Microsoft’s Wednesday Event Could See Surface Laptop, Paint 3D App Launches

Microsoft's Wednesday Event Could See Surface Laptop, Paint 3D App Launches

  • Surface laptop and revamped Paint app expected to launch on Wednesday
  • An all-in-one (AIO) PC under Surface brand is also expected
  • The event kicks off on Wednesday at 7:30pm IST and will be live streamed

Microsoft at its Wednesday event in New York City is expected to reveal a new Surface device alongside giving updates about its Windows 10 operating system. Ahead of the launch, two new possible product names that are expected to star at the Wednesday event have made it to the Internet.

According to leaked trademark filing, Microsoft may launch its new Surface Laptop alongside an overhauled Paint app dubbed Paint 3D. Brian Conroy, a trademark agent and solicitor based in Dublin, has also discovered Microsoft is after Surface Studio, Surface Dial, and Dial trademark filings. Conroy further points out that all are filed under categories of computer software or hardware. Unfortunately, there are not many details available about the Surface Studio, Surface Dial, and Dial as of now.

In the meanwhile, Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President, Windows and Devices Group, Microsoft, has teased the launch of Paint 3D app on Wednesday. In a tweet, Mehdi said, “get ready to get creative.” Based on preliminary leaks, the all-new Paint 3D app will include support for 3D objects, which was missing from earlier versions. The support could turn out to be useful for the developers and artists who will be working on apps meant for the company’s augmented-reality platform HoloLens.The Redmond Giant has already revealed that the event will be all about Windows 10 and Cortana is giving hints about Microsoft’s Windows 10 event on Wednesday. The company’s digital voice assistant on being asked to “spark your imagination” replies with real-world examples. Cortana’s replies include Velcro creator George de Mestral and novelist Gertrude Stein, points out The Verge.

At the company’s Wednesday event, Microsoft is widely expected to showcase an all-in-one (AIO) PC under its Surface brand. The upcoming AIO under Surface branding rumoured to be codenamed “Cardinal”, as per the earlier report, is expected to be showcased in three screen sizes – 21-inches, 24-inches, and 27-inches.

Microsoft’s event will kick off on Wednesday at 10am EDT (or 7:30pm IST) and will be live streamed.

Apple Survey Hints at No Headphone Jack in Future MacBook Pro

Apple Survey Hints at No Headphone Jack in Future MacBook Pro

  • Apple is asking its MacBook Pro users a series of questions
  • Survey asks users if they use the headphone jack on their laptops
  • It hints that Apple may remove the headphone jack in future Macbook Pros

Apple is said to be conducting a survey among current MacBook Pro users, asking a series of questions. The tech giant is particularly wondering if its customers use the headphone jack frequently or not. This survey hints that Apple may be considering removing the 3.5mm headphone jack from future MacBook Pros as well.

Apple asked a series of questions and one of them was, “Do you ever use the headphone port on your MacBook Pro with Retina display?” First spotted by Mac Rumors, this survey has inevitably sparked rumours of Apple getting rid of the 3.5mm headphone jack on its entire product lineup eventually.

The company removed it from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus to make more room for better battery and make the smartphones waterproof for the first time. However, this year’s Macbook Pro, expected in October, won’t see this change.

With the launch date so near, Apple would’ve already finalised the design, and maybe even begun production of the new and improved Macbook Pro devices. It is expected to get a significant upgradewith a new Oled display panel on top of the keyboard replacing the function keys. The Oled panel is being called ‘Dynamic Function Row’ internally and will also support Touch ID for added security. It is expected to be unveiled in 13-inch and 15-inch variants, and the Oled panel will need macOS Sierra to function properly. macOS Sierra will be available to Mac users from September 20.

Alongside the MacBook Pro, Apple is also expected to unveil the new and improved MacBook Air as well with minimalistic upgrades and USB Type-C connectivity.

 

Apple Patches OS X, Safari for Vulnerabilities Similar to Those Fixed in iOS Last Week

Apple Patches OS X, Safari for Vulnerabilities Similar to Those Fixed in iOS Last WeekApple last week released iOS 9.3.5, a security fix for a vulnerability that could give attackers complete control of the iOS device. The Cupertino-based company on Thursday has released security patches for OS X El Capitan (v10.11.16) and OS X Yosemite (v10.10.5), in what is believed to be a fix related to the iOS vulnerabilities that were fixed last week. Apple on its support page says the patches for OS X fix validation and memory corruption issues that would have allowed malware to gain kernel access.

Apple has also issued an update for Safari for OS X, taking it to version 9.1.3. Apple says the fixes for Safari remove the memory corruption issue that could allow the browser to execute specific type of malware. All three issues were reported by Citizen Lab and Lookout, the same security research firms that reported the iOS vulnerability last week.

The vulnerability has been named Pegasus, and as we mentioned earlier, can allow attackers to gain root-level access to iOS and OS X devices. The attackers can then install any software they want, including monitoring software. Apart from first-party apps, the vulnerability even allowed interception of information from third-party apps.
The vulnerabilities were revealed after a real-world exploit was spotted by a UAE human rights researcher who received an SMS on an iPhone with a link that could have downloaded malware with access to the device’s kernel. It later out that same vulnerability affects OS X as well.

Autonomous taxis: Why you may never own a self-driving car

Nissan Renault prototype autonomous vehicle

As the once unimaginable self-driving car moves closer to becoming a reality, the next question is “When can I buy one?” At the same time, some researchers, like Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser, and the University of Texas’s Kara Kockelman, have started to wonder whether you’ll ever need to. They envision fleets of autonomous vehicles that will combine the convenience of not having to drive yourself with the flexibility of a scaled-up and always available Uber-like taxi service — and without the cost of hired drivers. Since we first wrote about this topic, the landscape has changed dramatically for the better, both for autonomous vehicles, and for ride-hailing and ride-sharing services. They’re also key to future smart cities, which we’ll be covering all this week here at ExtremeTech in our first-ever Smart Cities Week.

Instead of seeming like science fiction, self-driving cars are now on the roadmap for not only nearly every car maker, but for ride-hailing giant Uber. It’s easy to write off Uber’s investment as hubris, but there has been an increasing amount of research that shows how fleets of shared autonomous vehicles would make good economic sense. One recent study done by researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of Texas, using Austin as a model, estimates that over 1/4 of what would previously have been trips in private vehicles would move to a shared fleet if it was priced around $1/mile. Research firm ARK Invest concludes that the cost of operating a shared autonomous vehicle fleet could be as low as $.35 per mile, less than 1/10th as much as the cost of traditional taxis, and about half of owning a car.

For most of us the idea sounds pretty far fetched. After all, what about peak times like rush hour when everyone seems to want to go somewhere at the same time? Of course, that’s just our intuition, not science. Since we originally wrote about the work Kornhauser and his students had done building and refining a realistic model of actual travel needs and car usage using auto trip data from New Jersey, another resource has become available — a complete database of New York City taxi trips. Researchers are using that data as a proxy for overall transportation demand, and modeling how various types of ridesharing service options could reduce vehicle miles.

Replacing intuition with data: Mapping every trip in New Jersey and New York City

New Jersey has a huge variety of population densities as shown by the team's model -- making it a good simulation for most of the USPrinceton’s New Jersey model started with 2010 census data and built on it with information from other behavioral studies and surveys about where people live, work, and travel. It includes data for the 430,000 businesses and 18,000 schools in the state, along with the 120,000 blocks of census data. Each person (including residents and about 500,000 commuters from out of state) was assigned a place of work or school, as appropriate, and then heuristics were used to model the trips each would take on a typical day. The result was a massive model of the over 30 million vehicle trips taken on a given day in New Jersey, including their timing, origin, and destination — down to the street address. Currently there are about 4 million private vehicles serving its population and providing those trips. A similar model for the entire US would need to include about 1.2 billion trips taken by the over 300 million US residents on a given day. Then the team overlaid a fleet of autonomous taxis that they call aTaxis, and looked at how well it could do the job instead.

The New York City data covers every single taxi trip taken in 2013, including time and start and destination. To simplify his analysis of ridesharing options, Princeton’s AJ Swoboda divided the city into .1-mile by .1-mile “pixels” and assumed patrons would be willing to share rides with those needing to travel from the same pixel at a similar time to a destination that made a combined trip make sense. The study makes use of another major change over the last two years. Hailing a vehicle through a mobile application is now commonplace. The use of that type of technology, which can in turn be linked to a smart back-end that can optimize vehicle dispatch and routing, makes ridesharing a lot more practical than the old-fashioned “whistle for a taxi” hailing model most of us grew up with.

You can easily see where the demand for taxis is highest in this visualization generated by Princeton's SwobodaThe team’s vision for aTaxis is as a less-expensive, more-convenient service that combined all the good qualities of Zipcar and Uber, without the hassle of having to drive yourself or of paying for a driver. Obviously the whole idea hinges on truly autonomous vehicles — often called Level 4 automation — so it isn’t going to happen quickly. It also depends on enough usage to make the capital investment worthwhile. Kornhauser is predictably optimistic about the potential demand, as he puts it, “you get to buy mobility by the drink, rather than by the bottle.”

One way to jumpstart the fleet would be a system similar to the one used by RelayRides, where individuals own each car. Owners could simply mark their cars as available and have them drive off to ferry other passengers and earn them some rental revenue — this could be particularly popular with commuters and students who leave their cars sitting all day. Even with that kind of a boost, aTaxi systems are likely to start in heavily populated areas and only slowly spread out from there. Austin seems to be a favorite candidate on the part of researchers. It makes sense as an area with awful traffic that hosts the University of Texas, and is also a test site for self-driving cars including Google’s.

The benefits of shared vehicles

Originally, it was thought that the biggest benefit of sharing cars would be cost savings. But as the rapid growth of Uber and Lyft shows, the convenience of on-demand transportation and the lower hassle of a “no-car” lifestyle is very appealing, especially to Millennials. This will only accelerate the move to shared autonomous vehicle fleets once the technology becomes available. Cost savings, though, are still a major driver for their creation. Overall, it is estimated that a shared autonomous vehicle fleet could serve travelers’ needs with only half the number of cars on the road today. In addition to saving vehicle costs, parking needs and vehicle congestion would be greatly reduced. US cities have parking areas that if laid out flat would cover from 20% to 80% of their land area. Much of that could be reclaimed for additional housing, parks, or businesses. Congestion would be reduced through greater ride sharing and easier access to mass transit.

aTaxis would benefit mass transit

Even though declining there are still over 12 thousand bus-related injuries in the US each yearLow-use bus routes are perfect candidates for replacement by an aTaxi service. Replacing them would provide benefits in lower cost, less pollution, and improved safety. As retired New Jersey transit planner Jerome Lutin puts it, “If you can’t get more than 10 people on a bus, or five people on a bus, then why bother running it? You’re wasting diesel fuel.” As far as safety, while bus drivers are trained and licensed professionals (in the US at least) they can suffer from the same issues of fatigue and distractions as any driver. In New Jersey alone, the damage and liability costs of bus-related accidents are nearly $500 million each year. aTaxis — like all eventual self-driving cars — are expected to be significantly safer on average than their human-piloted counterparts.

Here too, the advent of mobile apps can play a large role. While most current apps, like those for Uber, Lyft, or taxi fleets, only connect you with one vehicle and one ride, newer versions are emerging that will allow users to plan and ticket trips that include both a car and some form of mass transit. Just recently, Mercedes subsidiary Moovel announced that it had acquired multi-modal ride-planning companies GlobeSherpa and RideScout. No doubt it will work to tie them into its car-sharing offering Car2Go.

Even the classic commuter rail lines would benefit from a flourishing autonomous taxi system. One of the big problems with commuter rail today is the hassle and expense of parking at the station. Acres of prime real estate are tied up with massive lots all along the New Jersey transit rail lines, and most of them are packed full before mid-morning. Those cars sit idle all day, while if they were aTaxis they could be productively shuttling students to school or shoppers to stores. Another benefit of more convenient access to rail lines should be an increase in their use — further helping reduce carbon emissions from commuter cars and reducing congestion during rush hour.

Are you willing to share?

A typical aTaxi trip is modeled -- in this case assuming a short walk to an aTaxi standThe Achilles heel of any taxi system is peak time. Whether it is rush hour or simply an impromptu downpour, we’ve all experienced the frustration of a sudden lack of available cabs. Similarly, car sharing services like Zipcar are only helpful with some advance planning, as cars are likely to be sold out during popular periods. Simply making the cars autonomous doesn’t solve this problem. However, a cloud-based dispatch infrastructure, similar to that used by services like Uber today, would provide an intriguing solution if customers are willing to share. Uber itself has clearly figured this out, and is making its own large investment in autonomous vehicles.

An analysis done by the aTaxi project showed that ridesharing potential is fortunately highest exactly when demand is peaking — with many commuters leaving the same places of work at the same time, for example. Clearly even this fairly simple ride sharing is a loss of apparent convenience compared with having your own private vehicle, but for many that will be offset by the freedom from parking and maintaining your own vehicle. For the system to achieve real savings in the number of cars on the road, users will need to be willing to do some impromptu sharing — perhaps with other passengers being picked up and dropped off by the aTaxi while it is en route. For their analysis the team assumed that sharing couldn’t add more than 20% to the total time spent on a trip.

Of course aTaxis won’t work for everyone

No matter how attractive sharing autonomous vehicles may become financially, some drivers will simply want to own their own car — because they want immediate access, or they want to leave belongings in the car, or they want to customize it, or they just enjoy driving. For those folks, self-driving will just be another feature from the land of high-tech wizardry that will give them a chance to snooze on boring highway stretches, or get themselves home safely after over-indulging at a party. But for a large number of car owners — and especially potential car owners — the future may wind up consisting of shared access to a well-maintained fleet of self-driving cars.

To learn more about aTaxis, and other smart driving solutions, hit up Kornhauser’s Smart Driving Cars website, or UT’s Center for Transportation Research

Intel may be preparing aggressive rounds of job cuts

Intel Skylake

Earlier this month, we covered the relentless shrinking of the PC market and the departure of long-time Intel executives in Intel’s mobile segments. It now looks as though these troubles are going to spark problems for the company’s employees. Intel may be considering significant layoffs that would cut the company’s headcount by double-digit percentages.

The Oregonian reports that Intel currently employs 107,000 people worldwide. It’s recently been on a hiring spree in Oregon itself, with 19,500 people there total (up 5% from last summer). Much of that work has been done on Intel’s leading-edge research firm, Fab D1X, and might not be affected by the cuts. Last year, Intel trimmed 1100 jobs; but this year’s cuts would dwarf that figure if the rumors are accurate.

“After seeing the upheaval in senior staff, it would not surprise me if structural changes are finally afoot,” Jim McGregor, an analyst with Tirias Research, told the Oregonian.

Intel’s problem is easy to diagnose and extremely challenging to fix: The company’s mobile efforts have not yielded the kind of fruit that Intel wanted. Contra-revenue shipments boosted the company’s raw share of the tablet market and gave x86 chips plenty of shelf space, but contra-revenue shipments are a short-term measure meant to build market share at the cost of quarterly or yearly profits. They aren’t a long-term solution, and Intel knows it.

Intel-Tablets

Intel hit its tablet shipment goals, but not at the kind of revenue it wanted.

The problem here isn’t that Intel is in bad shape as such — there’s no sign that ARM is advancing in critical HPC or data center markets, and the PC market, while continuing to trend downwards, still generates tens of billions of dollars for Intel every year. The problem for Intel is that for the first time in decades, computing is advancing under banners other than its own. We’ve talked before about the challenges the company faces in reclaiming a tenable position in emerging markets and it’s still unclear how Intel will take an active role in these spaces without either overhauling its manufacturing strategies or its product development cycle — and maybe both.

Intel will announce its Q1 2016 results on Tuesday, and the figures aren’t likely to be great. The company has made a number of changes to its roster and its focus in recent years, including buying Altera last year for $16.7 billion. If it plans to announce some focus shifts or new project strategies, we may find out more about them this week. The company has previously stated that it will focus on three main pillars of growth — data centers, the Internet of Things, and memory technologies like the recently demonstrated Optane (aka 3D XPoint).

ComScore: Computer usage falls as 20% of millennials go mobile-only

pixel c

A decade ago, almost all web browsing was happening on desktop and laptop computers. The explosion in smartphone popularity has rapidly changed the dynamic, and older predictions may have underestimated the impact. According to new report from comScore, computer use is dropping off quickly as mobile devices encourage new types of interaction. In fact, many younger people don’t use computers at all, instead relying entirely upon their smartphones.

The conventional wisdom a few years ago was that desktop usage (desktop meaning both “desktop” and “laptop” PCs) would level off or grow at a slower rate in the face of mobile device adoption. However, the trends aren’t following that model. The data gathered by comScore points to substantial year-over-year drops in desktop usage. In December 2015, desktop Internet use was down 9.5% compared with the previous year. In January 2016 it was down 7.6%. February and March of this year were better at 2% and 6% down, but the trend looks to be continuing.

In addition to the comScore data, The Wall Street Journal notes that it saw desktop traffic peak back in March of 2015 (567 billion total minutes of desktop web usage). Since then, the trend has been negative. At the same time, mobile use is up dramatically with more than one trillion total minutes of activity last month. comScore’s report estimates that mobile accounts for 65% of digital media time, and apps make up 56% of it. By far the most startling statistic from the comScore data is that one in five millennials (defined as being aged 18-34) don’t even use desktops anymore.

What this really points to is that a lot of casual browsing is migrating from the PC to mobile devices. It seemed at first that PCs were remaining steady, but that was probably because mobile devices simply weren’t good enough yet. Advances in hardware and software mean there are fewer times you have to put the phone away and find a “real” computer to accomplish something.

If you want access to these high-end GPUs you'll likely also need a high-end rig, like this Cipher model being shown off by Rave at Nvidia GTC 2016

It’s possible the screen in your pocket is the highest resolution display in your house, and the processor running it is probably faster than the laptop you were using a decade ago. It all adds up to a device that fits in your hand and manages most basic computing tasks with ease. For many non-technical people, that’s enough to replace a computer. We’re still a long way from smartphones and tablets being as powerful as a desktop when it comes to getting work done, but not everyone needs that kind of power.

It’s easy to draw the line between what is “mobile” and “desktop” right now, but in the future that might not be so simple. Apple is pushing the iPad and keyboard dock as a viable laptop alternative with custom tablet software. Meanwhile, Google has the Pixel C, Chrome OS, and Android apps running in the Android Runtime for Chrome. Nvidia has even made desktop gaming work on its Shield devices via GeForce Now.

It’s not over for traditional PC’s, though. Desktops and laptops remain essential in business, and it’ll be a long time before that changes. The growth of power-hungry virtual reality also means full desktop PCs with beefy video cards will remain an important part of future computing.

Intel’s new low-cost Apollo Lake platform: Skylake graphics, new Goldmont CPU

Apple confirms QuickTime for Windows is dead, Adobe stuck between rock and hard place

QT-Install

Last week, news broke of security woes in the Windows version of QuickTime that Apple had no intention of patching. Apple has now confirmed that it has ceased developing QuickTime for Windows and will not offer security patches for the issues. The impact on PC users will depend on which software packages you use, but one major vendor, Adobe, has noted that there are certain file formats it can’t support yet without relying on Apple’s QuickTime.

The Adobe Creative Cloud team describes the situation as follows:

Adobe has worked extensively on removing dependencies on QuickTime in its professional video, audio and digital imaging applications and native decoding of many .mov formats is available today (including uncompressed, DV, IMX, MPEG2, XDCAM, h264, JPEG, DNxHD, DNxHR, ProRes, AVCI and Cineform). Native export support is also possible for DV and Cineform in .mov wrappers.

Unfortunately, there are some codecs which remain dependent on QuickTime being installed on Windows, most notably Apple ProRes. We know how common this format is in many worfklows, and we continue to work hard to improve this situation, but have no estimated timeframe for native decode currently.

Other commonly used QuickTime formats which would be affected by the uninstallation of QuickTime include Animation (import and export), DNxHD/HR (export) as would workflows where growing QuickTime files are being used (although we strongly advise using MXF for this wherever possible).

Products like iTunes, which once relied on QuickTime, no longer require the Apple software and it can be uninstalled from your PC if iTunes is the only software you use it with.

Apple (still) hasn’t gotten the message

Apple has formally ceased all development of QuickTime 7 for Windows, The Wall Street Journal reports. But the Cupertino company still hasn’t taken any actions that would inform users that QuickTime has been deprecated. As of this writing, QuickTime 7 Pro is still available for purchase, the free version is still available for download, and the Apple Software Updater still wants to install QT 7.7.9 on my system.

ASW2

The fact that QuickTime 7.7.9 still bills itself as “improves security and is recommended for all QuickTime 7 users on Windows” is part of the problem here.

When we first covered this topic, many of you noted that you still depended on QuickTime software for integration into various software suites, and Adobe’s own messaging confirms that it can be difficult to remove QT support from all products, even if you want to. Nonetheless, Apple needs to make some effort to inform its users that QT is no longer supported and that they should shift to other products. They could start by no longer offering it as an unsolicited download and by updating their own landing page to reflect the fact that the software is no longer in development.

Note that all of this only applies to QuickTime 7 on Windows. Mac users and QuickTime X are not affected.

Intel fires the equivalent of 1.2 AMDs, restructures away from PC, mobile business

LaCie announces gargantuan 96TB external hard drive