Edge is still the most efficient Windows browser, but Chrome is getting close

Microsoft’s battery life comparison video.

One of the big advantages that Microsoft has been promoting for its Edge browser is that it’s more battery efficient than both Chrome and Firefox. My own anecdotal experience bears this out; although I use Chrome for most browsing, I’ve found it burns battery faster than Edge under similar workloads. Whenever I’m mobile, I switch to Microsoft’s browser over Google’s.

Microsoft’s own figures use a video-playback benchmark, and the company has duly released a new comparison for the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, version 1803. Edge still comes out ahead—it lasts 98 percent longer than Mozilla Firefox, and 14 percent longer than Google Chrome—but it’s striking that the gap with Chrome has narrowed.

In January, using Windows 10 version 1709, Microsoft’s browser resulted in the battery lasting 19 percent longer than Google’s. In April last year, using Windows 10 version 1703, the Microsoft advantage was

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State of Decay 2 review: Shambling toward nothing

Enlarge / Exhaustion, injuries, and low morale stack up pretty quickly within your community.

I wanted to be a “State of Decay person” since the first game came to the Xbox 360 in 2013. My friend pretty much forced the issue. I remember a straight month where all they wanted to do was whack zombies from a third-person perspective, scrounge vital materials, and maneuver the valuables through menus to keep a playable squad of survivors happy. True State of Decay fans found the hunt for food and ammo was just a vehicle for ambient stories of post-apocalyptic survival. Assuming you could stomach the game’s many vicious glitches, that is.

Very little has changed in the half-decade since that original game. In State of Decay 2, you smack undead “zeds” around to loot the supply-rich structures they guard. The gear shores up your semi-safe headquarters. And while I’m still

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Blunder burns unicorn attack that exploited Windows and Reader

Enlarge (credit: Lisa Cooper / Flickr)

It’s not every day someone develops a malware attack that, with one click, exploits separate zero-day vulnerabilities in two widely different pieces of software. It’s even rarer that a careless mistake burns such a unicorn before it can be used. Researchers say that’s precisely happened to malicious PDF document designed to target unpatched vulnerabilities in both Adobe Reader and older versions of Microsoft Windows.

Modern applications typically contain “sandboxes” and other defenses that make it much harder for exploits to successfully execute malicious code on computers. When these protections work as intended, attacks that exploit buffer overflows and other common software vulnerabilities result in a simple application crash rather than a potentially catastrophic security event. The defenses require attackers to chain together two or more exploits: one executes malicious code, and a separate exploit allows the code to break out of the sandbox.

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How Engadget’s parent company is making sites like ours easier to use

Today, May 17th, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, but in fact, this entire month has been an eventful one people with disabilities. Two weeks ago, Google and Microsoft pledged to commit $20 and $25 million to the cause, respectively, to accessibility tech. Today, Microsoft revealed the Xbox Adaptive Controller, while Apple unveiled a coding curriculum that can also be used by students who are deaf and/or blind. Meanwhile, Oath, Engadget’s parent company which also owns Yahoo, rang in the day by holding an open house at its accessibility lab, where, among other things, it works to make sites like ours easier for everyone to use.

And that includes sites and services outside of Oath too: The accessibility-tech community is a small one, with researchers at Oath, Apple, Microsoft, Google and other tech companies regularly collaborating with each other. (Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer Jennie-Lay Flurrie made the same Continue reading “How Engadget’s parent company is making sites like ours easier to use”

Xbox Adaptive Controller: A bold answer to the tricky world of accessible gaming

A look inside the Xbox Inclusive Tech Lab as they reveal their new controller with improved accessibility. (Captions available.)

REDMOND, Washington—The Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC), slated to launch “later this year,” looks almost incomplete at first glance. The clean, confusing-looking slab, nearly the length and width of an Xbox One S, has no joysticks. The usual selection of Xbox inputs has been reduced down to a few menu buttons, a D-pad, and two black, hand-sized pads.

Don’t let the pared-down design fool you. The XAC is one of the most unique and widely useful control tools Microsoft has ever designed, and it seems poised to change the way many players interact with the games they love.

Sam Machkovech

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Report: Microsoft is going to try to make a cheap Surface tablet… again

The Surface 3’s non-LTE version.

Bloomberg reports that Microsoft is going to release a $400, 10-inch, Intel-powered Surface tablet in the second half of the year, in a renewed effort to take on the iPad.

This represents a return to a strategy the company has tried before. The original ARM Surface RT and Surface 2 and the Intel-equipped Surface 3 were all attempts to offer a low(ish) priced tablet operating in the same approximate market as the iPad. None saw any great success, however, and the Surface 3 was discontinued in late 2016. The winner in the Surface line has been the more expensive Surface Pro series: Microsoft found a formula that worked with the Surface Pro 3 and has seen steady sales and a proliferation of copycat devices.

The problem with Surface Pro is the price: the current-generation Surface Pro starts at $799. This makes it a hard sell

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Microsoft Planning Low-Cost Surface Line to Compete With Apple’s $329 iPad

As Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Surface continue to compete in the tablet market, a new report out today by Bloomberg claims that Microsoft is planning its next tablet line to be lower-cost in an effort to attract people to Surface products who aren’t interested in the more expensive Surface Pro. The move is directly aimed at competing with Apple’s recently launched $329 iPad, and could see Microsoft debut the devices as soon as the second half of 2018.

According to people familiar with the company’s plans, the tablets will be priced at around $400, so they would still be more expensive than Apple’s cheapest options. They will be the first Surface devices to adopt USB-C and rounded edges “like an iPad,” instead of the square corners of the current devices. Storage tiers will include 64GB and 128GB, as well as LTE options, and the devices will feature 10-inch screens.

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Microsoft blocks Windows 10 April 2018 update to some Intel SSDs

Enlarge / Intel SSD 600p. (credit: Intel)

The April 2018 update for Windows 10 is now being blocked from installing on systems with certain Intel SSDs.

With the update installed, systems with the Intel SSD 600p Series and Intel SSD Pro 6000p Series devices seem to crash repeatedly during startup. The problem appears to be recoverable insofar as you can hold down F8 and roll back the update. But that’s the only known solution at the time of writing. The issue appears to be unique to Intel’s firmware on the SSD; other devices with the same controllers (but different firmware) do not seem to be having any problems.

Microsoft is now blocking the update from affected systems until a solution is devised.

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Surface Hub 2 coming in 2019, looks amazing

Surface Hub 2 Intro video.

Microsoft gave an early look at its next-generation Surface Hub 2 today. It will go on sale next year, with certain selected customers testing it this year.

Microsoft’s Surface Hub, its conference room computer, was something of a surprise hit. The system has been in short supply since its launch about three years ago, especially in its 84-inch version: its combination of video conferencing and whiteboarding makes it a collaborative tool with few direct competitors.

The central feature of the new system is that it’s a 50.5-inch 4K display with a rotating mount. Instead of the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, the Surface Hub 2 has the same 3:2 ratio of Microsoft’s other Surface systems. Need a larger screen? Up to four Surface Hub 2s can be tiled together in either portrait or landscape mode. The bezels are much narrower to enable this kind

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Download and play these Xbox Games Pass titles while you still can

Enlarge / While still “over 100 Games,” the selection on Xbox Games Pass is set to get a bit smaller next month.

Microsoft’s $10 per month Xbox Games Pass subscription service will be seeing the first significant reduction in its game library at the end of May. That’s when 21 available titles—primarily backward-compatible Xbox 360 games—will be rotating out of the service.

Microsoft has been adding seven to ten games to Games Pass every month since its launch last June, bringing the total number of Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles subscribers can download to over 170. Only a small handful of previously available titles have been removed during that run, including WWE 2K17, NBA 2K17, and Metal Gear Solid V.

Industry watchers (including yours truly) have been referring to Games Pass as a “Netflix for Games” since before its launch. But this is the first real

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Microsoft can’t fix “flickergate” Surface Pro 4s with software, so it’s replacing them

At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the Surface Pro 4 for the Surface Pro 3.

Microsoft will replace Surface Pro 4s that are afflicted with a screen flickering issue that is caused by a hardware problem and is unfixable in firmware or software.

For more than a year, there have been complaints from Surface Pro 4 users that their tablet computers were developing a nasty screen flickering issue. You can see the issue in action here. The random occurrence and nature of the corruption made it clear that the hardware was the cause. To try and eke some life out of their systems, Surface Pro 4 users were going to extreme lengths. Sticking the machines in the freezer would restore normal function for a short period, and other owners felt that hairdryers were a better solution.

With Microsoft now properly acknowledging the problem, these hacks are no longer necessary.

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Explorer is getting a dark theme, and it’s very dark

Enlarge / The dark Explorer theme. (credit: Microsoft)

As long-time practitioners of the “dark theme” concept—it’s still an option here at Ars for those who prefer light text on dark backgrounds—we’re excited to see that Microsoft is extending the reach of its dark theme to include Explorer.

Windows 10 has a toggle to switch between the standard regular (dark text/light background) theme and the inverted dark theme.
For those who routinely use their computers in poorly lit rooms, the dark theme offers relief from the more traditional eye-searing white of the standard theme. For the most part, the only applications that follow this are new, modern applications built using the Universal Windows Platform. The latest Insider build, version 17666, extends that to Explorer, one of the most important and widely used traditional Win32 applications.

The new build has some other bits and pieces too, including greater use of

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PS4 expands its sales lead, now 71% of “two-console” market with Xbox One

(credit: Ars Technica/Aurich Lawson)

New statements from Electronic Arts suggest that Sony’s PlayStation 4 has sold 2.5 times as many consoles as Microsoft’s Xbox One through the end of 2017, with Sony now controlling over 70 percent of the “two-console” market worldwide.

As Variety noticed this morning, the numbers can be derived from a recent EA investor conference call, where CEO Andrew Wilson mentions “sales of current-generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony” totaling 103 million at the end of 2017. Combine that with Sony’s own reports of 73.6 million consoles sold through the end of 2017, and you get a rough estimate of 29.4 million Xbox One consoles on the market. That amounts to just under 40 percent of the PS4’s reported sales.

Even with a bit of wiggle room to account for EA’s market-size estimation methods, that’s an extremely tepid result for Microsoft’s console.

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Samsung could release a wireless AR headset before Apple

Just two weeks after rumours surfaced that Apple is working on a wireless AR/VR headset, Samsung has charged into the ring with its own concept. According to The Korea Times, the company is working with Microsoft to develop a “powerful” headset that supports both augmented reality and virtual reality, and unlike Apple’s offering, which is slated for 2020, Samsung plans to debut its version at the IFA tradeshow in Berlin this August.

Source: The Korea Times

Samsung could release a wireless AR headset before Apple

Just two weeks after rumours surfaced that Apple is working on a wireless AR/VR headset, Samsung has charged into the ring with its own concept. According to The Korea Times, the company is working with Microsoft to develop a “powerful” headset that supports both augmented reality and virtual reality, and unlike Apple’s offering, which is slated for 2020, Samsung plans to debut its version at the IFA tradeshow in Berlin this August.

Source: The Korea Times

Notepad gets a major upgrade, now does Unix line endings

Enlarge (credit: g4ll4is / Flickr)

Notepad, the text editor that ships with Windows, is not a complicated application. For many, this is its major advantage—by having virtually no features, it cannot go wrong—but especially for software developers, it has often proven an annoyance.

That’s because Notepad has traditionally only understood Windows line endings. Windows, Unix, and “classic” MacOS all use different conventions for indicating the end of a line of text. Windows does things correctly: it uses a pair of characters, the carriage return (CR) followed by the line feed (LF). Two characters are needed because they do different things: the CR moves the print head to the start of a line; the LF advances the paper by one line. Separating these is valuable, as it allows for effects such as underlining to be emulated: first print the text to be underlined, then issue a CR, and then print

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Critical Windows bug fixed today is actively being exploited to hack users

Enlarge (credit: Lisa Brewster / Flickr)

Microsoft on Tuesday patched two Windows vulnerabilities that attackers are actively exploiting in the wild to install malicious apps on the computers of unwitting users.

The first vulnerability resides in the VBScript Engine included in all currently supported versions of Windows. A so-called use-after-free flaw involving the way the engine handles computer memory allows attackers to execute code of their choice that runs with the same system privileges chosen by the logged-in user. When targeted users are logged in with administrative rights, attackers who exploit the bug can take complete control of the system. In the event users are logged in with more limited rights, attackers may still be able to escalate privileges by exploiting a separate vulnerability.

CVE-2018-8174, as the flaw is formally indexed, is being actively exploited by attackers, Microsoft officials said. The vulnerability was discovered by antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab,

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With Timeline and Your Phone, Microsoft makes a PC the phone’s second screen

SEATTLE—The PC is, for many of us, no longer the central hub for our digital and online activities; the phone has taken that role. In this new world, the relationship between the two has flipped: the phone is not a companion device for the PC, but rather, the PC is now a companion device for the phone.

At its Build developer conference today, Microsoft showed a pair of applications that reflect this new world. First are updated versions of the Launcher for Android and Edge for iOS that include support for Timeline, the big new feature of the Windows 10 April 2018 Update. Timeline gives a historic view of the documents, emails, and webpages that you have visited, making it easy and convenient to go back and resume working on your ongoing tasks. With the updated versions of the apps, the Timeline view is now accessible on your mobile

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Apple’s MacBook Pro vs. Microsoft’s Surface Book 2

One of Apple’s biggest competitors in the laptop space is arguably Microsoft, with its line of portable, productivity-focused Surface Book machines. Microsoft in November released its newest product, the Surface Book 2, a 2-in-1 PC that has quite a few selling points to entice Apple customers.

In our latest YouTube video, we took a look at the 15-inch Surface Book 2 and compared it to the 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro across a number of categories including build quality and design, key features, and overall usage experience for someone in the Apple ecosystem.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.


Both the Surface Book 2 and Apple’s most recent MacBook Pro models are powerful machines with some of the latest technology in processor and graphics cards, so modern apps, games, and other software features run well on either device.

The Surface Book 2 and the MacBook Pro are

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Build 2018: Microsoft embraces its new platforms, Azure and Microsoft 365

Enlarge / An oil platform moored in Scotland. It’s not on fire. (credit: Berardo62 / Flickr)

SEATTLE—Windows isn’t going away any time soon. A glance at Microsoft’s financials makes clear that the Windows business is still important for Microsoft. But as the reorganization in March demonstrated, Windows is no longer central to Microsoft’s vision in the way it once was. Instead, it’s now part of a broader picture with two platforms: Azure and Microsoft 365.

Microsoft 365—the subscription service that includes Office, Windows, and a range of additional services on top—will be the focus tomorrow. Today was all about Azure.

The company’s major focus is currently machine learning, bringing new services and expanding the reach of those services to make it easier to use machine-learning features in a wide range of applications. That expanded reach comes from running machine-learning models on endpoint devices rather than in the cloud, allowing

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