All posts in “Windows 10”

Microsoft and Xiaomi to collaborate on AI, cloud computing and hardware

After Microsoft signed a deal to test Windows 10 on Xiaomi devices in 2015 and then Xiaomi bought a trove of patents to help run other Microsoft services on its devices in 2016, today the two companies announced another chapter in its collaboration. Xiaomi and Microsoft have signed a Strategic Framework Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work more closely in the areas of cloud computing, AI (including Microsoft’s Cortana business) and hardware.

To date, Xiaomi has largely focused its mobile phone strategy in Asia Pacific, where Gartner revealed yesterday that it (and Huawei) were the only two vendors to increase their market shares at a time of general decline. This deal could point to how Xiaomi is looking to raise its game in the West, specifically in the US.

On the side of Microsoft, it’s particularly interesting given that the company has largely pulled back on a lot of its hardware efforts, and has visibly had some major stumbles in this area especially in mobile — most recently with its failure to take on and grow the Nokia mobile business and Windows Mobile.

Understanding that this isn’t an area that Microsoft can quite quit altogether, it seems that the company is going to have one more go now on a slightly different framework.

“Xiaomi is one of the most innovative companies in China, and it is becoming increasingly popular in various markets around the world,” said Harry Shum, EVP of Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, in a statement. “Microsoft’s unique strengths and experience in AI, as well as our products like Azure, will enable Xiaomi to develop more cutting-edge technology for everyone around the world.”

“Microsoft has been a great partner and we are delighted to see both companies deepening this relationship with this strategic MoU,” Wang Xiang, Global Senior Vice President and Head of International Business, Xiaomi, added in his statement. “Xiaomi’s mission is to deliver innovation to everyone around the world. By collaborating with Microsoft on multiple technology areas, Xiaomi will accelerate our pace to bring more exciting products and services to our users. At the same time, this partnership would allow Microsoft to reach more users around the world who are using Xiaomi products.”

The deal covers four major areas of services for the two companies.

Cloud support will include Xiaomi using Microsoft Azure for data storage, bandwidth and computing and other cloud services. Meanwhile, Xiaomi’s efforts in laptops and “laptop-style devices” that run Windows will be co-marketed by Microsoft. Then Microsoft is also going to be talking with Xiaomi on how to improve collaboration on AI-powered speakers using Cortana.

That appears to be just the start for the company’s AI collaborations. They also “intend to explore multiple cooperative projects based on a broad range of Microsoft AI technologies, such as Computer Vision, Speech, Natural Language Processing, Text Input, Conversational AI, Knowledge Graph and Search, as well as related Microsoft AI products and services, such as Bing, Edge, Cortana, XiaoIce, SwiftKey, Translator, Pix, Cognitive Services and Skype,” Microsoft said in a statement.

No financial terms to the arrangement are being given but we are asking.

4 reasons why you should be using VLC 3.0, the best media player ever

Image: videolan organization, mashable composite

VLC, the world’s best open-source media player (it plays like virtually every format), just reached a big milestone in its 17-year history.

The free app’s been updated to version 3.0 “Vetinari” and with it comes a hefty list of new features like the ability to natively play 360-degree videos and HDR content.

You can find the full list of detailed feature additions on the VideoLAN Organization’s website. We’ve plucked out the four most important new features.

1. Supports HDR videos

Phones like the Razer Phone (pictured) have HDR-ready screens.

Phones like the Razer Phone (pictured) have HDR-ready screens.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

The future of all video content is HDR (High Dynamic Range). The video format makes videos pop more with higher contrast, wider range of color, and increased brightness. Simply put: HDR videos look superior to non-HDR content.

There are several competing HDR formats. VLC 3.0 supports HDR10. You still need a TV, computer, tablet, or phone that supports HDR to play HDR10 content. But if you’ve got both the hardware and software pieces, you’re good to go.

2. Plays 360-degree videos

Shooting 360-degree video has never been easier. It’s watching and sharing the immersive videos that’s a pain in the ass. Up until now, you either had to use proprietary software that’s specific to your 360 camera or upload the video to YouTube or Facebook and deal with the compression. 

But not anymore. Now you can play your 360-degree videos in VLC 3.0 and pan around in full resolution. And, so can your friends and family, so long as they install it, too. And why shouldn’t they? The app’s free.

3. Stream to Chromecast

Plug these cheap Google Chromecast dongles into your TV's HDMI port, and blammo, you can now beam video to it from your phone or laptop with VLC 3.0.

Plug these cheap Google Chromecast dongles into your TV’s HDMI port, and blammo, you can now beam video to it from your phone or laptop with VLC 3.0.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

You got content. Lots of delicious, crispy, high-res content, and you want to view it all on your big high-res TV without needing to wire up via HDMI. How do you it? 

Simple: Chromecast. In the works since 2016, VLC 3.0 finally lets you easily beam your content to another screen. Chromecast support is only available for Windows and Android devices (macOS isn’t supported yet).

4. Smoother 4K and 8K video playback 

For power users and real AV nerds, VLC 3.0 also supports hardware acceleration for 4K and 8K resolution videos. What that means is, the media player can tap into the processing power of your device’s graphics chip to render videos smoothly without any stuttering or jitteriness. 

Here’s an 8K, 48 frames per second, 360-degree video playing, smooth as butter, on a Samsung Galaxy S8:

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And here’s a hardware-accelerated 8K, 60 frames per second, 360-degree video playing on a Lenovo laptop running Windows 10:

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Cybersecurity researchers breach Windows 10 facial recognition with a photo

Researchers at the German IT Security company SySS GmbH successfully fooled the Windows 10 facial recognition system by using a printed photo of the user’s face.

Their spoofing efforts were published on the cybersecurity site Seclists on Dec. 18. The cybersecurity experts bypassed Windows Hello — which is Microsoft’s password-free security software — on both a Dell and Microsoft laptop running different versions of Windows 10, which is cause for concern for anyone using this feature to log into their account. 

Deceiving Windows 10 didn’t take too much effort. It just required “having access to a suitable photo of an authorized person” to “easily” bypass the system, wrote the experts. The photo required is the full image of someone’s face — so if someone really wants to attempt to deceive the facial recognition system, the barriers aren’t too great. 

Similar to Apple’s Face ID, it might be wise to view Windows Hello as a convenience feature, not a security feature. 

Similar to the iPhone X’s Face ID camera, Hello Windows uses an infrared camera (either built-in the or added separately) to recognize the unique shape and contours of a face before granting or denying access to a Windows account. But a flaw was found, specifically “an insecure implementation of the biometric face recognition in some Windows 10 versions.”

They show their work below:

[embedded content]

Many — but not all — Windows versions are vulnerable. In 2016, Microsoft included a new feature called Enhanced Anti-Spoofing to limit this sort of picture trickery. But even if this feature is enabled in your Windows settings, the researchers found a way to bypass the facial recognition system that ran older Windows versions, such as a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 device running 2016’s Windows 10 Anniversary update, for instance.

However, the SySS researchers found that two new Windows versions, 1703 and 1709, are not vulnerable to their most simple spoofing attacks (using a printed photograph) if Enhanced Anti-Spoofing is enabled. 

Their ultimate recommendation: Updating to Windows 10 version 1709, enabling anti-spoofing, and then having Windows Hello reanalyze your face.

If this sounds unappealing or risky, you can always go back to using a (not dumb) password. Infrared facial recognition in consumer applications is still relatively new, so flaws should be expected. 

Similar to Apple’s Face ID, it might help to view Windows Hello as a convenience feature, not a security feature. 

Mashable has contacted Microsoft for comment and will update this story upon hearing back.

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Caught between Mac and Windows? This crossover program could help.

Operate Windows on a Mac, without a Windows license.
Operate Windows on a Mac, without a Windows license.

Image: Pexels

As Mick Jagger once moaned into a microphone, you can’t always get what you want — and computers are no exception.

Windows-powered computers are still some of the most popular models money can buy. But with their razor-sharp aesthetics and user-friendly edge, Apple’s slew of MacBooks are climbing their way to the top.

Switching from Windows to Mac may be a logical decision, but there’s just one problem: You bought a bunch of Windows-only programs. So what are you supposed to do, start from scratch?  And waste plenty of resources and money? Um, no thank you. Fortunately, a program called CrossOver 17 offers a way for you to run all your favorite apps and games on your new computer.

Once you download CrossOver 17 onto your Mac, you can install and run Windows programs without buying a Windows license, rebooting your computer, or investing in some virtual machine. Simply drag and drop your favorite programs onto your Mac dock and you’re all set.

If you’re looking to kick it old school with a Linux computer, which has been around since the ’90s, CrossOver 17 has a Windows to Linux version, too.

CrossOver 17 usually costs $40, which is a steal when you think about how much money you’re saving on new software. But for the next few days, you can buy it for $19 — that’s more than 50% off. Whether you’re getting a new computer for the holidays or looking for the perfect gift for your tech-obsessed kid, it’s a no-brainer. 

Microsoft expands HoloLens headsets to 29 new markets, now up to 39

Nearly three years on from Microsoft unveiling its HoloLens augmented reality headsets, the company today announced a major expansion of its availability: 29 more markets in Europe, nearly tripling the total number of countries where you can buy the device up to 39.

The news shows that while we don’t have a firm number of how many units have been sold, we do know that Microsoft is banking on the device, a non-immersive experience that lets you interact with visual digital images while still being able to see a room as you would normally, as a core piece of its future hardware and software efforts in a bid to compete against the likes of Apple and Google.

“This is where we believe computing is going,” said Lorraine Bardeen, general manager of Microsoft HoloLens and Windows experiences, who announced he expansion today at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in London. “We can bring all your apps and programs right into your world, but you can still see all the things in your world that matter to you.”

No details so far on when devices in the expanded list will ship, or what local prices will be (we are asking and will update as we learn more). Currently, Microsoft sells a “Development Edition” of the device for $3,000 and a “Commercial Suite” with added enterprise features for $5,000.

The new countries — Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey — come one year after Microsoft first took the HoloLens outside of the U.S., when it launched it in Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It has since then also expanded it to its first Asian country, Japan. A reported launch in China earlier this year seems not to have materialised yet.

There has been some debate about Microsoft’s strategy of being an early mover in AR — specifically whether banking it primarily around hardware rather than software for readily-available devices (as Apple and Google have done respectively with ARKit and ARCore) has been the wisest move for the company. For now, it seems that it’s the route that Microsoft will continue to take.

If the first wave of international rollouts helped Microsoft hit all Europe’s largest markets, today’s news underscores how Microsoft is now entering a wider, scaling phase for its mixed-reality hardware, and points to the company’s intention to keep it at the center of its future hardware plays, particularly as Microsoft continues to push into enterprise tools and services.

“At Microsoft we are on a mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more,” said Bardeen. “Mixed reality has the potential to help customers and businesses across the globe do things that, until now, have never been possible. Mixed reality experiences will help businesses and their employees complete crucial tasks faster, safer, more efficiently, and create new ways to connect to customers and partners.”

As of March 2017, Microsoft said that there were 150 apps built to work on HoloLens, and the expansion will potentially see that number growing. Microsoft has also been working on HoloLens hardware: a second generation of the device (which has yet to be released) is slated to feature its own AI chip, which will move some of the computing power off the cloud and localise it on the device.

The HoloLens is built to run with Windows 10, which natively supports holographic interfaces at the the API level. This lets developers program actions through gaze, gesture, voice and “environmental understanding” (that is, making sure that an object doesn’t pass through a wall, but bumps against it); and also more easily translate Windows 10 apps into apps that can work on the HoloLens.

While the majority of the world has yet to sign on to using and embracing augmented and virtual reality applications, these are important steps in making mixed-reality applications and devices less awkward and part of the more seamless continuum of consumer electronics and computing.