Tech round-up for Jan. 21: Windows 10, HoloLens, Surface Hub, DNA, passwords

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This week, Microsoft makes a splash, science takes a beating, and rethinking your clever password.

Microsoft reveals Surface Hub, HoloLens devices at Windows 10 event

Microsoft made me sit up in my seat this morning. What I expected to be a fairly dry announcement of Windows 10 turned into something vastly more interesting when new devices were revealed in the Surface Hub, for businesses, and HoloLens, Microsoft’s answer to virtual reality headsets.

According to Microsoft’s Alex Kipman, the HoloLens is “the most advanced holographic computer the world has ever seen”. With a see-through lens, it appears to be more of an augmented reality device than a true hologram, but it has amazing potential.

The HoloLens has application in business and technology, entertainment, and even lifestyle. Using the HoloStudio app, people can create 3D objects which can then be printed using a 3D printer.

Windows Holographic is built into Windows 10, and Kipman said that HoloLens will be available “in the Windows 10 timeframe” which I took to mean during the life of the operating system, not at its launch.

The Surface Hub, meanwhile, is an 84-inch, 4K touchscreen display with all of the computing components built in, as well as integrated Kinect (for gestural control), microphone and speakers, and cameras. It’s designed for use in office environments, especially those in which meetings are being held regularly.

The whiteboard feature is enhanced by being able to mark up and make notes on the screen, which are automatically captured and synced to OneNote. And you can get content onto the screen from any device connected to the meeting. When meetings are over, all the content that was displayed is automatically shared to all the participants.

Windows 10 a free upgrade for a limited time

While a date for the final release of Windows 10 was not announced, it is planned for 2015. Terry Myerson, who heads up the operating systems team at Microsoft, said that for a year it would be a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

The operating system is a big step, as it is the first time there will be one Windows for all Windows devices whether they are a computer, a phone, or a tablet, although there are two “tunings”: one for devices larger than eight inches, and another for devices less than that. This allows for greater cross-device integration.

Cortana, the “personal digital assistant” becomes central to the Windows 10 experience. “She” can be directed by voice command or keyboard, and provides integrated search functions across devices.

Windows 10 will also include an updated Web browser, currently code-named Project Spartan. The most interesting new feature is the ability to mark up a Web page on a touchscreen the way you’d write on a hard copy printout. Those notes can then be saved or shared with others.

Games are a big part of Windows 10

Phil Spencer is the head of the Xbox team at Microsoft, and revealed that Windows 10 includes Xbox App, which provides access to Xbox Live social functions across all Windows 10 devices, including voice and text chat across devices. There will also be a “game DVR” feature in the operating system that, similar to Xbox One, can capture the last 30 seconds of gameplay with the press of a button.

Windows 10 will also allow for cross-platform gaming with Xbox One, something Spencer demonstrated with the upcoming game, Fable Legends.

Easily the most exciting feature of Windows 10 for Spencer and the Xbox division, though, is that it will enable streaming of Xbox One games to any Windows 10 computer or tablet. On stage with a Surface tablet, Spencer played Forza Horizon 2 from the Xbox One in his living room.

Entertainment, games in particular, are very much a part of the future of Windows. “We’re not just viewers, we’re participants,” said Spencer. “Gaming is inherently personal; we are deeply invested in our worlds and our play.”

Cross-posted at the Georgia Straight

People aren’t dumb … oh, wait, yes they are

The Washington Post reports that a survey conducted by Oklahoma State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics found that more than 80 percent of respondents support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA.

I’m giving the researchers the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they know that DNA is a part of every living thing, and asked the question to see how many respondents did too.

While we’re on the topic …

The annual “worst passwords” list from SplashData has been released.

For the second year in a row, “123456” and “password” were in the top two spots. Because nobody’s ever going to think you’re dumb enough to have your password be, “password,” right?


The best way to have strong passwords and remember them is to use a tool such as 1Password, which is developed in Canada by AgileBits. Or SplashID, which is developed by SplashData.

SplashData, and many security experts, suggest that passwords should mix up letters, numbers, and symbols, but Randall Munroe, better known to the world as XKCD, showed that the best password is actually a series of random words.

Just see how easy it can be to get people to reveal their passwords to everyone watching Jimmy Kimmel.


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