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Google launches YouTube VR for Steam but it’s off to a rocky start

53d3c_android-authority-youtube-vr-one-840x473 Google launches YouTube VR for Steam but it's off to a rocky start Google Play


Google has launched its YouTube VR app on Steam. The app, which was previously exclusive to Google’s Daydream platform, is currently in early access but it can be downloaded right now for free on PC.

YouTube VR for Steam lets you explore Google’s ubiquitous video website using an HTC Vive VR headset. This means that not only can you search for and watch regular content, but you’ll also be able to enjoy videos specifically made for VR (like this); you can check out the original Daydream app trailer below.

Though the app has already been successful on Daydream and is built by Google who, you know, have a pretty good track record when it comes this whole software thing, the launch actually isn’t going great. The app currently has “mixed” reviews on Steam, with complaints ranging from the forced left-handed controls, to the lack of captions and quality settings, to the app just failing to launch (which is the exact experience I had with it).

Early Access is generally a good way for developers to roll out their product and identify any issues without the same expectation as a final release would have. What’s more, YouTube VR comes in a small download package (60 MB or so) and, as we said above, it’s free, so users aren’t really losing out on much by giving it a whirl.

Star Wars: Jedi Challenges VR/AR app to add The Last Jedi content (porgs!) in Jan. 2018

That being said, failing to launch is a fairly large error to have out of the gates, and it could turn people off using the app now and in the future. Google is no doubt keen for people to start using the app, or else it wouldn’t be in Early Access, so hopefully it addresses the problems soon.

For more on the HTC Vive, watch the full review from our sister site VR Source at the link.

Amazon will start selling Chromecast and Apple TV after pulling them in 2015, Google Home still not available

Amazon removed the Chromecast, Nexus Player, and Apple TV from its online store in 2015. Amazon said the products’ lack of Prime Video support (which Amazon itself is responsible for adding) could confuse buyers, but most saw it as a thinly-veiled attempt to boost sales of its own Fire TV lineup. Since then, Google and Amazon’s feud has only escalated.

The recent drama around the Echo Show (where Amazon implemented its own YouTube player without Google’s approval) and Amazon’s removal of some Nest products seemed to be the final straw. Google announced earlier this month it would block YouTube from the Echo Show (for the second time) and Fire TV devices.

Now it appears Amazon has reversed its ban on selling the Chromecast and Apple TV. Amazon told CNET in a statement, “I can confirm that we are assorting Apple TV and Chromecast,” and some product listings are already live. We have also independently received confirmation from Amazon.

The reason is for this move is not exactly clear. Prime Video recently arrived on the Apple TV, so that would fulfill Amazon’s requirement of Prime Video support. However, the Chromecast still doesn’t support the service.

Either Amazon has agreed to sell the Chromecast regardless (perhaps as part of a deal to restore YouTube access), or Prime Video support will arrive soon for the Chromecast. I’ll admit, the latter theory seems unlikely, but the recent addition of Chromecast support to the Amazon Music app lends some credibility towards the idea.

Amazon will start selling Chromecast and Apple TV after pulling them in 2015, Google Home still not available

Amazon removed the Chromecast, Nexus Player, and Apple TV from its online store in 2015. Amazon said the products’ lack of Prime Video support (which Amazon itself is responsible for adding) could confuse buyers, but most saw it as a thinly-veiled attempt to boost sales of its own Fire TV lineup. Since then, Google and Amazon’s feud has only escalated.

The recent drama around the Echo Show (where Amazon implemented its own YouTube player without Google’s approval) and Amazon’s removal of some Nest products seemed to be the final straw. Google announced earlier this month it would block YouTube from the Echo Show (for the second time) and Fire TV devices.

Now it appears Amazon has reversed its ban on selling the Chromecast and Apple TV. Amazon told CNET in a statement, “I can confirm that we are assorting Apple TV and Chromecast,” and some product listings are already live. We have also independently received confirmation from Amazon.

The reason is for this move is not exactly clear. Prime Video recently arrived on the Apple TV, so that would fulfill Amazon’s requirement of Prime Video support. However, the Chromecast still doesn’t support the service.

Either Amazon has agreed to sell the Chromecast regardless (perhaps as part of a deal to restore YouTube access), or Prime Video support will arrive soon for the Chromecast. I’ll admit, the latter theory seems unlikely, but the recent addition of Chromecast support to the Amazon Music app lends some credibility towards the idea.

Next year’s iPhones will get a huge head start on every Android phone

Apple isn’t able to meet iPhone X demand, as the phone remains sold out around the world, but there’s already talk about next year’s iPhones.

Apple will ready three iPhones for September 2018, reports say, and all of them are supposed to have the same basic design as the iPhone X, Face ID camera notch included. A new report also reveals what may seem like a tiny detail about the near future of the smartphone business, but it’s a crucial one for the iPhone vs. Android competition.

Qualcomm and MediaTek are yet to advance to 7nm nodes for mobile processors Dititimes says, which isn’t a detail most smartphone buyers will care about.

The report says that only two companies in the world can really afford to move to 7nm chips as soon as next year, and that’s Apple and Samsung. That means future flagships, including 2018 iPhone X and Galaxy models may sport 7nm chips inside. These processors will be even more efficient than the 10nm chips that power this year’s hottest mobile phones. When it comes to performance, the report notes that there’s little difference between 7nm and 10nm, which is why some smartphone makers won’t be ready to make the jump to 7nm chips yet.

However, we’ll point out the fact that Samsung’s first flagship of the year, the Galaxy S9, is likely to use a beefed up 10nm chip. Samsung is making Exynos 9810 and Snapdragon 845 on the improved 10nm node, even though it announced a few weeks ago that it’s also ready to mass-produce 8nm chips.

Apple, meanwhile, is working with TSMC, on 7nm chips that may be found inside all 2018 iPhones and iPads.

The report notes that a smartphone chip maker needs to ship 120 to 150 million 7nm chips a year to turn a profit. That’s the kind of volume that can only be achieved by a few companies out there, including Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, and MediaTek.

From the looks of it, only Apple may move to 7nm chips next year, which may turn out to be a major advantage over almost every Android flagship launched by competitors.

Windows 10 classes start Thursday at Ridgefield Continuing Education

Windows 10 Basics is a two-hour Ridgefield Continuing Education workshop that will teach you how to customize your Start menu and desktop, how to use the Windows 10 Edge browser, how to personalize Windows 10 though its array of settings, how to speak to Windows 10 using the Cortana voice assistant, and how to shop for apps at the Windows Store. Bring your laptop (let us know if you need to use one of ours).

The class meets Thursday, Dec. 14, from 1:30 to 3:30 at the Venus Building (old high school). Cost is $44. Advance registration required. Information at ridgefieldschools.org or Peggy Bruno at 203-431-2812.

No related posts.

Google finally enables button to instantly start Duo video calls from ongoing phone calls

During Google’s reveal of the Pixel 2 on October 4th, we spotted a new video call button appearing on the Phone’s in-call screen. Tapping on it was meant to switch both members to a video call using Google Duo. Google later added details to support articles that implied this functionality was already live, but the button remained hidden through a few updates to Duo and a couple to the Phone app. That changes today as the video call button is now going live in Google’s Phone app when you’re calling a number registered with Duo.

1e2b5_nexus2cee_Screenshot_20171211-145724-217x434 Google finally enables button to instantly start Duo video calls from ongoing phone calls 1e2b5_nexus2cee_Screenshot_20171211-145724-217x434 Google finally enables button to instantly start Duo video calls from ongoing phone calls 1e2b5_nexus2cee_Screenshot_20171211-145724-217x434 Google finally enables button to instantly start Duo video calls from ongoing phone calls

Left: in-call screen. Center: starting video call. Right: recipient switched to Duo.

The switch to a Duo call is mostly seamless. After hitting the button, both ends of the call will launch the Duo app with the caller’s video camera being automatically active with the Knock-Knock feature. There aren’t any audio tones or clues that this is happening, so it’s easy for the recipient to miss if they’re not watching the screen. Just remember to say something if you’re going to use this.

Once the video call is connected, it will automatically hang up the original phone call and continue on with Duo. In my quick tests, I didn’t even notice any gap in the audio since the video call takes over instantly.

If the attempt to start a video call goes on for too long without a response from the recipient, it will timeout and return to the in-call screen. Also, Duo requires that the phone be unlocked before it can switch to a video call. That means that a recipient may have to actually leave the in-call screen to reach the lockscreen and enter a PIN, pattern, or even just swipe to bypass it. Until that’s done, the recipient only gets a subtle toast message that video calls can’t start while the phone is locked, and the caller gets an unhelpful message that the other person is ‘unavailable.’ This should be fixed.

1e2b5_nexus2cee_Screenshot_20171211-145724-217x434 Google finally enables button to instantly start Duo video calls from ongoing phone calls

Switching to a video call in this way will leave two entries in your call log, one from the phone call and the other is from Duo.

The video call button doesn’t appear to be tied to any specific versions of either Phone or Duo, so it was probably activated remotely and may not be available to all users yet. It worked for me when I called from my Pixel 2 with v14 of the Google Phone app and v24 of Duo. Naturally, the video call button isn’t available to anybody that doesn’t use Google’s Phone app.

Springfield, Vt., School District to Start a Computer Science Program

The Springfield, Vt. School District is launching a computer science program for middle and high school students, the first of its kind in Vermont, Superintendent Zach McLaughlin announced in a news release last week. The program will start rolling out in January, and is slated to fully materialize in the 2018-2019 school year.

In addition, the Springfield School Board has voted to make one semester of coding a high school graduation requirement, also a first-in-the-state initiative.

“As we follow societal trends, we know that (students’) lives will be intertwined with computer science,” McLaughlin said in the news release. “Whether as a community member, a voter or a wage earner, our students’ worlds will be impacted by the growing integration of technology with all aspects of their lives. Computer science skills will set our graduates up for success.”

McLaughlin did not return telephone and email messages seeking further comment on the initiatives.

The program’s emphasis on hands-on learning is meant to provide widely applicable experience that will sharpen students’ computer literacy and problem-solving skills. In addition to computer science coursework, the program will likely include extracurricular activities such as a “First Robotics” team and a “3D Vermont” club. Organizers of the program hope to hire a computer science coach, as well as several mentors to lead workshops, activities and one-on-one projects with students.

The program will also take measures to include young women and to promote gender equality in computer science in general. Marguerite Dibble, a Vermont native and founder of the award-winning game design company GameTheory, will help develop a “Girls Coding” program and other school activities in her capacities as senior consultant to school district’s initiative.

“Technology, when used to its best potential, can provide empowerment and opportunity for many,” Dibble said in the news release. “As an industry, technology needs to diversify and broaden, and to do that we need to teach tech enthusiasm in a way that focuses on creativity, empathy and impact.”

The entire initiative is part of a broader collaboration with Springfield Regional Development Corporation and the Center on Rural Innovation, a Vermont-based organization that supports the economic development of small-town communities through digital growth.

“If we can build a program that helps all kinds of kids see through mentorship, hands-on experiences and self-discovery that technology skills can be a platform of opportunity for many diverse and exciting careers,” said Dibble, “that will be a great success.”

— EmmaJean Holley

After BPS Reschedules School Start Times By Computer, Parents Push Back

For the parents of Lucy Karp, next school year’s schedule dropped like a bomb Thursday night.

This year, the opening bell at the Henderson School in Dorchester – where Lucy is enrolled in pre-kindergarten — rings at 8:30 a.m. Next year, it will ring at 7:15. And that will make mornings tough on the Karp family.

As they have redrawn bus routes and now school schedules, BPS officials have called attention to the fact that every child’s trip to school involves a lot of variables. But Lucy’s case is even more complex than most.

“It takes us almost two hours to get out of the house,” says Lucy’s father, Roy. “We have all the typical things that a three-year-old needs to get out the door in the morning: potty time, getting dressed, waking up, having breakfast – all those things.”

Except that Lucy gets her breakfast through a feeding tube slowly overnight. She was born three months early, and has a history of chronic lung disease and acute respiratory distress. She travels to school with a walker and a pediatric nurse, the tube and other medical supplies in tow.

Lucy Karp, 3, during recess at the Henderson School. (Courtesy of Roy Karp)

The Henderson is Boston’s only K-through-12 “full-inclusion” school, meaning that students with special medical and behavioral needs are educated alongside ‘typical’ students. Some parents choose it for that model, even those living miles away in West Roxbury, Roslindale – where the Karps live – and beyond.

As it moved quickly to reconfigure start times this fall, Boston Public Schools officials insisted they were forced to balance priorities. They wanted high schools to start later, so teenagers could get extra sleep, and for elementary schools to dismiss earlier, so young children could get home before sunset.

But the Henderson School is a high school. And the district had also promised to make exceptions for schools like it — with “higher concentrations of medically fragile students or students with autism.”

So parents are asking: why will it open so much earlier?

“I really don’t get the logic,” Roy Karp says. His family won’t feel it as much, he concedes, since he’s a stay-at-home dad. But the Karps still have to facilitate Lucy’s afternoon feeding and to schedule Lucy’s nurse.

“It’s kind of unconscionable,” says Leslie Candy, another Henderson parent, “given our delicate population. We’re all confused as to why our times changed at all.”

BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang said in a statement that the district changed start times “due to an abundance of research that shows  student outcomes improve when secondary school students start later and elementary school students start earlier.”

Before announcing the changes, district operations chief John Hanlon noted that they are dealing with a system of many moving parts and “1.8 octodecillion” different possible arrangements.

The district also pointed out outreach opportunities they have offered since last fall, including a survey that got more than 10,000 responses, community meetings and a website. (It’s worth noting, though, that on the survey, members of the Henderson community, like the district at large, overwhelmingly preferred a start time between 8 and 8:30 a.m.)

In the background, the district is using an algorithm to trim its spending on transportation — a persistent driver of its budget deficit. Finding those efficiencies, and staggering start times, may have led that algorithm to flip certain schools into a much earlier time bracket.

But to Candy, including Henderson makes this look like a decision made on autopilot. “I question the human aspect of the algorithm. Did anybody stop to think, ‘Holy cow, this is a fully-inclusive school. Maybe we need to pull them out of the mix?'”

The Henderson community isn’t the only one greeting a much earlier start with frustration. Under the new schedule, 17 schools — mostly elementary and K-8 — will experience an even bigger swing, opening earlier by two hours or more. (Five more will open at least two hours later.)

A petition protesting the changes was posted Thursday night, and has more than 3,000 signatures at time of publication. Many aggrieved parents say they support the changes made for high school students, but don’t see why their own schools have to start so much earlier.

This year, the Mendell Elementary School in Jamaica Plain dismisses its students at 4:10 p.m. Next year, that’s back to 1:55 p.m.

That poses a problem for Mendell parent Patrick Banfield in picking up his son; both paernts work. Banfield says he occasionally does long days as an attorney, but “the thought of my five-year-old son having to be at school for 11 hours [every day] is insanity.”

Banfield says the new schedule may save the district money, but it will cost parents: thousands of dollars more to cover all the additional after-school care. Those added costs, he says, could end up driving middle-class families like his out of the district.

Some parents worried about coaches and trainers for student-athletes. They won’t be able to move practice earlier, since “they’re working people, too,” said Steve Sullivan, who has two kids at the Lyndon K-8 School.

Others are worried about the rhythm of their child’s day. Like Langdon White, another Henderson parent: “My kids already eat lunch — in heavy quotes — before 11 a.m. Does this mean they’re going to be eating lunch by ten?”

The changes do have their defenders. Many high schoolers and their parents, in particular, celebrated online as their start times got later. (94 percent of the district’s high schools will start after 8 a.m. next fall, as opposed to 27 percent this year.) Even Maggie Mancuso, who has three children at the Henderson School, said in an email she was “psyched they will be home earlier and I will have more time with them.”

Mancuso says she thinks parents are “freaking” out at the disruption but will find that things fall into place next year.

That’s small solace to Roy Karp. He’s a new parent, but he already feels wary of the the district’s “backwards” approach to thorny questions like this one.

“BPS does this a lot: announce major policy changes and then reacts” to family unhappiness, Karp said. “But it’s a fait accompli! You’ve already announced the policy, and now you’re just doing damage control!”

On its website, the district lists potential ways of coping with the new clock, including after-school programs, letters of explanation sent to employers and, finally, transfers to a new school.

But going back to the computer to readjust a single school’s schedule isn’t one of them.

Apple’s health boss leaves for new start-up, fulfilling a promise he made to his sick sister

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bc4c6_104883711-sethi-siblings2.530x298 Apple's health boss leaves for new start-up, fulfilling a promise he made to his sick sister

Apple’s health boss, Anil Sethi, has left the company to start venture focusing on helping very sick patients after his sister died from cancer.

Sethi’s medical record start-up Gliimpse was acquired by Apple in August 2016, with Sethi named director of the health team. Sethi also worked at Apple as an engineer in the late 1980s but doesn’t credit that as a factor in the acquisition. Instead, he suspects, it was his team’s expertise at aggregating medical information, while adhering to federal privacy requirements.

“At one point, Cupertino looked at 50 companies or so but they picked our team,” he said. “I can’t speak for them but one of the things we did is showed them a demo of what the technology could do without a slick deck.”

Apple has been looking at ways to turn the iPhone into the central vault for people’s medical information. That’s Sethi’s expertise, which he views as a key way to get around health care’s “interoperability problem.”

Interoperability, meaning the ability to share medical information securely between hospitals and clinics, is still a challenge in health care. It particularly affects those with serious health conditions with records scattered among dozens of doctors.

The promise

Sethi had been on leave from Apple for several months to care full-time for his sister, Tania. One of Sethi’s goals with Gliimpse was to help her aggregate her medical information, including labs and charts.

bc4c6_104883711-sethi-siblings2.530x298 Apple's health boss leaves for new start-up, fulfilling a promise he made to his sick sister

She died of cancer on Sept. 11.

He since decided not to rejoin the Apple health team and instead is starting a new company, dubbed Ciitizen, which is focused on making it easier for people like Tania to get their information — whether it’s about genomes, labs, ethical wills or advanced directives — and share it with researchers on request. He describes it as “health data as a palliative.”

Sethi made his sister a promise in her final days to dedicate his life to improving cancer care for patients. He said Apple COO Jeff Williams personally gave him the time off he needed to care for her.

bc4c6_104883711-sethi-siblings2.530x298 Apple's health boss leaves for new start-up, fulfilling a promise he made to his sick sister

He describes his start-up as “depth rather than breadth.” He said that Apple has the opportunity to help more than 1 billion people by adding more health capabilities to iOS devices but in ways that are “not as deep.”

But Sethi stressed that Apple’s executives are personally excited about the opportunity in health. Eventually, he hopes to meet his former colleagues “in the middle,” as Apple continues to work in health and wellness but starts to branch out into more medical applications like using Apple Watch to detect the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation with a goal of saving lives.

Sethi is self-funding the venture but is looking to raise a round of financing in the spring. In the meantime, he’s building a team of senior engineers.

Sethi will announce the new venture at a San Francisco conference for designers and technologists working on end-of-life experiences, called EndWell, on Thursday.

bc4c6_104883711-sethi-siblings2.530x298 Apple's health boss leaves for new start-up, fulfilling a promise he made to his sick sister



​Computer vendors start disabling Intel Management Engine | ZDNet

cc5b6_20171109larrybillamddan ​Computer vendors start disabling Intel Management Engine | ZDNet

Video: AMD and Intel – Frenemies aligned vs Nvidia

Hidden inside your Intel-based computer is a mystery program called Management Engine (ME). It, along with Trusted Execution Engine (TXE) and Server Platform Services (SPS), can be used to remotely manage your computer. We know little about Intel ME, except it’s based on the Minix operating system and, oh yes, ME is very insecure. Because of this, three computers vendors — Linux-specific OEMs System76 and Purism and top-tier PC builder Dell — have decided to offer computers with disabled ME.

These ME security holes impact millions of computers. ME supports Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT). This is a powerful tool that allows admins to remotely run computers, even when the device is not booted. Let me repeat that: If your PC has power, even if it’s not running, it can be attacked. If an attacker successfully exploits these holes, the attacker can run malware that’s totally invisible to the operating system.

Most, but not all, of ME’s vulnerabilities require physical access for someone to exploit. Another would valid requite administrative credential for remote exploitation. Still, it’s worrisome.

Intel has released a detection tool so Linux and Windows users can detect if their machine is vulnerable. The company also has a page that provides links to support pages from each vendor, as they confirm vulnerable machines.

Intel has admitted that the following CPUs are vulnerable:

  • 6th, 7th, and 8th generation Intel Core Processor Family
  • Intel Xeon Processor E3-1200 v5 and v6 Product Family
  • Intel Xeon Processor Scalable Family
  • Intel Xeon Processor W Family
  • Intel Atom C3000 Processor Family
  • Apollo Lake Intel Atom Processor E3900 series
  • Apollo Lake Intel Pentium Processors
  • Intel Celeron G, N, and J series Processors

There are firmware patches either available now or on the way for most of these chips. The delivery of these patches is in the hands of hardware vendors.

There is, of course, also the possibility of more security holes being found in these chips. That’s why some vendors are walking away from Intel ME.

First, the well-respected Linux PC maker System76 announced it was releasing an open-source program to “automatically deliver firmware to System76 laptops similar to the way software is currently delivered through the operating system.” This program will “automatically deliver updated firmware with a disabled ME on Intel 6th, 7th, and 8th Gen laptops.”

This program will only work on laptops running Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Ubuntu 17.04, Ubuntu 17.10, Pop!_OS 17.10, or an Ubuntu derivative and have the System76 driver installed to receive the latest firmware.

System76 is also working on a shell command tool, which will upload this firmware to other laptops running other versions of Linux. System76 desktops customers will receive updated firmware, which fixes the known security bugs but doesn’t ME.

Earlier, Purism announced it would disable ME on its laptops running the open-source coreboot chip firmware. This was not a trivial task. Purism’s developers had to jump through multiple hoops to knock out ME without stopping Wi-Fi at the same time.

Dell, in the meantime, is working on both delivering patched Intel ME firmware for its computers and offering three business devices with ME made inoperable. These include the Latitude 14 Rugged laptop, Latitude 15 E5570 laptop, and Latitude 12 Rugged tablet. To get one without ME, you must order them configured with an “Intel vPro – ME Inoperable, Custom Order” option. This will cost you an additional $20.92.

Intel does not recommend these options. In a statement, an Intel spokesperson said, “The ME provides important functionality our users care about, including features such as secure boot, two-factor authentication, system recovery, and enterprise device management. Since the described configuration necessarily removes functionality required in most mainstream products, Intel does not support such configurations.”

Is it worth it? Well, if I was concerned about security, I wouldn’t want my hardware running a set of black box programs on a mystery operating system that’s operated beneath any level of local control. But, hey, that’s just me. That said, since Intel won’t support these configurations, your company may not want to chance using them.

The ideal solution would be for Intel to open-source its programs and its customized Minix so sysadmins could know exactly what it is that’s running on their PCs, tablets, and servers. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

Failing that, Intel should give vendors and customers an easy option to disable these chip-level programs.

UPDATED: With Intel comments.

Related stories:

Young students start from Scratch to learn computer coding

Fulton Elementary School students (from left) Jax Stage, Mavrick Hamstra, Owen Boonstra and Chase Glazier go over the lessons they learned during a 5-week program where they used computer coding to animate characters from PBS television shows. The students showed off what they learned Monday.
Fulton Elementary School students Andrew Betts and Natalee Doty work on a tablet with the programming software. The program, brought to the school by WQPT Quad Cities PBS and funded by a Fulton resident, has students working with 30 Kindle Fire tablets. The students received 225 minutes of coding instruction.
Michael Carton, WQPT education and outreach director, speaks Monday about the results of a computer programming initiative that was started at Fulton Elementary School.

FULTON – Computers are everywhere, accessible to nearly everyone of any age these days.

But kindergarteners doing code?

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Some kindergarten through second-grade students at Fulton Elementary School are getting ahead of the learning curve.

About 170 students picked up basic computer coding skills from Oct. 10 through Nov. 15 in an initiative using the PBS Kids Scratch Jr. computer app. The storytelling program lets children use simple coding instructions to animate characters from PBS shows.

WQPT Quad Cities PBS partnered with teachers at the school, with funding from Fulton resident Rosemary Huisingh, 69, who knows Mary Pruess, general manager at the station.

“When Mary told me this started in kindergarten, I wanted to give back,” Huisingh said at a news conference Monday at the school.

The students use symbols on the screen to create the instructions for the characters to act in certain ways. WQPT brought 30 Kindle Fire tablets to the school, with each of the nine classes receiving 225 minutes of coding instruction.

Michael Carton, WQPT’s education and outreach director, said the students learned both the app’s interface and how to determine which symbols would make a character do a certain action.

“The biggest thing is, it’s another literacy skill that kids in the 21st century will use,” Carton said.

Tests were given before and after the five sessions, with a 286 percent increase in scores from the pre-test to the post-test.

Some of the students showed off their skills Monday with the tablets. Andrew Betts, 6, of Albany, worked on animating a bat racing a green-skinned character.

“I like coding,” Andrew said.

Jax Stage, 5, of Fulton, also liked making characters race each other.

“My favorite is a cheetah,” he said.

Nadalee Doty, 5, of Fulton, shared which code was her favorite – “the code that makes people small.”

WQPT will continue to work with Fulton teachers to include the app in lessons. Carton hopes to expand the program to other schools in Whiteside County.

DOWNLOAD THE APP

Go to pbskids.org/apps/pbs-kids-scratchjr.html to download the PBS Kids Scratch Jr. free app.

Call Michael Carton, WQPT’s education and outreach director, at 309-764-2400 for more information on integrating the program into schools.

CVS-Aetna Deal Could Start a Health Takeover Run

CVS Health Corp.’s deal to buy insurer Aetna Inc. for about $67.5 billion could be just the start of a new wave of health-care takeovers.

The merger announced Sunday will leave one less independent player in the complex web of insurers, retailers and other middlemen that sit between patients and their care — and who are under pressure to reduce costs.

CVS, based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, made its move on Aetna less than a year after two major health-insurance takeovers were blocked by the Justice Department on antitrust grounds, and as rumors swirl about a disruptive entry into health care by tech retail giant Amazon.com Inc.

“You could see potentially two other big deals,” such as an insurer buying a rival or a pharmacy-benefit company, said Jeff Jonas, a portfolio manager at Gabelli Co., which owns shares of Aetna and CVS. Smaller players, like walk-in urgent-care clinics, could also get snapped up by health insurers, he said.

Here’s who’s left:

Health Insurers

Insurers are looking for two things: more control over how their consumers get care, and scale. They also have something buyers want: the ability to steer millions of customers to services and health providers.

Among the most likely deals is a merger between Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc., the fourth and fifth largest publicly traded health insurers by market value, says Jonas. Such a combination would test antitrust enforcers after they blocked deals between Aetna and Humana, and Anthem Inc. and Cigna.

WellCare Health Plans Inc. and Centene Corp., freestanding insurers that offer government plans, could become targets, according to Matthew Borsch, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

Stranger combinations are possible, as well. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. could buy Humana, Leerink Partners analyst Ana Gupte said Monday. The companies already have a co-branded Medicare drug plan that steers patients to Wal-Mart stores.

Express Scripts

CVS’s biggest competitor in the pharmacy-benefits-management space is Express Scripts Holding Co. The PBM is at a vulnerable point after its largest client, Anthem, recently said it plans to leave.

Express Scripts’ chief executive has said the company isn’t looking for a deal — but would listen to the pitch. The company’s shares rose as much as 6 percent on Monday — their best intraday gain in a year.

There’s even an outside chance that Express Scripts could be acquired by Anthem, now that CVS is buying Anthem’s direct rival, said Jonas of Gabelli. Anthem, which has said Express Scripts overcharged it for drugs, plans to drop the PBM when their contract expires at the end of 2019.

Standalone Pharmacies and Clinics

Express Scripts could also combine with a retail pharmacy chain like Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., Charles Rhyee, an analyst at Cowen Co., said in October.

The pharmacy chain has suffered from the same retail trends as many other retailers, and Express Scripts would help it diversify. Walgreens CEO Stefano Pessina has talked in the past about the benefits of vertical integration. But in an interview in January, the chief executive said he wasn’t interested in acquiring a PBM.

Walgreens is still busy with its purchase of over 1,900 Rite Aid Corp. stores, a deal that finally cleared regulators in September. While Walgreens will “definitely will be under pressure” to match CVS’s new services, Jonas said, so far the company has favored joint ventures and partnerships over outright acquisitions.

Urgent-care clinics offer a growing business with the potential for higher profit margins than the highly-regulated insurance business, according to the Gabelli portfolio manager.

Regional clinic chains are already getting acquired. UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s Optum unit bought the MedExpress chain of urgent-care centers in 2015, for an undisclosed amount. This year private equity firm Warburg Pincus snapped up CityMD, the leading urgent care provider in the New York City metropolitan area.

— With assistance by Zachary Tracer

Raytheon and Girl Scouts start computer science-“Cyber Challenge” partnership

Girl Scouts of the USA and Raytheon have announced they are launching GSUSA’s first national computer science program and Cyber Challenge for middle and high school girls.

The program aims to prepare girls in grades 6-12 to pursue computer science careers in fields such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics and data science.

“The progress to diversify the STEM workforce needs to be accelerated,” said Raytheon Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Kennedy. “At a time when technology is transforming the way we live and work, we can — and should — show young women a clear path to taking an active role in this transformation. Working together, Raytheon and Girl Scouts will help girls build confidence to see themselves as the robotics engineers, data scientists and cybersecurity professionals who will create a better tomorrow.”

Raytheon is the inaugural sponsor of GSUSA’s computational thinking program that will create age-appropriate content and foundational science, technology, engineering and math experiences. This collaboration will specifically support the creation of new age-appropriate content and foundational STEM experiences for middle and high school girls through the “Think Like a Programmer” Journey, (currently only available to girls in grades K–5) and will be girl-led – like all Girl Scout programming.

Girls will learn key concepts of computer science and complete activities through which they problem solve with friends while building essential leadership skills. They will also have the opportunity to apply what they learn at Girl Scouts’ first-ever Cyber Challenge where girls will work collaboratively to apply their new coding skill

The Girl Scout Research Institute’s (GSRI’s) Generation STEM report found that 74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM fields and subjects but their interest fades as they move through middle and high school. A large part of the decreased interest is because girls aren’t exposed to STEM in ways that speak to them and inspire their career ambition.

At a time when women account for half the college-educated workforce, but constitute only 29 percent of science and engineering occupations (NSF, Science Engineering Indicators, 2016), Raytheon and Girl Scouts are committed to filling the pipeline of female STEM leaders by introducing girls to related careers early on.

Providing girls with engaging STEM programming and events including hands-on learning in computer science and cybersecurity, helps maintain their interest in these subjects during critical developmental years and supplements what girls are already learning in school. In the 2017 National Cyber Security Alliance’s (NCSA) Millennial Cyber Security Survey, the majority of Millennial women, said that more STEM information, classes, and training during middle and high school would have increased their interest in a cybersecurity career.

“We are excited to be working with Raytheon and tapping into its expertise in computer science and cybersecurity to develop this important new content for our middle and high school–age girls,” said Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of GSUSA. “Girl Scouts is a network of more than 60 million girls and women, and we serve girls from every residential zip code. We are the girl experts, and have been for 105 years. With Raytheon’s support, we will inspire millions of girls to explore STEM careers and realize their full potential.”

Phase one of the new national computer science program for middle and high school girls will be run as a pilot in select geographies in early 2018, with full nationwide implementation planned to begin in fall 2018. Select Girl Scout councils will pilot the Cyber Challenge in 2019.

​Computer vendors start disabling Intel Management Engine

2ed7d_20171109larrybillamddan ​Computer vendors start disabling Intel Management Engine

Video: AMD and Intel – Frenemies aligned vs Nvidia

Hidden inside your Intel-based computer is a mystery program called Management Engine (ME). It, along with Trusted Execution Engine (TXE) and Server Platform Services (SPS), can be used to remotely manage your computer. We know little about Intel ME, except it’s based on the Minix operating system and, oh yes, ME is very insecure. Because of this, three computers vendors — Linux-specific OEMs System76 and Purism and top-tier PC builder Dell — have decided to offer computers with disabled ME.

These ME security holes impact millions of computers. ME supports Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT). This is a powerful tool that allows admins to remotely run computers, even when the device is not booted. Let me repeat that: If your PC has power, even if it’s not running, it can be attacked. If an attacker successfully exploits these holes, the attacker can run malware that’s totally invisible to the operating system.

Most, but not all, of ME’s vulnerabilities require physical access for someone to exploit. Another would valid requite administrative credential for remote exploitation. Still, it’s worrisome.

Intel has released a detection tool so Linux and Windows users can detect if their machine is vulnerable. The company also has a page that provides links to support pages from each vendor, as they confirm vulnerable machines.

Intel has admitted that the following CPUs are vulnerable:

  • 6th, 7th, and 8th generation Intel Core Processor Family
  • Intel Xeon Processor E3-1200 v5 and v6 Product Family
  • Intel Xeon Processor Scalable Family
  • Intel Xeon Processor W Family
  • Intel Atom C3000 Processor Family
  • Apollo Lake Intel Atom Processor E3900 series
  • Apollo Lake Intel Pentium Processors
  • Intel Celeron G, N, and J series Processors

There are firmware patches either available now or on the way for most of these chips. The delivery of these patches is in the hands of hardware vendors.

There is, of course, also the possibility of more security holes being found in these chips. That’s why some vendors are walking away from Intel ME.

First, the well-respected Linux PC maker System76 announced it was releasing an open-source program to “automatically deliver firmware to System76 laptops similar to the way software is currently delivered through the operating system.” This program will “automatically deliver updated firmware with a disabled ME on Intel 6th, 7th, and 8th Gen laptops.”

This program will only work on laptops running Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Ubuntu 17.04, Ubuntu 17.10, Pop!_OS 17.10, or an Ubuntu derivative and have the System76 driver installed to receive the latest firmware.

System76 is also working on a shell command tool, which will upload this firmware to other laptops running other versions of Linux. System76 desktops customers will receive updated firmware, which fixes the known security bugs but doesn’t ME.

Earlier, Purism announced it would disable ME on its laptops running the open-source coreboot chip firmware. This was not a trivial task. Purism’s developers had to jump through multiple hoops to knock out ME without stopping Wi-Fi at the same time.

Dell, in the meantime, is working on both delivering patched Intel ME firmware for its computers and offering three business devices with ME made inoperable. These include the Latitude 14 Rugged laptop, Latitude 15 E5570 laptop, and Latitude 12 Rugged tablet. To get one without ME, you must order them configured with an “Intel vPro – ME Inoperable, Custom Order” option. This will cost you an additional $20.92.

Intel does not recommend these options. In a statement, an Intel spokesperson said, “The ME provides important functionality our users care about, including features such as secure boot, two-factor authentication, system recovery, and enterprise device management. Since the described configuration necessarily removes functionality required in most mainstream products, Intel does not support such configurations.”

Is it worth it? Well, if I was concerned about security, I wouldn’t want my hardware running a set of black box programs on a mystery operating system that’s operated beneath any level of local control. But, hey, that’s just me. That said, since Intel won’t support these configurations, your company may not want to chance using them.

The ideal solution would be for Intel to open-source its programs and its customized Minix so sysadmins could know exactly what it is that’s running on their PCs, tablets, and servers. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

Failing that, Intel should give vendors and customers an easy option to disable these chip-level programs.

UPDATED: With Intel comments.

Related stories:

Start 2018 as a cloud expert with a year of Linux Academy courses …

Learning never ends. As we head into a new year, we’d all do well to remember that fact — and think about what new skill or ability would help get 2018 off on the right foot. Thankfully, if what you’d like to learn is tech-based, particularly surrounding Linux or cloud-based systems, there’s a good chance you’ll find that training as a subscriber to the Linux Academy.

Right now, you can get access to their vast archive of courses at one of the lowest prices ever: down to just $149. And with the extra coupon code “CYBER40” discount, your final price tumbles to only $89.40.

Committed to serving up top-notch online courses, the Linux Academy is home to more than 1,200 hours of training content. With the help of in-depth learning materials like videos, hands-on labs, flashcards, even study groups, LA courses will unlock the mysteries of Linux and cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services, OpenStack, Azure, DevOps and more.

Courses are taught by full-time instructors that students can actually engage with for answering questions or offering advice. With the help of other students, you can construct your own learning plan, keep your training on track and security certifications as proof that you’ve mastered this vast array of skills.

Linux Academy is a proven player in the training field, offering instruction to employees for companies like the Associated Press, Mail Chimp, Accenture, and others. With those credentials, they can definitely get your pursuit of specialized Linux and cloud training in the right direction.

A nearly $350 value, you can get a year of access to all of Linux Academy’s courses for just $89.40 when you enter the 40 percent off code CYBER40 at checkout.


Get this deal

Read next:

Take courses to learn how machines think, and create your own AI

Drug court in Delta to start offering mental health services

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) — A drug court in Mississippi will start offering mental health services.

The Delta Democrat-Times reports that the services will be available in the 4th Circuit Drug Court in Washington, Sunflower and Leflore counties.

The court has received a three-year, $400,000 federal grant to cover the cost of hiring a mental health therapist, a peer support specialist and a supervising officer for drug court participants.

Judge Margaret Carey-McCray said she hopes the mental health program can begin by March.

In drug court, people who have problems with drug or alcohol abuse are sent to long-term rehabilitation facilities instead of prison. After completing the rehab program, participants are monitored through frequent drug testing and court appearances and are required to attend counseling.

Start 2018 as a cloud expert with a year of Linux Academy courses — and take an extra 40 percent off

Learning never ends. As we head into a new year, we’d all do well to remember that fact — and think about what new skill or ability would help get 2018 off on the right foot. Thankfully, if what you’d like to learn is tech-based, particularly surrounding Linux or cloud-based systems, there’s a good chance you’ll find that training as a subscriber to the Linux Academy.

Right now, you can get access to their vast archive of courses at one of the lowest prices ever: down to just $149. And with the extra coupon code “CYBER40” discount, your final price tumbles to only $89.40.

Committed to serving up top-notch online courses, the Linux Academy is home to more than 1,200 hours of training content. With the help of in-depth learning materials like videos, hands-on labs, flashcards, even study groups, LA courses will unlock the mysteries of Linux and cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services, OpenStack, Azure, DevOps and more.

Courses are taught by full-time instructors that students can actually engage with for answering questions or offering advice. With the help of other students, you can construct your own learning plan, keep your training on track and security certifications as proof that you’ve mastered this vast array of skills.

Linux Academy is a proven player in the training field, offering instruction to employees for companies like the Associated Press, Mail Chimp, Accenture, and others. With those credentials, they can definitely get your pursuit of specialized Linux and cloud training in the right direction.

A nearly $350 value, you can get a year of access to all of Linux Academy’s courses for just $89.40 when you enter the 40 percent off code CYBER40 at checkout.


Get this deal

Read next:

Take courses to learn how machines think, and create your own AI

Rocket Internet start-ups struggle to swing into profit – Financial Times

Keep abreast of significant corporate, financial and political developments around the world. Stay informed and spot emerging risks and opportunities with independent global reporting, expert commentary and analysis you can trust.

How to Create Windows 10 Start Menu Folders

Q. My Windows 10 Start menu is too full. Is there a way to condense the tiles so they don’t take up as much space?

A. Windows 10 allows you to choose different sizes for the tiles on the Start menu, and you can resize the menu itself to suit your needs. If neither of those options appeals to you, another space-saving approach is to group app tiles into folders on the Start menu.

To make larger tiles smaller, right-click a tile (or, on a touch screen, press and hold) to open the contextual menu, choose Resize and then select a smaller size from the list. You have your choice of small, medium, large and wide, but if the tile is already at the smallest size, unpin tiles you do not need or make the Start menu itself bigger — put your cursor or your finger on the outer edge and drag outward.

You can also increase the area of the Start menu by opening the Settings icon and selecting the Personalization icon. Choose Start and click the button next to “Show more tiles on Start” to add an extra column of tiles to the menu.

Photo

15dfe_01techtipwebART-master675 How to Create Windows 10 Start Menu Folders

Click or tap a Start menu folder to open it and use the apps stored inside.

Credit
The New York Times

If you prefer to group apps together into folders on the Start menu to save space and keep them organized, just drag a selected app tile on top of another tile. This creates a Start menu folder, which shows tiny versions of the tiles tucked inside. Tap the folder to expand it and see larger versions of the tiles you can open.

Personal Tech invites questions about computer-based technology to techtip@nytimes.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.


Continue reading the main story

How to Create Windows 10 Start Menu Folders

Q. My Windows 10 Start menu is too full. Is there a way to condense the tiles so they don’t take up as much space?

A. Windows 10 allows you to choose different sizes for the tiles on the Start menu, and you can resize the menu itself to suit your needs. If neither of those options appeals to you, another space-saving approach is to group app tiles into folders on the Start menu.

To make larger tiles smaller, right-click a tile (or, on a touch screen, press and hold) to open the contextual menu, choose Resize and then select a smaller size from the list. You have your choice of small, medium, large and wide, but if the tile is already at the smallest size, unpin tiles you do not need or make the Start menu itself bigger — put your cursor or your finger on the outer edge and drag outward.

You can also increase the area of the Start menu by opening the Settings icon and selecting the Personalization icon. Choose Start and click the button next to “Show more tiles on Start” to add an extra column of tiles to the menu.

Photo

15dfe_01techtipwebART-master675 How to Create Windows 10 Start Menu Folders

Click or tap a Start menu folder to open it and use the apps stored inside.

Credit
The New York Times

If you prefer to group apps together into folders on the Start menu to save space and keep them organized, just drag a selected app tile on top of another tile. This creates a Start menu folder, which shows tiny versions of the tiles tucked inside. Tap the folder to expand it and see larger versions of the tiles you can open.

Personal Tech invites questions about computer-based technology to techtip@nytimes.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.


Continue reading the main story




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