Monday, October 31, 2016

Azure SQL Database Now Supports Backup Retention for 10 Years

 By Luke Jones - 
October 31, 2016 9:27 pm CET 

Microsoft announced that the backup retention of Azure SQL Database has been significantly increased. The service will also make automatic weekly backups of all databases.

Azure SQL Database now support up to 10 years of Backup Retention, says Microsoft. The announcement was made on the company’s official Azure blog. Principal Program Manager of Azure SQL Database, Alexander Noscov, said the change makes it easier for customers.

This ease of use means customers can enable long-term retention in a few clicks. With this new feature you can extend the retention period from 35 days to as much as 10 year. That’s quite a difference for sure. Azure SQL Database now also supports backups that are stored within the Azure Backup Service Vault.

To support data retention requirements, Azure SQL Database now backs up more often. Indeed, Microsoft says the service will create a full backup every week for each database.

In the blog post, Noscov explains how the backups work:

“Once you add the LTR policy to a database using Azure Portal or API, these weekly backups will be automatically copied to your own Azure Backup Service Vault. If your databases are encrypted with TDE, that’s no problem — the backups are automatically encrypted at rest.

The Services Vault will automatically delete your expired backups based on their timestamp, so there’s no need to manage the backup schedule or worry about the cleanup of the old files. The following diagram shows how to add LTR policy in the Portal.”
Azure SQL Database Temporal Tables

At the start of this month, Microsoft introduced Temporal Tables to Azure SQL Database. The service allows customers to track their data history easily. Some of the uses for these tables include:
Supporting data auditing in your applications
Analyzing trends or detect anomalies over time
Easily implementing slowly changing dimension pattern
Performing fine-grained row repairs in case of accidental data errors made by humans or applications

Surface Studio is Currently Sold Out

 By Luke Jones - 
October 31, 2016 8:56 pm CET 

Announced last week, Microsoft’s stellar Surface Studio is currently up for pre-order ahead of its December launch.

Microsoft introduced us all to the Surface Studio last week, the company’s first desktop PC. It is undoubtedly an awesome piece of kit and is destined to become a huge success. Indeed, just days after its launch, the Surface Studio has already sold out.

It is worth pointing out that the PC is not yet available. It will launch on December 15 but is currently up for pre-orders. It seems getting one may prove tough.

Selling out so quickly is great news for Microsoft, not least because the device is expensive. Indeed, Microsoft is not even marketing the Surface Studio as a consumer PC, this is a unit for professionals. The entry-level machine costs a whopping $2,999 and the most expensive is $4,199.

Microsoft denies that it was targeting Apple’s customers with the Surface Studio. Instead, the company says it was seeking to create a true high-end PC for Windows creators.

Still, it is undoubtedly the most Apple-y PC you can get on the Windows platform.

We covered the introduction of the Surface Studio last week.

Below are some of the key specs:
28-inch PixelSense touchscreen with 3:2 aspect ratio
Up to quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (6th-generation ‘Skylake’)
up to 32GB RAM
up to 2TB ‘rapid hybrid drive’
Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M graphics
HD webcam
Audio port
SD card slot
Mini DisplayPort
Ethernet port
4 USB 3.0 ports
Stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium

Minecraft Coming to Apple TV Tim Cook Confirms

 By Luke Jones - 
October 28, 2016 6:51 pm CET 

Microsoft’s all-conquering Minecraft will be available on Apple TV soon, said Tim Cook. It is likely that Minecraft Pocket Edition will come to the set top box.

While Apple’s event yesterday was to launch the MacBook Pro, it was a Microsoft-lite event. Indeed, the company announced Microsoft Office integration in the Touch Bar, as we reported earlier. Also, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that Microsoft is working on bringing Minecraft to the Apple TV set top box.

There was no particular fanfare about this. Instead, Cook made a brief announcement and moved on. The CEO did say that users will be able to play directly on the Apple TV. He said gamers can create worlds on the box and said the app will be similar to Minecraft Pocket Edition.

If it is a Pocket Edition of the game, that is good for multiplayer options. Minecraft PE is available on multiple mobile platforms, including Apple’s own iOS. Functionality on the Apple TV will mean users can multiplayer with gamers on other platforms.
Recent Minecraft News

Speaking of the Pocket Edition, it recently received a major update. The extensive Boss Update dropped for the game (also the Windows 10 Edition) a week ago.

The update adds new bosses, Elder Guardians, and a Wither creature. This release should be launching directly on Apple TV.

Microsoft has yet to confirm this, so no official date has been given. Check out the full Boss Update changelog below:
“Ocean Monuments
Guardians and Elder Guardians
Prismarine, dark prismarine & prismarine bricks
Prismarine shard & prismarine crystal
Sea lantern
The Wither!
Nether star
Wet & dry sponges
Slash commands (with a handy auto complete feature). Enable cheats for a world in the options screen for access, but note that Xbox Live achievements will be disabled when you’re using ‘em!
Custom key bindings! Hooray for lefties!
A new Creative inventory search feature
Add-On section for world settings
Basic F3 support! (Win 10 only)
You can change game modes in Realms (note that doing this will restart the realm)
Ability to upload & download worlds in Realms
Ability to promote players as operators in Realms
UI improvements!
Performance improvements!
Tweaks to various mob action/behavior triggers, including fixing creeper explosions
Elder guardian de-buff visuals fixed (feedback from Android beta)
Fishing rods & arrows will fire in more than just one direction
Lots of tweaks to water textures to make underwater more fun
Tweaks to Realms settings
Visual tweaks to sun, moon & stars when rendering in VR immersive mode
Ridiculous numbers of bug fixes!”

Microsoft Azure Government DoD Regions Preview Now Available

By Luke Jones -
October 28, 2016 4:37 pm CET 

After recently announcing significant growth in Azure Government, Microsoft has launched a preview for Department of Defense regions.

Microsoft has announced the Preview for Azure Government Department of Defense (DoD) regions. The release is an Impact Level 5-ready cloud infrastructure and platform. In its announcement, Microsoft points out that it is the only hyperscale cloud provider to offer such a high level support to the DoD. The company adds it expands its commitment to the Azure Government platform.

The company has doubled down on its Azure Government strategy this week during the 5th annual Government Cloud Forum. Microsoft announced the platform has grown three times in 2016. Operations Management Suite (OMS) and Government Marketplace were also made widely available.

Through this preview, Microsoft is giving customers early access to DoD regions. With the ability to explore the infrastructure, the company is hoping for customer feedback to improve the platform before full launch. In the blog post, Microsoft confirmed general availability will come early 2017.

Microsoft has previously detailed the capabilities of Azure Government DoD regions in a previous post:

Department of Defense-specific Office 365 and Azure. By the end of 2016, physically isolated versions of Azure Government and Office 365 US Government Defense specifically for the Department of Defense (DoD) will be available in two new dedicated regions. These regions will also connect to Department of Defense (DoD) networks via Microsoft Express Route.

DoD Information Impact Level 5. These versions of Office 365 and Azure are built from the ground up to meet DoD Impact Level 5 controls. DoD agencies and companies managing controlled information will be able to use this platform for Department of Defense National Security System data. Microsoft is on track to achieve a DoD Impact Level 5 Provisional Authorization for both Office 365 and Azure.

Two additional Azure Government regions in the South West and South Central United States. Today we’re announcing our intent to expand Azure Government from new regions in Arizona and Texas. Slated to be generally available in 2017, the new regions will add to our existing regions in Virginia and Iowa and are new additions beyond the Department of Defense regions mentioned above. Now, Microsoft has a total of six dedicated regions for government customers – significantly more than any other cloud provider. Combined with dedicated Government ExpressRoute options, Microsoft offers government agencies broad choice of where they host their data and where they connect directly to Microsoft’s infrastructure.

To access DoD regions, customers need to pass a pre-qualification process. Microsoft says this is to verify that the organization is secure and to check its intended use of the platform.

Skype for Business on Mac Now Generally Available

By Luke Jones -
October 27, 2016 7:01 pm CET 

Microsoft has moved Skype for Business from preview on Mac and made it available to everyone on download. The service moves to GA with a couple of major new features.

Microsoft originally rolled out Skype for Business to Apple’s Mac platform back in April as a preview release. At the time, Microsoft announced that the client would reach full availability during the third quarter. That timeframe came and went on September 30 with no release. A little later than planned, Microsoft has announced general availability.

Skype for Business on Mac is now available to all users of the platform. The service is now available for download and will likely be a welcome sight for users. That’s because they have not had a Microsoft solution for business contacts recently. Not a modern one at least, with Lync for Mac released way back in 2011.

The company has been updating Skype for Business on Mac with new features in preview. In July, the company rolled out an update that beefed up the feature set before launch. That has continued with this GA roll out with a couple of new capabilities added to the client.

New general release features

Present in a meeting from your mobile app—Now you can present content right from Android or iOS device. No more emailing files and links back and forth when you present from your phone or tablet. Now sharing a PowerPoint deck in a meeting is as easy as selecting the file from your favorite cloud drive and presenting right from your phone. On Android, you can also share a file stored on the device itself. With swipe gestures, you can easily transition between different slides. Once shared, the PowerPoint file also becomes available in the meeting’s content bin for other participants to download or present.

Video-based Screen Sharing for mobile devices—We’re also continuing to enhance the content viewing experience with Skype for Business on mobile devices by using Video-based Screen Sharing (VbSS) for content viewing on iOS and Android apps. The initial setup is much faster, the experience more reliable, while also consuming network bandwidth efficiently. It provides a seamless viewing experience, especially if you are sharing animated content such as CAD models. Learn more about VbSS and how it can enhance your meeting experience.

Microsoft’s Macro-Malware Defense Extended to Office 2013

By Luke Jones -
October 27, 2016 5:19 pm CET 

In March, the company rolled out more macro access control to Office 2016, an ability that now comes to Office 2013 as Microsoft combats increasing macro-borne threats.

While Office 2016 is Microsoft’s lead productivity suite, millions of users are still back on Office 2013. The older service is more open to threats, especially in an increased macro-borne threat environment. To help secure Office 2013, Microsoft has drafted in a feature from its newer Office 2016 suite.

Microsoft says macro-borne threats are a real problem. The company says macros are actually a legitimate way to automate tasks in Office. It is hardly a surprise that they have also become a way to deliver malware to Office 2016/2013.

This type of attack is usually hidden in a piece of software, such as a Word document or Excel. Microsoft said “In response to the growing trend of macro-based threats, we’ve introduced a new, tactical feature in Office 2016.”

Earlier in the year, Microsoft rolled out a new feature for Office 2016 that allowed admins to block macros. The company admits that the amount of macro-malware attacks targeting Office is a concern. Indeed, 98% of all Office targeted attacks come through macros.

The feature gives more control over macro access, while alerts about suspicious emails are now more robust.

Macro-Malware Protection in Office 2013

Microsoft has now brought this feature to Office 2013. Announced in a blog post, the company says admins will need to use Group Policy Templates.

“We are pleased to announce that, as of September 2016, this feature is now part of Office 2013 – and it works in the same way as it does in Office 2016. Administrators can enable this feature for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint by configuring it under the respective application’s Group Policy Administrative Templates for Office 2013.”

Microsoft Launches Surface Studio: Company’s First PC

By Luke Jones - October 26, 2016 5:27 pm CET 210

As predicted, Microsoft launched the Surface Studio all-in-one, a beautiful aluminum desktop that is aimed at true creativity.

While the official reveal of the Windows 10 Creators Update was pretty huge, Microsoft’s event was about one thing. We suspected the New York event would be about launching a new device. That was widely believed to be the Surface all-in-one PC. That was indeed that case as Microsoft dropped the Surface Studio.

For a company based on supplying software for PCs, it is perhaps surprising that only now has Microsoft built an actual PC. However, thanks to the success of Surface, Microsoft has some serious hardware chops these days. In the computing sector at least.

The Surface Studio is a Windows 10 all-in-one that ticks all the right boxes. For a start, it is as beautiful as any Apple PC, the company often held as an aesthetic benchmark in the computing industry.

As the name suggests, this has been built for creators and professionals. That is not to say consumers will not be interested, especially if top end specs and design are your thing. It has the thinnest LCD ever made at 12.1mm, even with touchscreen. It is a 28-inch panel and has more pixels per inch than a 4K TV.
Surface Studio Specs and Price

As we say, the Surface Studio is truly focused on being a creative tour de force. The price certainly reflects its power user-appealing aspiration. If you want to get your hands on this PC, you will have to pay $2,999 for the entry level. This is a lot of PC, but that is also a lot of cost. However, the price point does also fit in to the general market for high end desktops.

Below are some of the key specs:
28-inch PixelSense touchscreen with 3:2 aspect ratio
Up to quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (6th-generation ‘Skylake’)
up to 32GB RAM
up to 2TB ‘rapid hybrid drive’
Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M graphics
HD webcam
Audio port
SD card slot
Mini DisplayPort
Ethernet port
4 USB 3.0 ports
Stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium

The Suface Studio also scores some peripheral accessories that will actually be available to all Windows 10 machines. Chief among them is the Surface Dial, which acts as an interaction tool to be placed on the display. Pushing down on the dial brings up a contextual radial menu which allows rotation and scrolling for smoother interaction. The Surface Dial costs $99.99.

The Surface Studio will launch December 15. Three configurations of the Surface Studio are available to pre-order today:

Intel Core i5 / 8GB RAM / 2GB GPU / 1TB storage | $2,999
Intel Core i7 / 16GB RAM / 2GB GPU / 1TB storage | $3,499
Intel Core i7 / 32GB RAM / 4GB GPU / 2TB storage | $4,199

Shadow Brokers reveals list of Servers Hacked by the NSA


The hacker group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, who previously claimed to have 
leaked a portion of the NSA’s hacking tools and exploits, is back with a Bang!

The Shadow Brokers published more files today, and this time the group dumped a list of foreign servers allegedly compromised by the NSA-linked hacking unit, Equation Group, in various countries to expand its espionage operations.

Top 3 Targeted Countries — China, Japan, and Korea

The data dump [Download / File Password: payus] that experts believe contains 306 domain names, and 352 IP addresses belong to at least 49 countries. As many as 32 domains of the total were run by educational institutes in China and Taiwan.

A few target domains were based in Russia, and at least nine domains include .gov websites.

The top 10 targeted countries include China, Japan, Korea, Spain, Germany, India, Taiwan, Mexico, Italy, and Russia.

The latest dump has been signed by the same key as the first Shadow Brokers’ dump of NSA exploits, though there is a lot to be done to validate the contents of the leaked data dump fully.

Targeted Systems — Solaris, Unix, Linux and FreeBSD

Most of the affected servers were running Solaris, Oracle-owned Unix-based operating system, while some were running FreeBSD or Linux.

Each compromised servers were reportedly targets of INTONATION and PITCHIMPAIR, code-names given for cyber-spy hacking programs.

The data dump also contains references to a list of previously undisclosed Equation Group tools, including Dewdrop, Incision, Orangutan, Jackladder, Reticulum, Patchicillin, Sidetrack and Stoicsurgeon.

The tools as mentioned above could be hacking implants, tools or exploits used by the NSA's notorious group.

Security researcher Mustafa Al-Bassam, an ex-member of Lulzsec and the Anonymous hacking collective, said the NSA likely compromised all the servers between 2000 and 2010.
"So even the NSA hacks machines from compromised servers in China and Russia. This is why attribution is hard," Al-Bassam added. 

Are Hackers trying to influence U.S. Presidential elections?

A message accompanying the leaked data dump calls for attempts to disrupt the forthcoming United States presidential election. The portion of message from the Shadow Brokers reads:
"TheShadowBrokers is having suggestion. On November 8th, instead of not voting, maybe be stopping the vote all together? Maybe being grinch who stopped the election from coming? Maybe hacking election is being the best idea? #hackelection2016."
Targeted victims can use the leaked files in an effort to determine if they were the potential target of the NSA-linked hacking unit.

Since the records are old, many servers should now be clean of infection. However, a brief Shodan scan of these domains indicates that some of the affected servers are still active and still running old, possibly-vulnerable systems.

The latest release comes after the FBI arrested Harold Thomas Martin, an NSA contractor, who was reportedly a prime suspect in The Shadow Brokers case.

Oppo among the fourth largest smartphone sellers by volume in Q3: IDC report

Oppo among the fourth largest smartphone sellers by volume in Q3: IDC report

Riding on the success of its latest R series smartphones in China, Oppo has for the first time taken the top spot for a full quarter in China’s smartphone market, a report said on Friday.
According to the market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), Oppo now holds fourth spot among smartphone-makers globally. Its F1 and F1 Plus smartphones are a big hit in India.
“We are delighted at Oppo’s continued growth and at the enthusiasm we are receiving from consumers in China and in our markets around the world,” said Sky Li, Oppo Global VP, MD of International Mobile Business and President of OPPO India, in a statement.
The company shipped 25.3 million devices in the third quarter, representing a year-on-year growth of 121.6 per cent, the highest among the global top-five smartphone brands.
According to Oppo, the Selfie Expert F1 Plus smartphone has also played a huge role in increasing the sales numbers. It has been the top selling Oppo device in China, helping it gain around 17.5 percent market share there.
Oppo wrapped up the quarter with the launch of two new devices, the R9s and R9s Plus, in Shanghai earlier this month.
With inputs from IANS

Motion sensor supplier for Apple and Samsung, InvenSense, exploring sales option

Motion sensor supplier for Apple and Samsung, InvenSense, exploring sales option

InvenSense Inc, a US semiconductor company that makes motion sensors for Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co, is exploring strategic alternatives, including a possible sale, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
InvenSense shares jumped as much as 13 percent on the news, and were trading up 61 cents at $7.48 by late afternoon, giving the company a market capitalisation of nearly $700 million.
If it succeeds in selling itself, InvenSense would be the latest company to be swept up by a wave of consolidation in the industry, as makers of chips for smartphones face intense price competition and seek scale.
Smartphone chip maker Qualcomm Inc agreed to buy NXP Semiconductors NV for about $38 billion this week, in the biggest-ever deal in the semiconductor industry.
InvenSense, which designs gyroscopes to help smartphones calculate motion, is working with an investment bank to explore its options, the people said. Chinese and Japanese companies are among interested suitors, they added.
There is no certainty that the sale process will result in any deal, the people cautioned.
The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. InvenSense could not be reached for comment.
Northland Capital Markets analyst Tom Sepenzis said in a research note last month that the growth of virtual reality, especially in China, could help InvenSense’s prospects.
“InvenSense is certainly well positioned as there are no Chinese companies offering gyroscopes,” Sepenzis said.
InvenSense, which competes with STMicroelectronics NV and Bosch Sensortech, got a boost in August when Pacific Crest Securities upgraded the rating on its stock, arguing the gyroscopes are essential to mobile phones for augmented reality games such as Pokemon Go.
InvenSense’s chief executive Behrooz Abdi talked up the Pokemon Go opportunity on the company’s last earnings call in July, and said more consumers playing games that involve moving around with their phones would boost demand for its gyroscope products.

Xiaomi Redmi 4 spotted on Tenaa; shows 3GB RAM, Snapdragon 625 and more

Xiaomi Redmi 4 spotted on Tenaa; shows 3GB RAM, Snapdragon 625 and more

Image: TENAA
Xiaomi, it seems, does not want to take a break from launching smartphones. After announcing the Mi Note 2 and the bezel-free Mi Mix at an event in Beijing this week, there are already rumours about the Redmi 4 sprouting up online.
According to the latest leak on Chinese certification site TENAA, Xiaomi’s Redmi 4 was spotted.This will be the upgrade of the Redmi 3 smartphone.
The leak states that Redmi 4 will come with a 5-inch FullHD display. It will run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 chipset which has a 1.4GHz octa-core processor. This will be paired with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage which is expandable to 128GB.
On the camera front, the Xiaomi Redmi 4 is expected to have a 13MP rear camera with dual LED flash unit and a 5MP front-facing camera. The phone will run Android 6.0 Marshmallow along with Xiaomi’s custom MIUI skin atop it. There appears to be a fingerprint scanner in the top half on the rear side.
The Xiaomi Redmi 4 is expected to come with a 4000mAh battery. The Xiaomi Redmi 4 is speculated to be priced at CNY 699 (approx Rs 7000) which places it pretty much at the price point of the Redmi 3 when it had launched in India.
While there has been no official statement from Xiaomi, speculations online point to a November release date for the Xiaomi Redmi 4.

EU data protection watchdogs warn WhatsApp, Yahoo on privacy

EU data protection watchdogs warn WhatsApp, Yahoo on privacy

European privacy watchdogs warned WhatsApp on Friday over sharing user information with parent company Facebook, and cautioned Yahoo over a 2014 data breach and scanning of customer emails for US intelligence purposes.
The popular messaging service’s recent change in privacy policy to start sharing users’ phone numbers with Facebook – the first policy change since WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 – has attracted regulatory scrutiny in Europe.
The Italian antitrust watchdog on Friday also announced a separate probe into whether WhatsApp obliged users to agree to sharing personal data with Facebook.
The European Union’s 28 data protection authorities said in a statement they had requested WhatsApp stop sharing users’ data with Facebook until the “appropriate legal protections could be assured” to avoid falling foul of EU data protection law.
WhatsApp’s new privacy policy involves the sharing of information with Facebook for purposes that were not included in the terms of service when users signed up, raising questions about the validity of users’ consent, the authorities, known as the Article 29 Working Party (WP29), said.
A spokeswoman for WhatsApp said the company was working with data protection authorities to address their questions.
“We’ve had constructive conversations, including before our update, and we remain committed to respecting applicable law,” she said.
Facebook has had run-ins with European privacy watchdogs in the past over its processing of users’ data. However, the fines that regulators can levy are paltry in comparison to the revenues of the big U.S. tech companies concerned.
The EU data protection authorities also wrote to

Italy antitrust agency probes WhatsApp messaging service over data-sharing with Facebook

Italy antitrust agency probes WhatsApp messaging service over data-sharing with Facebook

Representational image: Reuters
Italy’s antitrust watchdog said on Friday it had opened a probe into whether messaging service WhatsApp obliged users to agree to sharing personal data with its parent company Facebook and imposed “unfair” conditions on users.
WhatsApp said in August it would start sharing phone numbers with the social network, prompting European regulators to declare they would put the matter under close scrutiny.
The Italian agency said it was investigating whether the WhatsApp application had led users to believe they would have not been able to continue using it unless they agreed to terms and conditions including the sharing of personal data.
It is also looking into WhatsApp’s terms of use including only the provider having the right to terminate the agreement, and “unjustified” interruptions to service.
The maximum fine that could be levied at the end of the investigation is 5 million euros ($5.47 million).
A spokeswoman for WhatsApp said the company was working with data protection authorities to address their questions.

Google Pixel: Company wants to make voice-powered Assistant better than rivals Siri and Cortana

Google Pixel: Company wants to make voice-powered Assistant better than rivals Siri and Cortana

About six months ago, people working on hardware and the voice-activated Google Assistant for the Pixel phone started sitting next to each other at the company’s Mountain View, California headquarters, hammering out minute details of its first phone.
The new seating arrangement illustrated a much larger shift underway at Alphabet Inc’s Google, which crashed Apple Inc’s smartphone revolution eight years ago by giving away its Android software and letting handset makers do the rest.
Google software now runs on 85 percent of the world’s smartphones, but as voice control threatens to replace touch as the primary means of using a hand-held device, the company is experimenting with a different approach – more akin to Apple’s tight integration of hardware and software.
The Pixel’s hardware and Assistant teams gather for happy hour every Friday and have already received a prototype for the camera on next year’s phone, said Brian Rakowski, vice president of product for Google’s Android operating system.
Their ambition: to make the company’s voice-powered digital assistant better than rivals such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft Corp’s Cortana.
“We really wanted the Assistant on the phone to feel like a natural extension of the ways you ask Google for information,” Rakowski said in an interview.
The fusion of hardware and software is key to that goal. Certain specifications are crucial for a high-performing assistant, such as a well-placed microphone and a powerful processor to crunch reams of data.
Creating an app isn’t enough; that requires a few clicks for users to get to it.
The hardware and software teams worked closely on details such as the graphics that appear when users call up the assistant, settling on a flurry of colorful dots, which Rakowski called a “whimsical touch to give a little bit of life to the home button.”
The Assistant is always at the ready on the Pixel phone and can be summoned by pressing the home button or saying the words “OK Google.”
By integrating the Assistant into the Pixel, Google “doesn’t have to do negotiations with another handset maker – they can make it as tight as they want,” said Charles Jolley, chief executive of Ozlo, which offers a digital assistant by the same name.
To make sure users get the best possible experience, the Assistant will live only on Google products such as the Pixel, at least for now.
In the long term, however, it is unclear whether Google will keep it that way, or return to its original phone strategy and try to push the product out to the millions of smartphones running on other manufacturers’ Android phones, at the risk of offering a slightly lower-quality experience.
Rakowski said making sure the Assistant works well on other phones would require a close level of integration with handset makers, beyond the typical work that happens on the Android operating system.
“We want all these features of the Assistant to work well and work quickly and be nicely integrated so it gives the right idea of what the Assistant can do,” he said “We don’t want it to feel limited or bolted on in any way.”
He admits it could be challenging to execute the Assistant on some current Android phones.
“You can’t do some of the always-on ‘OK Google’ detection on some phones because they don’t include the right hardware to do that,” he

Facebook adds features to helps US citizens decide who they want as their next President

Facebook adds features to helps US citizens decide who they want as their next President

Image: Reuters
With 8 November election day just around the corner, Facebook has introduced a new feature to help voters decide who they want to be their next president.
“Today, we’re introducing a new feature that shows you what’s on the ballot — from candidates to ballot initiatives,” Facebook announced on Friday.
Although the Facebook vote planner shows where the candidates stand on the issues before you make your selection, the social networking giant denies that it wants to make any kind of interference with your choice.
“How you vote is a personal matter, and we’ve taken steps to make sure that you have utmost control over your plan,” Facebook said in a statement.
“After you make a selection, you have to choose who you want to be able to see it (“Only me” or “Friends”). For example, you may want to be private about your choice for president, but share with friends your pick for a congressional race or a ballot initiative,” it added.
On the election day, Americans will not only decide who their next president or vice president will be, but they will also vote for some new members of Congress, state governors, as well as state and local officials.
And as not all states in the US mail out sample ballots ahead of an election, this can make it challenging to find comprehensive information about the questions voters will be expected to consider when they walk into the voting booth.
“Thanks to data gathered from election officials by the nonpartisan Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL), we can present you with a preview of the ballot you’ll receive on November 8,” Facebook said.
With the new feature, you can preview the races and issues you will see on your ballot, learn more about the candidates and their positions, then email yourself your choices for later reference.
The feature presents candidates in random order. Users can view their issue positions (information candidates have provided about their policy positions), their endorsements, recent posts and their website.
“You can also add a candidate to your favorites to create your plan to bring with you on Election Day,” the statement said.

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