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Microsoft updates messaging app in Windows 10

Microsoft implements Fluent design in the updated messaging app

The latest Windows 10 PC Insider Preview build 17074 for Insiders released recently in the Fast and Skip Ahead rings has an updated version of Microsoft Messaging app (3.36.14001.0) with Fluent Design.

For those unaware, the Microsoft Messaging app in Windows 10 is based on Skype and was announced back in 2015. The Microsoft Messaging app in Windows 10 on PC keeps a record of messages sent from Windows 10 PCs with cellular connectivity and SMS messages sent via Skype SMS Relay service. However, the app cannot be used to actually send text messages on PC. Back in 2016, Microsoft had pulled Skype integration from the app.

This is the first major refresh for UI (user interface) of Windows Operating System as per Microsoft’s latest Fluent design guidelines. It is suspected that the update could likely be related to the upcoming Always Connected PCs and long rumored Andromeda device (also referred to as the Surface Phone) that will run on Windows 10 S and have LTE connectivity would require a desktop messaging app.

The built-in messaging app’s user interface (UI) now includes Acrylic blur and Reveal effects that are part of the Fluent Design System, which was announced by Microsoft back in May 2017.

Fluent Design is based on five key components: Light, Depth, Motion, Material, and Scale. The visual effect of the design language can be noticed only when users hover the cursor on the menu. By implementing the Fluent Design in the Messaging app, it improves the overall experience. However, the app still misses some important features.

“The new Reveal Highlight behaviour is an interaction visualization that helps guide users. Reveal is now enabled by default on ListView and other XAML collection controls in experiences that target the Fall Creators Update,” the company said.

Earlier last year, Microsoft had revealed Fluent Design System alongside the Fall Creators Update. Around three months ago, initial implementations of this system were observed with the release of the Fall Creators Update. Microsoft’s upcoming feature updates, Redstone 4 and Redstone 5 are too expected to include even more Fluent Design additions in 2018.

As of yet, the update hasn’t been rolled out for Windows 10 Mobile.

Microsoft to block future Windows updates if your antivirus is not set up properly

Microsoft require your antivirus provider to certify compatibility for future Windows updates

Microsoft said it is blocking security updates to Windows PCs for Spectre and Meltdown CPU flaws due to compatibility issue with some versions of Antivirus software. This security path was “only being made applicable to the machines where the Antivirus ISV has updated the ALLOW REGKEY,” the tech giant said. The future security updates will be released to Windows PCs only when a specific registry setting is changed, it revealed.

Microsoft said in a support page: “After investigating, Microsoft has determined that some AMD chipsets do not conform to the documentation previously provided to Microsoft to develop the Windows operating system mitigations to protect against the chipset vulnerabilities known as Spectre and Meltdown.”

As a result, Microsoft placed the rollout of Windows Meltdown and Spectre Patches for AMD Devices on hold. “Customers will not receive the January 2018 security updates (or any subsequent security updates) and will not be protected from security vulnerabilities unless their antivirus software vendor sets the following registry key,” it added.

According to Microsoft, the compatibility issue has arisen as some antivirus applications are making unsupported calls into Windows kernel memory. Therefore, the solution provided by Intel and Microsoft was to obstruct the kernel in its own isolated virtual memory address space, which will not allow the antivirus software that depends upon using deep links into the kernel to freely access it the way it used to do previously.

However, this may lead to stop errors (also known as blue screen errors) and, in some cases, even a total failure of the device to boot up. Hence, Microsoft said it has set the update to apply only when the registry key has been changed.

To help prevent stop errors that are caused by incompatible antivirus applications, Microsoft is only offering the Windows security updates that were released on January 3, 2018, to devices that are running antivirus software that is from partners who have confirmed that their software is compatible with the January 2018 Windows operating system security update.

Microsoft is also working closely with antivirus software partners to ensure that all customers receive the January Windows security updates as soon as possible.

Some antivirus vendors such as Avast, Avira, AVG, ESET, F-Secure, BitDefender, Kaspersky, Sophos, Malwarebytes, and Symantec are not only compatible with the patches but have also changed the registry key as per Microsoft’s guidelines.

If your system has not been offered the security update, then it may be running incompatible antivirus software, and you should check with the software vendor.

Microsoft is suggesting all its customers to run a compatible and supported antivirus program in order to protect their devices. Customers can take advantage of built-in antivirus protection, Windows Defender Antivirus, for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 devices or a compatible third-party antivirus application.

Further, some antivirus software who do not have the ability to change Windows registry keys, may require some time to add those abilities to the software. Others who can’t install or run antivirus software, Microsoft recommends them to manually (which could be dangerous) set the registry key.

In order to receive the January 2018 security updates, the antivirus software must set a registry key to the startup sequence as described below, in order to certify that their software works with Microsoft’s patches.

Key=”HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE”Subkey=”SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\QualityCompat”

Value Name=”cadca5fe-87d3-4b96-b7fb-a231484277cc”

Type=”REG_DWORD”

Data=”0x00000000”

You can check security researcher Kevin Beaumont’s list to see if your antivirus is compatible with the patches and if the antivirus vendors have changed the registry key.

More than 460 HP laptop models found with pre-installed keylogger

Keylogger found in HP Notebook models

Earlier this year, we had reported how the audio driver pre-installed on several Hewlett-Packard (HP) laptops contained a built-in keylogger code that recorded all of a user’s keystrokes and stored the information such as usernames and passwords, personal information in a human-readable file. In order to rectify this, HP then rolled out patches to remove the keylogger, which also deleted the log file containing the keystrokes.

Now, a security researcher named ‘ZwClose’ has claimed of discovering similar built-in keylogger issue in several HP laptops that allows hackers to record every keystroke of the user and steal sensitive data, including passwords, account information, and credit card details.

More than 460 HP Notebook models were reported to have been exposed for exploit to hackers due to the keylogger found present in the SynTP.sys file, which is a part of the Synaptics Touchpad driver that ships with some HP notebook models.

Even though the keylogger component is disabled by default, it could be enabled “by setting a registry value” by utilizing open source tools available for evading User Account Control (UAC).

Volocopter: Intel Shows Off A ‘Flying Car’ At CES 2018

Intel demonstrates a battery-operated flying car at CES 2018

Looks like ‘flying car’ is the flavor of the season. Earlier last year, Uber, the ride sharing giant, had revealed its plans to deploy its flying taxis, in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas and Dubai by 2020.

Now, Intel has showed off its prototype of ‘Volocopter 2X’ – a drone made by German company Volocopter in partnership with the chipmaker – at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 in Las Vegas, which the former claims is big enough to carry two passengers (up to a weight of 180 kilograms).

Demonstrated live behind a cage as a safety precaution, the drone briefly flew on stage at the Park Theater, the huge concert hall at the Monte Carlo Park Theater in Las Vegas.

Designed to operate as an autonomous air taxi, Volocopter 2X, is powered by Intel technology and runs on battery. It is the first fully electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVOTL) designed for passenger transport.

“The Intel® Flight Control Technology used in the Volocopter is based on the intelligence found in the Intel Falcon™ 8+ drone used for inspection, surveying, and mapping, showing the powerful intersection of data and autonomous technology. The Intel flight control technology analyzes environmental data with highly redundant sensors and is able to compensate for certain flight malfunctions. It can also accommodate for certain wind gusts and shifts in the center of gravity to help stabilize the position of the aircraft,” says Intel.

The Volocopter began its journey to autonomous air taxis in 2013. The drone’s 18 rotors that can fly up to 100km/h are powered by nine independent battery systems. Each one of them powers a pair of rotors to ensure that the vehicle keeps flying in the event one or two battery packs fail and that does not seriously impact the stability of the Volocopter.

Volocopter 2X can fly up to 17 miles on a single charge with a traveling speed of 43 mph. It takes 120 minutes to charge (with a 40-minute fast charge option) and currently has a flight time of 30 minutes, which is long enough for urban air-transportation, according to the creators, who are hoping to expand this duration to 1 hour in the near future. In the meanwhile, the batteries can be quickly swapped to increase the flight time until the technology improves, Volocopter says. It also has built-in emergency parachutes.

“Fifty-five years ago the TV show The Jetsons first aired and showed us a future where flying cars were a part of everyday life,” Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich said while displaying the flying car at CES. “We’re on the cusp of making that a reality. Imagine pulling out your phone, opening up a transportation app and summoning your own personalised ride by air taxi. That sci-fi vision of the future is actually much closer than you may think.”

Florian Reuter, Volocopter chief executive, said the company conducted the first-ever manned flight outdoors with a version of the vehicle in 2016, and has completed manned test flights in Germany and the first flight of an autonomous air taxi in the city of Dubai.

eVTOL “is a flying super computer, creating a pleasant and safe ride,” Reuter said. “The Volocopter is an entirely novel type of vertical take-off and landing aircraft. Soon we will offer autonomous air taxi flights as a service across cities across the world, revolutionising the way we all experience urban mobility today. And the best about it? It has the potential to be affordable for all of us.”

The company also revealed during the keynote that Krzanich was the world’s first passenger in a Volocopter, an event that took place in a Germany exhibition hall last month.

“That was fantastic,” Krzanich said once back on the ground after the December flight. “That was the best flight I have ever had. Everybody will fly one of these someday.”

Whether or not an autonomous sky taxi becomes a reality needs to be seen, the very idea of even discussing such a vehicle has given wings to our imagination of this being a reality in the distant future.

The AI World Will Listen to These Women in 2018

Let’s make one thing clear: one year isn’t going to fix decades of gender discrimination in computer science and all the problems associated with it. Recent diversity reports show that women still make up only 20 percent of engineers at Google and Facebook, and an even lower proportion at Uber. But after the parade of awful news about the treatment of female engineers in 2017—sexual harassment in Silicon Valley and a Google engineer sending out a memo to his coworkers arguing that women are biologically less adept at programming, just to name a couple—there is actually reason to believe that things are looking up for 2018, especially when it comes to AI.

At first glance, AI would seem among least likely areas of programming to be friendly to women. Writing in Fast Company recently, Hanna Wallach, an AI researcher and cofounder of the Women in Machine Learning Conference, said that only 13.5 percent of those working in machine learning are female. In the midst of the #MeToo movement, researchers in artificial intelligence also dealt with sexual harassment allegations, as well as complaints that inappropriate jokes were made at a parties around NIPS, a major industry conference.

But three major new AI policy and advocacy groups have popped up lately, with big-time industry backing and lofty goals for changing the way AI is designed and implemented—and all are headed by women.

Partnership for AI, a consortium made up of heavy hitters like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft, just hired Terah Lyons as executive director. Lyons was formerly policy advisor to the U.S. chief technology officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where she was behind the Obama administration’s deep dive into AI’s potential to change the world.

The goal of Partnership for AI is to “advance public understanding of artificial intelligence technologies (AI) and formulate best practices on the challenges and opportunities within the field.” With funding from some of the biggest tech firms in the world, it’s poised to help shape policy and thinking around AI at the federal level.

Meanwhile, AI Now, a research institute at NYU, was officially launched this fall by Kate Crawford, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and Meredith Whittaker, a founder of Google Open Research. One of the group’s main focuses is to ensure that the engineers making AI algorithms are working closely with the people who will use them. In the case of a medical application, for example, they want to make sure that doctors are consulted as part of the research. This kind of work will help point AI toward tackling the kinds of problems that actually need solving, as opposed to only the problems that a computer programmer thinks to work on.

And to help boost the ranks of women getting AI training, there’s AI4ALL, a nonprofit that puts on summer programs at Stanford and UC Berkeley to teach AI to diverse groups of high school students. Cofounded by computer vision expert Olga Russakovsky in 2016, AI4ALL got funding from Melinda Gates this year and will be expanding to four more universities in 2018, focusing on teaching female, minority, and low-income students.

Speaking to MIT Technology Review, Russakovsky pointed out that AI4ALL isn’t solely run by women: its board is 50 percent men.

“Yet we are now the outlier,” she said.

For her part, Russakovsky is a bit more bearish on whether 2018 will be much better for women in AI. After all, nonprofit groups are one thing, but a lot more power is still concentrated into the hands of a few white men living in the San Francisco area.

But what she sees in the summers with AI4ALL gives her hope. “I don’t know if it will change in 2018, but the shift has started,” Russakovsky said. “The change will happen with the next wave of students.”

AI Can Warn Researchers Where CRISPR Might Make a Mistake

Microsoft has built an AI tool that predicts the accuracy of CRISPR so that researchers can avoid making incorrect edits of DNA.

Missing the target: CRISPR uses two components: a cutting protein and a guide RNA that directs it to the part of a genome you want to cut. The guide RNA is about 20 letters long. Problem is, multiple sites in a genome can have the same series of letters, so CRISPR could snip the wrong section—known as an “off target” effect.

Why that matters: Off-target effects are one of the biggest safety concerns with CRISPR. Making incorrect cuts in a genome could, say, switch on a cancer-causing gene.

How AI helps: Microsoft’s tool lets researchers plug in a gene they want to modify and get an estimate of how bad potential off-target effects could be. Using the tool, researchers could figure out which genes are most difficult to safely edit and avoid tweaking them, says Nicolo Fusi of Microsoft Research.

500,000 Britons’ Genomes Will Be Public by 2020, Transforming Drug Research

In an effort to vault genetics into a new era of big data, six drug companies say they will decode the genes of half a million Brits and then make the data public—all by 2020.
The plan will turn the UK Biobank, the source of the DNA samples, into the world’s single biggest concentration of genetic and health data anywhere, giving scientists and drug companies a powerful tool for understanding diseases.
The UK Biobank is already a treasure trove: a public database containing carefully assembled medical records, test results, and even psychological assessments the country has collected from 500,000 volunteers.
Its first big release of data last July—anonymized to protect people’s identities—electrified scientists. With a click of a mouse, they can inspect the genetic basis of everything from diabetes to TV-watching habits.
But the genetic data it contains are limited. Now the sequencing consortium plans to decode all 20,000 or so genes of each volunteer. Such “exome” sequencing falls short of decoding the complete genome, but it captures the parts most important to drug makers—the genetic sequences that code for proteins, the building blocks of life and, when they go awry, the cause of most health problems.
Adding those gene sequences would “increase [the Biobank’s] value 100 times for drug development, and 10 to 100 times for biology,” says Sek Kathiresan, who studies the genetics of heart disease at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The expanded database will, for instance, make it much easier to locate rare genetic mutants whose bodies suggest ideas for new drugs.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the company leading the sequencing consortium, based an anti-heart-attack drug, Praluent, on the 14-year-old chance discovery that certain unusual people who lack a working version of one gene, PCSK9, have incredibly low cholesterol.
That kind of serendipity is being made commonplace by methods that automatically scour data on hundreds of thousands of people. “It takes me and my browser 30 seconds to rediscover PCSK9,” says Regeneron CSO George D. Yancopoulos. “And I think there are thousands of those in the genome.”
The gene decoding effort will occur at Regeneron’s sequencing facility in Tarrytown, New York. Regeneron will be joined by five other drug firms—AbbVie, Alnylam, AstraZeneca, Biogen, and Pfizer—that will each contribute $10 million for the effort. The companies will have private access to the newly created data for 12 months, but then it will become public.
“There is so much information here, there is no one company that can take advantage of all of it,” says Yancopoulos. “We think of this as adding accelerant to science.”
The joint project is not only big news for biomedical science, however. It also widens an already yawning gap between Britain and the U.S., whose own large population study is far behind. According to the National Institutes of Health, the million-person “AllofUs” study has recruited 10,000 people but has not yet sequenced anyone’s DNA.
A spokesperson for the NIH said the $4.3 billion program is “on target” with its goals and plans a national launch this spring.
Yancopoulos calls the slow start by the U.S. “a national embarrassment.” The U.K. data trove is set to dominate “for the foreseeable future, the next five to 10 years,” he says. “It’s going to be the best resource. It’s the first place people will go.”

Wattup Wireless charging technology gets FCC Certification

Energous Gets FCC Certification for WattUp Wireless Charging Technology

After three years of debut of Energous’ wireless “power at a distance” charging system, it has now approved by the Federal Communications commission (FCC). FCC has approved this new type of charger, Wattup Mid Field transmitter, for the first time.

This technology is much more advance than the previous wireless charging technologies because this will charge up batteries from as far as three feet away. And with this, we enter a complete new era of wireless charging of devices.

It is able to charge battery-operated devices like phone, tablets, smart speakers, smart watches, fitness trackers etc. using a technique that Energous compares to Wi-Fi, as long as the battery-operated device has the company’s receivers. Wattup has a transmitter which emits energy via a radio frequency signal. It is being delivered by custom chips and miniature antenna arrays. And after the transmission, device having the Wattup receiver converts the RF signal into battery power.

Energous claims its product being the only one which can charge using both wired as well as wireless charging technology. It can even charge more than one devices simultaneously and will keep on charging until they are charged to a certain point.

Wattup was released in 2015 at CES and rumors were there for Wattup collaborating for wireless charging of iPhone X in 2017 but Apple went ahead with inductive wireless charging on iPhone X and iPhone 8 this year. It is being speculated that Apple may work with Energous on implementing this technology on future iPhones or at least make a Wattup iPhone accessory certified by MFi.

Energous will be displaying this wireless charging technology at the Consumer Electronic show at Las vegas next  month from 9th-12th January.

Future iPhones could be wirelessly charged from longer distance

New Apple patent application hints at long-range wireless ranging

If you’re an iPhone user or planning to become one, this is a great news for you. A patent product with a new technology was filed by Apple which suggests wireless charging of future iPhones from across the room.

According to the officially published notes by US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), this new product will be “configured to wireless transmit power over the wireless power transfer link.” It means that this new system may charge multiple devices simultaneously with both wired as well as wireless connections.

Apple is currently focusing on short range wireless charging only because long range wireless charging is not feasible. Because as the distance increases from the charger, power decreases rapidly and there’s a limited amount of power which can be transmitted to single device.

This RF-based short range wireless charger would allow users to set up their wireless charging devices in a certain order. This method will link a single power adapter to various electronic devices in its proximity.

Here is an excerpt of the patent filings’ summary:

A system having a power adapter may supply power to electronic devices. Electronic devices with battery could be charged such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, PCs, smartwatches, fitness bands etc. Charging to the electronic devices would occur both using wired as well as wireless medium. The system with an online user account, will create a communication network and would be connected to the charging devices in its proximity. The system will save information from user such as battery state, priority of charging devices, usage history, calendar and few other information. And this system will transfer different amount of power to different devices connected to it using an optimum power transfer strategy.

Patents doesn’t necessarily mean something solid. Hence, nothing further can be suggested. But this definitely tells that Apple is working hard on creating a wireless charging device. Let’s see when Apple confirms this news officially.

Japanese developer discovers a way to erase your face using iPhone X

This Japanese developer uses an iPhone X to make his face disappear

If Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak had fascinated you, then Apple iPhone X’s Face ID camera might have something to interest you.

In a tweet first spotted by Design Taxi, Kazuya Nosiro, a Japanese app developer and CEO of game development company ViRD, released a 10-second video clip, that shows his face completely camouflaged, except for his eyes and mouth, into his surroundings in a trick of ‘optical camouflage’.

The app (is still a work-in-progress) that Noshiro used to make the trick possible was made on the game development platform ‘Unity’. To pre-record the background of the room, Noshiro first used a fixed camera. Then, he used the app to camouflage his face and replaced it with the background image using iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera face detection capability and Apple’s ARKit development platform. However, the eyes, the hair, and rest of the body were still visible.

“If you want to make your face transparent, we’re recruiting,” Noshiro joked.

Check out the video below to see it for yourself:

The app is likely to be exclusive to owners of Apple’s flagship device. However, it is not known when this app will be released and what the app may be actually used for.