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A blockchain/IoT combo could reduce food fraud by $131B in five years

Using blockchain and IoT tracking technology to trace the journey food takes from farms to grocery store shelves will “revolutionize” the food industry, reducing retailers’ costs by streamlining supply chains and simplifying regulatory compliance, according to a new study by UK-based Juniper Research.

The report said blockchain’s immutable ledger, combined with IoT sensors and trackers, is key to creating a more efficient food recall process.

Food fraud relates to mislabelled, diluted or substituted food and ingredients.

“For example, extra virgin olive oil labelled as originating from Greece when in fact it comes from somewhere else,” said Juniper analyst Morgane Kimmich. “Much of the interest in the technology also comes from the fact that blockchain has the potential to give more control to all actors involved in the process, from farmers to retailers, by providing them with a transparent and immutable platform offering full visibility of the supply chain.”

[ Read the Download: Beginner’s guide to blockchain special report ]

With adoption increasing in the supply chain industry, blockchain and IoT will create $31 billion in food fraud savings globally by 2024 by immutably tracking food across the supply chain. Substantial savings in food fraud will be realized as early as 2021 and compliance costs will be reduced by 30% by 2024.

Currently, food tracking systems heavily rely on paper-based transactions to manually track assets throughout the supply chain, an inefficient system that allows records to be lost or unreconciled, Kimmich said. Additionally, paper-based records cannot be shared by all supply chain users, which reduces the overall visibility of the supply chain.

Starbucks mobile app Starbucks

Starbucks’ and Microsoft are creating a mobile “bean to cup” tracking app that may look like this and enable customers to see where their coffee was grown and the journey it took to their cup.

“Furthermore, companies often have to rely on intermediaries to perform these tasks. All of this adds a level of complexity to the supply chain, which in turn increases inefficiency, fraud and waste,” Kimmich said.

Private or “permissioned” blockchains can be created within a company’s four walls or between trusted partners and centrally administered while retaining control over who has access to information on the network.

Blockchain can also be used between business partners, such as a cloud vendor, a financial services provider and its clients.

While IoT devices shipped with goods link the physical and digital worlds primarily via location tracking sensors and temperature and humidity monitoring, blockchain provides a place where the data can be stored and accessed by everyone on the ledger. Ledger users can also be segmented so sensitive business data isn’t exposed to competitors, the report said.

The distributed ledger technology’s innate capabilities have not been lost on enterprises as pilots and proofs of concept are sprouting up across the industry. Twenty percent of the top 10 global grocers will use blockchain by 2025, according to a Gartner study.

“Blockchain can help deliver confidence to grocer’s customers, and build and retain trust and loyalty,” Joanne Joliet, a senior research director at Gartner, said in a statement. “Grocery retailers are trialing and looking to adopt blockchain technology to provide transparency for their products. Additionally, understanding and pinpointing the product source quickly may be used internally, for example to identify products included in a recall.”

Juniper’s research found IoT and blockchain will add significant value to players in the supply chain, from farmers to retailers and consumers. By replacing lengthy procedures with automated smart contracts, blockchain and the IoT save money, reduce risk and bring transparency to supply chains.

Juniper Research recommended that blockchain vendors seek IoT partnerships to appeal to stakeholders across the food production market. In some cases, that’s already happening.

The supply chain industry has been active in the blockchain space for the past two years, according to Kimmich.

In 2017, IBM launched Food Trust, a blockchain network based on the Hyperledger protocol; since then, it’s attracted a large group of leading food suppliers who are piloting it as part of a consortium. The group includesDole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, and Unilever.

In October, IBM announced a blockchain-based supply chain service with AI and IoT integration, adding to the company’s existing blockchain cloud offering.

Last year, Walmart completed two pilots using suppliers of mangoes and pork; after a proof-of-concept, the food-tracking blockchain network is now in production. Walmart told suppliers of produce to get onto its blockchain by the September of this year. The products on the blockchain-based supply chain also powered by IBM’s Food Trust Solution range from poultry and berries to yogurt and lettuce. And Walmart Canada just launched the “world’s largest” blockchain-based freight-and-payment network.

“While IBM’s Food Trust is the current market leader in blockchain-powered food tracking with 188 organizations shaping its network, other players are building on their solutions this year,” Kimmich said.

Oracle plans on strengthening its existing asset tracking solutions with supply chain temperature monitoring along with warranty and usage tracking, Kimmich added, while SAP currently supports 565 different products and engages with 70% of the US market.

walmart shoot bison winnipeg blockchain Walmart

Bison Transport was a carrier partner in the Walmart Canada’s pilot for a new freight and payment network based on blockchain and IoT. According to Rod Hendrickson, vice president of finance for Bison Transport, the end result is “a mutually beneficial solution.”

Meanwhile, Starbucks has partnered with Microsoft to build a blockchain supply chain aimed at tracking coffee beans from farms to stores and create a mobile app that lets customers track the supply chain journey of the beans they buy and the coffee they drink.

GrainChain, a blockchain-based supply chain service based in McAllen, Texas, is also being piloted by roughly 10% of Honduras coffee growers, or about 12,000 farmers, with an eye on going into full production around April 2020.

“When coffee farmers don’t have access to formal financial systems and formal contracts for purchase, they are the ones pushed down in the industry,” Macias said. “One of the larger focuses in the overall industry…is to find solutions to not only have more financial inclusion but enhance the ability for coffee producers to have a marketplace.”

supply chain blockchain coffee beans hand with coffee cup of coffee by nathan dumlao via unsplash Frankie / Gerson Cifuentes / Nathan Dumlao / Modified by IDG Comm. (CC0)

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Which Author Was Forced To Bring One Of His Beloved Characters Back To Life After Years Of Public Pressure?

wood cut of the death scene from Sherlock Holmes
Sidney Paget/The Strand Magazine 1893.

Answer: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

In 1893, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the prolific author best known for creating detective Sherlock Holmes, did the unthinkable: he penned a story that ended with the death of his crafty and beloved detective. “The Final Problem,” published in the December issue of The Strand Magazine, featured a standoff between Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty that led to the two of them tumbling to their deaths in a deep ravine.

Doyle’s motivation for killing off his most beloved creation was simple. He wanted to stop writing about Sherlock Holmes and focus his energy on other historical novels he’d been planning. Doyle underestimated just how much the public loved Sherlock Holmes, however, and after nearly a decade of public pressure to resurrect the detective, he did just that. In 1901, he began publishing serialized tales in The Strand Magazine again. These serialized tales became the foundation for the enormously popular novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, published in 1902.

The success of The Hound of the Baskervilles eventually led to a revisionist story (The Adventure of the Empty House) that brought the dear Sherlock Holmes back to life (Dr. Watson, it was revealed, had not seen the events in The Final Problem clearly and Holmes had survived).

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Gartner sees blockchain as ‘transformational’ across industries – in 5 to 10 years

Research firm Gartner, whose past evaluations of blockchain have been conservative to say the least, expects the distributed ledger technology to transform the ways businesses operate in most industries within five to 10 years.

Right now, however, blockchain for most industries remains mired between inflated industry expectations and general disillusionment with regard to how it can improve business processes, according Gartner’s latest “Hype Cycle” report.

The report was released at the firm’s annual IT Symposium/Xpo 2019 conference, which took place this week. At the conference, CIOs were surveyed about how they perceive blockchain technology.

“Even though they are still uncertain of the impact blockchain will have on their businesses, 60% of CIOs in the Gartner 2019 CIO Agenda Survey said that they expected some level of adoption of blockchain technologies in the next three years,” David Furlonger, a Gartner distinguished research vice president, said in a statement. “However, the existing digital infrastructure of organizations and the lack of clear blockchain governance are limiting CIOs from getting full value with blockchain.”

Gartner’s annual survey of CIOs was conducted from April through June and had 3,102 respondents from 89 countries and across major industries, including manufacturing, government, professional services, banking, energy/utilities, education, insurance, retail, healthcare, transportation, communications and media.

Last year, a Gartner CIO survey revealed on average that only 3.3% of companies worldwide had actually deployed blockchain in a production environment.

In a blog post at that time, Gartner distinguished research vice president Avivah Litan listed eight hurdles needed for the technology to meet the goals stated by tech  providers hawking it as a cure-all for virtually any international, transactional network need – from fee-less, cross-border payments to supply chain tracking. Those hurdles included technically scalable blockchains, advances in smart contract technology, transaction risk assurance, data confidentiality, and an efficient consensus algorithm.

Blockchains require a consensus among users before new data can be saved to the immutable ledger; most often, at least 51% of computer nodes validating ledger entries must agree before new blocks can be added.

In the latest Gartner research data, banking and investment services industries continued to see high levels of interest from innovators looking to improve decades-old operations and processes. But only 7.6% of respondents to the CIO Survey suggested that blockchain is a game-changing technology. That said, nearly 18% of banking and investment services CIOs said they have adopted or will adopt some form of blockchain technology within the next 12 months, and nearly another 15% plan to do so within two years.

Blockchain proofs of concept or pilots are showing up in several key areas in banking and investments services, “primarily focused on permissioned ledgers,” Furlonger said. That refers to centrally-controlled blockchain networks whose participants are previously vetted before being allowed to participate.

“We also expect continued developments in the creation and acceptance of digital tokens,” Furlonger continued. “However, considerable work needs to be completed in non-technology-related activities such as standards, regulatory frameworks and organization structures for blockchain capabilities to reach the Plateau of Productivity –  the point at which mainstream adoption takes off, in this industry.”

Gartner gauges the maturation of new technology through its “Hype Cycle,” a graphic-based life-cycle that follows five phases: from the Technology Trigger, when proof-of-concept stories and media interest emerges, to the Plateau of Productivity, when mainstream adoption occurs – if the technology is more than niche.

Among those five Hype Cycles is the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” followed by the “Trough of Disillusionment,” when interest wanes as pilots and fail to deliver and tech providers either work out the kinks and improve the technology, or ultimately fall short and die out.

The 2019 Gartner, Inc. Hype Cycle for Blockchain Business Gartner

In retail, blockchain is being considered for “track and trace” services, counterfeit prevention, inventory management and auditing – any of which could be used to improve product quality or food safety. For example, Walmart has adopted blockchain to track produce from farm to shelf.

While supply chains have value, the real impact of blockchain for retail will depend on supporting new ideas — such as using it to transform or augment loyalty programs, according to Gartner. For example, through loyalty cards, retail businesses can offer customers digital currency such as bitcoin that can be exchanged for various other currencies, goods or services.

“Once it has been combined with the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain has the potential to change retail business models forever, impacting both data and monetary flows and avoiding centralization of market power,” Gartner  said.

As a result, Gartner believes that blockchain has the potential to transform business models across all industries — but the opportunities demand that enterprises adopt complete blockchain ecosystems. Without tokenization and decentralization, most industries will not see real business value.

The journey to create a multi-company blockchain consortium is inherently awkward, Garter said.

“Making wholesale changes to decades-old enterprise methodologies is hard to achieve in any situation. However, the transformative nature of blockchain works across multiple levels simultaneously (process, operating model, business strategy and industry structure), and depends on coordinated action across multiple companies.”

In particular, Gartner recommends that CIOs:
■ Continue to educate executives and senior leaders about the blockchain opportunities and challenges most critical for business.
■ Build thought leadership within IT and fight unwarranted vendor hype.
■ Expect different industry domains (upstream, midstream, downstream and marketing) and functional areas (such as commodity trading, international cash management, field supply chains and data integrity) to adopt blockchain on different timelines.
■ Continue to develop proofs of concept internally as well as part of market consortiums.
■ Expect complicated challenges as early solutions will likely be a mix of significant
process redesign, agile solution development, multiple cloud integrations and a large number of integration points with legacy systems.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Apple will soon see the benefit of years of work in India

Apple’s painstaking efforts to unlock the market potential of India seem to be releasing the pent-up demand that exists there for its products.

Reaching people where they are

India’s market protectionism has been a big problem for Apple until relatively recently. Apple has worked closely with government agencies to try to find ways through these economic challenges.

It has invested in a major development hub at which it developed many of the huge improvements in Maps it is currently rolling out. It is manufacturing iPhones in the country, and recently supported the launch of a major Apple Premium Reseller store in Mumbai, India (the first of several planned openings, including in Bangalore and Delhi).

The reseller is offering a deeply Apple-like store experience, which provides the approximately 18 million people who live in Mumbai a chance to try the Apple products they’ve been reading about.

Apple is also hoping to open its own retail outlets there, but India’s 30% local sourcing rules have impeded this, hence the decision to work with partners.

The ship seems to be turning around

Along with signs of government support, the Apple’s efforts are driving growth in its business in India.

Speaking during a recent financial call, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, noted double-digit YoY revenue growth in the country, with iPhone shipments climbing 19 percent.

“India bounced back. During the quarter, we returned to growth there. We’re very happy with that,” Cook said.

What’s interesting is how the nature of those shipments has also changed:

Counterpoint Research claims that around 40% of Apple’s iPhone revenues in India were previously generated by iPhone 6 sales.

But the researchers also say the decision earlier this year to knock around $240 from the cost of the  iPhone XR helped that model become Apple’s best-selling device, contributing half of all iPhone shipments there.

“These trends suggest that if Apple gets the pricing right in emerging markets, there is a pent-up demand for iPhones,” explained Counterpoint.

There’s certainly a lot of people already exploring the opportunities of the iOS economy. Apple has previously said that Indian app developers have built almost 100,000 iOS apps and that the iOS app economy already contributes an estimated 740,000 jobs.

Green shoots of change

Speaking on a visit to India in 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook observed:

“The truth is there’s going to be a lot of people [in India] and a lot of people in the middle class that will really want a smartphone, and I think we can compete well for some percentage of those.”

Since then Apple’s market share in India has certainly been eclipsed by local and Chinese brands – but the recent success of its new iPhone XR pricing strategy hints that Apple is now reaching more consumers.

(Bear in mind the average cost of a smartphone in the country is around $158, according to IDC.)

Cost may be an issue, but as Apple diversifies its platforms and develops products suitable for the post-PC, post-smartphone era, it will find multiple ways to stimulate interest there.

Then there’s the movies…

Bringing Bollywood

Services will certainly be part of the company’s attempt.

Worldwide over half of TV viewing is expected to take place on mobile devices by 2022. Some places are more mobile than others— Netflix recently said members in India watch more content on their mobiles than anywhere else in the world.

While initially focused on the U.S., Apple’s new Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade services can easily be rewired to help build business in India.

With a market as digitally-savvy, Apple would have to be insanely second rate to ignore the opportunity providing entertainment services in India may unlock – which is precisely why it isn’t ignoring it…

India’s Eros International owns a vast library of Bollywood content and has 18.8 million Eros Now streaming media service subscribers. The company is suffering a little as Amazon, Netflix and others compete for eyeballs in India, but it has high hopes – and Apple is part of them.

During its recent Q4FY19 earnings call, Eros Digital CEO, Rishika Lulla Singhinformed us that: “With Apple, we are launching, in over a 100 countries, being the only international partner for their new services plan.”

In other words, Apple is bringing Bollywood.

When a plan comes together…

Cracking complex new markets takes time – huge enterprises need to be capable of responding appropriately and sensitively to local market need and must also be prepared to deliver solutions that meet local consumer aspirations. Irrelevance doesn’t win in any market.

With a new approach to price, improving high-level relationships, investments in education, manufacturing, retail and partnerships with key local players, such as Eros International, Apple has built a relevant local business offering for India.

This seems to be what Apple has been pulling together since Cook in 2016 explained: “We’re not here for a quarter, or two quarters, or the next year, or the next year… We’re here for a thousand years.”

Having spent so much time on the plan already, we will see how Apple manages its next steps in the coming 12-24 months.

It seems to be setting out its store appropriately enough. 

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Four Years of Windows 10: Our Favorite 15 Improvements

Windows 10's original dark and updated light desktop background

Four years after its release, we’re all still using Windows 10. But that’s not really true: The version of Windows 10 we’re using today has seen four years of improvements. It’s packed with shiny new features and clever under-the-hood optimizations.

More Control Over Windows Update

Working on updates message on Windows 10

With every major update to Windows 10, Microsoft has given everyone more and more control of updates. This is a major pain point in Windows 10, and Microsoft has made it better.

For example, Windows 10’s Anniversary Update added “active hours.” Set your “active hours” and Windows won’t reboot for updates during the hours of the day when you usually use your PC. Up to 18 hours a day can be active hours. The April 2018 Update brought faster update installation, too.

The biggest change was in the May 2019 Update, which finally offers more choice over these big, once-every-six-month updates. Every release of Windows 10 will get support for 18 months. You don’t have to install these big updates immediately when they’re released—you can even choose to skip some of them.

RELATED: Everything New in Windows 10’s May 2019 Update, Available Now

Files on Demand for Cloud Storage

OneDrive downloading a file in File Explorer

Files on Demand are a highly underrated feature. Added back in the Fall Creators Update, this feature shows “placeholder” copies of files stored in the cloud on your PC. They appear as normal files on your PC. When you open them, Windows automatically downloads them. In other words, they’re loaded on demand—but they all appear in File Explorer.

You can have 1 TB of files in your cloud storage and see them all in File Explorer, downloading them only when necessary.

This feature isn’t just for OneDrive, either! While OneDrive uses it, Apple also uses it for the new iCloud on Windows. We’d like to see Dropbox and Google Drive adopt it, too.

RELATED: How to Use OneDrive’s Files On-Demand in Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update

Integration With Your Phone

Your Phone PC app showing photos from an Android phone

After abandoning Windows Phone, Microsoft can finally focus on integrating Windows 10 with the smartphones people actually use. And it has: Windows 10’s Your Phone app provides deep integration with Android phones. You can text from your PC, copy photos wirelessly, and even mirror your Android notifications to your Windows desktop.

Unfortunately, iPhone users don’t have nearly as many features—Apple won’t let third-party software have this deep level of integration with iPhones, so only Mac users get this kind of integration. But Android and Windows 10 now work together better than ever.

RELATED: Why Android Users Need Windows 10’s “Your Phone” App

The Hidden Emoji Panel

Emoji panel in Google Chrome on Windows 10

Windows 10’s emoji panel is great. Since the Fall Creators Update, you can press Windows+. (period) anywhere to open the emoji panel and insert an emoji. In the May 2019 Update, it now supports kaomoji, too! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Beyond emoji, this panel also provides an easy way of inserting special characters. This previously required opening the character map, remembering a numerical code, or just searching the web and copy-pasting them.

This isn’t really a hidden feature, but it’s easy to miss this keyboard shortcut unless someone tells you about it. Windows 10 doesn’t make it easy to find.

RELATED: Secret Hotkey Opens Windows 10’s New Emoji Picker in Any App

The Windows Subsystem for Linux

Ubuntu logo in a WSL terminal on Windows 10

Introduced with the Anniversary Update a year after Windows 10’s release, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is perhaps Windows 10’s coolest and most unexpected feature. This feature is absolutely amazing for developers, letting you run a Linux environment on Windows. Only command-line software is officially supported, but it’s easy to get graphical Linux applications running.

It’s about to get even better, too. WSL 2 is more powerful and features a Microsoft-built Linux kernel that will be shipped with Windows. You can provide your own custom Linux kernel if you want, too.

RELATED: Four Years of Windows 10: Our Favorite 15 Improvements

GPU Info in the Task Manager

GPU usage statistics in Windows 10's Task Manager

For gamers, the graphics processor unit (GPU) features that have been added to Windows 10 are just awesome. Since the Fall Creators Update, the Task Manager now features GPU usage information. On the Processes tab, you can see your total GPU usage and view how much GPU resources each running application is using—just like CPU activity and memory.

On the Performance tab, you can see your total GPU usage and information about your GPU’s memory usage as well as other information.

Better yet, the processes tab will also show you which GPU an application is using. And, on systems with multiple GPUs, you can assign applications to specific GPUs using a standard option in Windows 10’s Settings.

RELATED: How to Monitor GPU Usage in the Windows Task Manager

Clipboard History (It Syncs, Too)

Clipboard History panel in Notepad on Windows 10

Clipboard history, added in the October 2018 Update, is another unfortunately overlooked feature. When enabled, Windows will remember a history of text, images, and other media you copied to the clipboard. You can press Windows+v to open the history and select a previously copied item.

This feature can also sync your clipboard between your PCs, but you don’t have to use the sync feature at all.

The clipboard history is disabled by default. If you haven’t set it up yet, press Windows+v and you’ll be prompted to enable it.

RELATED: Using Windows 10’s New Clipboard: History and Cloud Sync

Built-in Exploit Protection

Exploit Protection settings in Windows Security

Computer security professionals have long recommended running anti-exploit software. Previously, we recommended Microsoft’s own EMET (complicated) or Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit (simple) for this.

With the Fall Creators Update, Microsoft finally added anti-exploit software to Windows. The “exploit protection” feature in Windows 10 is inspired by EMET—in fact, Microsoft discontinued EMET. It’s enabled by default or all Windows 10 users with no configuration necessary, although it offers an extreme number of configuration options.

RELATED: How Windows Defender’s New Exploit Protection Works (and How to Configure It)

A Dark Mode (In File Explorer, Too)

Dark mode in Windows 10's Settings and File Explorer applications

Dark themes are all the rage, and Windows 10 got one, too. The initial release of Windows 10 featured a hidden dark mode, but a toggle for “dark app mode” was added to the Settings app with the release of the Anniversary Update. Microsoft keeps making dark mode better, most recently extending it even to Windows 10’s File Explorer application.

In fact, Microsoft is now going in the other direction—Windows 10’s latest release, the May 2019 Update, features a new “light theme” that provides a light taskbar instead of a dark one. There’s a new light-themed wallpaper, too.

RELATED: How to Use a Dark Theme in Windows 10

Spectre Performance Boosts

CPU with a snail logo

All PCs—including ones running Windows 7—got hit with a Spectre slowdown after patches were issued to protect against this nasty CPU security flaw. Windows 10 didn’t get hit as hard as Windows 7 in the first place, which was nice.

But Microsoft made it even better, debuting new Spectre fixes in the May 2019 Update. These will speed up your Windows 10 PC by making those Spectre patches more efficient. It’s easy to miss, but it’s one way Microsoft silently made your PC better.

RELATED: New Spectre-Busting Update Speeds Up Windows 10 PCs

Windows Sandbox for Testing Software

Windows Sandbox on a Windows 10 desktop

We love the Windows Sandbox, too. This new feature added in the May 2019 Update provides an easy way to test untrusted software. It’s “half app, half virtual machine”—it’s an easy interface for quickly spinning up an isolated environment where you can test software. When you close the Sandbox, the state of that virtual machine is erased.

Sure, you could do this with traditional virtual machines, but that’s more work. The Sandbox environment is also dynamically generated from your current Windows 10 system, which means it’s always running the latest version of Windows 10 with the latest updates. You don’t need to spend time updating your VM separately. Pretty cool.

RELATED: How to Use Windows 10’s New Sandbox (to Safely Test Apps)

Better PC File Search

Windows 10's file search not finding a file

The search feature in Windows 10’s Start menu has never done a great job of finding files on your PC—up until recently. The May 2019 Update now lets you tell the Start menu to search for files anywhere on your PC.

You can finally use Start menu search to reliably find all your files, not just perform Bing searches for web pages. However, this is disabled by default—you’ll need to enable “Enhanced” indexing to take advantage of it.

RELATED: How to Search All Your PC’s Files in Windows 10’s Start Menu

A Redesigned, More Powerful Game Bar

Windows 10 version 1903's new game bar

Windows 10’s Game Bar was initially a pretty minor feature built into the Xbox app. It let you record gameplay or capture a screencast of any application, but that was pretty much it.

In the May 2019 Update, the Game Bar is now a complete gaming overlay featuring system performance monitoring and quick audio controls. It even has Spotify integration and quick Xbox chatting.

RELATED: 6 Great Features in Windows 10’s New Game Bar

Notepad Improvements (Seriously)

Notepad on Windows 10

Are we really going to include Notepad in this list? Yes; yes we are. Microsoft made a lot of improvements to Notepad with the October 2018 Update, and now it can finally open files created on Linux or Mac thanks to support for Unix-style end of line characters.

More improvements were made to in the May 2019 Update. For example, if Windows automatically closes Notepad to perform updates, Notepad will automatically open and restore the unsaved content you were working on after rebooting.

RELATED: Everything New in Notepad in Windows 10’s October 2018 Update

Telemetry Tweaks

Diagnostic Data Viewer on Windows 10

Since the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has made Windows 10’s telemetry less confusing. The telemetry levels were simplified to “Basic” and “Full,” removing the confusing “Enhanced” option in between.

You can now see much more information about what’s going on in the background, too. There’s a diagnostic data viewer you can use to see the exact information your PC is sending to Microsoft’s servers. Microsoft also introduced a new Privacy Dashboard that shows all the information associated with your Microsoft account.

RELATED: What Do Windows 10’s Basic and Full Telemetry Settings Actually Do?

And So Many More

There are other great Windows 10 features that go unnoticed, too. For example, Power Throttling automatically limits the CPU available to background processes—even typical Windows desktop programs—saving you battery life. This is the kind of feature that just works in the background, making your PC experience better.

Other awesome features are on the way, too. Windows is about to get a new console named the Windows Terminal. It comes with tabs—you can even mix-and-match Cmd, PowerShell, and Linux tabs—and it’s already in beta. Finally, a modern command-line experience for Windows 10.

Microsoft has already done a lot of work on the command-line, too, updating the Command Prompt’s color scheme and enabling Unicode support.

Despite the version number, the Windows 10 operating system we’re all using today is practically a new version of Windows. If Microsoft kept the naming scheme from Windows 8.1, we’d be on Windows 10.7 by now.

There have been some changes for the worse, too, such as the increasing number of advertisements Microsoft continues to bolt onto Windows 10. But, overall, Windows 10 is better than ever.

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Apple’s New MacBook Lineup Makes More Sense Than It Has in Years – Review Geek


Apple just simplified its MacBook lineup by killing the 12-inch model and refining the Air and Pro models. This new simpler lineup is more straightforward and easy to understand than in recent years—still, you may want to wait to buy.

No More 12-Inch MacBook, But Touch Bars Added to Pro Models

MacBook Air

The writing’s been on the wall for the 12-inch MacBook since last year, when Apple refreshed the Air, so now seems like the right time for Apple to officially kill it. The 2019 Air has an updated True Tone display (and lower price tag), making the 12-inch MacBook’s already-outdated specs seem even more ancient.

With the removal of the 12-inch MacBook from the lineup, everything is simpler again. It’s just the Air—the laptop for most people—and the Pro—the laptop for professionals. This new, less-convoluted lineup should streamline purchasing decisions at least slightly.

The base model MacBook Pro is also on the receiving end of an upgrade, as all Pro models now feature the Touch Bar and Touch ID. The good news here is that the price hasn’t changed for the base model—it’s still $1299—despite the upgrade in hardware. Nice.

MacBook Pro

But You Should Still Probably Wait to Buy

Apple’s new simplified MacBook lineup looks great and makes a lot of sense. But there’s still something that hasn’t been addressed yet: the keyboard.

As pointed out by The Verge’s Tom Warren, both the Pro and Air models are launching with the same Butterfly keyboard that’s been plagued with issues. Apple already updated its Keyboard Service Program to include these new models, which is pretty telling—if you buy right now, you’ll risk having keyboard issues down the road.

The word on the street is that Apple is expected to revamp the keyboard this fall, adopting scissor switches instead of the butterfly system. Why it didn’t move to this type of keyboard system (which has long been available) for these newly revamped model is anyone’s guess.

But either way, if you don’t want to risk ending up with a sketchy keyboard, it may be best to wait till later this year to pick up a new computer.

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What Star Trek Continuity Error Was Left Unexplained For 26 Years?

The original Klingon actors without brow ridges
Paramount Pictures/Wikimedia

Answer: Klingon Cranial Ridges

In the original Star Trek television series, Klingons had smooth foreheads like humans—not a distinct ridge in sight. That changed with the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, where Klingons were depicted with their signature cranial ridges.

The only problem was that not a single word was spoken to explain why an entire alien species had gained a very distinct facial feature. The practical reason was that the motion picture had a much bigger budget than the television series, and with a radically expanded special effects budget, the makeup artists and designers ran wild. But an in-universe explanation for the change was absent, however. So glaringly absent, in fact, that the difference between the ridged and non-ridged Klingons became a running debate and source of rampant fan theories over the next decades.

It wasn’t until a pair of episodes from the Star Trek: Enterprise series aired in 2005, “Affliction” and “Divergence”, that the difference was fully explained. In the 22nd century, Klingons experimented with genetically engineering their own kind using DNA from genetically augmented humans. The experiments went wrong and a virus strain caused a series of mutations including smooth foreheads. Outside of the mutations caused by the experiments, all Klingons should have cranial ridges.

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Microsoft returns to Mac browser market after 16 years with ‘Chromium-ed’ Edge

Microsoft on Monday returned to the Mac browser market when it released the first public preview of its revamped Edge browser for macOS.

Delivery of the “Canary” edition for macOS came two weeks after prodigious Windows leaker WalkingCat, also known by his Twitter account @h0x0d, tweeted the download links for the Canary and more polished Dev builds of Edge for the Mac.

Like Google Chrome, Edge releases in multiple builds representing increasingly more stable versions of the browser. Canary, the least reliable, is updated daily, while the Dev version refreshes weekly. Beta and Stable builds appear every six weeks.

Microsoft first previewed the reworked Edge for Windows 10 in mid-April.

The browser, though, was announced late last year, when Microsoft said it would abandon its own technologies in favor of remaking Edge as a Chromium-based application. Chromium is the open-source project, dominated by Google, credited with developing the rendering and JavaScript engines that powered Chrome, then later, other browsers including Opera, Brave and Vivaldi. Microsoft did not pin a deadline to the “full-Chromium” Edge’s production release, but said the browser would, unlike its predecessor, be a cross-platform app that supports Windows 10, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, as well as macOS. (Edge browsers for Android and iOS already existed.)

So far, Microsoft has issued Canary for macOS and Canary and Dev for Windows 10.

Microsoft asserted that Edge for the Mac would be more than a quick port of the Windows version. “Microsoft Edge for macOS will offer the same new browsing experience that we’re previewing on Windows, with user experience optimizations to make it feel at home on a Mac,” wrote the Edge team in a post to a company blog. We are tailoring the overall look and feel to match what macOS users expect from apps on this platform.

In that same post, Microsoft pledged to have a Dev build of the browser ready for the Mac “very soon.” As on Windows 10, Edge can be run in multiple builds simultaneously on macOS, allowing for, say, a Canary and Beta iteration to co-exist.

The new browser is Microsoft’s first for the Mac line of personal computers since 2003, when the Redmond, Wash. developer called it quits on Internet Explorer (IE) for OS X. That browser – a derivative of the Windows version of IE – came out of the five-year deal Microsoft struck with Apple in 1997. From 1998 to 2003, IE for Mac was OS X’s default browser. Apple replaced IE with its own Safari browser in October 2003 with the launch of OS X 10.3, aka “Panther.”

Edge requires macOS 10.12 or later (that’s 2016’s Sierra for those not following Apple’s numeric labels). This week’s Canary build is based on Chromium (Microsoft debuted Chromium 76 in the Windows 10 version earlier this month.) Google has slated Chrome 76 – also founded on Chromium of that number – to launch July 30.

Edge for the Mac can be downloaded from Microsoft’s Edge Insider website.

Edge for macOS Microsoft

Edge for the Mac is suitably minimalistic, but Microsoft hasn’t played in the Apple browser market since 2003.

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Microsoft sets post-retirement patching record with Windows XP fix – 5 years after support ended

Microsoft on Wednesday resurrected Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 long enough to push patches to the long-dead products. It was the first time since 2017 that Microsoft deemed the situation serious enough to warrant a security fix for XP.

Windows XP fell off the public support list in April 2014, while Windows Server 2003 was removed in July 2015.

“If you are on an out-of-support version, the best way to address this vulnerability is to upgrade to the latest version of Windows,” Simon Pope, director of incident response at the Microsoft Security Response Center, asserted in a post to a company blog. “Even so, we are making fixes available for these out-of-support versions of Windows.”

Although Pope said the bug has yet to be publicly exploited, he made it sound like that was just a matter of time. “[The vulnerability] requires no user interaction. In other words, the vulnerability is ‘wormable,’ meaning that any future malware that exploits this vulnerability could propagate from vulnerable computer to vulnerable computer in a similar way as the WannaCry malware spread across the globe in 2017,” he wrote.

In fact, some IT administrators reported that a Windows Server-powered “honeypot” – a system purposefully designed to attract malicious attention – has been undergoing constant attacks from locations in Asia and elsewhere.

Pope’s reference to WannaCry is notable because the last time Microsoft patched Windows XP was in May and June 2017, when it tried to stop the spread of the virulent ransomware. In that case, Microsoft supplied patches to Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003, all of which had already been retired.

The bug patched for Windows XP and Server 2003 is one of four disclosed Tuesday by a small host of security researchers. All resemble the Spectre and Meltdown flaws of early 2018 in that they were found within the firmware of microprocessors from Intel. In most cases, software updates – like those generated by Microsoft – will need to be combined with firmware updates from Intel and/or computer makers, called OEMs for “original equipment manufacturers.”

Intel has issued firmware updates, as well as a security advisory of its own that addresses what it called “Microarchitectural Data Sampling,” or MDS vulnerabilities. Other names applied to the vulnerabilities range from the comic book apocalyptic “Zombieload” to more mundane “RIDL” and “Fallout.”

According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Windows XP accounted for 2.8% of all Windows PC browser activity in April, a number that represented approximately 42 million systems worldwide. (Net Applications does not track server systems.)

Windows Vista, XP’s successor – it launched in 2006, five years after XP – was not patched, perhaps because its April user share was a puny two-tenths of one percentage point, or about one-thirteenth that of XP’s. The estimated 3.2 million PCs still running Vista are on their own; users were told to contact Microsoft support for assistance.

Fixes for other editions – Windows 7, Server 2008 R2 – were offered through the usual automated update channels, including Windows Update and WSUS (Windows Server Update Services). But those for the outdated Windows XP and Server 2003 were not. Instead, users had to manually download the outdated-product updates from the Microsoft Update Catalog.

Windows 8 and later – including Windows 10 and several Server editions – are not affected by the vulnerabilities.

This week’s policy departure bodes well for users of Windows 7, the edition slated to slip off support on Jan. 14, 2020, but which is expected to remain in use by millions for years after that deadline.

Microsoft effectively extended the boundaries of post-retirement patching yet again, from the previous record of three years to today’s five years. If a critical vulnerability that threatens a large part of the Windows ecosystem appears in, say, early 2025, that era’s Windows 7 users should expect Microsoft to patch it on their creaky PCs. If the Redmond, Wash. developer declined, those users would have good reason to not only complain but ask “why not?” as they cite this XP case as precedent.

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What Computing Rule of Thumb Predicts The Doubling of Computing Power Every Two Years?

Engineers holding up a wafer of 7mm chips

Answer: Moore’s Law

Moore’s Law is a principle in the computing industry wherein the number of transistors packed into integrated circuits doubles roughly every two years.

The law is named after Gordon E. Moore, an early semiconductor components engineer, who described the trend in a 1965 paper on the future of computing power published in Electronics Magazine. He traced the pattern of increasing power prior to the year the paper was written and predicted that the trend of computing power doubling every year would continue into the future—he later revised his calculations in 1975 to a more modest doubling of power every two years.

In addition to explaining computing development at the time it was proposed, Moore’s Law became a guiding principle for the industry. Development schedules and product delivery time tables became structured around it, further reinforcing the perceived accuracy of Moore’s predictions. To that end, it has become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy as competitors in the microprocessor industry race each other to the next iteration of Moore’s Law.

It’s important to note, however, that while it might be called “Moore’s Law”, it’s hardly a law in the sense of how we understand laws in physics, for instance. The doubling of power is no guarantee as starting in the 2010s, chipmakers have had to innovate and push the boundaries of technological limits, using new materials and novel designs, to keep increasing chip speeds.

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