Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Rolls Out World’s Largest Aeroplane, the Stratolaunch

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Microsoft’s Paul Allen has been building world’s largest aeroplane
  • It is called Stratolaunch, will be larger than Howard Hughes’ 1947 plane
  • It’s not to carry passengers, but rather rockets

The initial construction on the massive aeroplane Paul Allen has been quietly building in the California desert is complete, and the vehicle, which would be the world’s largest aeroplane with a wingspan wider than Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, was wheeled out of its hangar for the first time on Wednesday.

Called Stratolaunch, the plane has some impressive stats: a wingspan of 385 feet, or longer than a football field, a height of 50 feet. Unfueled, it weighs 500,000 pounds. But it can carry 250,000 pounds of fuel, and its total weight can reach as high as 1.3 million pounds.

But, really . . .. How big is it? It’s so big that it has 28 wheels and six 747 jet engines. It’s so big that it has 60 miles of wire coursing through it. It’s so big that the county had to issue special construction permits just for the construction scaffolding.

It’s so big that to truly get a sense of it, you have to see it from a distance – like a mountain.

But why is Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks, building such a massive plane?

It’s not to carry passengers, but rather rockets. The bigger the plane, the larger the rockets, or the greater the number.

Allen’s Stratolaunch company has partnered with Orbital ATK to “air launch” the company’s Pegasus XL, a rocket capable of delivering small satellites, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, to orbit. The rockets would be tethered to the belly of the giant plane, which would fly them aloft, and once at an altitude of 35,000 feet or so, the rockets would drop and “air launch” to space.
“With airport-style operations and quick turn-around capabilities,” the company said it believes “air launch” is a cheaper and more efficient way to get satellites into space than rockets that launch vertically and can be extraordinarily expensive.

For Allen, it’s all about LEO, or low-Earth orbit. He, and others, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, are betting that they can reduce the cost of launching small satellites to space. And that, in turn, will lead to new ways to beam the internet all across the globe, provide better Earth sensing capabilities, better communication, and open up all sorts of avenues.Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Rolls Out World's Largest Aeroplane, the Stratolaunch

“When such access to space is routine, innovation will accelerate in ways beyond what we can currently imagine,” Allen said in a statement a year ago. “That’s the thing about new platforms: when they become easily available, convenient and affordable, they attract and enable other visionaries and entrepreneurs to realize more new concepts.”

More than a decade ago, Allen had hoped to spark a revolution in space travel when he funded SpaceShipOne, which became the first commercial vehicle to cross the threshold of space. The project ultimately won the Ansari X Prize, and a $10 million (roughly Rs. 64.5 crores) award. He then licensed the technology to Branson and moved on to other pursuits. But with Stratolaunch, he is back in the space business.

“Thirty years ago, the PC revolution put computing power into the hands of millions and unlocked incalculable human potential,” he wrote. “Twenty years ago, the advent of the Web and the subsequent proliferation of smartphones combined to enable billions of people to surmount the traditional limitations of geography and commerce. Today, expanding access to LEO holds similar revolutionary potential.”

In a statement Wednesday, Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch’s chief executive, said the company would be “actively exploring a broad spectrum of launch vehicles that will enable us to provide more flexibility to customers.”

He added: “Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be actively conducting ground and flightline testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. This is a first-of-its-kind aircraft, so we’re going to be diligent throughout testing and continue to prioritize the safety of our pilots, crew and staff. Stratolaunch is on track to perform its first launch demonstration as early as 2019.”

 

Microsoft Modern Keyboard With ‘Hidden’ Fingerprint Scanner Launched

 

Microsoft on Thursday silently unveiled a new keyboard, called the Microsoft Modern Keyboard. Priced at Rs. $129.99 (roughly Rs. 8,500), the new Modern Keyboard is listed as “coming soon” on the company’s US website with no word when the accessory will go on sale. The highlight of the keyboard is that it comes with a fingerprint scanner that just looks like any other key on the keyboard.

“Our vision was to blend the Fingerprint reader into a keyboard, so it would appear to be any other key. We iterated relentlessly to improve each layer, making sure they came together to create a flawless typing experience that felt like any other key,” Microsoft says on the product page of the Modern Keyboard.

The keyboard comes with aluminium frame and Microsoft claims it sports “highest quality” and is “virtually indestructible.”

The Modern Keyboard will allow Windows 10 users to enable Windows Hello fingerprint authentication on their devices. The fingerprint scanner has been placed on the second Windows key on the right side of the keyboard, and can be used for signing in to the system or any website using Windows Hello.Microsoft Modern Keyboard With 'Hidden' Fingerprint Scanner Launched

The Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint Scanner will work will Windows 8 and above devices, macOS 10.10.5 and above devices, Android 4.2 and above, and iOS 8 and iOS 9. Users need to make sure that the device should support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher for the Microsoft Modern Keyboard to work. Microsoft will also let users choose between using the Modern Keyboard with wireless/ wired interface.

It comes with dimensions 420.9×112.6×19.3mm and weighs roughly 420 grams. The wireless Microsoft Modern Keyboard runs on two AAA alkaline rechargeable batteries. Microsoft claims a battery life of up to 2 months on full charge. The Redmond giant will be offering one-year limited warranty on the keyboard.

 

Microsoft, Accenture Partner on Blockchain-Based Digital ID Network for UN

 

HIGHLIGHTS
Microsoft, Accenture to build digital ID network using blockchain
The companies unveiled a prototype of the network at the UN
“Having a digital identity is a basic human right”
Accenture and Microsoft are teaming up to build a digital ID network using blockchain technology, as part of a United Nations-supported project to provide legal identification to 1.1 billion people worldwide with no official documents.

The companies unveiled a prototype of the network on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York during the second summit of ID2020, a public-private consortium promoting the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of providing legal identity for everyone on the planet.

The project aims to help individuals such as refugees prove who they are in order to gain access to basic services such as education and healthcare.

Blockchain, first developed as a public ledger of all transactions in the digital currency Bitcoin, is increasingly being used to securely track data in other fields.

“Without an identity you can’t access education, financial services, healthcare, you name it. You are disenfranchised and marginalized from society,” David Treat, a managing director in Accenture’s financial services practice, said in an interview.Microsoft, Accenture Partner on Blockchain-Based Digital ID Network for UN

“Having a digital identity is a basic human right.”

The new platform will connect existing record-keeping systems of commercial and public entities through blockchain, allowing users to access to their personal information wherever they are.

For example, refugees who have fled their country leaving behind birth or education paper certificates would still be able to provide proof of those credentials through the system.
One of the main advantages of blockchain is that it allows systems of different organizations to communicate with each other, Yorke Rhodes, global business strategist at Microsoft, said in an interview.

The prototype was built on top of an existing Accenture platform, which powers the biometric identity management system used by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Accenture and Microsoft, which worked on the prototype with managed service provider Avanade, are inviting other companies to join their project.

PricewaterhouseCoopers and Cisco Systems are among the organizations involved in ID2020.

“What ID2020 is truly focused on is bringing together an alliance of stakeholders to ensure the technology that is being developed is responsive to the needs of individuals,” Dakota Gruener, executive director at ID2020, said in an interview.

“Technology is only one piece of this.”

 

Microsoft pulls the plug on Windows Phone 8.1

Microsoft took another step away from the smartphone business after it announced stopping all kind of support for Windows Phone 8.1. Users of the mobile OS will no longer receive updates or support, the company announced.

Starting in 2010, Microsoft previous attempt at restarting its mobile OS failed to gain much traction and is now all but a distant memory. Lack of crucial features and popular third-party apps were the main issue Windows Phone struggled with.

Halting Windows Phone 8.1 support will probably be followed by the discontinuation of Windows 10 Mobile at some point in the next few years. With virtually no new devices for the platform in the past two years non-existent market share the platform is clearly on the way out.

 

Killing Cortana: How to disable Windows 10’s info-hungry digital assistant

 

Killing Cortana isn’t as easy as it used to be.

When Windows 10 first released, turning off Cortana was as simple as flipping a switch in the digital assistant’s settings, but Microsoft removed the option in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Now there’s no obvious way to disable Cortana—but it is possible using not-so-obvious methods.

Completely eradicating Cortana requires a quick and easy registry edit, which we’ll detail here. If you don’t want Cortana spying on you but also detest the idea of mucking with your PC’s deepest software innards, PCWorld’s guide to privacy-boosting Cortana tweaks can show you how to limit the personal information it sends Microsoft. Cortana will still run in the background with limited functionality if you don’t perform the registry edit, though.

How to turn off Cortana in Windows 10

Hold your horses! As simple as this is, it’s always a good idea to create a system restore point before editing the Windows registry—so go ahead and do that now. It only takes a minute. (Ironically, the easiest way to do so is to search for “restore point” with Cortana.)

With that out of the way, let’s start registry hacking.

regedit

Brad Chacos/IDG

Press Windows Key simultaneously on your keyboard to bring up the Run interface, then type regedit into the box and press Enter. Depending on your security settings you may be prompted to give Windows permission to run the Registry Editor. If so, do so.

Once the Registry Editor is open, navigate to the following folder in the left-hand navigation pane: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Software > Policies > Microsoft > Windows > Windows Search.

new key

Brad Chacos/IDG

Here’s the only potentially tricky part: You might not see a Windows Search folder. If it isn’t there, right-click the Windows folder, select New > Key, and name it Windows Search.

dword value 2

Brad Chacos/IDG

With the Windows Search folder selected in the left-hand navigation pane, right-click in the main portion of the window and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. A new listing will appear in the main pane, ready to be named; christen it AllowCortana. Afterward, double-click it and in the box that appears, ensure that the Value Data is set to ‘0’—minus the quotation marks.

allowcortana 2

Brad Chacos/IDG

That’s it! Close the Registry Editor, then sign out of Windows 10. When you sign back in, Cortana will be long gone. The digital assistant’s former field remains in the Windows 10 task bar, but it now reads “Search Windows” and tellingly lacks Cortana’s all-seeing eye icon.

You won’t be able to use any Cortana-enabled features in the dumbed-down search field, like setting reminders, getting personalized news, receiving up-to-date travel info, or asking goofy questions. You will be able to search for files, system settings, and terms as before. That said, you won’t be able to tap Cortana’s smarts to perform natural language queries like “Find pictures from June” either, so narrowing down file search results may take a bit more work.

adios cortana

Brad Chacos/IDG

Adios, Cortana.

Speaking of which, wiping Cortana’s previous memories of you from Microsoft’s servers takes an extra step. Head to Microsoft’s privacy dashboard website, sign into your Microsoft account, and clear whatever personal data you want Microsoft to forget. Be warned: Your choices may also affect other Microsoft services, like Bing, Edge, and Maps.

Cortana isn’t totally dead, though. You’ll still see the process lurking in Task Manager if you pay attention. Kill it and it’ll immediately spring back to life. Your search queries nevertheless stay strictly local.

If you ever decide resummon Cortana, simply retrace your steps in the Registry Editor and either delete the AllowCortana value, or simply set it to “1” instead of “0.”

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Windows 10 Creators Update FAQ: Everything you need to know

More than five months after its grand unveiling last October, the Windows 10 Creators Update is finally here—and the wait was worth it.

Following in the footsteps of last August’s sweeping Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the Creators Update tweaks and tunes the core Windows 10 experience while heaping on a pile of handy all-new features. While PCWorld’s comprehensive Windows 10 Creators Update review contains detailed impressions of Microsoft’s refreshed operating system, here’s a higher-level look at what you need to know about the Creators Update.

How do I get it?

Just sit tight! The Windows 10 Creators Update starts rolling out to the general public on April 11 via the standard Windows Update process, just like every other Windows 10 update. There’s no way for home users to opt out of the upgrade.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll receive it today, however; the Anniversary Update took about four months to propagate to 80 percent of Windows 10 users. Microsoft prioritizes newer PCs with optimal specs for Windows 10 first. If you’re the impatient type, you can manually kick off the Creators Update installation by using Microsoft’s Update Assistant. (Warning: Clicking that link will download an executable file for the Update Assistant to your PC.)

So what’s the big deal?

Microsoft releases two major Windows 10 updates each year, and the Creators Update is the first of those.

desert island with chest primary preferred view

IDG / Mark Hachman

With a little practice, the Creators Update’s Paint 3D app can be used to construct fun 3D scenes like this one.

It includes some helpful quality-of-life changes, such as a high-level privacy dashboard, an easier setup process, and usability tweaks to various settings and features throughout the operating system. The Creators Update also packs in new goodies, the most notable being the Paint 3D app, native video game-streaming, a Game Mode that improves gaming performance, and Edge support for native ebooks and 4K Netflix streams. And, oh yeah! Themes are back and better than ever.

Seriously, there’s a lot of stuff in the new-look Windows 10. Check out PCWorld’s roundup of the Creators Update’s best new features for much, much more.

 

One of Windows 10’s biggest new features has been DELAYED

 

Microsoft has delayed one of the most impressive new features coming to Windows 10
Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will not ship with the hotly-anticipated Timeline feature.

Timeline will allow Windows 10 users to switch between devices – including PCs, tablets and Android and iOS smartphones – and pick-up where you left off.

Apple has included a very similar feature in its iOS and macOS operating systems, enabling users to start a document on one machine and resume it immediately from another.

Microsoft’s plans are a little more ambitious, since the Redmond company wants to enable the function across rival mobile operating systems.

It’s not clear why the software was been bumped from the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

“Timeline won’t be in the Fall Creators Update,” confirmed Microsoft Executive Joe Belfiore to The Verge.

“We’re planning for it to be in early insider builds shortly after Fall Creators Update is out.”

Timeline shows your progress on different apps in a card-style interfaceMICROSOFT

Timeline shows your progress on different apps in a card-style interface

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is widely-tipped to ship in September – with a number of upcoming features currently being trialled with Windows Insiders.The next significant operating system update will likely launch sometime in March 2018.

This is not the first time Microsoft has decided to ditch a previously announced feature from its next update.

The US company had hoped to ship its People feature in Creators Update earlier this year, but it was pushed back to Fall Creators Update instead.

It follows the news that Microsoft will now prompt those running the earliest version of Windows 10 to update their operating system.The Redmond technology company has confirmed that it will be pushing out notification to users still running Windows 10 version 1507.

This notification warns them the software is now deemed “end of service” and will no longer receive monthly security patches.

Microsoft will push users to upgrade the system.

The new notification asks users to review their security preferences and upgrade the systemMICROSOFT

The new notification asks users to review their security preferences and upgrade the system

Tapping the handy button included in the new notification will fast-track users to the latest version of the operating system – at present, Creators Update.Users can also dismiss the prompt to upgrade to Windows 10 Creators Update, but this cannot be done indefinitely.

Windows 10 users are able to postpone the process up to five times, with the sixth notification pop-up asking users to confirm their privacy settings.

Microsoft claims the process will “only take a few moments for what we believe provides you with the best balance between privacy, security, and control”.

“The most secure Windows device today is an updated one: running both the most recent feature update – the Windows 10 Creators Update – and the most recent monthly quality update,” said John Cable, Microsoft Director of Program Management, Windows Servicing and Delivery.

“By staying up to date on both the latest feature and quality updates, you’re assured of being on the most secure version of Windows 10.”