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23
Apr

This exquisite clockwork contraption will sign your name — for $365,000


When the prestigious Swiss watchmaker Jaquet Droz began building its Signing Machine in 2014, perhaps it was thinking it might be perfect for famous folks fed up with having to repeatedly pen their autograph for adoring fans.

But a lot has happened in the last four years, with the once sought-after autograph having given way to the celebrity selfie, where the fan sidles up beside their hero and sticks a smartphone in front of their faces for a quick snap.

Whatever the reason, Jaquet Droz has finally unveiled its exquisite Signing Machine, an astonishing pocket-sized contraption that showcases the company’s mechanical clockwork technology by replicating your signature. It does this via a retractable arm that contains a slot for a pen. The Signing Machine is now available to purchase, with the maker incorporating the owners’s signature into the design when building the device.

As with the very finest of old-school timepieces, the Signing Machine needs to be wound up before it can begin the process of signing merchandise, contracts, checks … well, pretty much anything you like. But keep in mind, this handmade machine comprises 585 different parts, so you’ll only get about two signatures from it before it’ll need winding up again. Saying that, if your name is more “Englebert Humperdinck” than “Bono,” your finger and thumb may have to bounce back into action before the machine even makes it to your family name.

The Signing Machine was unveiled at the recent Baselworld watch extravaganza in Switzerland. The box of tricks, which forms part of the brand’s 280th anniversary celebrations, takes inspiration from The Writer and The Draughtsman, two pen-holding automatons created by company founder Pierre Jaquet Droz and his son, Henri-Louis, in the late 18th century to help promote their timepieces. The two human-like machines, along with another called The Musician, can be seen today at the Neuchâtel Museum of Art and History in Switzerland.

According to the watchmaker, the Signing Machine’s movement has been “reworked for fluidity, carrying out perfect, more consistent signatures” than you can get with The Writer.

To prevent some villainous individual from running off with the machine and signing away the owner’s life, the device can only be activated via a code chosen by the owner.

Anyone ordering The Signing Machine will be able to select most of its decorative elements, “keeping with the philosophy of Jaquet Droz to create truly unique objects of art, executed by hand within its workshops,” which is just as well considering the device will set you back around $365,000.

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23
Apr

Phone scam nabbing millions of dollars from Chinese community in U.S.


Phone scammers purporting to be from a Chinese consulate office are tricking people in the U.S. into handing over huge sums of money.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said the Chinese-language calls appear to be going to “people with Chinese last names.” Those outside the apparent target group may be unaffected by the racket, but the FTC warned everyone to be vigilant as “scammers’ tactics can change quickly.”

The commission said that people across the U.S. have been reporting the calls, which appear to deploy a range of tactics in a bid to trick the recipient. Some begin with an instruction to pick up a package at a nearby Chinese consular office, while others ask for information “to avoid being in trouble with the Chinese consulate,” the FTC said. The scammer could also trick the person into thinking they’re in some kind of trouble and could face arrest if they travel to China. At some point, the caller will ask for personal details such as bank or credit card information, or for a bank transfer to be made.

And the ruse is clearly working. Since December, 21 members of New York City’s Chinese community have lost a total of $2.5 million, according to the New York Police Department, with individuals reporting losses ranging from $1,800 to $1.4 million, according to Voices of NY. Some have lost their life savings.

The caller IDs appear to indicate that the calls are coming from a local number, but investigators say it’s actually coming from a location in China.
The FTC reminded people never to send money to anyone who asks you to do so over the phone.

“Never give your Social Security number, your bank or credit card number, or other sensitive information to anyone who calls and asks for it,” the commission said. “Same thing if they email or message you through a social media platform such as WeChat: just don’t respond. That’s a scam. And neither the real Chinese consulates, nor the Chinese Embassy, will ever call you to ask for money.”

The FTC told recipients of such scam calls to act decisively: “If you get a call or message like this, hang up or delete it, and then tell the FTC. If you have business with the real Chinese consulate and you’re worried, contact the real Chinese Consulate by looking up your local office’s number. But, whatever you do, don’t give out your information — or your money — to anyone who contacts you out of the blue.”

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23
Apr

Cybersecurity is the target of Udacity’s next nanodegree


Just last week, the U.S. and U.K. issued a rare joint warning regarding the possibility of a wave of Russian cyberattacks against not only governments and organizations, but people’s homes and offices, too.

Regardless of whether such attacks are launched with the help of a state or by individuals sitting at home in their pajamas, few will dispute the suggestion that the threat from hackers is growing, with the problem made all the greater by a shortage of experts to bolster online defenses.

It’s against this backdrop that elearning school Udacity is making preparations for its first-ever nanodegree program in cybersecurity.

In a post outlining the upcoming program, Christian Plagemann, Udacity’s vice president of learning, defined cybersecurity as “one of the most pressing issues of our time,” which, he notes, is becoming an increasingly complex issue with so much of our business and personal data now stored in the cloud.

“Fortunately, with the rise of new technologies, modern cloud architectures and software-defined infrastructure, and better collaboration between IT, engineering, and security professionals, we now have the tools and abilities to rise to the challenge,” Plagemann said, adding that Udacity’s new course will help train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

There aren’t a whole lot of details available regarding the course at this stage. Indeed, the page set aside for the new learning program currently displays a call for partners to offer their expertise in helping to design the course, as well as sponsorship assistance to go toward encouraging high-potential talent to join the course. In return, contributing businesses and organizations will have “priority access” to cybersecurity talent from the nanodegree program.

Plagemann points out that with Udacity having already produced around 10,000 qualified A.I. engineers, he has high hopes for the new cybersecurity course.

“Graduates of this program will be uniquely qualified to significantly raise the security standards at their current organizations, or find entirely new career opportunities in this field,” he said.

California-based Udacity was founded back in 2011 to offer online courses, both free and paid, to large numbers of people. The company’s most recent data shows that more than eight million students have enrolled in its free courses and more than 30,000 have taken part in its nanodegree programs, some of which have been created in collaboration with big-name firms such as Google, Amazon, IBM, Nvidia, and Mercedes-Benz.

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23
Apr

Cybersecurity is the target of Udacity’s next nanodegree


Just last week, the U.S. and U.K. issued a rare joint warning regarding the possibility of a wave of Russian cyberattacks against not only governments and organizations, but people’s homes and offices, too.

Regardless of whether such attacks are launched with the help of a state or by individuals sitting at home in their pajamas, few will dispute the suggestion that the threat from hackers is growing, with the problem made all the greater by a shortage of experts to bolster online defenses.

It’s against this backdrop that elearning school Udacity is making preparations for its first-ever nanodegree program in cybersecurity.

In a post outlining the upcoming program, Christian Plagemann, Udacity’s vice president of learning, defined cybersecurity as “one of the most pressing issues of our time,” which, he notes, is becoming an increasingly complex issue with so much of our business and personal data now stored in the cloud.

“Fortunately, with the rise of new technologies, modern cloud architectures and software-defined infrastructure, and better collaboration between IT, engineering, and security professionals, we now have the tools and abilities to rise to the challenge,” Plagemann said, adding that Udacity’s new course will help train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

There aren’t a whole lot of details available regarding the course at this stage. Indeed, the page set aside for the new learning program currently displays a call for partners to offer their expertise in helping to design the course, as well as sponsorship assistance to go toward encouraging high-potential talent to join the course. In return, contributing businesses and organizations will have “priority access” to cybersecurity talent from the nanodegree program.

Plagemann points out that with Udacity having already produced around 10,000 qualified A.I. engineers, he has high hopes for the new cybersecurity course.

“Graduates of this program will be uniquely qualified to significantly raise the security standards at their current organizations, or find entirely new career opportunities in this field,” he said.

California-based Udacity was founded back in 2011 to offer online courses, both free and paid, to large numbers of people. The company’s most recent data shows that more than eight million students have enrolled in its free courses and more than 30,000 have taken part in its nanodegree programs, some of which have been created in collaboration with big-name firms such as Google, Amazon, IBM, Nvidia, and Mercedes-Benz.

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23
Apr

The untold story of how the XPS 13 defied odds to become the world’s best laptop


Dell.

What does that name make you think of? Your answer is likely beige boxes, affordable laptops, or — if you’re a child of the ‘90s — the infamous ‘Dude, you’re getting a Dell!’ guy. Despite his best efforts, Dell spent most of its life as the very definition of dull. The company’s computers were affordable, practical, reliable, but never exciting.

Not anymore. Dell’s XPS 13, our favorite laptop three years running, has redefined what people expect from a premium Windows-powered notebook – and its 2015 release was just the beginning. The company has since unleashed salvo after salvo of cutting-edge products across both its Dell and Alienware brands.

Change like that doesn’t happen overnight – but, as we found out, it can be spurred by just a few talented people with ambitious ideas.

The Birth of the Adamo

XPS (Xtreme Performance System) is not a new brand for Dell. It’s been around for over fifteen years, a carry-over from a simpler time in computers and technology. We all remember those days, right? Gateway controlled the market on high-end consumer PCs, Windows 95 reigned supreme, and Apple was known only as a desktop computer company.

In many ways, Dell’s feet are still firmly planted in that world. It’s a massive corporation that still makes a large chunk of its revenue selling computers to corporations in bulk. Yet something was in the water in the late 2000s. While the MacBook Air was developed in Cupertino, Dell was attempting to pioneer its own radical new direction for the future of computing.

Dell Adamo 13

It was called Adamo — a quiet, short-lived experiment within the walls of Dell that would pave the way to a very different future for the conservative computer manufacturer. It was built by a small team, created as if out of thin air, and disbanded within two years – but the groundwork it laid within the walls of Dell would change it forever.

“It was what we called a dark program,” XPS Lead Marketer Donnie Oliphant told Digital Trends. “It was a ‘need-to-know’ basis. It was literally like three guys in a room upstairs that had a lock on it. If we’d had more exposure to the rest of the business, it never would have made it out the door. We let the rest of the company in on it about six months before we shipped it.”

Dell was attempting to pioneer its own radical new direction for the future of computing.

Oliphant was moved over from the Latitude business at Dell, and he’s the longest-standing Dell employee in key roles on the current XPS team. He was joined by another important figure: Nicolas Denhez. You may not have heard the name before, but the French designer is responsible for some of the most celebrated modern technology concepts such as the Xbox One S and X, HoloLens, and the Microsoft Courier project. Before he moved over to Microsoft, he worked on multiple laptops in the Adamo line laptops, all of them futuristic, risk-taking, and doomed.

“The mechanical carcass cost on that was $570,” says Oliphant, pointing to the solid chunk of aluminum in an Adamo laptop’s chassis. “They were ridiculously expensive, and that wasn’t because of the material choices. It was because of our ineptitude with regards to design.”

The Adamo line produced two products its short life, the Adamo 13, and the Adamo XPS. They’re among the strangest PCs ever released commercially. Launching within six months of each other, they featured an all-aluminum body, and hefty pricetags to match. The Adamo 13 was $2,000 for the lower-priced model, and $2,700 for the higher-end model. But from a design aesthetic perspective, the Adamo 13 was far ahead of its time, even compared to something like the MacBook Air.

Dell Adamo XPS

“It was basically myself and [Denhez] that sat upstairs and built ID models on what we wanted it to look like. And then we took it to engineering and said, ‘put a computer in this.’ Typically, it’s the other way around. Typically, we do a design — architecture, features — and then we wrap a skin around it. This was done the opposite. If you think about it from today’s design philosophies, they were done ass-backwards.”

The Adamo XPS had a very different design story, though it was even more experimental in its conception. Dell completely out-sourced the design and development of the product, hoping to save a few bucks along the way.

“We used an outside design house — so, non-Dell employees. The idea was that we could offshore the development,” he says. “The thought process was that was going to be cheaper, but it just turned into a major headache — and we still had to finish it for them. There was a little bit of animosity toward that second system. But it was cool, because it was sub-10mm.”

Dell’s Adamo XPS is tiny even by today’s standards at just 0.4 inches thick.

In fact, the Adamo XPS was declared the thinnest laptop in the world when it was launched at CES of 2009. At just 0.4 inches thick, it’s tiny even by today’s standards. Oliphant would be the first to admit that ultra-thin designs come with its own flaws and compromises, but the desire to create bold, sleek products would live on in future XPS products.

“When I inherited XPS in 2010, and we took the products that were going to be the next-generation Adamo and we put those on the XPS roadmap,” said Oliphant. “The first XPS 13, codenamed Spider, launched in early 2012. That really should have been an Adamo product if we had kept [Adamo] alive.”

Going from Adamo to Dino

In 2006, Dell purchased Alienware, a popular gaming PC manufacturer based in Miami, Florida. The acquisition made great business sense, giving Dell access to a new market for high-end gaming rigs. Yet Alienware was a very different company than Dell. It was scrappy, down-to-earth, and completely consumer-focused. That ethos was about to get injected into the company in a big way.

Frank Azor Bryan Steffy/Stringer/Getty Images

The face of Alienware today is Frank Azor, who might be the most casual and earnest tech executive you’ll ever meet. He’s the kind of guy that’ll tease his employees for wearing a suit to a meeting and can just as easily talk about the internal components of a laptop or the latest gaming trends. While Azor and his team brought a casual attitude to Dell, for him, a corporate culture of risk-taking is what made the XPS 13 possible.

“You have to have a culture that is willing to innovate,” Azor told me. “You can’t have ID with these crazy fucking ideas that are far out there, and then have a product planning team that say ‘I like some of them, but those are too expensive, or ‘my engineering team will never let us do that.’”

Azor started working at Alienware when he was just sixteen years ago, as one of just four other employees. Now, he’s the manager of both Alienware and XPS lines at Dell — and he’s determined to transform Dell’s stuffy culture from within.

“We’re an aircraft carrier,” he says. “To make a turn, it takes a long time. You need to start gaining momentum, and then you’ll start making the turn. I would say we’re in the momentum phase right now. This stuff is leading the company’s image — it’s leading the kind of culture we want to be. It’s all stemmed from the type of stuff we’ve done on XPS.”

Within just a few years, the influence of the XPS 13’s design has reached just about every screen we look at.

Compared to the Adamo products, the XPS 13 might not look that strange, but it took significant risks. Starting the trend of thinning out bezels, the XPS 13 dared to move the webcam below the screen. The result when using the webcam was (and still is) odd, shooting right up your nose, and giving you a double chin. The team received its fair share of criticism for it, but the XPS team has stuck to its guns rather than caving in on the decision.

“When everybody’s like ‘we’re bought in, we’re going to be a culture of innovation, we’re gonna take risks, we’re gonna augment the engineering process to help solve for those defects and risks,’” he says. “But we’re going to go into this together with risk — a higher risk than we would if we built a “me-too” product — then you can make amazing things happen. If that hadn’t happened, we probably wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

During our tour of the Dell headquarters, we received an in-depth look at all the advanced engineering that powers the next generation of XPS laptops. (Photos: Luke Larsen/Digital Trends)

The legacy of XPS

Design trends come and go, but they always start with a trendsetter. The 2015 version of the XPS 13 was such a device. Manufacturers of televisions, monitors, smartphones, and laptops have all been on a mission to remove bezels — and that was set in motion by the XPS 13. On the smartphone front, you need only to look to the iPhone X or Galaxy S8 in your pocket. In laptops, look at the MateBook X Pro, which takes the bezel-less approach to the next level.

Dell’s XPS devices even make the MacBook Pro look a little outdated. According to Oliphant, that was always the goal, and the XPS 13 proved it was possible for PC manufacturers.

“Apple was very successful during that decade,” he said, speaking of the late 2000s. “Before 2015, most ultra-notebooks were just deemed MacBook Air-knockoffs or wannabes. What we saw shift with the introduction of Dino, our XPS 13 in 2015, was we started winning some of those head-to-head comparisons. We were actually delivering products with things that Apple didn’t have.”

Like any success, the XPS laptops didn’t spring out of nowhere. It was forged in a fire of bad experiments, lost profits, and finger-crossing moments. Yet Dell stuck with it, because the people behind the XPS 13 believed in the quality of what they’d built. Instead of retreating, they improved, tweaked, and revised. The result was a laptop that impressed critics and changed the company that built it.

“We’ve had to create a subculture for XPS. And from a consumer perspective, we’re trying to change the perception of customers or potential customers of Dell,” Azor said. “That’s what XPS is here for.”

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23
Apr

For its 15th anniversary phones, Meizu nixes the notch and shuns 18:9 screens


Chinese smartphone manufacturer Meizu is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year and has released three new smartphones, named Meizu 15, to commemorate the occasion. The Meizu 15, Meizu 15 Plus, and Meizu 15 Lite were revealed at an event in Wuzhen, China on April 22. The three devices differ from most new phones we’re seeing for two major reasons, both related to screen technology and design.

Meizu 15

Meizu 15

The Meizu 15 sits in the middle of the three new phones, with its 5.46-inch Super AMOLED screen, 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, and Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor. What’s surprising here is that Meizu has not adopted the current 18:9 aspect ratio screen format, or opted to include a notch at the top. This gives the Meizu 15 a traditional smartphone look, instead of the ultra-modern styles currently taken on by Samsung, Huawei, Vivo, LG, and others.

A screen-to-body ratio of 83.4 percent has been achieved by shrinking the side bezels down, and the chin remains complete with a circular fingerprint sensor. On the back of the phone is a dual-lens, centrally and vertically mounted camera setup. The Sony-produced sensors have 20 megapixels and 12 megapixels, with a 3x lossless zoom, a 1.55nm pixel size, optical image stabilization, an f/1.8 aperture, and a six-LED dual-tone flash ring. The selfie camera has 20 megapixels and an f/2.0 aperture.

The metal body contains dual stereo speakers, weighs 152 grams, and is 7.25mm thick. Alongside the Snapdragon processor is 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of memory, plus a 3,000mAh battery with Meizu’s mCharge technology. This takes the cell to 54 percent capacity in 30 minutes. The Meizu 15 range runs Android with the company’s new Flyme 7 user interface over the top; but it’s not clear which version of Android Flyme 7 is built on at the moment.

Flyme 7 incorporates a new look, new haptic feedback features — including in the fingerprint sensor, which doubles as a multi-function Home button — and an upgraded artificial intelligence engine called One Mind. One Mind’s actual functions aren’t very clearly explained yet. Meizu says it’s better at “understanding needs,” and helps make Flyme 7 more user friendly and enjoyable. It enhances the selfie camera by recognizing age, gender, and other user characteristics, helping to take a better photo.

Meizu 15 Plus

Meizu 15 Plus in gold

The Meizu 15 Plus is the flagship of the range, with a larger 5.95-inch Super AMOLED screen, a 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution, and a Samsung-supplied Exynos 8895 processor with 6GB of RAM providing the power. This is the same chip used in some versions of the Samsung Galaxy S8. The battery size increases to 3,500mAh, while the camera, storage, software, and other specifications are identical to the Meizu 15.

Meizu 15 Lite

Meizu 15 Lite

Finally, the Meizu 15 Lite has the same 5.46-inch screen size and 1080p resolution as the Meizu 15, but loses the Super AMOLED panel, and drops the dual-lens camera. Instead it has a single 12-megapixel camera with an f/1.9 aperture. The processor is a Snapdragon 626 with 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage space, driven by a 3,000mAh battery.

Price and release

The Meizu 15 phones have all been announced for China and will be on sale from April 29. The company sells devices in various other countries, but not officially in the United States or the United Kingdom. However, if you’re keen on a phone that shuns tall screens and notches, then all will inevitably be available through an importer following release. The approximate price for the Meizu 15 is $400 for 64GB or $445 for the 128GB, $475 for the 64GB Meizu 15 Plus or $525 for the 128GB model. The Meizu 15 Lite will be yours for around $270.

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23
Apr

Twitter bans Kaspersky Lab from advertising on its platform


Twitter has banned Moscow-based security company Kaspersky Lab from advertis9ing on its platform due to the company’s alleged ties to Russian intelligence organizations.

“This decision is based on our determination that Kaspersky Labs operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices,’ a Twitter representative told Gizmodo. ‘Kaspersky Lab may remain an organic user on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.’

Kaspersky Lab’s CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, penned an open letter to Twitter’s senior management disputing these claims and expressing his surprise at the ban.

‘Huh? I read this formulation again and again but still couldn’t for the life of me understand how it might relate to us,’ the letter reads. ‘One thing I can say for sure is this: we haven’t violated any written – or unwritten – rules, and our business model is quite simply the same template business model that’s used throughout the whole cybersecurity industry: We provide users with products and services, and they pay us for them.’

In an email to Gizmodo, Twitter cited a Homeland Security notice that warned that the U.S. government was concerned about ties between “certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies.”  The notice also cited a Russian law that “allow Russia intelligence agencies to compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks.”

Kaspersky has denied these claims and has urged Twitter to not “shoot themselves in the foot” by catering to “geo political noise.”

“You’re only shooting yourself in the foot when you cater to the geopolitical noise and start refusing to promote material on false pretenses – contrary to the interests of your own business (how else can we describe not accepting money from clients that run ethical businesses?),” Kaspersky said.

However, in October the New York Times reported that Israeli intelligence agents hacked Kaspersky Lab and found that the Russian government used the company’s anti-virus software to obtain classified materials from the National Security Agency.

Kaspersky Lab admitted that its software was installed on the laptop of an NSA contractor. According to Kaspersky, the contractor downloaded a virus while attempting to install an unofficial version of Windows which triggered Kaspersky’s antivirus software. The software uploaded both the virus and the NSA hacking tools to Kaspersky Lab’s servers.

Regarding Twitter, Kaspersky Lab says it will donate its intended Twitter ad budget to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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23
Apr

Coinbase bans Wikileaks from its currency exchange platform


Engadget reports that Coinbase has banned Wikileaks Shop’s account for violating the exchange’s terms of service. This means that the site will no longer convert cryptocurrency payments into real money such as dollars or euros. Coinbase did not go into the specifics of why it banned Wikileaks, but did note that it has to honor “regulatory compliance mechanisms” under the  U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Wikileaks can still accept payments via Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but it will have to find a new way to convert those tokens into hard currencies. In response to the move, Wikileaks has called for a boycott of the service.

WikiLeaks will call for a global blockade of Coinbase next week as an unfit member of the crypto community. Coinbase, a large Californian Bitcoin processor, responding to a concealed influence, has blocked the entirely harmless @WikiLeaksShop in a decision approved by management. https://t.co/PAldF8b12P

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 21, 2018

As The Verge’s Andreas Antonopoulos points out, Wikileaks started accepting Bitcoin and similar currencies solely because traditional financial institutions had turned against the platform.

We have come full circle. Many people’s interest in Bitcoin started when Wikileaks was out under an extra judicial embargo by VISA, MC, PayPal and banks. Now Coinbase has repeated history. Oops. https://t.co/b8HQkoOwyQ

— Andreas M. Antonopoulos (@aantonop) April 21, 2018

One of the big appeals of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is that they are largely unregulated and anonymous. This makes them ideal for those who for reasons legitimate and otherwise,  are concerned about privacy. However, in recent months, we have seen an increasing amount of regulatory oversight.

Part of this is due to the simple fact that governments are finally starting to catch up to cryptocurrencies. The SEC has recently started to crack down on scams and frauds operating as initial coin offerings. The IRS has also started taxing cryptocurrency as it does with other investments though the enforcement on that is still a bit murky.

As for Wikileaks, there are other cryptocurrency exchanges it could use. However, it is possible that Coinbase’s actions will set a precedent with other exchanges, forcing Wikileaks to rely on less reputable avenues of exchange.

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23
Apr

Microsoft is working to cut the file size of the basic Windows 10 install


An MSPower user reports that Microsoft is working on a trimmed-down version of Windows 10 as part of its next major release of the OS.

Welcome to Windows 10 Lean/CloudE/S (once again?)
This new edition started shipping with this week’s Skip Ahead build (17650)
It seems to be heavily cut down, an x64 clean install is roughly 2 GB smaller than Pro
Its edition ID is 0xB7 which was missing from SDK headers pic.twitter.com/2Sn3SVXeZB

— Lucas (@tfwboredom) April 20, 2018

This stripped-down version of the OS is missing many of the basic features that Windows users have come to expect, such as wallpapers, drivers for CD drives, and apps such as RegEdit. At first glance, none of those apps are restricted so users could theoretically install them and use this as a normal version of Windows 10.

That being said, on Twitter, Lucan noted several issues with this version of Windows 10. When he tried to install Microsoft Office, he received an error, and the OS did not give him any details regarding the cause of this error.

Another thing I thought would be logical to try on CloudE/Lean is installing Office. The regular C2R installer just breaks. With Microsoft’s great tradition of meaningful error reporting, the installer just plays the error sound without displaying any additional dialog whatsoever

— Lucas (@tfwboredom) April 21, 2018

Remember how we mentioned you would need to install CD/DVD drivers on this device? Well, since Windows 10 CloudE launches in S Mode, users will have to rely on the Edge browser to access the web. Unfortunately, it turns out that CloudE’s Edge browser is missing the download prompts making it impossible to download files such as drivers.

Another oddity in CloudE/Lean: Microsoft Edge flat out doesn’t show download prompts, making downloading files impossible out of box

— Lucas (@tfwboredom) April 21, 2018

That being said, it is possible that these issues are simply bugs that Microsoft hasn’t sorted out yet. After all, CloudE has not yet been released so Microsoft is likely still making changes. For now, however, it remains rather unclear as to who this version of Windows 10 is meant for. We imagine even on low-powered devices most users would be better off sticking with S Mode or the standard version of Windows 10.

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23
Apr

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 preview: Finally a viable contender to the Redmi Note 5 Pro


ASUS’ latest phone offers the same hardware as the Redmi Note 5 Pro, but you get a larger battery and pure Android.

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Xiaomi has consolidated its position in the Indian handset segment over the course of the last 12 months by rolling out a wave of budget phones that offered great value for money. The Redmi Note 5 Pro, for instance, is the first device in the world to be powered by the Snapdragon 636, and the 4000mAh battery easily delivers two days’ of use between charges.

ASUS is now looking to emulate Xiaomi’s success by launching the ZenFone Max Pro, which has similar specs and offers pure Android. The latter is interesting as it signifies a shift for ASUS on the software front. The Taiwanese manufacturer has mentioned that it decided to offer pure Android after receiving a lot of feedback from the Indian community, and the switch is certainly a welcome one.

The ZenFone Max Pro isn’t lacking on the hardware front either, with the device also offering the Snapdragon 636 chipset along with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Then there’s the 5000mAh battery, which is easily one of the largest available in this segment. And starting at just ₹10,999 ($165), it is more affordable than Xiaomi’s offering.

So at a first glance, the ZenFone Max Pro looks like it’s the real deal. The hardware holds its own next to the Redmi Note 5 Pro, and the uncluttered interface is a far cry from what’s on offer with MIUI. I’ve been using the ZenFone Max Pro M1 for just over two days now, and here’s what I think of the device.

If there’s one word to describe the design of the ZenFone Max Pro, it’d be generic. The phone is made out of metal, but the plain back and the plastic antenna inserts at the top and bottom make it feel like a device from 2016. In short, there really isn’t much to get excited about on the design front.

The build quality seems fine, but it doesn’t have the same sturdiness as the Redmi Note 5 Pro. And coming in at 180g even after packing a 5000mAh battery (the Redmi Note 5 Pro weighs 181g), it doesn’t look like the metal used in the construction of the chassis is as durable as you’ll find on other budget phones.

The 5.99-inch 18:9 FHD+ display covers 85% of the NTSC color gamut, and the phone goes up to 450nits. I haven’t faced a lot of issues with screen legibility under sunlight. However, the ambient brightness mode was finicky under low-light conditions, and I had to manually boost brightness at night.

Furthermore, the screen doesn’t have any Gorilla Glass or Asahi Dragontrail protection, so you’ll want to invest in a screen protector to give it some sort of resistance to tumbles.

The ZenFone Max Pro M1 is one of the fastest phones in this category.

Internal hardware is where the ZenFone Max Pro M1 truly shines, as the phone is one of the fastest devices in this category. Combining a Snapdragon 636 with pure Android makes the device fly, and while the software isn’t still fully optimized, it’s easy to see that the M1 has a lot of potential.

The phone will be available with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, and there’s also a version with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. ASUS has also stated that it will launch a model with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage at a later date.

ASUS has thankfully retained the 3.5mm jack, but the phone still has the older MicroUSB port and not USB-C. What’s great though is that the Max Pro M1 comes with a dedicated microSD slot in addition to two SIM card slots.

The arrival of Jio has catalyzed the 4G market in India, and with the carrier essentially giving away date for most of last year, a majority of the internet-connected populace in India has a Jio SIM. So it’s good to see that the M1 has a provision for two SIM cards as well as a microSD slot to extend storage. That said, the secondary SIM card slot defaults to 3G if you already have a SIM in the first slot — there’s no way to use 4G data from both SIM cards.

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ASUS has switched away from its ZenUI interface for a pure Android skin on the ZenFone Max Pro M1. There are just three ASUS apps that come pre-installed — calculator, sound recorder, and FM radio — and the uncluttered interface is generally a breath of fresh air from ZenUI. All customers picking up the ZenFone Max Pro M1 will receive 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years, which is a nice touch.

The day-to-day usage was fluid for the most part, but the phone is lacking in optimization — I noticed lag when switching between apps. While there aren’t a lot of ASUS apps installed out of the box, you’ll see a mobile recharge app called Go2Pay.

The sound out of the single speaker located at the bottom is decent, and ASUS includes a MaxBox accessory that amplifies the sound by up to 1.7 times. The cardboard accessory is held up by magnets, and you slot the phone inside vertically, effectively creating a chamber that directs sound outward. The accessory is included in the box.

The ZenFone Max Pro M1 is a winner when it comes to the battery side of things, with ASUS touting 1080p video playback times of over 25 hours from a full charge. I’ll go into more detail on the battery front in my review, but thus far, I’m loving the battery life on offer. I got a screen-on-time of over six hours spread over two days — including the initial configuration — and I still have over 30% charge left.

The massive 5000mAh battery delivers over 25 hours of 1080p video playback.

As good as the M1 is in a few areas, it has its share of drawbacks. The fingerprint sensor in particular is the slowest I’ve seen on a phone in the last two years. It failed to authenticate two times out of three, and even on the rare occasion it detected my fingerprint in the first try, the authentication was nowhere near as fast as other phones in this category. The phone comes with Face Unlock as well, and that was also unreliable.

As for connectivity, the phone is limited to Wi-Fi b/g/n, so you won’t be able to connect to 5GHz networks. The phone works over VoLTE, but you won’t see the symbol in the status bar (ASUS says it’ll be added in a future update).

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Then there’s the camera, which is strictly average — the Omnivision 16880 imaging sensor itself isn’t quite as good as the likes of the Redmi Note 5 Pro, and that is clearly evident in the photos. The phone takes its time to focus, and even in well-lit scenarios it doesn’t do as great a job as other devices in this category.

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Considering ASUS decided to go with pure Android, it would’ve been a smarter move to just launch the phone with Android One. The manufacturer said that doing so would have pushed back the launch date, and it’s clear that ASUS wants to capitalize on Xiaomi’s availability issues. And it looks like launching as soon as possible was the key factor with the device.

Therefore, the ZenFone Max Pro M1 feels half-baked. There’s clearly a lot of work that needs to be done on the optimization front, as the camera needs to be tuned as well. Sure, the hardware is the same as what you get on the Redmi Note 5 Pro, but the overall user experience isn’t quite as good yet.

ASUS is dominating the field when it comes to value.

But what could ultimately seal the deal in the M1’s favor is pricing and availability. Xiaomi has shown that it is not yet able to compete on the same level as Samsung, or even OPPO and Vivo when it comes to making its phone available for purchase, and ASUS can use that to its advantage with the M1.

ASUS also has the edge when it comes to pricing. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage will go on sale starting May 3 for just ₹10,999 ($165), which is a stellar deal. The model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage will set you back ₹12,999 ($195), and ASUS is also set to release a version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for ₹14,999 ($225).

ASUS has effectively managed to undercut Xiaomi in this segment, and you don’t usually see that. The M1 still needs some work, but the pure Android interface combined with the hardware on offer makes it a viable alternative to the Redmi Note 5 Pro, and that’s great news for consumers.

See at Flipkart

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