September 22nd, 2015 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | software
Play Music gets gapless playback for streaming over a Chromecast, while Gmail includes hints of rich text formatting and deeper calendar integration.
Both Google Play Music and Gmail got a couple of nice updates this week that will have you listening with ease to your tunes and soon crafting better formatted Gmail messages.
With Google Play Music, version 6.0.1995S now supports gapless playback when streaming over a Chromecast. The changelog also indicates no more stoppage of playback between songs and if your phone turns off or you leave while casting.
Your phone will now send the playlist information to the Chromecast, which knows to pull it down from Play Music, according to an APK teardown by Android Police.
With Gmail, version 5.6 is mostly under-the-hood changes, though there are hints of more to come. The code reveals rich text formatting may be in the future, so you’d be able to add bold, italics, strikethrough, colors, and other changes.
The other code strings indicate some type of interaction with Google Calendar. Google can already add events automatically into your Calendar with services like Google Now, but perhaps more collaborative or more connected capabilities are coming.
Why this matters: The playback updates are pretty nice, as it’s pretty annoying when someone takes their phone with them to grab more drinks and the music stops. Music streaming is quite the competitive landscape right now, so Google needs to throw all it can at Play Music to get people to tune in.
September 15th, 2015 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | software
Microsoft confirms auto-download of massive Windows 10 files, even for users who don’t opt into the upgrade.
Whether you want Windows 10 or not, Microsoft says it may download the files to your PC regardless.
In a statement to the Inquirer, Microsoft confirmed that it automatically downloads Windows 10 installation files on eligible PCs, provided automatic updates are enabled through Windows Update. The download occurs even if users haven’t opted in through the Windows 10 reservation dialog.
“For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade,” Microsoft told the Inquirer. “When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device.”
When reached for comment, Microsoft told PCWorld that the downloads occurred around the time of Windows 10’s July 29 launch.
Why this matters: Microsoft appears to have crossed a line in its zeal to move people onto its latest operating system. Several reports indicate that the Windows 10 files take up as much as 6GB of storage in a hidden folder, potentially hamstringing machines that don’t have much free space left. Even worse, users who have strict data caps could face hefty overage charges for a massive download that they didn’t even ask for.
PCWorld has also heard from several readers on this issue, including one whose data plan has been affected by the automatic download. The reader, who runs a small computer repair shop, did not reserve Windows 10, yet recently noticed 6GB missing from his main desktop.
Upon further investigation, the reader’s daughter—who lives in an area without wired Internet and relies on Verizon Wireless for connectivity—had also automatically downloaded the installation files. “They do not wish to upgrade at this time, as they prefer to stay with Windows 7,” the reader said. “But they’re four days into their wireless plan, and have used more than half of their allowance because of the Windows 10 download.”
The Inquirer also spoke to a reader who said Windows 10 tries to install itself every time the machine is booted. It’s unclear if this is typical behavior for those who haven’t opted into the upgrade.
This isn’t the only instance where Windows 10 has gotten users into trouble with data caps. By default, the system also uses peer-to-peer networking to distribute Windows 10 updates, potentially eating up bandwidth without users’ knowledge.
What you can do
It’s worth noting that Windows Update provides users with a few auto-install options. Enabling “Important” updates provides security and stability fixes, while “Recommended” updates are meant to improve non-critical issues. There’s also a “Microsoft Update” option for other software such as Office. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to see which of these tiers enables the auto-download of Windows 10 files.In the meantime, some users have reported success at removing the files and Windows 10 update prompts by entering the following into command prompt as an administrator:
WUSA /UNINSTALL /KB:3035583code>
This should at least remove Windows 10’s update notifications, but we haven’t confirmed whether it removes the installation files and prevents further downloads.
September 12th, 2015 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | software
“We did our best to explain the intent behind the changes in the Policy and our commitment to our users’ privacy,” Ek said. “We took note of many people’s comments that they appreciated the clear commitments in the blog post that were easier to understand than some of the details in the Policy itself.”
To that end, Spotify said it has introduced a plain language introduction to the policy. The revision is meant to clarify what the company’s “approach and principles” are regarding privacy.
“We still need to provide greater detail in the body of the policy,” Ek said. “But those details are, and will always be, in keeping with the fundamental privacy principles we outline in the Introduction.”
Spotify says it would only access photos that you explicitly choose, for example. The company also categorically states the company “will never scan or import your photo library or camera roll.”
If you want to give it a read, Ek posted the new introduction in full in his blog post.
September 3rd, 2015 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | software
Apple is demanding that over $548 million in damages be paid.
It may take some time for Apple to see any damages from its patent infringement dispute with Samsung Electronics.
Apple is asking a district court to order Samsung to pay over $548 million in damages, in a long-drawn patent dispute between the two companies that dates back to 2011.
But Samsung has fired back asking the court to declare invalid the claim of an Apple patent also known as the pinch-to-zoom patent, which figured in the lawsuit, or to stay proceedings.
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decided in December that claims of an Apple patent had been found invalid, according to Samsung’s filing. The South Korean company also wants a vacation of damages awarded to Apple in connection with the patent.
The iPhone maker asked the court this week to order the payment after an appeals court denied Samsung a review of the damages and also refused to stay its mandate to the district court to go ahead with a final judgment on the damages.
For Apple, the $548 million in damages is just a part of what was originally awarded by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The court awarded Apple damages of $930 million after a jury found that Samsung infringed Apple’s design and utility patents and diluted its trade dresses, which relate to the overall look and packaging of a product.
On appeal, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit went along with the jury’s verdict on the design patent infringements, the validity of two utility patent claims, and the damages awarded for the design and utility patent infringements appealed by Samsung.
But the appeals court reversed the jury’s findings that the asserted trade dresses are protectable, and vacated the damages relating to trade dress dilution. That order shaved off $382 million in damages but $548 million still remained.
In a request for review by a full-bench of the Federal Circuit, which was denied, Samsung challenged $399 million of the balance, which is an award of its entire profits from products found to infringe Apple’s design patents. Samsung contests the basis for the award of the damages, and has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court.
After failing on Tuesday in its bid to get the Federal Circuit to stay its mandate to the district court, Samsung has now filed a motion in the California court, asking it to enter a judgment of invalidity on claim 8 of U.S. Patent No. 7,844,915, after a final decision by the PTAB that such a claim is invalid. Samsung has asked the court alternately for an order staying all proceedings, including any entry of judgment.
District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh has on Thursday ordered a stay on more filings by either side, without the court’s permission, as the court has not yet received the mandate from the Federal Circuit.
Apple can appeal the PTAB’s invalidity decision in the Federal Circuit. Its petition for rehearing before the PTAB is also pending, according to court records.
August 27th, 2015 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | software
New tools should help developers bring their extensions over from Chrome or Opera, but existing extensions may have trouble surviving the shift.
Mozilla is pushing ahead with a plan to block unsigned Firefox browser extensions, though it’s offering better developer tools as consolation.
As Mozilla has previously indicated, it will soon require a security check for all third-party Firefox extensions. Starting with Firefox 41, which launches on September 22, Mozilla will block all unsigned extensions, though users will be able to override this protection if they want. However, that override won’t be available for all beta and release versions of Firefox 42 and higher, as they’re released. (Nightly and Developer additions will still allow unsigned extensions with the user’s override permission, ostensibly for testing.)
Mozilla has said that the new signing procedure is necessary to stop ad injections and malicious scripts. Add-on guidelines and a blocklist are no longer enough, Mozilla argues, as it’s become too difficult to track and discover malware before the damage is done. The move is not without controversy, as some users rely on extensions that are no longer officially supported by their developers.
To help mitigate these concerns, Mozilla is introducing a WebExtensions API, which it says will allow for low-effort porting of extensions from other browsers, such as Chrome, Opera, and eventually Microsoft Edge . Mozilla says it can review these extensions faster, and they also support a new multi-process version of Firefox that will go stable in December. Multi-process effectively separates rendering and UI chrome from page content, preventing full browser crashes if just one page experiences problems.
As part of these changes, Mozilla also plans to deprecate Firefox add-ons that use XPCOM, XUL, and XBL, possibly in the next 12 to 18 months. While these add-ons allow Firefox to be deeply customizable, they’re also prone to breaking when Mozilla rolls out browser updates, and the switch to multi-process will only exacerbate those problems. The challenge, then, is for Mozilla to build out its WebExtensions and other tools so that developers can offer suitable replacements for existing add-ons.
The impact on you: Make no mistake, these changes will cause some ugliness for Firefox users who rely on add-ons—especially those that don’t exist in other browsers. Even Mozilla is admitting that without considerable development, Firefox-only add-ons will not survive the transition. It’s a huge trade-off as Mozilla pursues a more secure and stable browser, and while it may pay off in the long run, for some users it could diminish what makes Firefox unique in the first place.