digitization technology is often priced for professionals — technology such as Wacom’s tablets — though that company seems interested in selling small tablets for creative types and has ventured into the tablet stylus market with the$99 Intuous Creative Stylus.

The Mighty has a variable-color LED opposite its drawing tip. It’ll change to communicate different information to the user, said Geoff Dowd, the project’s design leader. For example, occasional yellow pulses means the battery needs charging, blue means it’ll ready to be connected over Bluetooth, and a double pulse of color confirms that its user successfully used it to copy information to a virtual clipboard.

It comes with a protective sheath that also serves as a USB charger. It’s got an LED status light, too; it’ll cycle through the rainbow spectrum when the pen becomes fully charged.

 

Adobe revised its Napoleon digital ruler, paring it down to one button.

Adobe revised its Napoleon digital ruler, paring it down to one button

 

Adobe, the hardware company?
For much of the last two decades, many hardware and software companies were separate. Companies like Intel, Dell, and HP built the hardware; those like Microsoft, Adobe, and Red Hat handled the software. But the boundaries are blurring as more companies adopt both: Microsoft building its Surface and acquiring Nokia’s handset business, Google moving from making Android to selling Android phones, Samsung developing the Tizen OS.

The model many have in mind, of course, is Apple’s, where a single company profits handsomely by closely integrating the bits and the atoms to ensure everything works well together. But it’s actually more common than you might think in the overall computing industry: IBM has done it for decades with its servers, Cisco has likewise with network equipment, and storage companies like NetApp and EMC supply hardware and software.

Adobe, though, has a different model in mind.

It doesn’t want to become a hardware company — indeed, Gough made Adobe sound somewhat reluctant about the move. Instead, the idea behind Mighty and Napoleon is to prod the industry toward new styles of expression.

“We’re doing the minimum amount of hardware necessary to be a better software company, Gough said. “We have no intention of becoming a hardware company.”

The Adobe Mighty stylus

The Adobe Mighty stylus has a variable-color LED illumination system opposite its tip to convey information to its user.

 

A look into the mind-bending Google Glass of 2029

How far-fetched is it, really, to go from today’s Google Glass to nanobots communicating between your brain and a Google cloud that is indistinguishable from a human?

 

pic::Google’s brain in the cloud, also known as a data center. (Credit: Google)

 

When Google Glass made its first public appearance on April 4, 2012, it signaled the beginning of a new era of computing. Consider the precedent: In the span of half a decade, the computer moved from the desktop to the pocket, and now with Glass it is moving to the head, on its way to eventually integrating itself inside the human body.

Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, calls Glass a “solid first step” along the road to computers that rival and then exceed human intelligence. Kurzweil, who is also an accomplished inventor and futurist, predicts that by 2029 computers will match human intelligence, and nanobots inhabiting our brains will create immersive virtual reality environmentsfrom within our nervous systems.

If you want to go into virtual reality the nanobots shut down the signals coming from your real senses and replace them with the signals that your brain would be receiving if you were actually in the virtual environment. So this will provide full-immersion virtual reality incorporating all of the senses. You will have a body in these virtual-reality environments that you can control just like your real body, but it does not need to be the same body that you have in real reality. We’ll be able to interact with people in any way in these virtual-reality environments. That will replace most travel, but we’ll also have new travel technologies for our real bodies using nanotechnology.

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As a Google Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil is working on improving computer understanding of natural language. As Ray Kurzweil the author of ‘The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,’ he is working to reverse engineer the human brain

 

Further down the road people will be uploading their entire brains to computers, Kurzweil said. The human brain will gain additional thinking power, expanding the neocortex into the compute cloud in the 2030s, Kurzweil said, accessing trillions of new concepts and experiences at speeds much faster than the biological brain. The fusion of digital and biological parts will enable a qualitative leap for humans based on a quantitative expansion of thinking, according to Kurzweil.

It’s not clear whether Google’s co-founders fully buy into Kurzweil’s view of technology evolution or his notion of “Singularity,” a prediction that around 2045 intelligence will become more nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful, and any distinction between humans and machines, so-called reality and virtual reality will be erased.

But, it wouldn’t be out of character for Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to consider moon shots like Google’s servers with direct and assistive connections to your brain, as they have for self-driving cars. It’s mind bending to think about the implications, but it seems possible that Google could monetize your brain instantaneously as it thinks.

pic::Google’s Sergey Brin is personally funding the development of in-vitro, lab-grown beef.

Hunger pangs? Google’s brain, cohabiting with your bio-brain, immediately flashes images of food, optimized for your health and eating pleasure, based on data from the sensors capturing your vital signs, data from anonymized individuals with similar profiles, your refrigerator’s contents and super-targeted ad inventory.

The image that elicited the biggest autonomic response is ordered from a local eatery, or if you are part of the DIY movement, it will display a recipe with preparation instructions from your tiny Glass eye embedded in your retina or visual cortex. Alternatively, it could be prepared by a robot or even formulated on the spot from base chemistry by nanobots. Google receives payment for various contextual ads and offers that are part of the human-computer data flow across the indistinguishable virtual and real worlds.

Biologically inspired software?
Coming back to the present, Kurzweil’s tenure at Google to date doesn’t yet appear to include merging the human brain with the Google cloud or creating a future version of Glass the size of a blood cell that runs through your brain capillaries.

He came to Google late last year with the more modest charter of improving Google computers’ understanding of natural language, which is a prerequisite for artificially intelligent computers that pass for human. It’s part of a Google’s effort to move to “conversational search,” where it’s possible to have speech as the primary input for a device.

“We are developing software that is biologically inspired and uses the lessons that biological evolution learned in evolving the human brain and neocortex to create intelligent machines,”Kurzweil said.

Google has a well-established research program for developing artificial intelligence. Applying design principles from neural networks, Google engineers realized significant improvements in the quality of the speech recognition. Google has also built a large data repository, Knowledge Graph, with nearly a billion objects and billions of relationships among them as a foundation for understanding the semantic content and context of queries.

“Knowledge Graph has good coverage of people, places, things, and events, but there is plenty it doesn’t know about. We are at 1 percent,” John Giannandrea, director of engineering for the repository, told CNET.

pic::Jeff Dean has been involved in many of Google’s key technology projects during his 14 years at the company.

While Kurzweil and Google have moon shot ambitions for the future of Glass, it will enter a mode of incremental improvements over the next half decade. Smartphones over the last five years have become far more capable, powerful and popular each year, following the cadence of Moore’s Law, but there has been no quantum leap. Over the next few years, Glass also faces a tougher adoption curve than smartphones, which are more essential for users than the wearable accessory.

For Glass to break through, natural language input and conversational search need to make quantum leaps. Google Fellow Jeff Dean says that voice search and image recognition will substantially improve the next five years.

“If you’re using Google Glass, it’s going to be able to look around and read all the text on signs and do background lookups on additional information and serve that. That will be pretty exciting,” Dean said in an interview with TechFlash.

However, Google’s brain needs to have a better understanding of natural language, which part of Kurzweil’s mandate. “If we could get to the point where we understand sentences, that will really be quite powerful,” Dean said. “So if two sentences mean the same thing but are written very differently, and we are able to tell that, that would be really powerful. Because then you do sort of understand the text at some level because you can paraphrase it.”

A problem for search engines today is that much of the data isn’t “labeled,” Dean said. It doesn’t offer much data to describe itself in a way would make it easier for a search engine to catalog. In addition, answers to more complicated queries require stitching together pieces of data from wildly disparate sources.

For example, a Web page doesn’t exist to answer the question, “What’s the Google engineering office with the highest average temperature?,” Dean told TechFlash. “There’s no Web page that has that data on it. But if you know a page that has all the Google offices on it, and you know how to find historical temperature data, you can answer that question. But making the leap to being able to manipulate that data to answer the question depends fundamentally on actually understanding what the data is.”

Nor does Google’s brain know how to book your vacation or business trip. “That’s a very high-level set of instructions. And if you’re a human, you’d ask me a bunch of follow-up questions, ‘What hotel do you want to stay at?’ ‘Do you mind a layover?’ – that sort of thing,” Dean said. “I don’t think we have a good idea of how to break it down into a set of follow-up questions to make a manageable process for a computer to solve that problem. The search team often talks about this as the ‘conversational search problem.'”

Google isn’t yet talking about bringing Glass into the augmented reality world of 3D and virtual reality. At present, it can take videos and pictures, send a tweet and provide notifications, but will likely enter the augmented reality realm within next five years, especially as the cost and size of processors, sensors and other components come down and the power increases.

Startups such as Meta are getting a head start on Google. With the next two years, the company expects to ship augmented-reality glasses that combine the power of a laptop and smartphone in a pair of stylish frames that map gesture-controlled virtual objects into the physical world, similar to the movie portrayals of app control via gestures in “Iron Man” and “Avatar.”

But even Google Glass with 3D, augmented reality and vastly improved conversational search is still a primitive toy in Kurzweil’s long view. “We’ll make ourselves a billion times smarter by 2045,” Kurzweil says.

In a 30-year span, computing has progressed from the Macintosh, which launched in 1984, to Google Glass. A moon shot traversing from today’s Google Glass to nanobots communicating between your brain and a Google cloud that is indistinguishable from a human in the next 15 to 30 years is difficult to digest, but not that far fetched.

Android 4.3 leaks online, brings new dialler, camera app

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While Google is expected to release the next version of its mobile operating system, Android 4.3, next week, a leaked copy of the OS for Nexus 4 devices has already appeared online.

Although it’s known that Android 4.3, which would continue to be referred as Jelly Bean, will be a minor update and won’t bring major user-facing changes, it still offers some incremental updates.

According to a hands-on video uploaded by Android Central, the update will increase the touch responsiveness of the Nexus 4.

 

watch the video here::http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HsrfTLUic8w
The  new update will bring an additional feature to the phone’s dialler suggesting phone numbers from your contacts as you dial by matching digits or looking up names. It also adds an option to add pauses while calling a number.

Android 4.3 also seems to brings a new Wi-Fi setting, ‘Scanning always available’ which will allow apps to get location data through Wi-Fi even when Wi-Fi is set to off and not being used for data access.

As revealed in previous leaks, Android 4.3 also offers a new updated Camera app that features a new arch based menu that makes it easier to control and switch camera settings.

In addition to these, the update brings the OpenGL 3.0 graphics standard for better 3D rendering for visual effects in apps and games, and Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) support, through which devices running the OS will be able to sync with low power wearable devices like health monitors and smart watches.

The update also offers a new Notifications history menu which keeps a log of all notifications and the app responsible for them.

 

Alleged screenshots of an early version of Android 4.3 running on Samsung Galaxy S4’s Google edition variant had also appeared online, in June. The screenshots had suggested changes to the Camera app.  We had earlier seen the same camera app when a Nexus 4 running Android 4.3 was spotted at the Thailand Mobile Expo last month.