Apple this week updated macOS Sierra to version 10.12.5 with more than three dozen security patches, and a change that lets users install Microsoft’s latest version of Windows 10 on their Macs.
Sierra 10.12.5 “adds support for media-free installation of Windows 10 Creators Update using Boot Camp,” the update’s brief release notes read. Creators Update was the name Microsoft assigned to Windows 10 1703, the upgrade issued last month.
Boot Camp, which is baked into macOS, lets Mac owners run Windows on their machines. A Windows license is required. Boot Camp, while not virtualization software like VMware’s Fusion or Parallels International’s Parallels Desktop, serves the same purpose: Running Windows applications, including custom or mission-critical corporate software, on a Mac personal computer.
Previously, Mac users were forced onto a circuitous road to put Windows 10 Creators Update into Boot Camp. According to a Microsoft support document published before the upgrade was released, Mac owners first had to install an .iso of 2016’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update, aka 1607, to Boot Camp. Once 1607 was in place, they could then upgrade Windows 10 to 1703 from within Boot Camp.
Monday’s macOS update voids that workaround: Mac owners may instead directly install a disk image — in .iso format — of Windows 10 1703 into Boot Camp.
Sierra 10.12.5 also patched 37 vulnerabilities in macOS. Apple also released security updates for Sierra’s two predecessors, 2015’s macOS El Capitan and 2014’s macOS Yosemite.
Facebook must pay a €110 million (US$123 million) for misleading the European Commission during an investigation of its takeover of WhatsApp.
The fine is for telling the Commission it would not be possible to reliably match Facebook and WhatsApp accounts for the same user — something that would allow the company to better target advertising across the two platforms.
The move shows that enterprises need to be up front with regulators about their ability to process users’ personal information, and not try to play it down — especially when making acquisitions.
“Today’s decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information,” said European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.
She described the fine — for hiding the company’s hypothetical ability to match up users’ activity on Facebook.com with their behavior elsewhere on line — as “proportionate”.
However, it’s 700 times greater than the record fine imposed by the French data protection authority, CNIL, earlier this week for actual breaches of privacy law involving such activity matching.
That’s because, for now at least, breaches of European Union privacy laws are pursued on a national basis, where the ability of data protection authorities to impose fines is limited, in part because it is intended to deter smaller, local companies.
When the EU’s General Data Protection Directive takes effect on May 25, 2018, however, it will raise the limit on such fines to €20 million ($22 million) or 4 percent of worldwide revenue.
In this case, the magnitude of the fine Facebook must pay is because it was found guilty of breaches of EU merger law, not privacy law.
After investigating, the Commission concluded that Facebook must have known of this possibility at the time of the merger, and thus mislead the Commission. However, it also decided that the information did not give reason to block or reverse the merger.
Hulu’s chief technical officer, Tian Lim, dreams of a streaming TV bundle without ads, or at least one where the ads are less frequent and more interesting. He can even imagine demolishing traditional TV schedules, replacing them with something entirely different for the streaming age.
Yet none of those things will happen any time soon. Like many of the folks I’ve been speaking to at the Streaming Media East conference this week, Lim recognizes that change comes slowly in the TV business. For now, companies offering streaming bundles like the newly launched Hulu with Live TV must keep their most ambitious ideas in check.
“Right now, it feels like we’re pretty hamstrung by a lot of the legacy in broadcast TV,” Lim said during his keynote speech. “As we ran into legacy systems and operational pain, we did have to compromise quite a bit to clean things up.”
Networks vs. Users
Compared to other streaming bundles, such as Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV feels the most like a true departure from cable. Hulu deliberately did not include a grid-based channel guide, and its home screen delivers personalized recommendations instead of just plopping users into a live stream. The $40-per-month bundle also includes access to Hulu’s existing on-demand service—normally $8 per month—which integrates with DVR and live video in a unified menu system.
In an interview, Lim said Hulu’s ideas met some resistance from TV networks. They were skittish, for instance, about the lack of a traditional channel guide, and its potential to let them show ads and pay for higher billing in the lineup. Those desires make sense in the cable world, Lim said, but not so much in a streaming service that’s trying to do something new.
“We just had to get people aligned on the experience, aligned on the idea that times are changing, and we need to deliver to people what they need and want,” Lim said.
Still, that argument only goes so far. As Lim noted during his keynote, networks want to make sure their brands are not watered down, and that users have ways to continue watching a network’s channels even after one of its shows is over. Hulu responded by giving networks their own channel hubs, where they can editorialize and promote their own shows. And when users look at shows that are related to what they’re currently watching, Hulu tries to bias its recommendations in favor of that channel.
“You’ll notice we are very meticulous about showing network attribution that goes to a piece of content,” Lim said during the keynote. “Notice there are ways to stay in a channel.”
The ad conundrum
The reason TV networks care so much preserving old approaches largely comes down to advertising, both to make money and to promote their own shows. Some networks make nearly as much from ads as they do from the carriage fees they extract from TV providers, and they often use some ad slots to tease other shows on their channels.
Lim argues that Hulu allows for a better approach. Instead of mass marketing their own shows through ad spots, for instance, the networks could let Hulu’s algorithms do the work of targeting people who might actually be interested.
“I don’t need to see the same house ad a million times,” Lim said. “At Hulu we have a lot of data about our viewers. We can do a better job of effectively marketing a show to the right people, as opposed to blasting everybody with the same house ads for shows.”
Streaming video also presents a chance to show fewer, better-targeted ads overall. During his keynote, Lim bemoaned the idea of breaking for three or four minutes of ads every 15 minutes in broadcast TV, stating plainly that too many ads “just sucks.”
But changing the status quo is complicated. For Hulu, promoting a network’s shows with video clips would require a certain set of rights that it doesn’t have. And with live TV, lightening the ad load would disrupt the 24-hour programming schedule that networks have laid out for all their distributors. They’re not going to want to break up that schedule for every streaming bundle that wants to do things differently.
“I don’t expect them to do that. I don’t want them to have to do that, but I also don’t want, ten years from now, for all of us to be looking at the same user experience across the different MVPDs,” Lim says. (MVPD is an acronym for multichannel video programming distributor; industry jargon for companies offering TV bundles.)
The dilemma with programming schedules explains why, in Lim’s mind, the notion of an ad-free channel bundle is still an impossible dream. Offering such a service, Lim said, would require a “really, really big fundamental shift in the way we think about content.”
Bear in mind that Hulu has been reducing commercials in its $8-per-month on-demand service, and it offers an option to remove ads for an extra $4 per month. And despite some reports about how Hulu is reinventing itself around live TV, the company remains committed to its on-demand service. The overall goal, with both versions of Hulu, is to remain one of the top two or three streaming video providers.
“We’re happy to have a subscriber either way,” Lim said.
Hulu’s near-term future
In the short term, that means Hulu won’t be drastically different from other streaming bundles, even if it wants to be. With that in mind, I asked Lim about a few of the issues that came up in my early impressions of Hulu with Live TV, which is currently in a paid public beta.
Regarding the absence of 60-frames-per-second video, which provides smoother motion for sports and news, Lim notes that the higher frame rate was part of Hulu’s private beta testing. “It was beautiful, but it wasn’t stable enough,” Lim said, so Hulu temporarily omitted 60-frames-per-second from the public beta. It’ll come back once Hulu feels it’s worked through some technical issues. It doesn’t sound like 5.1-channel surround sound is happening anytime soon, though, as Hulu didn’t architect its content management system to handle the additional audio streams.
For Apple TV users who’ve been getting dumped out of the video player on occasion, Lim said he’s aware of the issue and that Hulu is working to fix it. Further device support is also a priority, with Roku support coming “pretty soon” and other devices, including Amazon Fire TV, on the way. (Although Roku has had some issues with app parity in the past, Lim said Hulu’s Roku app should be similar to other platforms.)
Lim also acknowledged that the Hulu may be a bit too opaque in explaining the rights around a particular movie or TV episode. The service, for instance, tries to obscure the difference between an on-demand video and a recording from the cloud DVR, but that can lead to confusion about whether users are able to skip commercials or jump back to the start of an episode.
“That’s where we’ve been trying so hard to try and insulate viewers from [rights issues], that’s something I think we’re constantly having to play with,” Lim said.
As for when Hulu might deem its TV bundle fit enough to remove the beta tag, Lim only had a one-word answer: “Soon.”
The future of Android will be a lot smarter, thanks to new programming tools that Google unveiled on Wednesday. The company announced TensorFlow Lite, a version of its machine learning framework that’s designed to run on smartphones and other mobile devices, during the keynote address at its Google I/O developer conference.
“TensorFlow Lite will leverage a new neural network API to tap into silicon-specific accelerators, and over time we expect to see [digital signal processing chips] specifically designed for neural network inference and training,” said Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering for Android. “We think these new capabilities will help power a next generation of on-device speech processing, visual search, augmented reality, and more.”
The Lite framework will be made a part of the open source TensorFlow project soon, and the neural network API will come to the next major release of Android later this year.
The framework has serious implications for what Google sees as the future of mobile hardware. AI-focused chips could make it possible for smartphones to handle more advanced machine learning computations without consuming as much power. With more applications using machine learning to provide intelligent experiences, making that sort of work more easily possible on device is key.
Right now, building advanced machine learning into applications—especially when it comes to training models—requires an amount of computational power that typically requires beefy hardware, a lot of time and a lot of power. That’s not really practical for consumer smartphone applications, which means they often offload that processing to massive datacenter by sending images, text and other data in need of processing over the internet.
Processing that data in the cloud comes with several downsides, according to Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy: Users must be willing to transfer their data to a company’s servers, and they have to be in an environment with rich enough connectivity to make sure the operation is low-latency.
There’s already one mobile processor with a machine learning-specific DSP on the market today. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 system-on-a-chip sports the Hexagon DSP that supports TensorFlow. DSPs are also used for providing functionality like recognizing the “OK, Google” wake phrase for the Google Assistant, according to Moorhead.
Users should expect to see more machine learning acceleration chips in the future, Moorhead said. “Ever since Moore’s Law slowed down, it’s been a heterogeneous computing model,” he said. “We’re using different kinds of processors to do different types of things, whether it’s a DSP, whether it’s a [field-programmable gate array], or whether it’s a CPU. It’s almost like we’re using the right golf club for the right hole.”
Google is already investing in ML-specific hardware with its line of Tensor Processing Unit chips, which are designed to accelerate both the training of new machine learning algorithms as well as data processing using existing models. On Wednesday, the company announced the second version of that hardware, which is designed to accelerate machine learning training and inference.
The company is also not the only one with a smartphone-focused machine learning framework. Facebook showed off a mobile-oriented ML framework called Caffe2Go last year, which is used to power applications like the company’s live style transfer feature.
Twitter is dumping its support for Do Not Track (DNT), changing how it shares user data with third parties, and holding any web browsing data it collects for a longer duration—all to better aid in ad targeting, of course.
But at the same time, Twitter is giving users more control over what kind of user data can be used for targeted advertising, as well as more transparency about the information it collects about you.
The privacy features are active now, but the new privacy policies that dump DNT, change data sharing policies, and hold your data longer don’t come into effect until June 18. Here’s a look at what’s going on.
Checking your advertising data
If you go to the “Your Twitter data” section of your account settings, you’ll see there’s a lot of information there about your activity and how you’re being advertised to.
You can see the locations you’ve visited, which Twitter also uses for targeted advertising. There are also lists of the various interest categories that Twitter thinks suit you, and categories that third-party advertisers think you’re interested in. If you see any categories you don’t like in either section Twitter lets you dump them.
You can also request to see a list of advertisers who have categorized you into various groups, as well as see how many groups you’re in. My account, for example, is “part of 17,056 audiences from 4264 advertisers” as of this writing.
Advertising and personalization
In Twitter for the Web, go to Settings > Privacy and safety > Personalization and Data. Here, you can see additional check boxes regarding personalization of ads based on your information. If you like, you can leave them all active, which is the default, or you can uncheck every box and turn it all off.
The settings are fairly self-explanatory, but they include general personalization for ads, information about the apps you use on your smartphone, your location history, and websites you visit that have embedded twitter buttons or tweets.
Do Not Track and web data
Back in 2012, Twitter decided to honor Do Not Track, which is basically an honor system for web tracking. When browser users had a Do Not Track setting enabled, any service that honored DNT wasn’t supposed to track that person. As part of these changes, Twitter will no longer honor Do Not Track settings.
It’s no surprise—DNT has turned out to be a silly system and an unrealistic idea. Anyone who truly wants to stop tracking online should be aggressive about it by using ad blockers and extensions such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger.
The impact on you at home: The real change to pay attention to is the data retention policies for web browsing. Twitter is able to monitor any website you visit when you’re logged in to Twitter and visiting a site with a Twitter button or an embedded tweet. Previously, Twitter saved that data for 10 days, but will now keep it for 30. If you don’t want Twitter to track you at all go to your Personalization and Data settings and uncheck “Track where you see Twitter content across the web.”
While you’re at it, you might as well dump “Share data through select partnerships” too. When active, the setting lets Twitter share “certain private data (which will never include your name, email, or phone number) through select partnerships. Partners have agreed not to link your name, email, or phone number to data shared through these partnerships without first getting your consent.”
Mainstream PC makers keep cranking up the dial on their gaming laptops. Lenovo’s Legion Y920 is proof of it: Announced Thursday, this new notebook is the company’s most powerful attempt yet to appeal to enthusiasts.
Lenovo loaded this beefy 17-inch laptop with your choice of a Core i7-7700HQ or the Core i7-7820HK—Intel’s most powerful laptop chip. The GeForce GTX 1070 handles the Y920’s graphics, paired with a 75Hz IPS 1080p G-Sync panel. Nvidia’s powerful GPU should have no trouble pushing that display to its limits, and because the screen rocks Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, you won’t need to worry about tearing or stuttering in games. It looks like a recipe for a buttery-smooth gaming experience.
Rounding out the Legion Y920’s specs are an acceptable 16GB of DDR4 RAM and storage options that include a 512GB SSD plus a 1TB hard drive.
[ Further reading: Our picks for best PC laptops ]
One of the Legion Y920’s highlight hardware features can’t be found on a spec sheet. This system marks Lenovo’s debut into mixing mechanical keyboards with laptops. The Legion’s keyboard features a 10-key pad and per-key RGB backlighting.
There’s another bonus: If you buy the laptop with the Core i7-7820K, pressing the Y920’s built-in “Turbo” key triggers a no-hassle factory overclock using the included Turbo Boost utility.
Ports on the Y920 include full-size HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, four USB 3.0 Type-A ports, an SD card reader, and gigabit ethernet.
At 10.1 pounds, this laptop won’t win contests for portability, but gaming notebooks usually only move between the den and bedroom anyway. More important is how a system this large manages its cooling. More space should allow for a quieter experience. We ran a quick graphics load on the Legion Y920 to see how loud the fans would get, and the preliminary spot check indicates that it’s not bad. The noise level is far from silent, but the fan acoustics were reasonable under load.
The price isn’t quite as reasonable, bucking Lenovo’s reputation for giving gamers a lot of value. This notebook will set you back about $2,700 when configured as listed above—a heck of a lot more than other GTX 1070 notebooks like the Omen 17. HP’s laptop has an older Skylake quad-core and lacks the fancy keyboard, but it’s about $900 cheaper.
Lenovo may intend to pit the Legion Y920 against Alienware’s 17 R4, which costs $2,400 when equipped with a similar load-out. Still, the Alienware 17 R4 is $300 cheaper. That much cash can buy a lot of games.
Lenovo’s Flex 5 convertibles are the latest arrivals in a busy, popular segment: laptops with 360-degree hinges and a full feature set for mainstream computing.
These new models aren’t cheap—the starting prices are $720 for the 14-inch model and $830 for the 15-incher—and in some ways they’re just catching up to similar competitors from Dell and HP. But the major PC vendors are constantly one-upping each other, and when they ship in May, the Flex 5 products will have an edge in a few areas everyone cares about.
Weight is the first one. When you’re schlepping a PC or even balancing it on your lap, every ounce matters. As I compared the specs for the Flex 5 15-inch to those of similarly priced models, namely Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 and HP’s Pavilion x360 (15-bk151nr), I noticed the Flex 5 had managed to slim down to 4.4 pounds, while the Dell and HP are both closer to 5 pounds.
Battery’s the second. The Flex 5 laptops boast a 3-cell, 52.5 Wh power pack, compared to 42 Wh for the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 and 48 Wh for the HP Pavilion x360. Lenovo didn’t provide further battery specs, but at least on paper, this battery should last longer.
After these highlights, what you’ll find with the Flex 5s are well-equipped choices at the high end of mainstream laptops. Most notably, both sizes of the Flex 5 will be available with CPUs up to Intel’s 7th-generation (Kaby Lake) Core i7, whereas the predecessor Flex 4, had 6th-generation Skylake parts. Models will be available with up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM and up to 512GB of PCIe SSD storage, or 1TB of traditional hard-drive capacity.
The touch displays will start with Full HD (1920×1080) for the 14-inch model and Ultra HD (3840×2160) for the 15-inch model. Integrated graphics will be the default, but you can opt for Nvidia’s GeForce 940MX mobile chip for more oomph. Neither the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 nor the HP Pavilion x360 offer such an option.
The Flex 5 convertibles will also add one USB-C port, along with two traditional USB-A. It can’t charge—Lenovo’s proprietary AC adapter has a lock on that role—but it’s good to see a little future-proofing in the connectivity.
The thing we don’t know is detailed pricing per configuration. From the information we have, the Flex 5 product line might actually be a little more expensive than its peers, though it’s impossible to know for sure. On the other hand, a lighter device with longer battery life could be worth a little extra cash.
Why this matters: The Flex 5 and its ilk are a good barometer for where mainstream laptops are going. The 360-degree hinge and do-it-all features make it easy to use your computer however you wish, which is what everyone wants, if they can afford it. Shaving off a little weight and packing in a little more battery are good advantages, and the higher-end graphics option means you could game a little on this laptop, too.
Google Assistant, and by extension, the Google Home smart speaker, can now control a raft of smart home appliances, including products from big names such as iRobot, LG, GE Appliances, and D-Link. Most of these bigger names are not part of the Home Control section of Google Assistant. Instead, they utilize their own apps that integrate with Google Assistant (and in most cases, with Amazon’s Alexa as well).
The iRobot Home app, for example, lets you control Wi-Fi-connected Roomba vacuums via Google Assistant. Voice commands then let you tell Roomba to start, stop, or resume cleaning, or you can find out where the Roomba is in the house or what its status is.
GE Appliance’s Geneva smart refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, and other appliances also now work with Google Assistant. LG’s signature appliances that includes washers, dryers, fridges, and air conditioners also need an app.
[ Further reading: The best surge protectors for your expensive electronics ]
Other new smart home services integrate directly with Google Assistant inside the Home Control section of the Home app. The most well known is D-Link’s “mydlink” devices that include a range of cameras, routers, and storage devices.
Other new services include Awair air monitors, Hive smart home hubs, Wiz smart light bulbs, as well as Nanoleaf, Plum, and Smartika. Google has an entire list of supported services and products on its help pages.
The impact on you at home: Amazon’s Alexa may be the big leader right now for smart home assistant’s, but Google Assistant is steadily growing. More importantly, however, the rise of these smart assistants–especially when embedded in smart home speakers–shows that the age of smart home automation is well underway.
A few retailers have a Samsung 23-inch 1080p monitor on sale this week, but Staples wins the crown for having the best deal. Right now, the office retailer is selling the Samsung LS24D300HL for $100.
Normally this monitor has a list price of $180. Staples undercuts its competitors by a decent amount–the next lowest prices are $120 at Office Depot and $117 at Amazon. Because this is a pretty basic monitor, the $100 price tag is much more appropriate.
The LS24D300HL is a 23.6-inch display that offers a horizontal viewing angle of 90 degrees and a 5ms response time. On the back it has one VGA port and one HDMI input. Samsung says this display offers a “game mode” for better response times, but we don’t recommend this model as a primary gaming monitor unless you’re a casual gamer looking for a cheap multi-purpose 1080p display. It’s better as an option for adding a second or third monitor to your existing setup.
To see this price, you’ll have to add the monitor to your cart. However, the deal lasts until Saturday, so you do have time before you have to complete checkout.
Microsoft may be using Windows 10 Insider Build 16199 to flesh out its My People experience for Windows 10, but chances are you’ll find a few of the new Settings to be the more useful features.
Like other Settings, the new additions—the updated System Health listings, new tips videos, and a more comprehensive Storage Sense—won’t be called out, and you’ll have to know where to look for them. Another improvement, a notification that will pop up on your screen when your Android phone receives a call, is part of the new cross-device connectivity built into the upcoming Fall Creators Update.
What this means: My People was originally slated for the original Creators Update, so the pace of its addition isn’t surprising—it was probably already pretty far along. In all, however, the new features indicate that Microsoft is busy introducing new code before the expected September ship date nears.
One of the issues with any product, really, is a lack of good documentation. (There’s a reason that we spend so much time writing tips!) Well, Microsoft has decided to contribute, too. Scattered about the Settings menu (try Settings > Update & security) will be a number of tips and videos providing detailed guidance on completing a given task.
In our original review of Windows 10, we dinged it for failing to inform users regularly about what’s new. That’s now been solved, and Microsoft is adding other resources as well. What isn’t clear quite yet are whether those videos are being stored locally—adding to the size of the OS—or streamed, which would require an active Internet connection.
Microsoft also maintained its theme of informing the user in a new About page, which usually is the graveyard for burying obscure copyright and licensing language. Not so in the refreshed Windows About page, tucked into the Settings > System > About section. Here, you’ll find a system synopsis, including the basic specs of your PC, the version of your operating system, and more. (It’s a bit more detailed than the System page accessed via the WIN +X key.)
Now, Microsoft has added a “System health” section, demonstrating that your PC is safe and secure, thanks to Windows Defender—and if it’s not, what to do about it.
Finally, there’s Storage Sense, which was originally designed to provide more information about which apps gobble up your disk space, but has evolved into a tool to manage your disk storage, too. With the most recent update to Settings > System > Storage, Storage Sense can now automatically clean up files in your Downloads section that have been unmodified in the last 30 days, giving you more storage space. If you think that sounds pretty risky, however, there’s good news: The feature is off by default.
My People gets a bit more personal
When Microsoft first launched the My People experience, the company talked about giving you quick access to a number of friends right from your taskbar, complete with the ability to send and receive emojis, short communications, and more.
With the most recent update, that vision is a bit more complete. Friends can now send (spam?) emoji from your taskbar, and they’ll animate and display on your desktop. If you have additional notifications, they’ll show up as a numeric badge on top of the icon. In addition, your My People will now be the default option if you want to share something with friends.
Build 16199 includes two other improvements, the Android call notifications, and a couple of tweaks to the Windows 10 Beam capabilities. As long as you have the Cortana app installed on your Android phone, you’ll see something like this when you receive a call:
Finally, Microsoft provided a nice tweak to Windows 10’s Beam capabilities, which allows users to stream games to the Internet at large. Though you don’t have to enable this option, Beam now allows you to stream just the game’s audio, and not the bleeps and pings from notifications or other sounds from your PC.