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Google Chrome won’t be allowed on Windows 10 S

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Microsoft’s newest Windows 10 edition is designed to allow desktop apps that have been converted to packages for the Windows Store. But a provision in the store’s policies blocks desktop browsers like Chrome. Is it about security, or something else?

The desktop version of Google Chrome will not be coming to Windows 10 S.

Windows 10 S, announced last week, allows users to install only apps that are distributed through the Windows Store.

That lineup includes some desktop apps, but only if they’ve been converted to a package that can be delivered through the Windows Store, using a toolset called the Desktop Bridge (previously code-named Project Centennial).

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The lineup of converted desktop apps already includes Evernote and Slack, and by the time Windows 10 S begins shipping on new PCs this summer, the store will also offer converted versions of the Office 2016 desktop apps and Spotify.

Microsoft is busy evangelizing other developers of desktop software to bring their apps to the store as well.

In theory, Google could use those tools to turn the desktop version of its Chrome browser into an app package. For that matter, so could Mozilla with Firefox, or Opera, or any of dozens of small, independent browser makers. Several developers tell me they have successfully converted desktop browsers based on the Chromium code base using the Desktop Bridge.

But if Google or Mozilla or any of those smaller developers submitted one of those packages to the Store for distribution, the submission would be rejected.

The restriction is spelled out in the latest revision of the Windows Store Policies. This section is from version 7.3, last revised on March 29, 2017:

10.2 Security

Your app must not jeopardize or compromise user security, or the security or functionality of the device, system or related systems.

10.2.1

Apps that browse the web must use the appropriate HTML and JavaScript engines provided by the Windows Platform.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that policy in a statement on May 9:

Windows Store apps that browse the web must use HTML and JavaScript engines provided by the Windows Platform. All Windows Store content is certified by Microsoft to help ensure a quality experience and keep your devices safer. With this policy, instated early this year, the browser a customer chooses in the Store will ensure the protections and safeguards of our Windows platform. If people would like to access apps from other stores and services, they can switch to Windows 10 Pro at any time.

Last week, I heard from a developer who had converted his Chromium-based desktop browser to an Appx package and submitted it to Microsoft in February. It was rejected.

The polite, personal reply from the Microsoft “ambassador” who handled his submission explained that desktop browsers pose a special security risk:

Desktop Browsers installed from the Store aren’t more secured by default. They are secure only if, like Edge, they’re true UWP apps, so they run in a sandbox environment and they don’t have access to the overall system. Converted apps, instead, have some components which are virtualized (like the registry or file system redirection) but, except for that, they have the “runFullTrust” capability, so [they] can go out from the sandbox and perform operations that can be malicious.

This restriction isn’t unique to Windows 10 S, of course. Other modern operating systems, including iOS and ChromeOS, require browsers to use their built-in rendering engines and JavaScript interpreters instead of allowing the third-party browsers to supply their own.

So, Chrome on iOS is just a wrapper for Apple’s Webkit-based browser components. Google has made the UI look comfortingly Chrome-like, with the ability to sync bookmarks, history, passwords, and other data, but it’s not the same browser as on other platforms.

Likewise, you can’t install a third-party browser on a Chromebook, which is restricted to the Chrome browser.

When Windows 8 launched in 2012, Microsoft included the capability for third-party developers to build weird hybrid browsers that could run in both the Metro interface (as the full-screen touch-based user interface was then known) and in regular desktop mode. Both Google and Firefox experimented with this feature, but it never took off, and Microsoft killed the feature in Windows 10.

Google could, of course, write a UWP browser app from scratch, replicating the desktop Chrome UI while hooking into the Windows rendering and JavaScript engine. Given Google’s history with apps for Windows (there’s only one Google app in the Windows Store, a bare-bones search app first released for Windows 8), I’d give very long odds against this happening.

There is indeed a compelling security case for tightly controlling the core components of a browser. Flaws in those components are popular vectors for malicious code, and installing multiple browsers just increases the attack surface.

There’s also a compelling business case to be made for not allowing an archival’s browsing engine onto the platform lest you lose control of that platform.

In the very early days of the web, Netscape founder Marc Andreesen famously joked that his browser would reduce Windows to “a poorly debugged set of device drivers.” That, in essence, has been Google’s business strategy on Windows for the past few years, and it’s been successful enough that Chrome has a dominant share on Windows. More than half of Windows users browse with Chrome, while fewer than one in four Windows 10 users choose the default browser, Microsoft Edge, for day-to-day browsing.

Most of the executives who were running Microsoft during the first browser wars in the 1990s are long gone, but the institutional memory lives on. Microsoft might be gambling that the most effective way to blunt Google’s dominance is to boot them from Windows completely. Think of Windows 10 S as a trial for that strategy.

source:http://www.zdnet.com/article/google-chrome-wont-be-allowed-on-windows-10-s/

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Innovations

SELF-DRIVING TAXIS TO LAUNCH IN LONDON BY 2021, ADDISON LEE SAYS

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Plans have been unveiled to launch self-driving taxis in London by 2021.

Taxi firm Addison Lee Group says it has struck an agreement with Oxbotica, an Oxford-based startup specialising in autonomous software.

The companies plan to create digital maps of more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around the capital.

They will include the position of every kerb, road sign, landmark and traffic light, in readiness for the deployment of autonomous cars in the city.

Addison Lee is aiming to gain a share of the autonomous vehicle technology market, which the government forecasts to be worth £28bn in the UK by 2035.

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Addison chief executive Andy Boland said the company intended to be at the forefront of change within a transport industry anticipating the introduction of self-driving services.

He said: “Autonomous technology holds the key to many of the challenges we face in transport.

“By providing ride-sharing services, we can help address congestion, free space used for parking and improve urban air quality through zero-emission vehicles.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond has championed autonomous cars, saying that he wants “genuine driverless vehicles” on Britain’s roads within three years.

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Innovations

ROBOT COMPANY STARSHIP TECHNOLOGIES START MILTON KEYNES DELIVERIES

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Hundreds of robots are to start to delivering packages to addresses across Milton Keynes, in one of the first full-scale uses of such technology.

Residents will be able to get parcels sent to a robot depot, which will notify them when they arrive and then deliver the item to their door.

The scheme is being pioneered by Starship Technologies.

The firm has already partnered with the Co-op in Milton Keynes to deliver groceries there.

The new service is available through a mobile phone app, with residents living in the neighbourhoods covered in Milton Keynes able to have packages delivered to an address of their choice.

Customers will pay a monthly subscription of £7.99 for an unlimited number of deliveries.

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Robot facts

One of the robots delivering itemsImage copyrightSTARSHIP TECHNOLOGIES
Image captionThe robots will be delivering to addresses in Milton Keynes

The robots:

  • Travel along pavements and cross streets, just like pedestrians
  • Have 10 cameras, ultrasound sensors, radar, and GPS
  • Are able to to see 360 degrees and have a “situational awareness bubble” around them to detect and avoid any obstacles
  • Use sophisticated computer vision and software to identify objects such as cars, pedestrians, traffic lights and pavements
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Once signed-up on the app, people will receive a “personal address” at the depot where parcels can be sent, to then be delivered by the robots.

Lex Bayer, Starship’s chief executive officer, said: “We’re excited that thanks to our technology, local communities across Milton Keynes will never miss a home delivery again.”

grocery delivery robotsImage copyrightSTARSHIP
Image captionThe firm has already partnered with the Co-op in Milton Keynes to deliver groceries

Starship Technologies formed in July 2014 by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, with Lex Bayer joining in June 2018 from Airbnb.

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Hardwares

LENOVO YOGA BOOK C930 REVIEW: TWO SCREENS AND LOTS OF COMPROMISES

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If you traveled back in time five years and asked what a futuristic 2018 computer would look like, there’s a pretty good chance that somebody would describe something very much like the Lenovo Yoga Book C930. It’s a svelte, small, and decently powerful computer that has so many different modes that it’s difficult to call it just one thing, and there’s not much else out there that resembles it in any way.

It’s not a laptop or a tablet or a note-taking device. Rather, it’s attempting to be all of those things at once, depending on your needs. It’s smaller than any Windows computer you’ve likely tried (save maybe the Surface Go), and it has two screens. One is a traditional LCD touch panel and the other is an E Ink screen that can change its function based on the task. Sometimes it’s a touch keyboard, and other times, it’s a sketchpad or an e-reader.

Almost everything about the new Yoga Book makes you want to love it. It’s the sort of device that makes you feel like you’re living in a future that would be more commonplace if only computer companies were just a little more daring. But it is also the sort of device that, once you use it, it makes you realize why everybody else has been so risk-averse. It’s much easier to love the idea of the Yoga Book C930 than to live with its reality — especially when that reality costs at least $999.99.

LENOVO YOGA BOOK C930

GOOD STUFF

  • Thin and light
  • Fast enough processor
  • Full Windows 10
  • USB-C

BAD STUFF

  • E Ink screen software is slow and buggy
  • Not comfortable for long typing sessions
  • No headphone jack
  • Too expensive

This is the second time that Lenovo has taken a shot at releasing a futuristic computer without a traditional keyboard. The basics of the new Yoga Book’s overall design are nearly unchanged. It’s incredibly thin and light for a full Windows PC, measuring just under 10mm thick when closed and weighing just 1.71 pounds. It has a 10.8-inch, 2560 x 1600 display that, sure, can feel a little bit cramped, but you can do a surprising amount of work on it.

Outside of one mystifying design choice, the build quality of the C930 is top notch. Everything feels solid, from the “watchband” hinge that rotates 360 degrees to the matte finish on the E Ink display to the textured power button. It’s a device that will virtually force people to ask you about it because it’s so tiny and unique.

That mystifying design choice is just opening the damn thing up. You have three choices: wedge a fingernail in between the two halves, literally “knock knock” on the top when it’s closed, or long-press the volume down button. The first is super awkward and weird, the second only works intermittently, and so by process of elimination, you’ll be pressing the volume button to open it. Why Lenovo didn’t just make a little cutout for your finger to grab will be a question for the ages.

The first Yoga Book was littered with compromises: a dinky processor, the wrong ports, and even the wrong operating system. It also didn’t have a second screen, opting for a weird touch-sensitive panel that you had to slap a pad of paper on top of to record your notes.

Lenovo looked at all of the problems on the original Yoga Book and tried to address them with the Yoga Book C930. In some cases, it was successful: this machine is a much more focused, intentional device. It only runs Windows; it has a relatively modern, 7th Gen Y-Series Intel Core i5 processor; and, most importantly, it swaps out that weird touch panel for a proper E Ink display. That’s where you type, draw, and take notes using the included pen. There are now two USB-C ports for connectivity and charging (but no headphone jack, sadly). Lenovo also added a fingerprint sensor for logging in. It works, though, personally, I’d have preferred a facial recognition camera.

Battery life is nothing to crow about. Lenovo rates it at over eight hours of use, but I didn’t quite get there using just Windows. Six to seven seems like a safer bet, depending on what apps you’re running. However, if you use it as more of a mixed-use device — a little Windows here, a little ebook reading there — you’re likely to hit that number or better.

Just as a Windows computer, it does its job and performs well enough (about in line with a low-end device with 4GB of RAM). Which is to say: it will run Office and let you do basic kinds of stuff, but don’t push it too much. The small screen sort of helps set expectations here. You wouldn’t ever try to tackle a huge Photoshop project on this thing, and you shouldn’t.

Any new kind of computer needs to justify its existence. Why would you get this instead of something simpler, like a Surface Go tablet or a traditional laptop (with a traditional keyboard)? And that bar is even higher for something that starts at a thousand bucks.

So let’s talk about that E Ink screen.

The first and most important thing to know is that it’s nicer to type on than you might expect, though I suspect your expectations aren’t very high. Lenovo has a special mode that maximizes the keyboard size and minimizes the touchpad, which cleverly expands only when you tap on the bottom when you want to use it. That little bit of extra space makes the keyboard much more usable, and Lenovo is also doing the standard trick of correcting for your mistypes with its software.

But typing on glass is still typing on glass, and no amount of haptic vibration can change that. You can’t really rest your hands on the keyboard, long fingernails will be a problem, and it gets tiring after awhile.

Honestly, that is probably going to be the end of the story for most people: an incredible device with a not-so-great typing experience. The idea here is that there are other things that you can do with the E Ink screen that offset the compromise on the keyboard. But I’m just going to tell you right now that they mostly consist of more compromises.

You can also use it as an e-reader, and since the device is so small and light, it’s comfortable to hold and read with it. Unfortunately, at launch it only supports PDFs; Lenovo says that ePub, .mobi, and plain text support will come next year. It’s nice enough for simple reading, but you can’t mark up or even highlight text. You can only use a fiddly, resizable box to screengrab portions of what you’re reading. And don’t ever expect to be able to read your Kindle library on it. The whole thing is just a huge missed opportunity.

My favorite mode is note-taking, which lets you sketch out your notes on the E Ink screen. It’s really neat to just fold the Windows screen back and have a small notepad thing to jot your notes down on. You can grab the OCR text from them automatically and get them into OneNote, too. You can also grab a screenshot from Windows and mark it up, but the experience of actually doing so is hellaciously fiddly. Trying to re-crop the image to what you want to actually comment on is a huge hassle on the E Ink display.

Though the E Ink screen has a decent refresh rate relative to other similar screens, the overall experience of using it is maddeningly slow. You switch modes by tapping small little buttons in the upper-right corner, and it takes a very long time to change. You can turn off the Windows display and just use the E Ink side, but you have to double tap the screen to do so, and sometimes it just doesn’t register. The device tries to automatically present different options to you, depending on how far back you’ve tilted the hinge or what orientation the device is in. But in practice, it often gets it wrong, and you’re left sort of flipping and folding the Yoga Book around to get it working.

I admit it: I really want to like the Yoga Book C930. I like that Lenovo is not only willing to take a chance on a weird design, but also to iterate on it and make it better. Just considering the device as a physical object and even as a concept, I love it.

But even if you can get over the awkward experience of typing on glass, the software that runs the E Ink screen makes the Yoga Book hard to love. There are probably niches where this device will be interesting, like for people who need a clipboard-style computer with the full power of Windows and a quick way to jot down notes.

For a thousand bucks, though, there are much better and more versatile options. They won’t wow strangers at a coffee shop, but they will let you get your work done without getting in your way.

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