Windows Insider News

Good news! New Redstone 5 (RS5) versions of Windows 10 Insider Preview builds are now available to Insiders in the Slow Ring. These builds include a new version of Skype plus preview features like SwiftKey autocorrection for typing, a redesigned menu for Microsoft Edge — plus more control over websites that automatically play media.

For Insiders in the Fast Ring, your latest Insider Preview builds include an improved Windows update experience, new emoji and a very cool Mixed Reality innovation.

Windows 10 Insider Preview highlights

Here are some recent highlights, including the build where they first appeared.
  • Over 150 new emoji. This latest collection includes superheroes, a softball, a pirate flag plus some nice improvements to existing emoji. You can access them using the Emoji Panel (WIN+.) or the touch keyboard.3 (Build 17723)
  • A convenient portal into the physical world. For those immersed in a virtual Mixed Reality session, we’ve adding the ability to peer out into your physical environment — without removing your headset. (Build 17723)
  • An improved Windows update experience. Before an update, Windows will automatically check if you are currently using your machine and schedule a better time to reboot. If you find your device restarting at the wrong time, please file a bug in the feedback hub. (Build 17723)
  • Skype for Windows 10 gets a big update. The new Skype for Windows 10 update includes a customizable group calling experience, easier screen sharing and access to contacts, the option to capture images during video calls, and more. (Build 17704)
  • Redesigned Microsoft Edge menu and Settings. Based on your feedback, we’ve simplified the menu and better organized Settings into sub-pages. We’ve also added a much-requested option to customize which icons appear in the toolbar. (Go to ”Show in toolbar” in the “…” menu.) (Build 17704)
  • Control whether media in Microsoft Edge can play automatically. We’ve added a new setting to allow you to control whether sites can autoplay media. You can find this under Settings>Advanced> Media autoplay. (Build 17704)
  • Create your own font. With the Microsoft Font Maker app available in Windows Store, you can use your pen to create a font based on your personal handwriting style. (Build 17704)
  • An easier way to capture and share screen shots. Try our new Screen Sketch app directly from the Snipping Tool. You can launch the app directly to start (and share) a snip from there. Or, for even faster screenshots, just press WIN+Shift+S or create a shortcut and press the back of your pen or the Print Screen key. (Build 17704)

Three Blockchain Startups To Watch

Distributed ledger technologies, of which the most well-
known may be blockchain, hold the potential to
transform the financial services sector. Here are three
early stage financial ventures with products and
services based on blockchain technology.

Blockchain has been a buzzword in financial services for some time. As this technology
matures, however, it is likely to become much more than just a buzzword. Technology
startups utilising blockchain technologies hope to introduce substantial efficiencies into
the banking and finance sector for the benefit of customers and businesses.
Part of a group of distributed ledger technologies, blockchain is a series of assets, called
blocks, that clearly and publicly identify the current and previous owners of an asset, as
well as documenting the asset’s linear history.
Because blockchain may reduce the need for third-party verification of transactions,
allowing sellers and buyers to directly connect, it challenges traditional banking and
finance models where intermediaries manage the relationship between buyers and
sellers.
While it’s still very early days for this technology, businesses are emerging that build off
of blockchain and all it has to offer. Here are three new companies doing just that.

Brontech addresses identity verification
Identity verification startup Brontech (http://bron.tech/) uses blockchain to
decentralise data ownership. Emma Poposka, Co-Founder and CEO, explains her
software allows people to prove who they are online, without the need for third-party
verification.

One hypothetical application may be if a bank performs a 100-point know-your-
customer check to verify a customer’s identity. If tomorrow the customer wants to open
another bank account with a different bank, with Brontech the client may be able to
immediately prove identity without the second bank needing to do another 100-point
check. In fact, any business — e-tailers, schools or government agencies — could check
an individual’s identity using this technology.
Blockchain may be a solution because its nature means there’s no need for an outside
party to verify proof of identity—institutions can verify identities themselves because
the data is stored in a decentralised environment, which is the blockchain. Any party
with access and authority could check someone’s identity in the decentralised
environment.
Poposka says banks won’t necessarily be the first adopters of this tool because of the
strict regulatory environment in which they operate. Instead she says, it’s likely it will
initially be used by other digital businesses – for instance to verify someone’s identity
when renting rooms on AirBnb or booking an Uber.
“One user group will be the sharing economy, where you need to trust the person you’re
interacting with, and you need to know who they are. So, that’s where we see the biggest
potential,” she explains.
The software is fully developed and presently Poposka says she is negotiating
commercial partnerships for pilot projects.
Says Poposka: “This is a problem businesses have been trying to solve since the
beginning of the World Wide Web. It’s not going to be about who’s going to be the first to
market as much as I think it’s about who’s going to offer the best solution.”

Veredictum.io takes on digital piracy
Piracy was one of the internet’s first problems. For instance, in the early days it was
commonplace for people to ‘share’ their music through sites like Napster. While this site
no longer exists, piracy remains an issue.
Research from MUSO’s Global Piracy Insights Report 2017
(https://www.muso.com/2017-sample-global-piracy-insights-report-download/)
estimates there were 34.2 billion visits to music piracy sites throughout 2016. According
to this study, last year there was a marked rise in pirates ripping music from videos
shared on websites such as YouTube over 2015.
Tim Lea’s startup, Veredictum.io (http://veredictum.io/), aims to help resolve this
problem for artists working across a number of fields.
“We’re a blockchain-enabled software platform for film and video producers to protect
them from theft and piracy, and we’re looking at new distribution and monetisation
models,” he explains.
The business has a variety of techniques and tools it uses. For instance, it can create
digital fingerprints for media such as videos, registered through a blockchain.
The way it works, users download software to their computer that will be able to search
for pirated work on an ongoing basis.
“The decentralised structure will enable individuals affected by piracy to find their
pirated content. The software searches the web for pirated content. If pirated content is
found, the software rewards the finder with a crypto-currency coin such as a bitcoin,
that has real-world value in the secondary crypto-currency market,” Lea explains.
“We could not have done this without blockchain,” he explains.

Fuzo reimagines smart cards
Leon-Gerard Vandenberg, CTO and Founder of Fuzo (http://www.fuzo.com/), has been
working in the area of digital currencies since the turn of the millennium.
Back in 1999, he was involved in a project with the U.S. Navy called USNavyCash, which
he explains was a way of digitising sailors’ salaries who were based on navy ships and
bases all around the world.
“We created an early stored value card, but that project highlighted some failures of this
concept. Blockchain fixes some of these, notably the ‘double spend’ problem,”
Vandenberg says.
The double spend happens when two parties – say a sailor based on a ship for six
months and his or her spouse – would both use the card. Before Blockchain, it was
difficult to monitor spending on the card from two sources, other than through manual
reconciliation. Blockchain is able to resolve this, Vandenberg explains.
“A blockchain has to be connected all the time for it to provide its core functionality of
identifying transactions, including live ones. A smart card on a chip, which was the old
approach, has the problem that it’s disconnected from an external system when it’s in
your wallet. But if you use a sim card instead, it’s always connected.”
“My idea was to make digital money that can fit on a sim card, which is it’s always
connected. It delivers a heartbeat to a blockchain so that you always know how much
money is on the card, no matter who has used it,” he says.

The technology is delivered through an additional sim card that sits on top of the
phone’s main sim.
The business raised B200 initial seed funding from a company called Seedcoin in Hong
Kong and it now has working demonstration software for electronic remittance.
Right now Vandenberg is focused on developing an ecosystem of software developers
who can use the technology to build a new generation of financial services apps.
“We want to democratise access to financial services. But we’re not building a bank;
we’re building the infrastructure for the bank. We’re saying we want to be bricks and
mortar, the wheelbarrows and pickaxes for this brand new way of looking at money,”
Vandenberg argues.

 

 

Mobile Overtakes Desktop with 52% of Retail Traffic

Mobile traffic to retail websites has overtaken desktop for the first time ever, rising to 52 per cent of all traffic.

The figures, from the latest IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Report, also show that mCommerce accounts for 36 per cent of UK eCommerce sales, rising to 40 per cent for clothing and apparel websites. Overall, of the total £24.2bn online retail spend for Q2, £8.7bn came from mobile devices.

The report also showed that tablets have had a major impact on these changing trends in online shopping, accounting for 82 per cent of sales completed on a mobile device.

Visitor bounce rates rose slightly from 25 per cent in Q1 to 28 per cent, but this is most likely due to the increase in mobile traffic. Checkout abandonment, which is consistently the source of most lost custom, was down to a record low of 27 per cent, from 36 per cent in Q1.

“With over half of all e-retail traffic now coming via smartphones and tablet devices, the latest Quarterly Benchmarking results reveal a huge landmark in the growth of mobile commerce,” said Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG. “Considering that as recently as 2010 mobile visits to e-retail sites accounted for less than 3 per cent of traffic, this latest milestone represents staggering growth of 2,000 per cent over the past four years.

“These results clearly demonstrate that retailers’ investment in mobile optimisation is encouraging consumers to adopt mobile devices as a shopping platform.”

Tired of Windows, but afraid of the unknown?

Rusted-on Windows® user and wouldn’t ever consider other desktop or server options? Stop reading! This is not for you. Don’t be defensive – the majority of home and business desktop users struggle enough with Windows not to want any sort of change. Still on Windows XP? Forget that it’s no longer supported – it hasn’t truly been supported since the release of Service Pack 3 in early-2008. Don’t tell me you’re still reading….

Even though you have frustrations with Windows and:

  • the Blue-screen-of-death;
  • having to restart for each single minor change to software;
  • having to upgrade your machine with each new major release of Windows;
  • having to learn a new user interface (in desktop jargon, the “UX” or “User eXperience”;
  • trying to convince an unhelpful call-centre operator that you’re not a software pirate trying to steal the intellectual property rights of Microsoft so that you can activate or re-activate software you purchased legitimately;

so you still don’t want to consider a change, because:

  • the only alternative is to buy a Mac;
  • Macs are too expensive;
  • it’s hard enough to work out the latest Windows without struggling with a completely new and different operating system’s User eXperience;
  • Mac users are all fanatics and you don’t want to be in that camp.

All of those points are fallacious, and before I tackle this I want to stress that the purpose of this article is not to make a sales pitch for Apple® devices, although there is a solid base of professional users who rely on their technology to do their jobs. Disclaimer: I am one of those professionals who rely on the Apple eco-system and consider the return-on-investment to be sound. I’m often asked why by people who think the only difference is the way it looks. So very wrong – the intuitive UX is a fringe benefit and I’ve written separately a short piece on why I use Apple products on the desktop, as well as using a notebook, tablet and smartphone from that same vendor.

This is not about Apple, but about Ubuntu.

What is Ubuntu? Very simply, Ubuntu is a ubiquitous, free, open-source operating system for enterprise & web servers, personal computers, tablets, smartphones and smart television receivers. Ubuntu is one of many customised distributions (“distros”)  of the Linux operating system, itself the most ubiquitous of a family of POSIX-compliant, free open source operating systems. For more than 20 years YOU have been using Linux. You’re using it now – officeFocus® and WordPress.com both deliver web content to your browser from Linux servers. If you have an Android smartphone or tablet, you’re using Linux. If you have a smart toaster, microwave oven, refrigerator, washing machine, dryer or just about any appliance with electronics you’re probably using Linux.