Van Vleuten wins women’s Tour stage

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The 34-year-old Dutchwoman was leading the Olympic Games road race in Rio last year and 12km from the gold medal when she crashed spectacularly on a perilous descent, suffering fractured vertebrae and severe concussion as her Dutch compatriot Anna van der Breggen went on to take the title.

But the renowned climber broke clear on the Col d’Izoard climb at the end of the 67.5km opening stage of two in La Course by Tour de France to take victory by 43 seconds from Briton Lizzie Deignan, with Italian Elisa Longo Borghini, the bronze medallist in Rio, third at 1min 23sec.

The men’s 18th stage of the Tour de France will also finish on the Col d’Izoard later on Thursday.
La Course will be completed with a 22.5km time-trial around Marseille, before the men’s race against the clock there.

Lenovo’s Yoga Book now comes in new red and white colors

Lenovo just announced some new colors for its Yoga Book 2-in-1 at Lenovo World this year. Now, in addition to the existing black and gold models, you’ll be able to pick up the laptop hybrid in new ruby red and pearl white options.

The new models don’t change anything on the inside. The same touch panel keyboard / Wacom stylus pad is there, as is the regular screen, both still decked out in black. But if you’ve been looking to pick up a Yoga Book and want a more colorful option, the new red and white variants should get the job done.

 Expected to ship in September, and should be available for both the Windows 10 and Android versions of the device, which still start at $549 and $499, respectively.

Adobe updates Lightroom for iOS with Apple Pencil and 3D Touch support

Adobe pushed out some pretty substantial updates to its Photoshop Lightroom iOS apps today that contain support for Apple’s Pencil stylus and 3D Touch finger editing. Now, if you’re using Lightroom on an iPad Pro with the Pencil, you can apply pressure with the tip of the device to selectively apply changes to brightness, exposure, and other settings. Adobe is calling this the Brush Selection tool, and it also works on iPhones with 3D Touch. Just press harder with your finger on the screen over the desired area to achieve the same effect.

Lightroom is also getting a few design tweaks to make it easier to use. You can now change sharpness and noise reduction more easily from the detail tab, and the app has been redesigned to have a more sensible layout on the iPad. For iPhones, Lightroom now features an in-app camera mode that will automatically tell you which parts of an image are over-exposed so you can compensate with changes in exposure in-frame before you capture. On top of these iOS improvements, Adobe also announced a fully redesigned Android version of Lightroom out today, with an Android-native interface.

Google rolls out new protections against phishing plugins

Google is making it even harder to accidentally install a malicious plugin. Today, the company announced new changes to the way Google services handle plugins, adding new warnings for users and a more involved verification system for apps. The result is more scrutiny on apps plugging into Google services, and more active involvement from Google when an app seems suspicious.

The changes come after a sophisticated phishing worm hit Google Drive users in May, masquerading as an invitation to collaborate on a document. The malicious plugin was not controlled by Google, but because it was named “Google Docs,” the app was able to fool many users into granting access. Once granted access, it sent a new request to everyone in the target’s contact list, allowing the app to spread virally. Ultimately, the app was blacklisted by Google, but not before it reached tens of thousands of users.

Today, such an attack would be much harder to perform. Shortly after the worm, Google strengthened its developer registration systems, making it harder for anonymous actors to plug unknown apps into Google accounts. The announcement today takes that system even farther, warning users whenever an unverified app requests access to user data.

Malicious or compromised plugins remain a significant security risk for Google and other platforms, as a string of recent incidents have demonstrated. The security group OurMine has specialized in those attacks, posting false messages from accounts controlled by Sundar Pichai, Jack Dorsey, and Sony Music, which tweeted a false report of Britney Spears’ death.

In each case, OurMine gained access by compromising a third-party application which was authorized to post to the targeted account. An active social media user might have hundreds of plugins authorized to access their Twitter or Facebook account, giving hackers hundreds of potential ways in. Users can protect against these attacks by monitoring authorized applications, and revoking access for any apps they no longer use.

Bixby voice support is rolling out to US Samsung Galaxy S8 users today

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It seems that Samsung believes Bixby voice is ready for primetime. The company just announced that the voice capabilities of its digital assistant are now rolling out to US Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners. Bixby’s voice capabilities have been available in the US as part of an opt-in beta test, and Samsung says that feedback has led to faster response times, improved comprehension of varied phrasing around the same question, better hands-free operation, and more. Over 100,000 users of the flagship devices have enrolled in the early access program and issued over 4 million voice commands. Also, Samsung says Bixby can now read aloud your latest SMS messages and emails — if you use its stock apps on the Galaxy S8.

Bixby can be activated with a push of the dedicated Bixby button located on the side of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, or by saying “hi Bixby.” Like Siri and Google Assistant, Bixby can handle alarms, send texts, and so on, but its real power lies in the ability to access granular phone settings or — in supported apps — automatically move through several menu screens to perform commands that Google Assistant simply can’t do. Samsung says that deep learning should allow Bixby to improve over time as it begins to recognize users’ preferences and ways of speaking.

The results of our first look at Bixby’s voice features were very mixed and pretty rough, but that was on the very first day of the beta period. Has Samsung made noticeable improvements and advancements? Is the Bixby button now justified? Soon all Galaxy S8 users will be able to form their own conclusion.

Google introduces the feed, a personalized stream of news on iOS and Android

Google today is rolling out its take on the news feed, a personalized stream of articles, videos, and other content. The feed will appear in its flagship app for Android and iOS, simply called Google. The feed, which includes items drawn from your search history and topics you choose to follow, is designed to turn Google’s app into a destination for browsing as well as search. Google is hoping you’ll begin opening its app the way you do Facebook or Twitter, checking it reflexively throughout the day for quick hits of news and information.

Google previewed its new feed in December, when it introduced the feature to its Android app. Previously, the space below the search bar was reserved for Google Now, the company’s predictive search feature, which displayed personalized weather, traffic, sports scores, and other information.

With the introduction of the feed, the Google Now brand is going away, and the updates it used to contain are moving to a secondary tab called “updates.” The main space underneath the search bar will now contain a stream of cards related to your interests. In a demo at Google’s offices in San Francisco on Tuesday, a product manager’s feed included articles about the Oakland Athletics, a trending article about the Tour de France, and a 10-month-old blog post about a classical musician who she had previously seen in concert.

In most feeds, a 10-month-old blog post would appear stale and unwelcome. Google says it’s a sign of the company’s strengths — it can reach into the long tail of articles on the web, and surface them to audiences that missed them the first time around. Facebook and Twitter give priority to latest updates; Google says it’s working to prioritize relevance.

When you perform searches in the app, a subset of results will now show a “follow” button alongside results. News, sports, and entertainment stories are among the categories where you can expect to see follow buttons to start. Tap them and Google will work to bring you related content into the feed.

You can customize the feed by tapping the three dots on top of each card. From there, you can follow a subject or share the item on other social networks. You can also tell Google you’re “done with this story” and avoid seeing future updates, or tell it you don’t want to see any more articles from a particular publisher. You can’t follow individual publishers today, but publishers will surely clamor for it, and Google told me it will consider adding that feature eventually.

The Google feed came to my account Tuesday afternoon, and I spent a long while scrolling through it. The feed offered up articles on several of my interests: Netflix, Instagram, Game of Thrones, and the video game I’m currently playing (and have watched a bunch of YouTube videos about). The best topic I saw in the feed was “fake news,” and featured an article from Lifehacker on how to spot it.

Scroll far enough and you’ll get a basic, ambient sense of the day’s news. But few of the items I saw compelled me to read the article. Part of what makes Facebook and Twitter’s feeds compelling is the social endorsement that links there carry: you read because your friends tell you to, and you trust your friends. They also give you commentary and analysis around what you’re reading. In short, they feel lively — and the Google feed can feel stale by comparison.

It also draws on the underlying search technology responsible for Google’s featured snippets, which have historically spread misinformation about a wide range of subjects. The Outline reported earlier this year that Google promoted false news stories asserting that, among other things, Barack Obama was the “king of America” and was plotting a coup. Ben Gomes, who runs search at Google, told reporters Tuesday that the company had implemented “a whole bunch of changes” to prevent similar misinformation from spreading in the feed.

The most surprising thing about the Google feed, at least at launch, is how little video it contains. At a time when its peers are racing to cram as much video in their feeds as possible, Google’s is still mostly a text-based affair. When YouTube cards appear, videos won’t play within the feed — tapping kicks you out to the app or to a mobile-web version of the video. The cards are formatted in such a way that it’s easy to miss that they’re even videos. It’s all surprisingly clumsy.

For now, Google says there won’t be ads in the feed, although I imagine it would love to put them there eventually. Google is an ad business, after all, and it’s running out of places to put new ads on mobile devices. Earlier this year, it added a fourth advertising unit to search results in its mobile app, making you scroll down three screens before you see unpaid search results for some queries.

But with each passing year, we have had fewer reasons to open the Google app. Native apps from Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and others command more of our attention, making us less likely to begin our queries at the search bar. More recently, Siri, Alexa, and Cortana have been built into our device hardware, allowing us to bypass Google and search with our voice. Financially, Google is still on solid footing. But the trends are worrisome. Analyst Ben Thompson, among others, has written about the prospect that we have already hit “Peak Google.”

Viewed in that light, a Google feed was all but inevitable. The question is how quickly Google can improve it — and whether its users, whose lives are already dominated by feeds, will make room for another one.

Microsoft confirms it’s cutting Windows 10 updates for Atom PCs

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Microsoft has been preventing PCs with Intel Atom Clover Trail processors from obtaining the latest Windows 10 Creators Update. While many devices with Intel’s Atom Clover Trail chips were released in the Windows 8 era, Microsoft offered a free Windows 10 update to keep the tablet / laptop hybrids up-to-date. ZDNet revealed earlier this week that compatible drivers are preventing owners from updating to the Windows 10 Creators Update, and Microsoft has now confirmed to The Verge that it no longer supports Intel Atom Clover Trail processors for its latest Windows 10 updates.

“They require additional hardware support to provide the best possible experience when updating to the latest Windows 10 feature update, the Windows 10 Creators Update,” explains a Microsoft spokesperson. “However, these systems are no longer supported by Intel (End of Interactive Support), and without the necessary driver support, they may be incapable of moving to the Windows 10 Creators Update without a potential performance impact.”

Microsoft says it will be offering the older Windows 10 Anniversary Update to Intel Clover Trail devices instead, and the company “will provide security updates to these specific devices running the Windows 10 Anniversary Update until January of 2023.” This date aligns with the original Windows 8.1 extended support period, which means that these older devices will still be supported with security updates but no new Windows 10 features.

Intel’s Atom processors were supposed to offer better battery life for smaller and cheaper tablet / laptop devices running Windows 8.1. A lack of good performance meant most consumers decided to purchase Intel’s Core series machines, and Intel eventually gave up on Atom last year. HP’s Envy X2 was one of the more popular Atom-based devices, but not many were widely used.

Luma is the latest router company to push a subscription service

Luma has become the latest router company to introduce a subscription service in a push to generate steady income from a new breed of mesh routers. The Luma Guardian service is being sold as the “world’s first personal IT team,” which is a bit of a stretch. It includes a VPN to create encrypted privacy for all attached devices, Webroot SecureAnywhere anti-virus protection for up to three devices, monthly ISP Speed monitoring reports, and priority phone support for subscribers who pay the $5 per month fee.

Mesh routers, like Luma, are usually sold in packs of two or three in order to blanket homes with Wi-Fi. The relatively tiny units are spread around the house to get faster, more stable connections without any dead spots. Eero announced its own subscription model a few week ago, which charges $9.99 per month or $99 per year for a security service with parental controls.

It should be noted that router owners could save on fees by installing their own VPN and anti-virus software, and running a periodic ISP speed test. Then again, many would prefer to pay someone else to do it for them.

Many of the new router companies are backed by venture capital, including Luma. Luma is backed by Amazon, Accel Partners, Felicis Ventures, GV, and others. Subscription plans are one of the most lucrative business models because, let’s face it — most people don’t purchase a new router very often. And with election and account hacking very much in the news lately, we’ll likely be seeing more and more subscription services marketed by router companies in order to capitalize on those security fears.