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Big Announcements From The Microsoft Surface Event

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Surface Studio Microsoft
Image Credit: Microsoft

In a year that has seen PC sales declining (although somewhat better in the United States), Microsoft has been leading the charge to reinvigorate excitement in the Windows PC once again. Microsoft continued that charge with a renewed focus on creativity by unveiling several new enhancements to Windows 10 as well as total reinvention of how we use desktop computers with a brand-new Surface computer.

Windows Creator’s Update

Microsoft announced that the “Windows Creator’s Update” will be released in the Summer of 2017. This release is aimed at creative types and brings several new ways to create and interact with content including 3-D, VR, and augmented reality.

The Future is 3-D and VR

Microsoft showed off a brand new version of the ubiquitous Paint app (yes, THAT Paint app) that allows users to turn their 2-D creations into 3-D images. It even allows users to import photos and turn parts of the photo into 3-D images. In fact, a smartphone can even be used to do a “3-D scan” of an object with the camera (the demo used the HP Elite x3 to scan an actual sand castle model). Microsoft also integrated Minecraft into the experience and allowing users to export their Minecraft creations to Paint 3-D and even allowing 3-D printing directly from the Paint 3-D app. 3-D creations also extends into Powerpoint in which a presenter showed off placing 3-D images into a Powerpoint presentation.

Continuing in the vein of 3-D, Microsoft announced that several PC hardware makers will be making $299 VR devices for Windows 10. These VR devices will utilize inside-out tracking which essentially eliminates the need for an external camera or lasers for tracking. Interestingly, there was no mention of Oculus, whom Microsoft previously collaborated with to bundle the Xbox One controller with the Oculus Rift. Windows chief Terry Myerson even bemoaned how VR platforms such as the Rift and the HTC Vive need expensive computers and dangling cords.

Of course, no Microsoft virtual reality demo would be complete without the HoloLens, Microsoft’s augmented reality platform. Microsoft showed several demos of using HoloLens to interact with 3-D objects created using Paint 3-D (including the aforementioned sandcastle).

Xbox Live

Earlier this year, Microsoft launched Arena, an e-sports platform that lets players compete in tournaments. Whereas in the beginning, tournaments were created by developers and e-sports leagues, Microsoft is now allowing players to create their own tournaments to compete in with Microsoft’s Jenn McCoy stating, “We want to give gamers the ability to create their own tournaments and challenges”.

The other big announcement for Xbox Live deals with interactive live streaming. Microsoft acquired game streaming service Beam back in August of this year. Now, Microsoft is leveraging Beam’s live streaming platform to allow gamers to live stream their games without having to download a separate program. Other players will be able to interact with the player during the live stream, including clicking on buttons that audibly tell the player in a hilarious voice what to do. Obviously, this faces competition from heavy hitters like Twitch but Microsoft’s goal here is to simply live streaming and make it less intimidating for people who are new to live streaming their games.


Surface gets more powerful and creative

The highlight of the event was clearly the Surface announcements. The first announcement was the addition of a more powerful Surface Book, dubbed the Surface Book i7. Surface chief Panos Panay, who by the way is one of the most passionate and entertaining presenters I’ve seen, explained that most of the feedback they received about the Surface Book was that users wanted more power and longer battery life. To accommodate that, the Surface team revamped the cooling system with an additional fan. Spec-wise, it sports an Intel 6th-gen i7 processor (Skylake), an NVIDIA GTX 965M graphics card, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB SSD. Microsoft calls it “the most powerful device in its class”. Microsoft even compared the new Surface Book directly to a 13 inch MacBook Pro saying it “has twice the power of a MacBook Pro 13”. Oddly enough, there is a glaring omission of any USB Type C ports which is disappointing given the high end nature of the Surface Book. Save up those pennies though because the new Surface Book i7 starts at $2,399 while a fully loaded model tops out at $3299. Microsoft is clearly aiming for the MacBook Pro crowd. While the Surface Book i7 will release on November 11th, you can preorder the Surface Book now.

The second announcement was a brand new all-in-one PC called the Surface Studio. The newest entry in the Surface lineup competes squarely with Apple’s iMac. The Surface Studio is dominated by a beautiful 28” PixelSense touch screen display with a 4500 x 3000 resolution and connects to a square metal base via two chrome arms. Microsoft says the display is the thinnest LCD display ever. The base holds either an Intel i5 or i7 processor and is paired to a NVIDIA GTX 965 or 980M. It’s interesting that Microsoft didn’t opt to put NVIDIA’s new 10-series graphics cards which are more powerful and power efficient. Being a Surface, you’re able to use a Surface Pen to draw/write on the screen. To help facilitate that, the screen folds down nearly flat to allow a more natural position to use the Surface Pen. Likewise in Surface fashion, the screen has a 3:2 aspect ratio. The Surface Studio will be released in December but preorders are available now starting at $2,999 and topping off at an eye-watering $4,199.

Alongside the Surface Studio, Microsoft also unveiled a brand new accessory called the Surface Dial. The Dial is sort of like a round puck like device that can be placed on the screen to allow artist-centric functionality. For example, placing the Surface Dial on the screen while a paint app is open activates a sort of paint palette that allows you to switch colors by twisting the dial. Keeping the Dial on the table, you can twist the dial to quickly scroll through items on the screen. It can also be used to navigate and pan around. Other apps can take advantage of the Surface Dial such as volume scrolling or zooming in on pictures.

Apple is expected to unveil all new MacBook Pros at an event on October 27th. With Microsoft gunning directly for the MacBook Pro users with a more powerful Surface Book and the all new Surface Studio All-In-One PC, all eyes will be on Apple to see if they can respond with an equal amount of innovation.

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Events

Snap Spectacles Drops Vending Machine In Philly

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When you know Snapchat’s Snapbot is going to pop up in your city, you go. That’s exactly what happened today in Philadelphia, just in time for Valentine’s Day! Local non-profit Visit Philly was a big player in getting Snap Spectacles into the City of Brotherly Love.

 

 

Driving into Center City and parking a block away from the destination, we hurried into Dilworth Park and got in line as a drone flew over us documenting the entire thing. Seeing the Snapbot in person is an experience in itself. The bright yellow box with one eye and a smile stood solo in front of the infamous LOVE statue in front of City Hall as eager customers waited patiently in line to get their hands on a pair or two of the Spectacles. Going for $129.99 per pair, the Snapchat glasses ran out in just a few hours. For those who weren’t able to make it, see where they’re popping up next!

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Everything You Need to Know About The Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal

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Cambridge Analytica

Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal is dominating the news. From Elon Musk to Keith Weed, experts in the industry have been keeping a close eye on the story’s development around the globe. So, how did the scandal come to be and where is it going from here?

A Tale of Two Lawsuits

The giant scandal engulfing Facebook and user privacy has made lesser-known Cambridge Analytica a household name. Cambridge Analytica is a British, data-driven, political consulting company. Cambridge Analytica contracted Kogan GSR to harvest data from Facebook users via an application called This Is Your Digital Life.

The application was created in 2014 and banned in 2015 from Facebook when they realized that Kogan “lied” about the utilization of their harvested data. They reportedly ordered Kogan and all parties given access to that data to delete it.

There are two lawsuits raging against SCL Group (CA’s parent company), Kogan GSR and Facebook in the UK and US. The lawsuit in the UK is by Jason McCue, who alleges that the defendants abused the human right to privacy.

The case aims to ensure that violation of privacy will not happen again in the future, specifically the extraction of names, phone numbers, mail and email addresses, religious and political affiliations and other data.

About 270,000 users installed Kogan’s application to take a personality quiz, so why is the number 70 million affected? The permissions on the application allowed Kogan to collect data from friends of the 270,000 users who took the quiz.

While these users’ willingly gave out personal information, Kogan claimed the information would have an academic application. The lawsuit asserts the information was, in fact, used for commercial and political services. The 70 million user figure only covers those affected in the US. worldwide, that number is estimated to be almost 87 million, with over 1 million in the UK alone.

The US-based lawsuit puts the pressure on Facebook. Lead Counsel for the case, Robert Ruyak places heavy blame on Facebook, stating that Facebook failed to secure the personal information of millions of its users, in addition to failing to take appropriate action even when aware of this failure.

The Current Pulse of Litigation

Cambridge Analytica

In the past few weeks, there has been an influx of memes associated with Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is testifying in the US lawsuit though refused the UK’s request to interview for their lawsuit. The US lawsuit is still ongoing and continues to generate more questions than answers.

The affair also highlights how out of touch many in Congress are with current technologies, with videos of aging Congressmen struggling to understand some of Zuckerberg’s tech-based answers and reply in kind. In the UK, the Cambridge Analytica and Kogan investigation is also ongoing.

An Uncertain Future for Facebook Stocks

Facebook saw its first downgrade since January this Wednesday. Stocks fell 1.7%. However, the company has seen an overall increase of 3.9% in its stock since the scandal broke in mid-March.

With a lack of consumer confidence, both companies are not as enticing to veteran investors as they once were.

A Leaderless Organization

News first broke about the scandal via the New York Times on March 17, 2018. A Channel 4 news video leaked the following Monday, adding further evidence to the claims asserted. The video produced footage of CA’s CEO, Alexander Nix, seemingly engaging in illegal political techniques such as entrapment.

Nix was suspended the following day and recently stepped down from the CEO position. Alexander Taylor, CA’s chief data officer, sat down as quickly as he stood up to take the CEO position, serving only a few days. It is unclear who will lead the company during this tumultuous time. Alexander Nix refused parliament’s request to testify, showing additional distaste from the general public.

The Future of Digital Privacy

There is an aura of doubt clouding the general public’s faith that Facebook will take preventative actions to ensure a data breach of this level does not occur again. Many wonder how Silicon Valley’s brightest minds could let a mistake this large pervade its data for over a year. More importantly, Facebook did not alert authorities to the morally gray and illegal data collection.

With scandals like Equifax’s 2017 data breach still fresh, the public sees an unwillingness for companies to take responsibility. The unspoken protocol of these breaches appears to err on the side of deception rather than transparency. Equifax was aware of their breach, which exposed nearly half of the US population’s personal financial information, weeks ahead of the news breaking.

Additionally, the company sought to turn a profit by offering data-protection services after the incident. Even more frustrating, is that the only recourse for consumers affected was to freeze their credit and to unfreeze credit comes with fees.

Facebook

The lack of accountability and transparency means that these data breaches could simply be warning signs of far larger scandals to follow.

When companies are unwilling to make ethical decisions, it’s ideal that laws enter the creation process to ensure the safety of the public. A bipartisan effort is on the way in the US to give power back to the consumer. In a country where regulation is a dirty word, it’s unclear how this effort will be received.

On the tech, innovation side come solutions from a forgotten class of researchers: tech privacy experts. An unglamorous field is now finding itself at the center of fixing a growing problem.

A peer-to-peer decentralized internet (first introduced to the non-tech obsessed via the HBO show Silicon Valley), strong advertising blockers, information fiduciaries (whose purpose is to protect users’ data) and better encryption techniques are all points of notable research. May their innovation spawn a new era of data privacy.

The on-demand economy continues to grow quickly and with it comes many avenues for illicit data collection. There is a struggle to balance convenience with privacy. Tech privacy experts are working to ensure their solutions mesh well with consumers’ expectations for efficiency.

Flailing Confidence

Facebook’s rise as a tech giant may be in jeopardy. Their business model is strongly based on consumer trust. Zuckerberg’s decision not to alert authorities deny a request from parliament, his evasiveness in his testimony with Congress and his negative public image (he’s frequently touted as overly robotic and was presented unfavorably in The Social Network) has generated contempt from many consumers.

The #deletefacebook hashtag also gained organic momentum. For a company dependent on users for profit, a tall order for their public relations team is in store.

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Superbowl 2018 Results – Eagles Won!

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Superbowl 2018 Results – Eagles Won! It was an incredible game played by both the Patriots and the Eagles. With a final score of 41 Eagles to 33 Patriots, the Eagles won their first ever Super Bowl bringing the championship home.

A genius offensive play

The Eagle’s play tonight was purely offensive – and they had to win at all costs. LeGarret Blount rushed for 90 yards and scored a touchdown. Corey Clement could be seen throughout the game rushing for the 108 total yards of offense. And Nelson Agholor’s perfect synchronization with Foles was able to catch 9 passes for a total of 84 yards throughout the game. And we can’t forget Zach Ertz, who scored the final touchdown in the 4th quarter after diving over Devin McCourty. It was a tense moment as everyone in the stadium and at home watching held their breath while waiting for the verdict. Ertz made a brilliant leap of faith and landed just over the end zone, but the ball bounced. Did it hit the ground before bouncing? Were his feet both in the end zone at the time of landing? Was he in possession of the ball in the final seconds of the landing in the end zone? The crowd went wild and Philadelphia has never been more lit when the referees announced it was a touchdown.

Rushing for the win

The Eagles were still behind. The Eagles kept pushing through yard by yard. Nick Foles made a daring move on 3rd-and-7 that ended with Foles completed a phenomenal 11 yard pass to Zach Ertz. Ertz made an olympic worthy leap over Devin McCourty and into the end zone. Ertz narrowly landed both feet in the end zone, but the ball bounced, and was caught again mid-air by Ertz. It was unclear if the ball made contact with the ground which caused the bouncing. It was a tense moment as everyone awaited the referees to review the footage to make the final call. It was determined that Ertz was in possession of the ball before landing on the ground and the touchdown ruling was upheld.

Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett – turning the tides

With 2 minutes and 21 seconds left on the timer and one timeout left, the Patriots were ahead and had everything lined up for the win. And that was when Brandon Graham decided to reveal himself. He’s been hiding from the camera all game and decided it’s now or never. Brandon Graham sacked Brady forcing a fumble which was picked up by Derek Barnett that decided the fate of the game. If it weren’t for Brandon Graham’s bravery and Derek Barnett’s keen reflexes, the game could have been very different. Tom  Brady could be seen on TV sitting on the field not getting up. He knew it was over at that moment. The Eagles had won decisively.

The underdogs and their Foles

Who would ever thought that the backup quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles only took on the role of starting quarterback after Carson Wentz got injured on week 14 of the season. Foles completed 28 of 43 passes with a total 373 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. Foles even CAUGHT a touchdown in a last minute offensive play where Brady actually failed to catch the ball when attempting a similar play.

Foles was able to consistently convert those 3rd and 4th downs into game changing opportunities the entire game. If you doubted Foles before, he’s proven you and everybody wrong. If you’ve doubted the Eagles before, after tonight’s game, there’s not a doubt in anyone’s mind that these underdogs played their heart out and earned their world title as the winner of the 52nd Super Bowl Championship.

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