Mark Hachman

About the Author Mark Hachman


The 22 best changes in Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15002

One build, almost a whole new OS
windows 10 creators update

Microsoft releases new builds of Windows 10 for its Insider beta testers every so often—some minor, some really significant. You can call Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15002, released this week, a really big deal.

Microsoft’s notes on the new build ran to over a dozen pages, according to the company, and we found over 20 notable new features. (We left out some minor tweaks to keep this list manageable.) Some are cosmetic improvements that enhance the user experience, while others add powerful new features that Windows lacked before.

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Microsoft sets the stage for Cortana-powered smart devices

At long last, Microsoft has set a public target of bringing consumer devices—that aren’t PCs—to market in 2017 with its personal digital assistant, Cortana, inside of them.

Today, Microsoft announced a way to challenge Amazon’s Alexa-powered Dot and Echo devices, as well as Google’s Google Home. Microsoft’s New Devices SDK will allow to power a new line of connected-car speakers from Harmon Kardon in 2017, executives said, with presumably more partnerships to come. This follows an earlier announcement that Cortana is coming to Windows 10 IoT, Microsoft’s operating system for smart devices.

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Windows RT done right? Regular Windows apps will run on new ARM-based PCs

Windows RT tried, and failed, to deliver a full-fledged Windows environment on top of anemic ARM microprocessors. Now, Microsoft is trying again, with two major improvements: compatibility with the mainstream Win32 apps that PC users have enjoyed for years, and a new generation of powerful ARM chips to run them.

At its Windows Hardware Engineering (WinHEC) conference in Shenzhen, China, Microsoft said today that it’s partnered with Qualcomm to enable new, low-cost PCs. These are intended to replace Windows tablets built around Intel’s Atom, a chip the company’s essentially discontinued.

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Microsoft combines Cortana, Bing, with Microsoft Research to accelerate new features

Microsoft took the unusual step of combining its Bing and Cortana product teams with Microsoft Research, in a bid to accelerate innovation for both the search engine and the digital assistant.

The move on Thursday was part of a broader reorganization that saw Microsoft split its Applications and Services Group, which also included Microsoft’s Office applications, into two separate organizations. Office applications will form their own group.

Though Microsoft has asked researchers to work on projects that could eventually be commercialized, combining teams that work on active products, such as Cortana and Bing, with the future-facing teams that comprise Microsoft Research, is unique within Microsoft. Together, Bing and Cortana, plus Microsoft’s Information Platform and Ambient Computing and Robotics teams, will form the Microsoft AI and Research Group. All told, the group will include more than 5,000 computer scientists and engineers, Microsoft said.

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Could Cortana 2.0 be a chatbot? Microsoft’s new AI chief hasn’t ruled it out

Cortana has a new boss, and he has a problem: If Google’s turning its Google Now digital assistant into a chatbot, should Microsoft do the same with Cortana?

So far, the answer is a definite maybe.

In 2014, Microsoft first unveiled Cortana, the digital assistant within Windows 10. Interacting with Cortana was simple: You asked a question, she responded. In the last few months, however, Google’s Assistant has offered an alternative: a chatbot that interacts with users via an ongoing stream of text and images. 

As of Thursday, Cortana’s future lies in the hands of Harry Shum, the executive vice president in charge of Microsoft’s new Microsoft AI and Research Group. In an interview with PCWorld, Shum said he hasn’t ruled out adding a Cortana chatbot to its roster of digital assistants. Shum said Microsoft is also trying to figure out whether to port a successful Asian chatbot, known as XiaoIce, to the American market — while avoiding a repeat of its last, disastrous chatbot initiative, Tay.ai.

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HP rethinks its ink policy, allowing third-party ink again

HP said Thursday it will issue an optional firmware update that will allow customers with certain inkjet printers to use third-party cartridges again, a capability HP had quietly taken away in the name of quality.

HP said it will provide the firmware update in about two weeks via a dedicated support forum. According to the BBC’s original report about the incident, the affected printers are the small-business OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X. It wasn’t immediately clear whether updated firmware would roll out for all affected models at the same time. Customers with immediate concerns can email HP at print-hpi@hp.com.

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‘Fastest smartphone chip ever,’ the A10 Fusion, powers Apple’s new iPhone 7

At the heart of every Apple iPhone is usually an upgraded chip, and this year’s iPhone 7 is no different: Apple executives said the new A10 Fusion is the fastest smartphone chip ever. “Apple’s chip team has been killing it in performance,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing. 

Apple has an existing license from ARM, the British smartphone chip designer that was recently acquired by Softbank. Rather than licensing a fixed design, Apple’s deal apparently permits tweaking for its own purposes, allowing the company to optimize it for new iPhone releases. 

A10 Fusion chip progression

Apple’s new A10 Fusion chip is orders of magnitude faster than the original iPhone.

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Google shows off Android Instant Apps that load without installation

App installations are so five minutes ago. At Wednesday’s Google I/O keynote, the company showed off Android Instant Apps — apps that run without even being installed.

The demo was a “sneak peek” at a feature that will be rolled out over the next year, according to Ellie Powers, group product manager on the Android team. It won’t even require Android N. It will work all the way back to older JellyBean phones; the onstage demo was performed with a phone running KitKat. 

“We want to make it easier for users and developers to connect,” Powers said. “For users to access a wider range of apps, and for developers to reach more people. With the Web, you can just click on a link and land on a webpage. That’s one click, and land in a few seconds. What if you could run any app on one tap? That’s what we’re working on.”

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Comcast raises trial data caps to a terabyte but won’t commit to nationwide rollout

If you’ve begun limiting your Netflix viewing because your home is one of the minority of users laboring under a Comcast data cap, good news: Comcast said late Tuesday that it has raised the cap to a terabyte’s worth of data per month.

The bad news? You can’t help but think that Comcast will soon be extending data caps nationwide.

In a blog post, Comcast said that the company had “experimented with offers, listened to feedback, and learned a lot.” In 2012, Comcast ditched its 250GB/month data cap. Since then, though, it launched trials in Florida and elsewhere imposing a 300GB/month cap — then charged $30 per month extra to eliminate it. Raising the cap, Comcast said, was in response to customer demand.

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Opera browser build adds a first: Free, unlimited VPN for secure surfing

After successfully launching a version of its browser that offered ad blocking, Opera just won’t quit. On Wednesday night, the company released a free VPN service with unlimited bandwidth, built right into its latest beta. The Opera release is developer edition version 38.0.2204.0 for the Mac and the PC.

Opera also won’t make you pay for the amount of bandwidth that you route through the VPN — which would normally cost you about $48 per year.

A virtual private network spoofs your IP address, pretending that your PC is actually physically located in London, for example, when it’s actually sitting in Los Angeles. That offers all sorts of possibilities: It helps hide your identity when surfing, or allows you access to a website that you normally wouldn’t be able to see. VPNs are also common in countries like China, whose so-called “Great Firewall” insulates the Chinese Internet from the rest of the world.

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Microsoft Windows 10 Mobile Build 14327 adds texting via PC, strips out Skype

One of the reasons we keep our phones out at work is to quickly and surreptitiously reply to a text or a phone call. With Microsoft’s new beta build of Windows 10 Mobile, we can put them back in our pockets.

With Build 14327 of Windows 10 Mobile for the Fast Ring of Windows Insiders, Microsoft has added its Messaging Everywhere Preview, an early look at a capability to send and receive texts while seated at your Windows 10 PC, rather than via your phone. The feature is similar to the Handoff capability that Apple introduced in the iPhone and iPad in fall 2014.

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Microsoft puts Windows Phone on hold

Well, now we know why Microsoft’s Windows Phone didn’t appear at Microsoft’s Build keynote on Wednesday: it simply isn’t on Microsoft’s radar screen at the moment.

The question, of course, is whether it will ever be again.

“We’re going to do some cool things with phones, but this year phones are an important part of our family but not the tip of the spear,” Windows chief Terry Myerson told The Verge on Wednesday. 

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Report: Microsoft will build ad blocking into a future version of Microsoft Edge

Microsoft is working to build ad blocking into the “next” version of Microsoft Edge, according to a report.

Ed Bott, who sat in at a Microsoft Edge session at Microsoft’s Build conference in San Francisco, snapped a photo of a slide presented by Microsoft executives. “Build ad blocking features into the browser” is “targeted for the next version” of the browser, version 4682811. 

When and if it arrives, ad blocking inside Microsoft Edge would make it the second major browser to natively kill ads; Opera is testing a developer version of its browser that does the same thing. Other browsers have flirted with native ad blocking, including Samsung’s native Web browser for Android. Most of the remainder, including Apple’s Safari and Google Chrome, enable ad blocking through the use of plugins, which companies like Opera say is less effective than blocking them natively.

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Microsoft heralds new universal Windows apps, announces ‘Centennial’ toolset to import Win32 apps

At the Build keynote, Microsoft touted new Universal Windows Platform apps that are coming to the Windows Store, including what appears to be a concerted push from Facebook.

Microsoft’s OS chief, Terry Myerson, put up a slide that shows a number of new universal apps coming to the Windows Store, including Bank of America, American Express, the World Wrestling Entertainment, and many more.

Perhaps more importantly, Myerson said that Facebook’s key apps would be released as universal apps, including the main Facebook app and Facebook Messenger.  Facebook will also bring its Facebook Audience Network to UWP, allowing 3 million Facebook advertisers to reach Windows customers, Myerson said.

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Intel co-founder Andy Grove dead at 79

Intel said Monday evening that Intel co-founder and former chief executive Andy Grove has died. He was 79.

Grove, who cofounded Intel with Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, leaves behind his wife, Eva, as well as two daughters and eight grandchildren. Intel did not disclose the cause of Grove’s death, though in a Forbes profile during 2008, Grove disclosed that he had Parkinson’s disease and had been previously diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Grove immigrated to the United States in around 1956 from Hungary, having narrowly avoided being imprisoned by the Nazis. He studied chemical engineering at the City College of New York, and later completed his doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley. He was hired by Gordon Moore, who later became famous for Moore’s Law, at Fairchild, then left with Moore to found Intel with Moore and Noyce.

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Intel cofounder Andy Grove dead at 79

Intel said this evening that Intel cofounder and former chief executive Andy Grove has died. He was 79.

Grove, who cofounded Intel with Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, immigrated to the United States about 1956 from Hungary, having narrowly avoided being imprisoned by the Nazis. He studied chemical engineering at the City College of New York, and later completed his doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley. He was hired by Moore, who later became famous for Moore’s Law, at Fairchild, then left with Moore to found Intel with Moore and Noyce.

Grove served as president at Intel in 1979 and ascended to the chair of chief executive in 1987. He oversaw the rise of the company as a household name, killing off Intel’s DRAM business in favor of the microprocessor, the component that would become synonymous with Intel.

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Microsoft relents, extending support for Skylake PCs with older Windows versions

Microsoft said today that it has tweaked its support options for customers who want to run the latest Intel Skylake processors on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Microsoft will extend its specialized support options for a year and offer more updates to those customers when its specialized support period expires.

A convoluted history

These are likely welcome changes to what Microsoft set up in January, when the company outlined a plan to provide specialized support for business customers who wanted to buy a PC powered by Intel’s latest Skylake processor, but who also wanted to stick with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Microsoft agreed to support dozens of specific PCs, including gaming PCs from companies like Dell.

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A kinder, gentler Microsoft says you can ‘just say no’ to Windows 10 Mobile upgrades

Windows Phone users who might have been nervously awaiting Windows 10 Mobile have been told they can relax. Unlike Microsoft’s aggressive tactics to migrate users from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 (which have ticked off customers), Windows Phone users won’t have to accept Windows 10 Mobile upgrades if they don’t want to.

Microsoft began rolling out upgrades from older Windows Phone 8.1 phones to Windows 10 Mobile on Thursday, with a list of about a dozen eligible phones. So far, Microsoft has asked users to download and launch an “Upgrade Advisor” app to trigger the download. It hasn’t always worked, however, as Microsoft said availability will vary by device manufacturer, model, country, and other factors.

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Finally, some Windows 8.1 phones are getting Windows 10 Mobile

With minimal fanfare, Microsoft began rolling out Windows 10 Mobile as a free upgrade for older phones on Thursday, fulfilling a promise the company began making more than a year ago.

The company’s original promise was that “broad availability of Windows 10 on other devices, including mobile phones, would begin rolling out in December” 2015 — and it’s now mid-March.

However, not every Lumia or third-party Windows phone will be eligible for the upgrade from Windows Phone 8.1 to Windows 10 Mobile. There are 18 smartphones on the list of supported phones, including the Nokia/Microsoft Lumia 1520, 930, 640, 640XL, 730, 735, 830, 532, 535, 540, 635 1GB, 636 1GB, 638 1GB, 430, and 435. Also getting the upgrade are the Blu Win HD w510u, Blu Win HD LTE x150q, and MCJ Madosma Q501 smartphones. 

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Opera tests browser that kills ads, accelerating Web page loading by up to 90 percent

Opera’s fired a broadside in the Web content wars Thursday morning, becoming the first desktop Web browser with built-in ad blocking — and explicitly encouraging users to turn it on as a way of improving their browsing experience.

Competing browsers like Chrome or Firefox assign plugins like AdBlock Plus the task of blocking ads. But with Opera’s 37.0.2162.0 developer build for Mac OS and Windows, it’s baked right into the software. Opera claims that turning on the ad-blocking feature can cut page load times by a whopping 90 percent, which PCWorld confirmed using a test build. 

opera ad popup blockedMark Hachman

The new Opera browser version will show you how many ads it found on the page.

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Bill Gates backs the U.S. government in Apple’s iPhone privacy standoff

Microsoft founder Bill Gates says he supports the U.S. government in its efforts to unearth the contents of a terrorist’s iPhone, countering a trend by other tech leaders to back Apple’s refusal to code a backdoor into its iOS operating system.

Gates appears to have made the case, however, that he is in favor of the government’s request because he feels it is narrowly worded. 

“This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information,” Gates told the Financial Times in a story published Monday night Pacific time. “They are not asking for some general thing; they are asking for a particular case.”

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Microsoft certifies new PCs with Windows 7 to ease enterprises onto Windows 10

Businesses are rushing toward Windows 10 as fast as they can, but they simply need more time. To accommodate them, Microsoft is trying something different: creating a transitional list of PCs built on the latest Intel Skylake hardware, but certified to run the tried-and-true Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 operating systems for now.

The program tacitly acknowledges that enterprises have a hardware budget they need to spend, and migrating a company from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 can literally take years. Running an older OS on top of the latest hardware represents a “customer-first” approach to the transition, Microsoft said.

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Intel embraces Internet of Things, puts sensors on everything

A decade ago, Intel’s primary data source for its PC and server microprocessors were the people who used Intel’s products. Today, those data sources are sensors connecting the Internet of Things, and Intel wants them everywhere.

Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich showcased a number of different initiatives during the company’s CES 2016 keynote on Tuesday, all with the goal of embedding sensors in as many places as possible—including clothing, sporting gear, and drones.

“We’re entering a new era of technology where consumers are choosing experiences over products,” said Krzanich, during the keynote address. “The technology that enables the new experience… that’s the product that will be successful in the future.”

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Zuckerberg to give away 99% of his fortune, or about $45B, to new charity

Following the birth of their first child, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced that they will give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares, currently worth about $45 billion, to a new charity the couple has founded.

The couple announced the birth of their daughter, Max, on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page. But the real news is a plan to establish the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative “to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation,” outlined in a letter addressed to Max.

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Zuckerberg to give away 99% of his fortune, or about $45M, to new charity

Following the birth of their first child, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced that they will give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares, currently worth about $45 billion, to a new charity the couple has founded.

The couple announced the birth of their daughter, Max, on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page. But the real news is a plan to establish the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative “to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation,” outlined in a letter addressed to Max.

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Zuckerberg to give away 99% of his fortune, or about $45 billion, to new charity

Following the birth of their first child, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced that they will give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares, currently worth about $45 billion, to a new charity the couple has founded.

The couple announced the birth of their daughter, Max, on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page. But the real news is a plan to establish the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative “to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation,” outlined in a letter addressed to Max.

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How to buy the best productivity-focused Android, iOS, or Windows tablet

The best tablet these days is one that’s as ready for work as it is for play. That means moving beyond the bargain bin of $50 throwaways to the shelf filled with better-quality tablets and useful accessories. Plan on spending at least a few hundred dollars, but the payoff in productivity—and fun—will be worth it.

We can recommend three outstanding tablets. For any other models that catch your eye, we’re also giving you five things to decide before you buy.

The best tablets we recommend

Android: Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

tabs2 9815 Florence Ion

The Galaxy Tab S2 is another great premium Android tablet from Samsung.

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Microsoft Band 2 review: This health-oriented wearable still faces big hurdles

After reviewing the Microsoft Band 2, I’d dub it the Microsoft Zune of wearables: a proudly specialized device that hasn’t yet realized that it’s on the wrong side of history.

Microsoft clearly took care in designing the sleek, curved interface of its new Band 2 smartwatch. But in the past year, Apple launched the Apple Watch, and Google’s partners iterated on their Android Wear devices. They’re all competent wearables by themselves. But one of their key selling points are apps, thousands of apps, and Microsoft’s Band 2 platform simply can’t compete.

Today, you can buy the Microsoft Band 2 for $250—$50 more than the original Band, but at the low end of Android Wear smartwatches and well below the cheapest Apple Watch. Microsoft makes every effort to justify that price, rolling up what it added to the original Band—golf and cycling apps, a tiny keyboard, and more—plus a more comfortable fit, a new barometric sensor, and some other tweaks.

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Hands on: Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 outdoes itself with more power and refined features

A month back, and we’d likely be trumpeting Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 4 as the next-generation of Surface. And it is. It’s just that, compared to its newly announced, mic-dropping rockstar cousin — the Surface Book — the Surface Pro 4 loses a bit of its luster.

Shade your eyes from the Surface Book’s dazzle, and the Surface Pro 4 has a lot to offer. Bumping up its processor to a sixth-generation Core, or Skylake, has boosted the performance by 30 percent over the Surface Pro 3 and 50 percent over the Apple MacBook Air, according to Microsoft. At a starting price of just $899 (and available for preorder on Oct. 7, with availability on the 26th) the Surface Pro 4 is priced right, too.

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Hands on: Microsoft’s Surface Book is a stunner as both a tablet and a laptop

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Microsoft strikes a deal with Asus: We won’t sue if you put Office on your Android devices

Microsoft has apparently traded an agreement not to sue Asustek over its Android patents in exchange for an a deal that will put Office software on Android smartphones and tablets designed by Asus.

About a day after Microsoft and Google buried the hatchet with their own patent agreement, Asus and Microsoft also made peace. In a statement on Thursday, the two companies said they’d expanded a previous patent licensing agreement between the two companies that covers Asus-made Android phone and tablets and “Microsoft software, devices and services.”

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Skype’s real-time speech translation is going live for all

Not too long ago, translation meant laboriously cutting and pasting a phrase into a text box or linking to a Web page. That’s about to change as Microsoft rolls out its real-time “universal translator” Skype users.

Within the next few weeks, Skype said Thursday, the company will begin pushing its integrated translation capabilities into the desktop version of the Skype app. (You’ll see a globe icon to the top right if it’s live for you.) At this point, calling it “universal” is a bit of a stretch, as only six languages — English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese — are supported.  But there are an additional 50 “messaging languages” the app will support for text chat, including Estonian, Urdu, and Welsh.

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