Windows 95 is Alive!

I still get goosebumps when I hear that awesome Windows 95 startup jingle and now its possible to travel back 20+ years to a time with Windows 95 ruled the world.

This is all possible because of a 19 year old developer. Andrea Faulds, all the way from Scotland Scotland, managed to get Windows 95 to function fully in the browser without any plugins.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 10.24.24 AM

It’s a truly incredible sight to behold: seeing the 20-year-old operating system fully functioning in pure JavaScript is amazing — you can play Freecell, mess around in DOS or just enjoy the nostalgia.

The project uses emscripten, an emulator that compiles C++ code to JavaScript at runtime so you can enjoy the full retro experience without needing to install a plugin or set up Windows 95 from scratch.

Just the thought of how many layers of complexity are here is dizzying: an operating system being compiled to JavaScript, delivered over the internet and successfully interpreted by a browser.

Be aware it can take a few minutes to load and do not panic when it asks for permission to disable your mouse. You need to do this so you can work with Windows 95 in the emulator. To have you mouse regain control just select the “Esc” key when you are done playing with Windows 95.

The emulator isn’t perfect (Internet Explorer crashes inside the emulator, which is to be expected) but it’s an impressive demo of how far we have come in 21 years!

You can travel back in time here and relive the glory of Windows 95.

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Microsoft’s Fantastic New News iOS App

Microsoft has been releasing some great apps for iOS recently and their most recent one is a big hit, as far as I am concerned.

Microsoft’s new iOS app, “News Brief” does an amazing job of finding stories related to your job, skills, and interests. It cuts out the fluff and makes news reading easier.

It starts with an easy setup process. You can help the app out by signing in with LinkedIn or Facebook. I chose Facebook because I know that service has a much richer biography of my interests. It worked as expected. The app chose the buckets for “Star Trek” and “Microsoft” and immediately created magazines for these topics.

IMG_4816I clicked on the Me icon and added a few more interests, including “Information Technology” and a few related to Star Trek. When you search for new categories, you can see a list of organizations, skills, and products. It’s pretty slick, but more importantly, it works. I found about a dozen articles that interested me right away, which is far different from what happens with more generic apps I have tried. As usual, it’s all about the algorithms, and Microsoft, thanks to their Microsoft Garage dev team has hit the mark with this one.

The app is also speedy. With other readers, I have noticed there is sometimes a weird pause as the app fetches news or load images and text. With the News app, which is installed by default on an iPhone or iPad, it seems to take forever to scroll through the news feed as it reloads. News Pro lets you drag up and release to fetch new stories, placing one in a prime spot. Stories load quickly with a properly-sized thumbnail.

Speaking of speedy there is a mode in News Pro after you select an article to read called Speedy that removes some of the extra formatting and images.

News Pro reminds me of the Outlook app in that it makes every feature seem like it was designed for people who don’t have a ton of time to figure out weird settings and tabs and are not engineers. News Pro has an intuitive flow that puts the emphasis on finding stories and reading them. It puts the interface in the background where it belongs.

If you have an iPhone and want to check this out simply search for “News Brief” in the app store.

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TOS 50 Book Mission #3 – “Devil World”

Devilworld-origcover

1979, Bantam Books

My year long mission to read nothing but Star Trek books as my way of celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary continues…

My 3rd Star Trek book in this crazy year long reading mission finds the Enterprise crew on shore leave at Starbase 13. No shore leave actually leads to a vacation for the crew and this one is no different. On leave Kirk quickly encounters a young woman who follows the philosophy of Jainism which is “to harm no living creature, no matter how small”. To this effect, she wears a face mask so as not to inadvertently swallow an insect and kill it. The woman is searching for her father, who turns out to be a Starfleet officer who left the Federation for the Klingon Empire some years before.

In the meantime, the starbase commander asks Kirk to take on his son as a personal steward, as the young man has washed out of Starfleet Academy, and needs direction in his life.

Through the commander, Kirk also learns more of the story of the woman’s father: he had been stranded in space in only a survival suit for nearly a month before being rescued, and had moved to the Empire on promises of his own planet, since contact with any creatures is now painful to him.
Now, it is learned that the man has travelled to Heartland, a quarantined planet, where the colony started 40 years ago had withdrawn, with every colonist turned mad. The inhabitants of the planet, a dying races called the Danons, resemble satanic creatures, with reddish skin and forked tails. Kirk takes the Enterprise to retrieve the unauthorized personnel. Complications ensue.

This is a somewhat better outing than Eklund’s first Trek novel, “The Starless World” which I read just prior to this one. Here Kirk is again a bit out of character, while Spock and McCoy are portrayed fairly well, but other characters such as Scotty and Sulu show little character at all. Chekov at least tells Russian stories, but there are few telling character touches, as if the author was obviously unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the characters.

Again, the plot is interesting, but the writing is very different then the later Pocket Books (post 1981). As I mentioned before when talking about the Star Trek Bantam Books the authors only had 3 seasons of the original series to go on. No movies and only a few other books written prior to use as fodder. Maybe it’s my age but I tend to enjoy these older Bantam novels because most of them really have the feel of a TOS episode.

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Facebook’s Like Feature Grows Up

You see a friend’s Facebook post about the death of a pet, the loss of a job or an annoying encounter they had on the road. You want to acknowledge the post but you really do not want to click the Like button. Posts like these are are not “likeable” but you would like to acknowledge them. What do you do? Well Facebook is apparently about to help with this terrible problem.

Facebook reactions

In cases like the ones I mentioned above you may prefer to click on a Sad button or a Love button or a Wow button. In a few weeks, it appears you will have that option.

Facebook recently reported that they will be adding five new reactions to the popular Like button. Although they would not give a specific date for the change, they did say it would be “in the next few weeks.”

Instead, when users hold down the Like button, they will get other options such as angry, sad, wow, haha and love expressions.

The reactions will pop up as yellow animated emojis that are designed to bounce and change expressions to make their meaning clear. The posts will also apparently show the totals of the different post responses.

This is a big change for Facebook. The social network’s Like button has become one of its most popular and well-known functions on the site. People “like” posts about a friend finishing a marathon, reading a great book, sliding in the snow or finding a new job. In fact this function’s popularity is I am sure – the reason it has taken so long to update it with additional features.

With more reaction options, individual users and businesses now will have more information about what their friends and followers think about what they’re doing.

Watch for this new feature if you use Facebook during the next couple of weeks.

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New IPhone Prank Exposed

A new prank is going round that is wreaking havoc among iPhone users.

The prank involves convincing an unsuspecting iPhone user to click on a link to a website called crashsafari.com, which does pretty much what it says.

The link generates an ever-increasing string of characters, which becomes harder and harder for the Safari browser to process, and it eventually overwhelms the device’s memory.

The iPhone heats up significantly as it tries to handle the code, and is then forced into a reboot.

The link has a similar effect on iPads, which also run the Safari browser, and Android devices running Chrome, which heat up and become sluggish.

Desktop and laptop computers are also affected to a lesser degree, depending on how much processing power they have.

The prank is reminiscent of last year’s “effective power” text message bug , which allowed pranksters to crash their friends’ iPhones by sending them a text message.

Although the crashsafari.com link should be fairly easy to avoid, it has been reported that some people are using link shorteners like bit.ly and ow.ly to disguise the link.

One of these shortened links has already been clicked over 100,000 times.

If you fall victim to the prank don’t worry because it does not seem to have any lasting effects. Once the device has rebooted, it should behave as normal.

As I always suggest never – ever – ever, click on hyperlinks or attachments in email that you did not specifically request. 

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Microsoft Surface Tablets Fail Patriots

Surface may be the “official tablet of the NFL,” but a one-sided problem during the AFC Championship game Sunday between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots isn’t the kind of awareness Microsoft is trying to build by outfitting teams with its slates.

Microsoft executives watching the game must have freaked out when they heard the following.

“On the Patriots’ sideline here, they’re having some trouble with their Microsoft Surface tablets,” reported Evan Washburn of CBS early in the second quarter. “That last defensive possession, the Patriots’ coaches did not have access to those tablets to show the pictures to the players. The NFL officials have been working at it. Some of those tablets are back in use, but not all of them. A lot of frustration that they didn’t have them that last possession.”

“That last possession” resulted in a Broncos score. It wasn’t immediately known what the specific issue affecting the tablets was.

Denver, which was hosting the game, reportedly did not have problems with their Surface tablets. Another sideline reporter spoke with the NFL which said it didn’t need to shut down the Broncos’ tablets as only New England was having problems, and it was after kickoff. The same reporter also talked to a Microsoft Surface representative who said that the Patriots are using hard wires to “keep [the tablets] going.”

Twitter erupted with reaction, some even dubbing the situation “Tabletgate.”

Microsoft paid the NFL $400 million to put Surfaces into every facet of the game, though it’s not uncommon to hear TV analysts and others refer to the tablets as “iPads.” If it’s any solace to Microsoft, that probably won’t happen again after today.

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson has issued a statement reporting a network issue had caused the problem for the New England Patriots and not the tablets themselves.

“Our team on the field has confirmed the issue was not related to the tablets themselves but rather an issue with the network,” a spokesperson said. “We worked with our partners who manage the network to ensure the issue was resolved quickly.”

The problem lasted for about 20 minutes and I would suggest, had no impact on the game itself.

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Understanding Windows 10 Updates

Are you Confused about how updates work in Windows 10? If you are, you are not alone. That is because much has changed in respect to Microsoft updates with Windows 10 from previous versions of Windows.

Unlike previous versions of Windows, Windows 10 does not give you the option to review pending updates and choose not to install them (although, as you’ll see later on in this piece, there are a few exceptions to that). Instead, the updates automatically install on a schedule of Microsoft’s choosing. When updates are available, Windows 10 automatically downloads them, schedules a time to restart your PC, and then installs the update on that schedule.

windows update basic
Windows 10 automatically downloads updates and schedules a time to restart your PC and install them.
We’re here to help. We’ve delved deep into Windows 10 Update and come up with answers to users’ most pressing questions: Whether you have to accept all updates, whether you can uninstall existing updates and how to reduce the bandwidth some updates use. We’ve also included some hidden extras, like how to stop all updates if you want.

The difference between an update and an upgrade

Is a Windows update the same thing as a Windows upgrade? The two words sound pretty much identical, but in the Windows 10 world there’s a difference.

In Microsoft terminology, updates fix security issues, squash bugs and make relatively significant changes to Windows, typically under the hood. They’re delivered on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of every month, and then on an as-needed basis.

Upgrades, on the other hand, “install the latest new features, experiences and capabilities” of Windows 10, according to Microsoft. Typically, there are at most two to three upgrades a year. The first upgrade to Windows 10 was in November 2015.

 

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New YouTube Chrome Extension Is Available

One of the best features of YouTube’s mobile apps is the ability to minimize a video to a thumbnail and continue watching it while you continue browsing YouTube.

The just released YouTube Picture in Picture Chrome extension brings this same functionality to the desktop and it works like a charm.

Once you’ve installed the extension, you can right-click any video on YouTube’s home page, channels or search results and begin watching it instantly in a small window by right-clicking it and choosing ‘Play Picture-in-Picture’.

You can also increase the size of the active video, watch it on its own page or close it using the controls that show up when you hover over it. And of course, you can jump from one page to another while browsing while interrupting your chosen clip.

If you are a Chrome user and visit YouTube occasionally this extension is a must have.

YouTube Picture in Picture (Beta) [Chrome Web Store]

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TOS 50 Book Mission #2 – “The Starless World”

I still have my original first printing of this novel (1978) which I of course used for this reading.

Book #2 on my one-year mission to read as much Star Trek as possible as my way of honoring what Star Trek has meant to me, ironically during my first 50 years (as well) takes me to 1978’s “The Starless World” by Gordon Eklund. I read this one back in high school so I forgot almost everything about it.

The Story

While charting black holes and stellar masses near the Galactic core, the Enterprise manages to rescue Thomas Clayton, a Starfleet washout who now is an independent scout for the Federation. Amazingly enough, Clayton is aboard a Starfleet shuttlecraft from the starship Rickover which disappeared some two decades earlier. Clayton is completely insane; he has explained he is doing his god’s bidding. While beginning an investigation into this mystery, the Enterprise is suddenly drawn into a Dyson sphere where they encounter a Klingon ship.

After a brief exchange of hostile words (their weapons don’t work), Kirk, Uhura and Sulu beam down and encounter the only remaining inhabitants: short, plump, white chimpanzee-like humanoids. After befriending Ola by stopping her from becoming a carnivore’s dinner, she takes them to her village of Tumara where they are soon joined by McCoy and Spock who are forced down to the planet’s surface by the deranged Clayton. Spock is increasingly of the opinion that Ay-nab, the sun of the Dyson sphere known as Lyra, is a superintelligent being. There is also a rather odd and unnecessary sub-plot of Uhura meeting her father, one of the crew of the Rickover who are now little more than zombies whose souls Ay-nab feeds.

My Thoughts

Gordon Eklund does a really good job of telling a science fiction story first, then a Star Trek story which I really appreciate. The Star Trek novels written before the films were launched almost always have this kind of science fiction first plot point. Maybe it’s because I love classic science fiction that thsi appeals to me. That being said this IS a Star Trek book after all and for the most part works as a classic episode type story. However there are a few errors here and there (the Enterprise is a Constellation-class ship, for one, and Spock uses way too many colloquialisms for a Vulcan). However, Eklund really does manage to craft a credible and weird world. The theme of a star being an intelligent being is not new to Eklund, and it harkens back to his Nebula-award winning novella (co-authored with Gregory Benford) and later revised novel “If the Stars Are Gods.

During this year long Trek Book Mission I hope to delve into a couple of the original Bantam books (1970-1981) that were released prior to the films. This is because these books, for the most part really capture the feel of simply reading a lost original Star Trek episode. The authors of the books pre-1980 only had the original TOS episodes to draw from which sometimes, I find refreshing.

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Apple Releases iOS 9.2.1 Update

Today Apple released iOS 9.2.1, marking the first update to iOS 9 since iOS 9.2 launched in December of 2015. iOS 9.2.1 has been in testing since December 16, with developers and public beta testers receiving a total of three betas before its public launch.
Today’s iOS 9.2.1 release is available as an over-the-air update to all iOS 9 users. A minor update, iOS 9.2.1 is the fifth update to iOS 9 in total, following the launches of iOS 9.0.1,iOS 9.0.2, iOS 9.1, and iOS 9.2.

iOS 9.2.1, as a 9.x.x update, is minor in scale, focusing mainly on under-the-hood performance improvements and bug fixes rather than outward-facing changes. According to Apple’s release notes, the update includes security improvements and bug fixes, including a fix for a significant Mobile Device Management issue that affected enterprise customers.

This update contains security updates and bug fixes including a fix for an issue that could prevent the completion of app installation when using an MDM server.

iOS 9.2.1 will be followed by iOS 9.3, which has also been seeded to developers for testing purposes. Set to be released in the spring, iOS 9.3 will be a major update that introduces a new Night Shift feature to cut down on blue light exposure during the evening for better sleep and brings new educational features.

iOS 9.3 also includes new Quick Actions for iPhone 6s users and it introduces updates for apps and features like Apple News, Notes, Health, Siri, CarPlay, and More.

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