Google Play’s ‘Designed for Families’ selection is likely to go live at I/O conference

May 23rd, 2015 | Edited by | software



Google is giving Android developers a firm deadline for submitting apps and games they want to the new Designes for Families section of the Play Store.
The cutoff is May 28, just one day before the beginning of Google I/O. The developer conference is where Google makes announcements about new initiatives, so we’re expecting the new family-friendly app selection will get prominent play.
The email (pictured) reminds developers their apps must meet specific content ratings and other requirements in order to be included.

play store developer email
An email to Android developers details how to get apps ready for the Designed for Families selection. 

The story behind the story: Google’s Designed for Families program is an effort to showcase the kid-friendly apps and games in its Play Store. Making them easier to find could mean more downloads and in-app purchases, which is good for Google and the developers alike. The new effort may also help Google catch up to Apple’s App Store, which is regarded as having the best collection of educational and kid-friendly apps.


Intel releases beta drivers for the Surface 3, allowing Windows 10 to be installed

May 21st, 2015 | Edited by | hardware


Even in this modern computing era Windows is still dogged by driver problems—at least during the technical preview phase. Owners of the newly released Surface 3 may want to hold back on installing the Windows 10 technical preview for now, though it appears Intel has released beta Windows 10 drivers for the Surface 3’s Atom processor and chipset.
“Please do NOT try to install Windows 10 on the new Surface 3. There are no drivers for the Intel x5/x7 Atom processors,” Microsoft Community Moderator and Microsoft MVP Barb Bowman posted on the company’s support forum on May 11. “There are no drivers in the Preview Build because Intel has not yet provided drivers.”
That changed on May 14, when Bowman noted that there are beta drivers for the Surface 3 available via Windows Update.
The $500 Surface 3 uses a fresh, new 1.6GHz Intel Atom quad-core x7-Z8700. Intel does not yet have a release date for the final drivers, according to Bowman.

Since the Surface 3 (and its processor) is so new and Windows 10 is still under development, small hiccups like this are to be expected. Microsoft’s newest operating system is slated for release this summer so we can expect to see final drivers from Intel relatively soon.
Further reading: Windows 10: The 10 coolest features you should check out first
Microsoft’s latest tablet went on sale in early May after being announced in late March. The big appeal about the new non-pro Surface is that it is not loaded with ARM-processor compatible Windows RT. Instead, it’s a full Windows slate compatible with all legacy desktop apps, as well as modern UI apps.
The Surface 3 features a 10.8-inch 1080p display, your choice of either 64GB storage with 2GB RAM, or 128GB onboard storage with 4GB RAM. It also comes with one USB 3.0, mini Display port, microSD card reader, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0.
The impact on you at home: Windows 10 is an exciting update to Microsoft’s OS, especially if you’re running Windows 8 or 8.1. Unfortunately, Surface 3 owners chomping at the bit will have to wait a little bit longer—at least if you want to remain on the safe side.
Some users in the same forum thread where Bowman posted her warning say they are able to run Windows 10 using newly updated Windows 8.1 drivers recently posted on Microsoft’s site, albeit with degraded graphics performance that make the combination “not suitable for daily use quite yet.” Check out the forum for more information, but remember it’s still a risk to install Windows 10 on the Surface 3. Reckless souls can check out our primer on installing Windows 10 and how to create a dual-boot set-up with Windows 8.1.


10 Reasons to Embrace Windows 10

May 19th, 2015 | Edited by | software



The Windows 10 Technical Preview has been out for a few months along with various blogs, articles and presentations. There is a lot out there for both businesses and PC users to digest. Let me give you my Top 10 – not meant to be comprehensive of everything new in Windows 10, just what I find most meaningful.  In no particular order:

  1. The Windows 8.0/8.1 “live tile” UI” is now integrated into the Start Menu which can also be viewed in full screen mode.   Two worlds previously toggled via the Windows button become one, resulting in a more familiar user interface.
  2. When using a 2 in 1 system, Windows 10 optimizes the user interface for either touch or keyboard/mouse input, based on whether your device is in tablet or laptop mode.
  3. When using a laptop with a precision touchpad, Windows 10 offers new touchpad gestures for navigating through your open apps.
  4. Systems can be upgraded to Windows 10 directly from Windows 7. The option to skip Win 8.0/8.1 should be very interesting to IT managers everywhere.   Of course an upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 8.1 is possible but not from Windows 8.0.
  5. MS Word capabilities are built into Outlook. Now it’s easier to add tables, insert pictures and more. Email is foundational to business productivity and I’m glad folks are looking to continuously improve it.
  6. Windows Updates – both update type and cadence – can be customized by IT departments based on platform/user type. The needs of the business will dictate which updates get pushed when to which systems.
  7. Windows 10 offers a more secure browser with enhanced support for modern sites as well as compatibility for legacy enterprise web pages and apps.
  8. Windows 10 offers expanded and improved device management choices including Microsoft Active Directory, Azure Active Directory, Group Policy, SCCM and improved MDM support. MDM support began with Windows 8.1, enabling IT to manage Windows PCs the same way they manage mobile devices. However with Windows 10 this MDM capability offers improvements in enterprise data protection, remote wiping for lost devices and even full control over the Windows Store among other features.
  9. Speaking of the Windows Store, Microsoft is offering a web-based portal so organizations can acquire apps and then distribute them within their Windows 10 user base. It is even possible for a company to create their own private section within the Windows Store, making public and private apps easier to find so users can customize devices as directed by IT.
  10. And finally, for added security Windows 10 is adding a feature called Windows Hello, which incorporates multifactor authentication (ex: biometric data) into the login process.

Look for more information this summer as the production version of the OS is released and businesses spend more cycles testing their applications and IT images. Windows 10 coupled with Intel-based platforms is going to be a very compelling computing solution.


It’s official: Windows 10 will not be free for pirates

May 16th, 2015 | Edited by | software


Microsoft executives said Friday that the company will not offer Windows 10 for free to those without legitimate licenses to Microsoft’s software, as the company had previously seemed to say.
Terry Myerson, executive vice president of operating systems for Microsoft, wrote Friday that the company will provide “very attractive” offers to those who wish to upgrade from what he called a Windows operating system in a “non-Genuine state” to Windows 10. But, he said, it will not be free.
“While our free offer to upgrade to Windows 10 will not apply to Non-Genuine Windows devices, and as we’ve always done, we will continue to offer Windows 10 to customers running devices in a Non-Genuine state,” Myerson wrote. “In addition, in partnership with some of our valued OEM partners, we are planning very attractive Windows 10 upgrade offers for their customers running one of their older devices in a Non-Genuine state.”

If Windows thinks that the software isn’t genuine, it will create a “watermark” on the machine, notifying customers that they’re running an illegitimate copy of the software. If that happens, a customer will either need to upgrade or return the machine—assuming they just bought it—to the manufacturer itself.
“Non-Genuine Windows has a high risk of malware, fraud, public exposure of your personal information, and a higher risk for poor performance or feature malfunctions,” Myserson added. “Non-Genuine Windows is not supported by Microsoft or a trusted partner.”
What this means: This seemingly is the final act on a small drama that began in March, when Microsoft appeared to tell Reuters that it would offer free Windows 10 upgrades even to even those who had pirated the software. Two days later, however, it began walking back on that statement, claiming that pirated copies would be “still illegitimate.” Now we seem to have the final answer: If you pirate Windows, you’ll have to pay—eventually.


Google Now 4.1 teardown reveals upcoming features like voice commands, read-aloud notifications

January 17th, 2015 | Edited by | software


The Google Search 4.1 update added some cool new features to Google Now, but there’s a lot more lurking underneath the hood.
Android Police tore into the APK, finding evidence that Google has even bigger ambitions for its digital assistant. While there is no guarantee that any of the discoveries will make it into a future update, it provides a hint at how Google wants to bring even more of its machine learning prowess into Android.
Why this matters: Google Now is one of Android’s best features because it more deeply ties you to Google services, turning your phone into a more useful tool. It’s Android’s main trump card over iOS, putting key information right on your home screen, instead of keeping it locked away inside separate applications.


A smarter Google Now

One interesting find is something called Project Hera. The best we know about it so far is that it’s part of Google’s continuing effort to more deeply tie together the web, Android, and Search. Think of it as the next step in Material Design, which has been used to bring a unified look across all of Google’s products (think how Inbox looks the same on mobile or the web). If Google can more deeply tie your search data, messages, and other info to interact between the web  and Android it makes the latter just that more powerful.
The code hints at more direct social network sharing capabilities. The icons are similar to those used on Google Glass, so all those news alerts, TV suggestions, and other cards that pop up could one day be quickly shared to your favorite network.
The lock screen also gets attention, with some kind of interaction for headsets, devices like Glass, or just more voice commands. You can already use the “Okay Google” command without unlocking the phone, but Google clearly has plans for building in more capabilities here. The code indicates that similar to how the Moto X reads aloud information, your phone may be able to read to you key notifications.
One feature that’s already in place is the way the Google Now Launcher will now hang around in the foreground when you’re interacting with certain apps. This could vary, of course, depending on your specific device’s user interface. But it’s a better visual cue for what task you were working on.
Another item I’m rooting for is the capability to copy text over from your browser to your phone. Pushbullet recently added a feature like this, but it would be great to have it as a native Android feature. The code Android Police found offers some good evidence, so let’s hope it shows up eventually.

No matter which of these pan out, you’re likely to see a lot more Google Now interaction in the future of Android. We’ll keep an eye out for such features should they ever materialize.


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