New Browser Gives Microsoft An Edge

Microsoft's new browser which will be of Windows 10 is no longer "project Spartan" - it is now named "Edge". See what I did with the post title? Huh? Huh?? The new browser is apparently designed to allow it to run plugins for rival browsers Firefox and Chrome, which is an interesting idea. Edge is the replacement for the venerable and often maligned "Internet Explorer" browser, and is another statement by Microsoft that they are still relevant in these days of Apple and Android.

Oh, and in a bracing blast of pragmatism, Microsoft has bought up several domain names like, and the like. Just in case...


Apple iPad Sales Down Almost 25% Year Over Year

Sales of the Apple iPad, which effectively created the current tablet market after it was released in 2010, are faltering. Oh, they are still selling over ten million devices each quarter, but the sales and profits are down noticeably from the previous year. Overall Apple earnings are well up from the previous year though, to the tune of 30%, so no tears in Cupertino
[Apple CEO Tim] Cook admitted the iPad is still struggling to ward off a drop in sales from Apple's own products. "We are clearly seeing cannibalization from the iPhone and on the other side from the Mac," Cook told analysts in a conference call.

"We have never worried about that, it is what it is, and at some point it will straighten out."


What OS Do I Have This Week? Elementary OS "Freya"

I don't know quite what propels me, but I hop around operating systems like a rabbit on a date. In the last few weeks, I went from Linux Mint 17 to Super X 3.0, then Windows 10 Technical Preview, LXLE and currently Elementary OS 0.3 "Freya".

I had tried Elementary OS 0.2 "Luna" maybe a year ago, and thought it looked really slick, and was fast and easy to use. This new release is more of the same, and really gives a solid first impression as a lightweight, polished Linux OS. It's a bit more "home brew" than many Ubuntu-based distros, in that is has several of it's own applications.

The desktop layout is reminiscent of Apple OS X, insofar as it uses a "dock", but it's really it's own thing. Also, despite appearances on the Elementary website, it IS available as a free download.

Here are a couple of reviews to give you the flavor (note a couple of these refer to the earlier beta release of Freya).

OhHeyItsLou (YouTube)


Unboxing Videos - SO First World

Unboxing videos are surely one of the silliest things out there, and yet I have watched a few of them myself. Why?? It's not like they are even a mini review of the product, it's usually just exactly what it sounds like - someone posting video of themselves open the box of product xyz and pulling out and commenting upon the contents; "Here's the warranty card, and it looks like you get a set of ear buds, too." It's a goofy, self aggrandizing commentary upon the mindset of the Internet generation, or something, I don't know. I do know that the need to show yourself opening your new toy to the world is surely a first world problem. What a grumpy old geek I am...

Healthcare Data Security: Not Good, Getting A Little Better

Verizon's 2015 Data Breach Investigation report on the security of healthcare data in the US does not paint a pretty picture, although it looks like the patient may be rallying a little over prior years. Considering the big push to move us all to digitized healthcare records (and how much "good stuff" those records contain), it's not terribly encouraging.

This year’s report set records for the number of organizations participating and security threats identified, with analysts classifying a staggering 80,000 security incidents and 2,100 data breaches. For the healthcare vertical, shared exclusively with Healthcare IT News, officials examined a total of 234 security incidents and 141 confirmed data loss breaches.
One of the most significant changes from last year's report? We’ll start with the good news: The industry actually made considerable progress with losing unencrypted devices. Consider the fact that last year, a whopping 46 percent of healthcare security incidents were due to theft or loss of unencrypted devices, this year’s 26 percent due to theft or loss represents a considerable improvement.


Windows 10 - Will It Be Ready?

As of this writing, Windows 10 should be released in about 15 weeks. The currently available preview build has (to my sense anyway) a rather alarming number of broken pieces. While it could be that Microsoft is actually a bit further ahead than it appears, and of course this is a TECHNICAL PREVIEW, I am still beginning to wonder if they will realistically have a quality product to give us at the planned release date in late July 2015.

When Apple release the first version of OS X way back in 2001, it was a bit of a steaming pile; but it was also radically different, and the Apple fans dealt with it until more functional versions became available. I don't think Microsoft has that kind of cachet with the computer-buying public anymore.
This latest release does fix a few problems found in earlier builds. Indexing email in Outlook works again, as does enabling Hyper-V. Some UI issues have been fixed in the Project Spartan browser. And Visual Studio won't crash anymore when creating new Universal app projects – which, as much good news as it is for developers, is even better news for Microsoft, which desperately needs people to start building these things if the idea is going to take off.

"No iOS Zone" Crash Vulnerability Exposed

Researchers have come up with a vulnerability in iOS that can be exploited to crash iPhones or iPads within WiFi hotspot range (even if they are not trying to connect to that device). The "No iOS Zone" attack is something that certain antisocial types may enjoy: "See that guy over there by the window with the iPhone? Watch this. Watch! *chuckles*"
According to the researchers, the attack can render vulnerable iOS devices within range so unstable that they can be forced into a constant cycle of crashes.
Although many may view such an attack as a practical joke, the truth is that such a “denial of service” attack could have a serious impact on organisations reliant upon their iOS devices.


The New Screen Savers

Screen Savers was a technology variety TV show that ran from 1998 to 2005 on ZDTV, and then on Tech TV. While I felt the show ran out of steam a bit towards the end as some of the original cast got famous and moved on, it was a fun show for someone like me. Geek impresario Leo LaPorte is bring the format back as The New Screen Savers on his TWiT podcasting network.
People will be skeptical about whether TWiT can recapture the magic, and whether it's even a good idea to try. "The idea is not to relive the past, but bring back that name," Leo said. "That name meant something to people -- the idea that they were going to be honored and valued for being tech enthusiasts [and] that show was going to celebrate it in a way that nothing on TV at the time did... Still nothing really does. And I got tired of waiting."
Leo said he stills regularly meets people who come up to him and say, "I'm a geek because of The Screen Savers." The TWiT team hopes the second iteration of the show will inspire another generation of geeks.

Audacity - Sounds Interesting

Audacity is a free, open source audio editing and processing application that is well established and widely used. What's in the future for this project? Libre Graphics World has an interesting Q&A with the Audacity team, including James Crook, Steve Daulton and Vaughn Johnson.

Q: MIDI features in Audacity are still basic, and proposed musical time in the timeline hasn't been implemented yet either. Is it about project vision not involving MIDI much, some sort of technical limitations, or the lack of contributors?
James Crook: What gets developed depends on people's interests and time, and MIDI is unfinished indeed. Yes, we are all pulling in slightly different directions. As a group, improving real-time is much higher priority for us than MIDI. But we do want MIDI, for reasons beyond using it for composing.
Both MIDI and RT will benefit from pluggable track types, and that is where there is more activity.
Libre Graphics World 


Batman vs Superman Trailer Pokes It's Head Out, Says Hello

After a (very) short tease via director Zack Snyder onTwitter, the new Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice movie trailer was then leaked online, which in turn led to Warner Brothers pushing up the planned Monday release date. So now we have it, and the trailer presents a rather grim scenario where the public seems to be either worshipping Superman as a god-like figure, or turning on him (presumably because of the carnage at the end of the movie Man of Steel). There are lots of dark, sombre scenes, ominous voice overs - and a potential rainy beat down between an armored Dark Knight and the Last Son Of Krypton. 

There were complaints about Man of Steel that it was "humorless"; I actually thought that while it certainly wasn't campy, there were a enough gentle yucks in there to keep things going. From the new trailer, this move looks decidedly bleak, and yet as it supposedly will be laying the groundwork for the Justice League, one would hope that Bruce Wayne and Kal-El can get on the same page towards the end. Also, not even a hint of Wonder Woman in the trailer. I would say, if anything, it makes the 2016 movie appear even more intriguing, which is kinda the point....


Abbey Road Studios Interactive Virtual Tour

This is pretty neat, and not just for old coots like me who remember the Beatles Abbey Road album - the famous cover photo was taken just outside the studios. The Abbey Road recording studio is well known not just for the Beatles, it has hosted many performers over the years. Now you can take a virtual interactive tour "Inside Abbey Road" thanks to Google and Abbey Road Studios.

Abbey Road cover, by Iain McMillan


Windows Hello - Bringin' the Biometrics

Microsoft is bringing native biometric security to users in Windows 10, so you can use facial recognition, fingerprints or iris recognition to login to your device. These features will be available using "Windows Hello".
Windows Hello works by scanning your face, iris, or fingerprint and then logging you into your device. Of course, fingerprint recognition has been around for quite a while, and there are a host of fingerprint readers currently on the market that provide biometric security access to Windows computers. However, the current crop of fingerprint readers requires additional software. With Windows Hello, the biometric security feature will be supported natively, and Microsoft claims that Windows 10 will support existing fingerprint readers. How many it will support and to what extent remains to be seen.


Windows 10 - It Sucks Less

The Windows 10 Technical Preview sucks less than Windows 8; there, I said it. After downloading and installing the 32-bit version of build 10041 and spending some time with it I can say that by reversing some of the admittedly gutsy interface changes they made in Windows 8, Microsoft appears to have produced a PC operating system that should make sense for most users. 

I actively dislike Windows 8 as a PC operating system and while I still like Windows 7, I have used various flavors of Linux on my laptop for the past couple of years. I am not a Linux guru, but I like what Linux offers me and I have become very comfortable in that penguin-powered world. This post is based upon my first impressions of the technical preview as I found it, and is not particularly "in depth", as far as technical issues.

Click to enlarge - image:


Stephen King's Dark Tower Coming To Movies (And TV?)

After a lot of on-again, off-again, it looks like we will indeed get a motion picture version of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. The books follow a mystical gunslinger in a collection of stories that have a bit of everything: fantasy, horror, etc. The news is that the stories will come in the form of a series of movies and a TV show (not sure how that would work, but I bet smarter people than I are working on it).
Deadline reports that a script co-written by Akiva Goldsmen and Jeff Pinker is in play, based on the first book in the series of novels, The Gunslinger. Imagine Entertainment’s Ron Howard and Brian Glazer will help produce, along with Goldsmen’s Weed Road production company, and it is expected that, as per usual, Mr. King himself will play a part in producing the series as well.
Top actors in the mix to play the lead role so far include Javier Bardem and Russell Crowe, but no casting has been settled as of yet, nor has the team chosen a director for what could spawn a marathon run of titles should the series gain traction with audiences.


That's Not A Prank - It's A Felony

If you are a 8th grader and log in to your teacher's computer (using a well-known password) and change the wallpaper to something in questionable taste, it's no longer a prank. It's a felony. Dominick Green, a Florida 14-year old student changed the wallpaper to an image of two men kissing. The FCAT files referred to below are questions to exam tests, which the teen did not access.
Green said that on the morning in question, he accessed the computer that stored the FCAT files and, realizing that computer didn't have a camera, found another.
"So I logged out of that computer and logged into a different one and I logged into a teacher's computer who I didn't like and tried putting inappropriate pictures onto his computer to annoy him," Green said.
The teacher he was targeting was out that day. Instead, the substitute teacher saw the picture and reported it to the school's administration.
The teen's mother, Eileen Foster, said she understands her son did something wrong, but doesn't think he needed to be arrested. Also, she said, it shouldn't have been so easy for students to access the system.
Is this why the US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world?




Hacking it to pieces, that is; as in with a hammer and crowbar. Apparently, this has become the new best effort for the kind of folks that lurk around in dark corners; simply smashing the bejesus out of an ATM in the hopes of snagging some crisp currency.
An ATM technician and KrebsOnSecurity reader shared photos of a recent attack in which three would-be robbers went to town on a wall-mounted cash machine with crowbars and hammers.
According to the technician, the burglars ruined a $13,000 cash acceptor, a $5,000 check scanner, a $900 monitor, and a $700 card reader, among many other pricey items. Hardly any part of the machine escaped damage.

Well, there's your problem... image: KrebsOnSecurity


The Parade Of Weird Toy Movies Continues

In the past few years, there have been some odd toy products made into movies - in the sense of "They are making a movie out of that?". You can understand things like Transformers (the car/robot things), but what about board games like Battleship? That was an odd choice for the 2012 movie of the same name. The Lego movie proved very popular, and a sequel is on the way. The latest addition to the questionable thought process is a movie based upon Play-Doh. You read that correctly; a movie based upon a modelling compound.
No, you’re not seeing things and as far as we know it's not still April Fools Day; the latest toy/brand/crumpled piece of newspaper to get the feature film treatment will be none other than that beloved childhood ball of coloured dough: Play-Doh. Deadline is reporting that 20th Century Fox is currently making a deal with Hasbro to bring about a live-action film based upon the toy brand. I'll give you a few moments to collect yourselves and then we'll move on.


A Linux User's Look At Windows 10

This should have been my own post; I have used Linux primarily for a couple of years, and I was looking to download the Windows 10 technical preview over the weekend - except the download was going so slowly (I tried 3 different times over 2 days) that I gave up on it for now. So the next best thing is this article from Bryan Lunduke over at Network World. He takes a look at Windows 10 from a Linux user's perspective - and no, it's not a Microsoft-bashing article, nor really even a review; nonetheless, it's quite thoughtful and provides some interesting comparisons.
In Windows 8, Microsoft killed the Start Menu – that simple, nested menu that let you find and launch applications (a paradigm used in operating systems since the days of the Pharaohs). Microsoft opted instead for a full-screen display of animated tiles, which, as every four-year-old can tell you, was both annoying and stupid.
In Windows 10, the Start Menu is back… kind of. There's no more full screen of animated tiles (Windows users dodged a bullet, there). But what Windows 10 has now isn't all that much better. Other than the fact that it's not, technically, full screen.