All posts in “Windows 10”

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:

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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.

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is great… if you’re into 3D

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“Windows 10 Fall Creators Update” is a long, unwieldy name that should mean absolutely nothing to you.

Yes, I know, Microsoft is hell-bent on convincing us that this Windows is, even more than the last Windows update with the very similar name, all about Creators. And yes, it has many new tools for helping you make stuff. 

But Microsoft’s almost fetish-like obsession with 3D creation tools can obscure the fact that in the last few years Windows 10 has, thankfully, changed only incrementally and in largely beneficial ways.

It is increasingly a holistic system that ferries your Windows identify and content from one app, device, and even platform to the next.

Honestly, it’s the cloud that has transformed Microsoft and Windows, not 3D. But, yes, 3D creation is in there, and I’ll get to it in a minute.

Hello, familiar

If you’ve been using or adopted Windows at any time in the last three years, Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will feel like an old friend. There have been no major feature relocations or deletions (okay, maybe one) and you should have no trouble finding your now well-organized app list under Start, Windows Settings or the updated Actions an Notifications center (a swipe in from the right edge of the screen or a tap on the icon in the right corner).

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update  has a lot of newcreative tools, but is still utterly familiar.

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update  has a lot of newcreative tools, but is still utterly familiar.

Image: lance ulanoff

The system can still transform into a tablet interface that no one I know one who runs Windows really likes, but you can control that.

The Taskbar, which Microsoft has been refining since Windows 1.0 in 1985, gets a few small, but useful updates including the ability to pin important people to it. My wife’s contact info now resides under an icon down there. I can even drag and drop things I want to share with her. At one point I created a 3D heart and dropped it onto her icon. I still had to open the Mail app to send it. For the next Windows update, I’d like to build in a preset for, say, SMS so I can just drop something and text her all in one step.

If I used the Microsoft Edge Browser — yes, there are good reasons to do this — I can also pin favorite websites to the Taskbar. Then it only takes one click to launch the browser and open them. Naturally, I added Mashable.

There's a new People icon that suggests contacts I might want to pin to my Task Bar for quick access.

There’s a new People icon that suggests contacts I might want to pin to my Task Bar for quick access.

Image: microsoft

Cortana, Microsoft’s digital voice assistant continues her residency in the search box next to the Start button, anxiously waiting for you to ask her a question. You can type just about anything into the box, launching a search for files, apps, images, and random information found only on the web (Bing does the searching). Cortana doesn’t care, she’s ready to deliver it all, including more complex queries like, “Can I see my photos from October 5?” The microphone icon is there if you prefer to speak to Cortana, but you probably won’t, at least until you start using the upcoming Harman Kardon Invoke, a smart speaker with Cortana built right in.

Oddly missing from this build is the nifty Timeline, which lets you jump back to whatever you were working on with a visual interface, and Clipboard, which supports copying and pasting between you PC and smartphone. These were features Microsoft teased at this year’s Build developers conference, but now Microsoft says only that they’re coming in a future Windows update.

Make something new

Where Microsoft poured most of its attention and where you’ll find some of Windows 10’s most radical updates is in Photos, 3D Paint and its nascent Mixed Reality platform.

Photos will suck in the photos and videos in any folder I point it at and it was easy to let it auto-generate movies out of entire folders of photos. If I didn’t like what it created, I just hit the Remix button and it came up with a new cut (including new music).

Some of what it created was pretty good. I could use the editor, which is the least intimidating video editor I’ve ever seen to drag an drop video segments around, trim them and add simple filters and effects, which are especially useful on photos. While it’s easy enough to trim a video clip, I do wish the  editor let you split clips, as well. 

Your Start Menu will be familiar.

Your Start Menu will be familiar.

Image: Microsoft

Cortana is ready to help.

Cortana is ready to help.

Image: microsoft

Windows 10 is still built for a mouse and keyboard, but it’s equally adept at touch and ink. Windows Ink, the ability to use the Bluetooth Surface Pen to mark up apps, images and documents; take notes; draw; and create impressive art, is more pervasive than ever in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. In addition to the Windows Ink icon in the task tray and in the Microsoft Edge Browser, you can now ink up photos in the new creator-friendly Photos app and videos right inside the video playback and in the rudimentary video editing tool. 

I find inking excellent for marking up web pages to share with others, for taking quick notes, and for drawing in art apps and Windows 10’s own Sketchpad, but it does take some skill to, for instance, integrate something visually appealing in a video. 

Part of the problem is that the tools and how to use them are not entirely obvious. It took me a little while to realize that the ink I drew would appear where (or should I say when) in the video timeline a drew it. In addition, pinning a doodle to an object is easy, if you realize you must tap the anchor icon on top of the doodle so it turns blue and locks the doodle to the live-action object.

Yes, Windows can even help you find your lost Surface Pen.

Yes, Windows can even help you find your lost Surface Pen.

Image: Microsoft

Using my Surface Pro, I shot a short video of the Empire State Building. Then I opened it in the video playback app, selected draw, and drew a gorilla holding onto the Empire State Building spire. He appeared at the right moment in the video, but he also didn’t stay fully pinned and then, when the video zoomed in on the building, the doodle disappeared.

With enough practice, I bet I could get pretty good and creative with this, but I’m not certain how I’d use it.

Microsoft’s other big Windows 10 Fall Creators Update innovation, 3D Paint, is an even more powerful tool with somewhat questionable utility.

Before I go any further, I should tell you Paint is not gone. When I type “Paint” into Start, it still appears and loads instantly, but Microsoft does plan on moving 

Paint 3D, the app Microsoft wants you to use is so much more powerful and cleanly designed than the old Paint. As the name suggests, it has impressive 3D creation tools that, even if you’ve never touched a 3D creation app, you’ll be able to make something.

My best 3D Paint work usually started with someone else's excellent 3D creation from Remix 3D's online community/

My best 3D Paint work usually started with someone else’s excellent 3D creation from Remix 3D’s online community/

Image: microsoft

Getting to that something, though, does require patience. Working in three dimensions takes practice and so does getting the hang of Microsoft’s 3D object tools. 

I spent a lot of time simply dropping in and doodling 3D objects and manipulating them with the bounding box and 3D controls. I even figured out how to draw on top of my 3D objects so the lines wrapped around the objects, just as they would in the real world.

Yet most of what I created looked silly and rudimentary.

Objects you create in 3D paint can be exported and saved to 3D libraries. In fact, 3D Paint has access to an impressive online library of pre-made 3D objects from the Remix community. Most of them looked amazing. They didn’t look as good when I added my amateurish creations.

3D Paint shows real potential.

3D Paint shows real potential.

Image: Mcirosoft/lance ulanoff

3D creations can live in the real world.

3D creations can live in the real world.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

Much like inking capabilities, Microsoft is spreading 3D awareness across the Windows platform and into its Office productivity suite. In PowerPoint, for example, I added a 3D globe that I spun until North America faced me, tilt it up slightly and send it backward behind my text. 3D objects really add a professional-looking touch and I think business people will love them. 

I’m supposed to be able to add 3D creations to video, but I could never get this to work.

Not only can you take your 3D images into other apps, you can take them out into the real world. Mixed Reality does require more specialized PC hardware. Fortunately, Microsoft has a hardware support check app you can download.

Finally, a better way to access emoji inside Windows.

Finally, a better way to access emoji inside Windows.

Image: Microsoft

There’s a mixed reality button in 3D paint and once I selected that, it turned on my Surface Pro’s rear camera. I could see what was behind the laptop and the 3D object floating in space. I tapped on it and it dropped onto the real surface of my table or should I say close to it. The meshing of the real and 3D was somewhat imperfect. The 3D object tended to shift around a bit and float a millimeter or so above the surface of the table. Even so, it’s a cool effect and I could even pick up the laptop and move around the virtual object.

There are other useful features in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update like annotating ebooks in Edge, the ability to continue what you’re doing on your phone on the desktop. That only works for web browsing and if you’re running the very new Microsoft Edge for iOS or Android, but it’s a handy little feature. And there’s an easy-to-access emoji list. You just have to press the Windows key and a period and it pops up right over the Start button.

You can now pin your favorite Web sites to the task bar, as long as you use Microsoft Edge.

You can now pin your favorite Web sites to the task bar, as long as you use Microsoft Edge.

Image: Microsoft

I ran the final build of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update on a new Surface Pro, hoping to give the OS a fresh start. It was, mostly, smooth sailing. However, there were some bugs, like losing the connection to my Bluetooth keyboard and the number 3 repeating over and over in an open Word document. 

Restarting fixed both problems.

As a long-time Windows user, I’m pleased with the direction Microsoft is taking its venerable operating system. Windows 10 Fall Creators Update richer, faster, cleaner and, yes, more secure than ever (there are even built-in protections for ransomware). If you’re already a Windows 10 user and allow system upgrades, you really don’t have a decision to make. You’re getting this update. Whether you choose to use all that inking, 3D, and Mixed Reality creative power is up to you.

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

The Good

Powerful Easy to install and use Familiar Enormous creative power

The Bad

Creative tools are not always as easy to use as they should be Some bugginess

The Bottom Line

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update builds on an already strong platform and points toward a more creative future — if that’s your thing.

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