Microsoft buys Simplygon to simplify rendering VR and AR models

Microsoft is betting that less is more in 3D design, with the acquisition of the Swedish developer of a 3D data optimization system, Simplygon.Windows 10 VR

Simplygon takes 3D models in a number of formats, and reduces the volume of data used to describe them by taking out some of the detail — somewhat like reducing the size of a JPEG image file by increasing the level of compression while leaving the resolution unchanged.

That means the models can be rendered more rapidly or using less powerful hardware, something that will help Microsoft with the “3D for everyone” vision it outlined last October at the launch of Windows 10 Creators Update.

The company is pushing hard into the markets for virtual reality, with a US$300 consumer VR headset for PCs due out as early as March, and augmented reality, where it is seeking to build an ecosystem around Hololens, its enterprise-oriented stand-alone AR headset.

3D models, whether for video games, architectural rendering, or viewing in augmented or virtual reality, are typically composed of many adjoining flat surfaces, or polygons. The more polygons that are used, the better the model is able to represent complex curved surfaces — but the more memory and processing power it takes to render, or draw on the screen.

Simplygon works best with rendering engines that use a similar density of polygons throughout, simplifying the model to describe flatter parts with fewer polygons, while retaining more polygons in more complex areas, so that they don’t look blocky.

Using this technique, it says it can reduce the number of polygons used in a model by up to 90 percent, while still retaining the essential details and shape.

For Kudo Tsunoda, corporate vice president for next-gen experiences in Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, the acquisition will make it easier for Windows users to capture, create and share 3D models.

“It builds on and extends our aspirations to empower a new wave of creativity with the Windows 10 Creators Update, Paint 3D and our online creator community at Remix3D.com,” he said in a post on Microsoft’s blog announcing the deal.

Simplygon was developed by 10-year-old Donya Labs, based in Linköping, Sweden. CEO Matt Connors, founder and CTO Ulrik Lindahl and co-founder Koshi Hamedi will join Microsoft following the acquisition, according to the companies’ websites. They did not provide information about the terms of the deal.

The biggest market for Simplygon is in 3D game design, where it was used by the developer of the game Submerge to reduce the size of models designed for PCs and consoles when the game was ported to iOS.

Over the last year, though, the company has begun highlighting its use in applications such as augmented reality (for recreation of historic scenes) and virtual reality. It worked with a team of archeologists to optimize a 3D model so that visitors to a site could view a virtual reconstruction of a 1,400-year-old village, rendered in real time on their phones or tablets.

Oracle patches raft of vulnerabilities in business applications

Oracle released its first batch of security patches this year, fixing 270 vulnerabilities, mostly in business-critical applications. Many of the flaws can be exploited remotely without authentication.20151027 oracle cloud on building 100625234 orig

The majority of the fixes are for flaws in business products such as Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle PeopleSoft, Oracle Retail Applications, Oracle JD Edwards, Oracle Supply Chain Products and Oracle Database Server.

E-Business Suite, which is used by companies to store key data and manage a wide range of business processes, accounts for more than 40 percent of the patched vulnerabilities — 121. Out of these, 118 are remotely exploitable and the highest rated one has a score of 9.2 (critical) in the Common Vulnerability Scoring System.

Another 37 vulnerabilities were patched in Oracle Financial Services, 18 in Oracle Fusion Middleware, eight in Oracle Retail Applications, eight in Oracle PeopleSoft and 4 in the Oracle Primavera Products Suite. These products are used across a variety of industries.

The most critical vulnerability, with a CVSS score of 10, was patched in Primavera P6 Enterprise Project Portfolio Management. The vulnerability can be exploited over HTTP and can result in unauthorized creation, deletion or modification of critical data.

Vulnerabilities with a CVSS score of 9.8 were fixed in Oracle WebLogic Server, PeopleSoft Enterprise PeopleTools, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Tools and Enterprise Manager Base Platform. If left unpatched, these can lead to a complete compromise of the affected systems.

On the database side, 27 vulnerabilities were patched in the widely used MySQL database server and five in the Oracle Database Server and related components. Seventeen vulnerabilities have been fixed in Java.

This is not Oracle’s largest Critical Patch Update (CPU) to date, but comes close to it — the record was 276 fixes in the July 2016 CPU.

Analysts from cybersecurity firm ERPScan point out that Oracle CPUs that exceed 200 patches have become the norm. The average number of fixes per Oracle CPU in 2015 was 153, but in 2016 is was 227, they said in an analysis.

“Oracle updates are huge and touch a wide range of products,” said Amol Sarwate, director of vulnerability labs at Qualys, in a blog post. “As compared to older CPUs this was a regular-sized update but is bound to keep administrators busy due to the sheer number of vulnerabilities and products it touches.”

Oracle releases CPUs on a quarterly basis, the next one being scheduled for April 18th.

Snowden’s stay in Russia has been extended by the Russian government

U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden will be allowed to stay in Russia for “another couple of years,” according to a spokeswoman for the government there.Edward Snowden

The Russian government has extended the residence permit for Snowden, the former NSA contractor charged with espionage for leaking details of U.S. surveillance operations, said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Zakharova announced the extension on her Facebook page late Tuesday.

Zakharova’s post came in response to a column by Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the U.S. CIA, who said Russia can return Snowden to the U.S. as a “perfect inauguration gift” to President-elect Donald Trump.

Snowden “stole and made available to the public more classified information than anyone in the history of our republic,” Morell wrote. “The totality of the disclosures by Snowden caused substantial damage to the overall national security of the United States.”

But Morell “does not know” that Russia has extended Snowden’s residence permit, Zakharova wrote. Snowden was stranded in Russia after fleeing the U.S. when news organizations began publishing information from his leaks.

It is clear that it is normal at the CIA to “present gifts in the form of people and take those seeking protection,” Zakharova wrote on Facebook.

The announcement of Snowden’s extended permit came just hours after President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, another famous government leaker. Obama reduced Manning’s prison sentence from 35 to seven years.

More than 167,000 people signed a 2013 White House petition calling on Obama to pardon Snowden. Obama declined. A campaign for a Snowden pardon is still active.

Microsoft teases Windows 10’s sleek new look for the future

Microsoft’s planning a sleek visual refresh for Windows 10, and the company quietly teased its first official glimpse of what’s coming in the future during the Windows Developer Day keynote on Wednesday.windows 10

There aren’t many details being shared about “Project Neon” right now—as the refresh was called in earlier leaks—but the new visual look will focus on animations and transitions. The basic concept is “to add fluidity, animation, and blur to apps and the operating system,” as first reported by Windows Central. The new design language also hopes to make it easier for developers to create attractive apps.

The design refresh should extend to all Windows 10 devices including PCs and tablets, HoloLens, Xbox, and the few surviving Windows Phones, according to Windows Central.

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Microsoft’s first official look at Project Neon. Click to enlarge it.

Twitter user Tom Hounsell shared a clean version of Microsoft’s first look at Windows 10’s forthcoming design tweaks. The image shown on the livestream had large text overlaid on top of the screenshot.

As you can see, this isn’t a huge change, but the visual refresh gives Windows 10 a sleeker, more modern feel. The taskbar icons look a little more dynamic and bolder. Cortana is using the icon instead of the search box, though it’s not clear if this will be the default look. The clock on the taskbar is also bolder, and the usual notification area icons including the Action Center are notably absent. The open Groove Music window itself looks more polished and Aero-esque as well, with no title bar to be seen—just unobtrusive options in the app’s upper-right corner.

The impact on you at home: Windows Central says that some of the code for Project Neon is already available in recent Insider Preview builds of Windows 10; however, it’s unlikely the visual refresh will be ready in time for the massive Creators Update this spring. Microsoft is expected to share more information about Neon during the Build conference in May. The Creators Update is expected to roll out in late March or early April, followed by a second major update later in 2017.

Verizon announces its LG Sport watch rival, the LTE and NFC-enabled Wear24

The first Android Wear 2.0 watches from LG and Google aren’t even on shelves yet, but the first competitor has already been announced. But it’s not from Huawei, Moto, or Asus. It’s from Verizon.

Yes, you’ve read that right: Big Red is getting into the watch business. Called Wear24, presumably a reference to its all-day connectivity, the wearable competes directly with the LG Watch Sport, currently the top-of-the-line Android Wear 2.0 watch. According to CNet, the Quanta-manufactured watch features a slightly bigger screen (1.39 inches vs. 1.38 inches) and battery (450mAh vs. 440mAh). It also includes IP67 water resistance, NFC, and LTE, ticking off enough boxes to be taken seriously. It’s even a little thinner than the Sport (13.5mm vs. 14.2mm), and has a slimmer bezel. And based on a single render (seen at left in the image above), it looks good.

Hardware products are rare from Verizon, but this wouldn’t be the first Android device made by the carrier. In addition to its line of budget-minded Ellipsis tablets, it recently began selling the GizmoTab, an 8-inch tablet geared specifically toward kids, loaded with 300 educational apps like Crayola Color and Nat Geo Puzzle Explorer.

However, the Wear24 is most certainly a premium device designed to compete at the upper end of the market. Like the Sport, the Wear24 will sell for $300 with a 2-year contract and $350 without one, though it will cost existing Verizon customers $5 a month to add it to their plan.

A little friendly competition: Releasing a product designed to compete with a new, highly anticipated Google launch is certainly an interesting move for Verizon, but it’s especially curious in light of the exclusive partnership the two companies have with the Pixel. Verizon hasn’t released any availability for the new watch, but the timing of the announcement, right before Google and LG start selling their own wearables, is clearly designed to take some of the luster away from the Sport’s launch. Of course, we’ll have to wait to see how the watches stack up in daily use, but on paper, Google already has some serious competition.

This story, “Verizon announces its LG Sport watch rival, the LTE and NFC-enabled Wear24” was originally published by Greenbot.

Windows 10’s Cortana adds Suggested Reminders to help you keep your promises

Windows 10’s Cortana is already a dutiful digital assistant, providing answers, reminders, or other information when asked. But Microsoft has given her more power to take the initiative, automatically setting reminders for commitments you’ve already agreed to.cortana suggested reminders large

Take an email, for example. You may have promised your boss that you’ll deliver a sales presentation by Friday. Just in case you’ve forgotten, Cortana will automatically issue what Microsoft is calling a “suggested reminder” the day before, to ensure you have plenty of time to finish it up.

“I’ve been on the Cortana team for about a year, doing a lot of demos…but this one feels like something people are really like, okay, this is what a personal assistant really feels like on your PC,” said Laura Jones, the senior marketing manager for Cortana at Microsoft.

Cortana’s suggested reminders begin rolling out on Thursday. Because Cortana is a service, you won’t need a new Windows 10 build. You can also expect to see Cortana’s suggested reminders roll out to iOS and Android in the coming weeks, Microsoft said.

Suggested reminders are part of Cortana’s transition from a passive to a more proactive digital assistant. Cortana already knows you’re at the store, for example, and can automatically remind you to buy milk—if you’ve previously asked her to. This is something different. More and more, Cortana is beginning to act on her own, without any input from you at all.

cortana permissions flyout

Microsoft

To take advantage of Cortana’s Suggested Reminders, ensure that you have the proper permissions enabled.

For those who are concerned about protecting their privacy, take heart: Suggested Reminders aren’t turned on by default. You first must be signed in to Cortana, and then connect your Office 365 or Outlook email account. But yes, Suggested Reminders work by reading your email, and then acting upon them. (If Cortana’s already advising you to leave at a given time to ensure you make your next meeting, chances are you’ve already given her permission to read your email and calendar.) Other means of communication will be added over time, Jones said, though she declined to comment when asked if one might be Skype.

Using artificial intelligence, Cortana looks for commitments or promises, Jones explained. Phrases like “let’s have lunch” won’t trigger a reminder. However, “I’ll book us a reservation” will. Cortana tries to adjust the timing of the reminders to the period of the event; if you promise to get something done by the end of day, Cortana will issue a reminder at 3 p.m., she said. If something’s due Friday, you’ll get a reminder at about 11 a.m. the day before.

Check Cortana’s Notebook, periodically, too. If Cortana thinks that it may have a suggested reminder, but isn’t sure, she might store it there, Jones said.

If Suggested Reminders sounds familiar, it’s appeared as part of Cortana within the Windows Insider Program. This a more powerful version, however, with improved machine learning at the heart of it, Jones said.

Jones said she has been personally testing it out for a few months, and has come across a few things she herself has promised and then forgotten about, such as commitments made around the holidays. “It’s saved my butt a few times,” she said.

Kodi’s coming home to Xbox to play your music and movies as a universal Windows app

The popular open source media manager Kodi is coming home. During Microsoft’s Developer Day event on Wednesday, Microsoft announced that the XBMC Foundation is bringing Kodi to the Xbox One as a Windows Store (UWP) app, as first reported by Neowin.kodibig

The Developer Day event touted the advantages of the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update to developers. We expect the Creators Update to launch in late March or early April, based on indications tied to the ship dates of Microsoft’s Surface Studio and Dell’s Canvas monitor.

Kodi began life as the Xbox Media Center, an application for original Xbox consoles that were modded to allow unauthorized software. Just as Kodi does today to PCs, XBMC turned the Xbox into a media streaming device. The program eventually became known as XBMC and left the Xbox platform to focus on PCs instead. Since then, XBMC has become the open source project Kodi, which is managed by the XBMC F

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Kodi is already available in the Windows Store but as a Centennial app. That means the Kodi Team took the traditional desktop program (known as a Win32 app) and ran it through Microsoft’s mostly automated conversion process to turn it into a Windows Store app. Microsoft’s conversion allows developers to do almost nothing to turn their desktop programs into Windows Store apps, but as they still use Win32 code, Centennial apps will only work on Windows 10 desktops and tablets.

No one from the Kodi development team or the XBMC Foundation appeared on stage at Microsoft’s conference. During the Developer Day Keynote, however, Microsoft’s Kevin Gallo said the Kodi Team would convert their code base to a native Windows Store app. “Since we published the app to the store we’ve been able to reach over one million users worldwide,” Kodi Team Lead Martijn Kaijser said in a statement that Gallo displayed during his talk. “Today we are announcing we will convert our entire Win32 codebase to UWP and publish on Xbox soon.”

This story, “Kodi’s coming home to Xbox to play your music and movies as a universal Windows app” was originally published by TechHive.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad P71 packs 7.5 pounds of Xeon power for VR creators

Lenovo’s ThinkPad P71 is one superfast laptop that can work with HTC’s Vive and the Oculus Rift VR headsets.thinkpad p71 hero shot manufacturing 0005

It’s technically a workstation and is targeted at professionals creating VR content, editing movies, or running engineering applications. Headsets are needed to create VR content.

The laptop, which weighs 7.5 pounds, has a 17-inch screen and is equipped with Intel’s latest Xeon E3-v6 mobile chips, based on the Kaby Lake architecture. It can be configured with an Nvidia mobile Quadro GPU like the P5000M, which aid in the content creation and virtual reality experiences.

It supports up to 64GB of DDR4 memory and up to 2TB of storage via four slots. It also has a USB 3.0 port, Mini-DispayPort 1.2 slot, HDMI 1.4, and Gigabit Ethernet slots.

The ThinkPad P51 is similar to the P71 with a 15-inch screen, but it isn’t VR ready. The P51’s price will start at $1,399, and it will ship in April.

Lenovo also introduced the ThinkPad P51s, which has a 15-inch screen and will run on Intel’s 7th Generation Core processors based on Kaby Lake, a step down in performance compared to Xeon. It has Thunderbolt 3 technology, and it can be configured with a Quadro GPU and a 4K screen. It will ship in March starting at $1,049.

Quicken shifts to software subscription model, but there’s a big catch

Quicken last month moved to a software-by-subscription model for Canadian customers, and may do the same for those in the U.S. who rely on the personal finance program.qkn15mac 2d 100648502 orig

Unlike a pilot program that launched in April 2016, the Quicken subscription is not a pure cloud-based service, but relies on software installed locally on a Windows personal computer.

The two subscriptions available to Canadian users cost $40 a year (Quicken Cash Manager) and $90 annually (Quicken Home & Business). The core software must be installed on a Windows device, and will, Quicken said, be updated “to make sure you’re always on the newest version.”

More importantly, however, is that the subscription offers one year of what Quicken dubbed “Connected Service,” the back end that supports transaction downloads from banks, credit card companies and other financial organizations.

Like most vendors offering software subscriptions, Quicken will automatically ding the customer’s on-file credit card for renewals.

But if customers do not renew their subscription, they will lose more than just access to downloads from their bank. “While you can continue to access your data and run reports, you’ll no longer be able to download transactions, or add manual transactions [emphasis added],” a FAQ said in reply to a question about what happens when access to Connected Service ends.

The restriction is no different than what other subscription services place on customers. Users who stop paying for Office 365, for instance, can no longer create new or edit existing documents.

But the idea that they could not continue to track finances by manually entering transactions fueled push-back from Quicken customers.

“If the subscription isn’t renewed, manual access and updates to the data need to be allowed, otherwise the company will be perceived to be holding the customer’s data hostage,” argued Dan Glynhampton in a message posted to a Quicken support forum.

“Quicken is supposed to help me manage my finances, not prevent me from managing my finances,” added mshiggins on the same thread.

When a Quicken representative intervened on the forum to say that the only real difference between a subscription and the older licensed software is “that manual transactions can’t be added” when the former expires, users were quick to respond.

“If at the point the subscription ends my data essentially becomes frozen in time then that makes the program absolutely useless to me,” asserted Perculiar_Investor.

Quicken had long used a similar “sunset” policy, as after three years a licensed version of the software would stop downloading transactions from online sources or letting users pay bills electronically. Even then, though, customers could add transactions manually.

In another answer to a question in the FAQ, Quicken implied that all versions, including those aimed at U.S. consumers, would be offered solely as subscriptions. “All future Quicken products will be subscription products,” the FAQ said.

The move to subscriptions is not a surprise. Last year, Quicken CEO Eric Dunn said that the company — which had just split from its parent firm, Intuit — was investigating a subscription model for the software. “We’re open to that. It could make sense,” Dunn said in April 2016.

Quicken did not immediately reply to questions, including whether the subscription would be the only option for U.S. users, and if so, when.

This story, “Quicken shifts to software subscription model, but there’s a big catch” was originally published by Computerworld.

The working and results of Anadrol vs Dianabol

Not all steroids are similar but some may have common properties though. Anadrol and Dianabol are two of such steroids and are often regarded as more or less the same because the working and the results that they give are much similar. But also, they have many differences as well. Thus, it is important to know the similarities, differences and benefits of both the steroids to know which one will be best for you.

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The properties and benefits of Anadrol vs. Dianabol

Dianabol: One of the most effective anabolic steroids, Dianabol is much similar to testosterone and has a slight difference in its chemical composition when compared to testosterone. Thus, it is quite powerful.  The right dose for a beginner of Dianabol is 20 mgs daily while an experienced user can go up to 40 mg daily. Dianabol is stacked with many steroids such as Test propionate, Deca Durabolin, Tren, Tes E and so on for effective reasons. Though Dianabol is available as injections as well as pills, you can choose any form as both are beneficial.

Anadrol: Anadrol is one of the best versions of testosterone and it is mainly used by athletes to gain muscle size and strength. Also, it does not brign about any side effects that are usually caused with DHT. One of the best advantages of using Anadrol is that it can give you desired results in less time but at the same time, there are side effects such as bloating and gynecomastia or breast enlargement in men. Some users also experience lethargy as they felt sleepier when they used Anadrol.

A comparison of Anadrol with Dianabol

One thing is sure, that both can bring about side effects but responsible use can lower the risk with both steroids. However, let us look at dianabol vs anadrol. With Dianabol, lower back pain is a side effect but Anadrol does not cause back pain.

With Anabol, there can be bad lipid profile and that is the reason many users prefer to use Dianabol. But these side effects can be prevented when Anadrol is used along with a supplement to protect liver, for example N2Guard.

Dianabol can bring down SHBG levels which in turn produces additional testosterone. Anadrol on the other hand can bring about cardio problems. A benefit of using Dianabol is that it can also enhance the levels of potassium and calcium in the body which is beneficial and it can also bring about more muscle growth which remains permanent. Dianabol also makes the muscles stronger as well.  Many uses vouch for Dianabol as they are considered to be one of the best steroids of today.  But at the same time, Anadrol being a new entrant in the market, there isn’t much info about it but there is ample information about the usage and results of Dianabol. At the end of the day, it is up to the users as to which steroid they prefer. But do read more about them before you start using it.