In an announcement on Friday, Microsoft dropped the unusually generous news that it is giving away free copies of Windows 10 to anyone who participates in the beta Insider Program for Redmond's latest OS. Sound a little too good to be true? You bet.
As noted by Ars Technica, Microsoft has since sneakily updated its blog post announcing the move, changing some crucial language:
Previously it said that signed up members of the Insider Program running a preview version would "receive the Windows 10 final release build and remain activated." Now it says only that they will "receive the Windows 10 final release build."
Moreover, Microsoft added some clarifying language, saying that "It's important to note that only people running Genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 can upgrade to Windows 10 as part of the free upgrade offer."
Seems pretty clear, then: only users upgrading from Windows 7 or 8 will get a free upgrade, which is in line with Microsoft's previous announcements.
But that's not all! On Twitter this evening, Microsoft exec Gabriel Aul stated in no uncertain terms that anyone with a prerelease build of Windows 10 (with a registered Microsoft Account) would remain activated on the final version of Windows 10.
Reading between the lines, it seems that Microsoft might be providing a way for individual users to upgrade, without making the whole process above board. Microsoft makes most of its Windows money off businesses and OEMs, the companies that sell new PCs already running a (licensed, paid-for) version of Windows. The wording in the latest blog post implies that upgrading to full-fat Windows 10 will work; it just won't be officially sanctioned by Microsoft, meaning that businesses will still have to pony up for the upgrade.
We reached out to Microsoft for comment, and will update if anyone manages to clarify this mess.
What if we lived in a world where authors earned royalties not based on how many books they sell, but on how many pages we read? The idea, which would have been preposterous 10 years ago, is not only possible with modern technology, it's something Amazon will be test driving this summer.
Beginning on July 1st, authors who self-publish through Amazon Kindle's Direct Publishing Program will become part of a new publishing experiment. Currently, Amazon divvies up a pot of money to its native authors each month, based on the number of times their e-Books are "borrowed" through two separate Kindle services: Kindle Unlimited, a standalone, $9.99 / month subscription service, and the Kindle Lending Library, an Amazon Prime membership perk. In the new scheme, authors will be paid for each page that remains on the screen long enough to be parsed, the first time a customer reads the book.
What this system will essentially do is reward authors who write cliffhangers and page-turners; books that can keep the reader hooked. As The Atlantic explains, the payment scheme will also help neutralize the sentiment among authors of longer books that they're being shortchanged:
Amazon's letter to writers who publish through its Kindle Select program explained that the formula was changing because of a concern "that paying the same for all books regardless of length may not provide a strong enough alignment between the interests of authors and readers." Amazon is being clever: While the authors of big, long, and important books felt that they were shortchanged by a pay-by-the-borrow formula, they probably didn't expect that Amazon would take their proposal a step further. Instead of paying the most ambitious, long-winded authors for each page written, Amazon will pay them for each page read.
Book length is still going to matter under the new system, but in a slightly more nuanced way. On the one hand, authors will have more incentive than ever to keep their work from growing tediously (an unreadably) long. But on the other, the author of an action-packed, 100 page novella might stand to earn more if he can stretch his book out without letting the pace suffer.
One way or another, it seems, some authors are about to bid farewell to the old publishing saying "It doesn't matter how many people read your book, only how many buy it."
Concerned about NSA snooping? Better get rid of WhatsApp and AT&T. That, at least, is one takeaway from the Electronic Frontier Foundation's annual "Who Has Your Back?" scorecard, which tells us which tech companies are doing a reasonabl job protecting user data, and which are failing abysmally.
As Americans have become increasingly aware of (and peeved by) government spying, we've started judging our tech services and gadgets not only on their quality, but on whether they can safeguard our data. The EFF, a nonprofit focused on digital rights, rates companies based on transparency to consumers about government data demands and content removal requests, data retention practices, and public positions on electronic backdoors.
In addition to WhatsApp and AT&T receiving piss poor grades, Google slipped up for the first time, earning only three stars compared with a perfect five in 2014. The tech giant was penalized on two major counts: The fact that it no longer discloses the full extent of its data retention, and diminished transparency regarding government data requests.
Still, the latest report wasn't all doom and gloom. Apple, Adobe, Yahoo, Dropbox, and Sonic.net each received high marks, and overall, scores were way up compared with the first such study conducted in 2011. On the whole, tech companies seem to be shifting their data privacy stances in the right direction-but they've got a long road ahead before Americans begin trusting them again.
Whatever the relative merits of the various browser options, there’s one big advantage that Apple’s homegrown Safari has over most of the competition – using it as your browser can have a significant positive impact in terms of battery life on portable Macs. Now, Google is hoping to close that gap with upcoming changes to Chrome.
Chrome already got a new feature that can disable crappy Flash ads and win you back some battery cycles, but there’s more in the pipeline. Per senior Chrome engineer Peter Kasting outlining future steps on Google+, we’re going to see changes to the way Chrome handles rendering of background tabs (i.e., the ones you aren’t immediately looking at), and eking out some minor but important gains in the CPU efficiency of searching with Google.
There’s a lot more going on, most of which is designed to help Chrome match or approach CPU efficiency found in Safari. Kasting even goes so far as to say the Chrome team has “no intention of sitting idly by (pun intended) when our users are suffering.” Groaning about Chrome’s efficiency cost in the Mac power user realm is indeed quite common, but it’s interesting to see Google so on the nose about the issue.
This is coming to the Chrome beta channel in a little over a month, which means general release probably a few months down the road. I’ve pretty much converted to Safari full-time at this point, but I’m definitely interested in seeing what a more battery-friendly Chrome has to offer.
Just as it's done in years past, Google will unveil the latest version of Android at its annual I/O developer conference. The company hasn't officially come out and confirmed this directly, but a session description that briefly appeared as part of the I/O schedule made specific mention of "Android M." (The session in question has now been removed from Google's I/O website.) When it was announced in 2014, Android 5.0 was first known as "Android L" before Google revealed its final "Lollipop" name months later. And while that version has so far made it to just 10 percent of all Android devices, Google isn't slowing down any in pushing the operating system forward.
Sadly the I/O session descriptions don't offer too many details on what to expect; the "Android at Work" session only says Android M "brings power of Android to all kinds of workplaces." Google has already started putting Android everywhere it can; it's on phones, tablets, in cars, powering TVs, and even running on Chrome OS. Now it sounds like there'll be a greater focus on making Android a force in the enterprise — and Google obviously needs developers to play a role in that.
IMPROVED NOTIFICATIONS AND MORE POWERFUL VOICE CONTROLS COULD BE COMING IN ANDROID M
Another session focused on "interruptions" hints that the company has been working to refine the new approach to notifications that came alongside Lollipop. Yet another session mentions something called "Voice Access" and suggests Google wants to let users control every feature of Android apps (and the device they're running on using only their voice. This would expand beyond the "OK Google" commands that are possible now. Google describes Voice Access as such:
Mobile hardware has adopted the touch screen as the primary mode of input. And with 1 billion active Android users, there’s no sign of this slowing down. What if you could provide users with a new method of access to your apps with little to no development overhead? In this talk, we introduce Voice Access, a service that gives anyone access to their Android device through voice alone. We will focus on simple steps developers can follow to ensure that Voice Access provides an optimal experience within their apps.