FEMA will conduct the first nationwide test of its Wireless Emergency Alert system today beginning at 2:18 PM Eastern. While you can choose to opt out of mobile weather and AMBER alerts, you won’t be able to opt out of this test. When it happens, you’ll see a notification on your phone with the header “Presidential Alert” and the message will say, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Cell towers will broadcast the test for 30 minutes and any compatible phone that’s on, within range of an active cell tower and connected to a wireless provider participating in WEA will receive the message.
DxOMark is out with its full review of the iPhone XS camera system. Coming in with a score of 105, the latest flagship iPhone beat out the camera performance of all other smartphones except for Huawei’s P20 Pro with its triple-camera setup. Read on for all the details.
Whoosh! Screen Cleaner
DxOMark evaluates cameras based on a combined score of photo and video performance. The total score is not out of 100. With that it mind, the iPhone XS Max that DxO tested scored notably higher at 105 than the iPhone X, which earned 97 last year. The company notes that it only tested the XS Max, but more or less expects the XS to perform the same, since they have the same camera systems.
DxO notes that while the few hardware upgrades to the XS camera system are valuable, the software changes are more noticeable.
On the software and image processing side of things, the improvements are more obvious. During still image capture, the camera continuously captures a multi-frame buffer at different exposures, allowing for simultaneous zero shutter lag and HDR processing, something that is unique to the new iPhone at this point.
For the photo portion, DxO called out that the iPhone XS Max could have better zoom performance, but it still scored an impressive scored 110.
Overall, however, still image quality is very good, and the iPhone XS Max achieves an excellent Photo score of 110 points. In addition to capturing great image quality in bright light, the iPhone XS Max camera is also very reliable, consistently capturing good results shot after shot. The autofocus system is among the best we have tested, and images recorded in Apple’s Portrait mode show very good subject isolation.
For the video portion of the testing, iPhone XS Max scored 96 with indoor white balance instabilities being one of its weaknesses. Great video performance in bright conditions was one of its key strengths.
The Apple iPhone XS Max achieves an excellent Video score of 96 points, thanks to an outstanding performance in bright light conditions. The overall score is derived from a number of sub-scores in the same way as the Photo score: Exposure (88), Color (88), Autofocus (91), Texture (58), Noise (75), Artifacts (84), and Stabilization (94).
While this doesn’t factor into its scoring system, DxO notes how the sensor readout is better on iPhone XS than compared to other smartphones.
thanks to improved sensor readout speed, the rolling-shutter effect that can occur when panning is much less intrusive than for some rivals — for example, the Google Pixel 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. You can see that vertical lines are much more “leaning” on the latter two devices in the sample clips below.
For a complete looks at how the XS camera system performed and more side by side comparisons with other top smartphones, read the full DxOMark review here.
Also be sure to take a look at our coverage of the iPhone XS camera system:
I take it as an article of faith that you don’t want to install the latest version of Windows 10 right away. As we’ve seen, repeatedly, upgrading to a new version of Windows 10 as soon as it’s out leads to madness.
For almost everyone, the new features in Windows 10 version 1809, a.k.a. the October 2018 Update — new emojis, long overdue clipboard improvements, more convenient updates — just aren’t worth the bother of installing and setting up an entirely new copy of Windows. (Unless you really want Candy Crush Soda Saga installed for the umpteenth time.)
If you’re an Edge or Cortana fan, your opinion may vary, of course. And there are undeniable benefits under the covers. But for 90% of us, I would guess, 1809 isn’t high on the priority list. It certainly isn’t worth thrusting yourself into the unpaid beta-tester pool at the earliest opportunity, while waiting for Microsoft to iron out its problems. Thus, for most Windows 10 users, it makes a whole lot of sense to wait and update to 1809 when you’re good and ready for it — not when Microsoft decides to push it on you. (Whatever you do, don’t manually check for updates.)
Turning the Automatic Update switch off should only take a few clicks. After all, that’s what we had with Windows 7 and 8.1. We’ve gone beyond that now. Windows 10 updates itself “as a service” — but your system needn’t be servile.
The textbook approach (for Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education)
For those of you running Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise or Education, there’s always the Microsoft Party Line. Here’s the official way to turn off Windows 10 “feature updates” (that’s the official name for a version upgrade):
Step 1. Click Start > Settings > Update & Security. Click the link marked Advanced options.
You see the Advanced Options pane. If you’re running the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, version 1803, what you see is shown in the screenshot.
Step 2. Set the branch readiness (under “Choose when updates are installed”) to Semi-Annual Channel.
This setting should tell Microsoft to refrain from installing the next version of Windows (in this case, 1809) until there’s been an official announcement that the version is “ready for widespread deployment” or “full availability.” As you’ll see in the next section, that’s not what happened with the last version of Windows 10. One hopes it’ll happen in the future.
In theory, new versions of Windows 10 will be deemed “ready for widespread deployment” four months after initial release — in the case of 1809, that would be in early April 2019. In practice, the milestone (formerly called “Current Branch for Business”) has taken two to three months.
There’s no warning about the shift to Semi-Annual Channel. Microsoft just declares a new version to be ready for full availability, for reasons as yet unknown, and that same day, the new version starts rolling out to those on the Semi-Annual Channel branch.
If you’re running Windows 10 Creators Update, version 1703, the pane’s a little bit different. You want to choose Current Branch for Business.
Step 3. Set the Feature Update deferral to 365 days.
In theory, this setting tells Microsoft that you want to wait for the next version of Windows, version 1809 in this case, to be declared “ready for widespread deployment” and after that you want to wait for an additional 365 days.
The setting’s the same for both Windows 10 1803 and 1709.
While you’re here, you should also tell Windows 10 to wait 30 days before installing cumulative updates (“quality updates”).
You can “X” out of the pane. There’s no Save button.
If you use Windows 10 Home
For those of you running Windows 10 Home, the situation isn’t nearly as straightforward. Many people recommend that you turn off the Windows Update service, wuauserv, but I’ve never been a fan of that approach — too many possible problems and undocumented side effects. (If you feel so inclined, though, just google “disable wuauserv.”)
My recommendation is to mark your internet connection as “metered” — telling Microsoft, in effect, that you’re paying for internet by the bit, and you don’t want to overload your connection. There’s no guarantee this approach (dare I call it a “trick”?) will always work, but, unlike the official settings mentioned in the preceding section, it doesn’t look like Microsoft has ignored them specifically to force upgrades on blocked machines.
Metered connections have some odd side effects, with selective downloading that’s occasionally hard to predict, but if you don’t have Pro, Enterprise or Education, it’s an easy way to dodge the forced upgrade bullet.
To set your internet connection to metered, click Start > Settings > Network & Internet. If you have a wired (Ethernet) connection, on the left, click Ethernet, click on the network icon, and slide “Set as metered connection” to On. If you connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, the instructions are the same (see the screenshot) except, on the left, click Wi-Fi.
Windows 7 and 8.1
If you haven’t yet made the leap to Windows 10, there’s nothing to worry about. The days of pushed Win10 updates are long behind us, and it’s unlikely they’ll come again. In theory, Win7 and 8.1 users have to pay for the Win10 upgrade. I’ve seen no indication that Microsoft will ever bring back the “Get Windows 10” debacle.
Microsoft’s propensity to forget its own settings
On three separate occasions in the past year — in November 2017, January 2018, and March 2018 — Microsoft forcibly upgraded Windows 10 Pro machines that have Advanced Options set to defer upgrades. Microsoft has, in effect, ignored its own settings. You can think of these incidents as accidents, or the result of overworked or overly zealous individuals. I, for one, am not so magnanimous.
These aren’t fly-by-night reports, or wails of pain from users who forgot to turn something on or off. All three have been documented by Microsoft as being Microsoft mistakes, in nooks and crannies of its various posts.
Oddly, it seems that the metered connection trick kept working in the face of all of those “oopsies.” You may well want to set your internet connection to metered, even if you use Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise or Education. Belt and suspenders and all that.
Microsoft’s official back door: The last, and most nefarious of the three “oops” events involves a, uh, feature called Update Assistant and its executioner program, updateassistant.exe. The poorly documented Update Assistant has been around for a long time, but its intrusive nature came to light when it started (erroneously, according to Microsoft) ignoring the Windows Update settings that were supposed to block installation of the next version of Windows 10.
Update Assistant has evolved. You may have seen KB 4023057, the “Update to Windows 10 Versions 1507, 1511, 1607, 1703, and 1709 for update reliability,” which has been released and re-re-re-released more than a dozen times. This “Remediation Shell” (formerly “WaaSMedic”) patch is intended to (in the words of abbodi86):
Fix and reset Windows Update-related parts to their “supported” configuration, i.e. restore registry settings, services status, schedule tasks, clear disk space, and launch UpdateAssistant.exe if installed. Mainly it’s meant to pave the way to receive the latest updates, whether quality updates, or feature update to latest Windows 10 version… it evolved from just fixing the Registry to restoring tasks and fixing the drivers DB, and compatibility for UAC management.. the main purpose or function did not change: re-allow blocked or disabled Windows Update.
Microsoft’s so gung-ho on blasting away your Windows Update blocks that it’s set up a regimen worthy of the finest malware. The most egregious example is KB 4023814 which has an odd web page that says:
Some versions of Windows 10 display a notification to install the latest version.
If you’re currently running Windows 10 version 1507, version 1511, version 1607, version 1703, or version 1709, you can expect to receive a notification that states that your device must have the latest security updates installed and then initiates an attempt to update your device.
The KB article somehow neglects to mention what KB 4023814 actually does. As MrBrian notes on AskWoody, when you run the patch, it installs (or updates) updateassistant.exe and Windows10Upgrade.exe, then sets up two scheduled tasks:
UpdateAssistant runs every time you restart your machine or log on to Windows. The scheduled task looks to see if updateassistant.exe or Windows10Upgrade.exe is available and, if not, reconstructs it from the files in C:WindowsUpdateAssistant or UpdateAssistantV2. It then runs updateassistant.exe.
UpdateAssistantCalendarRun runs every three days whether you reboot or not. Like UpdateAssistant, it reconstitutes the updateassistant.exe or Windows10Upgrade.exe file, then runs updateassistant.exe.
To put icing on the cake, you can’t uninstall KB 4023814. It doesn’t show up in your list of installed updates. It isn’t in the Microsoft Update Catalog either, for that matter.
Microsoft really doesn’t want you to mess with the Windows Update service. If you do, your efforts are likely to be blasted away. Microsoft has used this vector to force people from Windows 10 1703 to 1709, whether they wanted it or not. It remains to be seen how many “oops” moments we’ll see in the movement from 1709 to 1803.
If you ever wondered why 90% of all Windows 10 users got bumped to Windows 10 1803, now you know.
Of course, from Microsoft’s point of view they’re simply correcting any bugs that may have been introduced in the upgrade process. Defeating those who actively block the upgrade is just a bit of fortuitous collateral damage.
When all else fails — or if you want to hold the Windows 10 1809 upgrade at bay while you install other updates — Microsoft’s wushowhide utility works great. You want to hide the “Feature update to Windows 10, version 1809.” The trick is that you can’t hide the “Feature update to Windows 10, version 1809” update until it actually appears on your machine — and it may not get pushed to you for days, weeks, or even months.
To prevent any nasty surprises, you should run wushowhide before you switch off any of the 1809-blocking techniques mentioned in this feature, or before you click “Check for updates.” If 1809 is being offered on your machine, wushowhide lets you “hide” the patch while you use Windows Update to get your other patches brought up to date.
Here’s how to run wushowhide:
Step 1. Go to KB 3073930 and download Microsoft’s Wushowhide tool. (Click the link marked “Download the ‘Show or hide updates’ troubleshooter package now.”) Drag the downloaded file, Wushowhide.diagcab, to any convenient location.
Step 2. Double-click on Wushowhide.diagcab to run it.
Step 3. This part’s important. Click the link marked Advanced. Uncheck the box marked “Apply repairs automatically.” Click Next.
Step 4. Wushowhide will run for a long, long time. When it comes back up for air, click the link to Hide Updates. If you see a checkbox marked “Feature update to Windows 10, version 1809,” as in the screenshot, check the box next to the item and click Next. (If you don’t see “Feature update to Windows 10, version 1809,” the upgrade isn’t being sent to your box yet. “X” out of wushowhide and check again tomorrow.
Wushowhide is an odd bird. If it successfully hid the upgrade/update/patch, you’ll see a “Troubleshooting has completed” dialog with your 1803 patch marked as a “Problems found.” You did everything right.
Step 5. Click Close. You’re done.
If you don’t trust Microsoft’s wushowhide tool, you can verify for yourself that it hid the version 1809 upgrade. Go back to Windows Update (Start > Settings > Update & security, then Check for Updates) your machine should show “Your device is up to date.” The 1809 upgrade didn’t get installed.
When you’re ready to install version 1809 — you probably will, at some point — the reverse procedure’s just as easy. Here’s how to unhide the update:
Step 1. Double-click on Wushowhide.diagcab to run it. This part’s important. Click the link marked Advanced. Uncheck the box marked “Apply repairs automatically.” Click Next.
Step 2. Wushowhide will run for a long time. When it comes back up, click the link to Show hidden updates.
Step 3. Check the box next to “Feature update to Windows 10, version 1809,” click Next, and click Next again.
Wushowhide will dutifully tell you it is “Resolving problems.” When it’s done, you see a “Troubleshooting has completed” dialog.
Step 4. Click Close.
Version 1809 will then get queued up again, and the next time Windows Update runs (you can check for updates manually, or let it run by itself, likely overnight), your machine will reboot into Windows 10 Redstone 5, version 1809, build 17763.
Nobody knows what kinds of dirty tricks (er, remediation techniques) Microsoft will employ to push Windows 10 users onto 1809 — whether we’ll have even more “oops” experiences. So it’s impossible to say definitively how you can block the upgrade to 1809, both now and in the future.
At this point, if you’re serious about staying on your current version of Windows 10, here’s what I would recommend:
If you’re running Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise or Education, follow the official instructions and set Windows Update’s advanced options to Semi-Annual Channel and 365-day deferral of “feature updates,” as shown in the screenshot.
No matter which edition of Windows 10 you’re using, set your internet connection to “metered.”
If you’re feeling particularly paranoid (and technically capable), delete the UpdateAssistant scheduled tasks and delete everything in c:WindowsUpdateAssistant and UpdateAssistantV2. Carefully watch what’s being applied to your machine to make sure no more UpdateAssistant-related patches leak through including, notably, KB 4023814 and KB 4023057.
Work is under way to figure out how best to keep updateassistant.exe and Windows10Upgrade.exe at bay. We’ll be following closely on AskWoody.com.
Thx to MrBrian, abbodi86, and the other intrepid interlocutors on AskWoody.
Most people don’t bother to learn the differences between Wi-Fi standards. Those who try are greeted by nonsensical designations like 802.11 a/b/g/n and the like. These monikers have meanings, sure, but it’s not easy for the lay person to grok at a glance which is better. The Wi-Fi Alliance announced a new system that uses good-ol’ numerals to differentiate between the varying communications protocols and make it easier to know which is the newest.
The Wi-Fi Alliance is a non-profit that certifies products using the various wireless communications protocols developed by IEEE. Companies that want to use the Wi-Fi branding for their products have to go through the group. Most do. “Wi-Fi” is something like Kleenex or Q-Tip for wireless standards. Not everyone knows what Bluetooth is, or how NFC works, or what their cellular network is capable of. Wi-Fi is equivalent to “wireless” for them.
This new versioning system reflects the relative disinterest people have in learning about the differences between 802.11a and 802.11ac or any of the other standards available. The Wi-Fi Alliance said that 802.11n will now simply be known as Wi-Fi 4, 801.22ac as Wi-Fi 5 and the upcoming 802.11ax will be Wi-Fi 6. (Apparently with Wi-Fi, much like the original Star Wars trilogy, you don’t need to worry about what came before versions 4-6.)
Here’s how the Wi-Fi Alliance explained the reasoning behind this new versioning system in its announcement:
“For nearly two decades, Wi-Fi users have had to sort through technical naming conventions to determine if their devices support the latest Wi-Fi,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “Wi-Fi Alliance is excited to introduce Wi-Fi 6, and present a new naming scheme to help industry and Wi-Fi users easily understand the Wi-Fi generation supported by their device or connection.”
The non-profit said that the new Wi-Fi designations won’t be restricted to spec sheets and marketing materials. Companies will also be able to use them in their products’ user interfaces to let people know what kind of Wi-Fi connection they’re currently using. That can have a dramatic impact on performance–you might want to use a 2.4GHz band if you’re looking for max range, for example, and a 5GHz one if you need maximum speed.
Right now there isn’t a great way to figure out which band you’re using when you connect to a network. Having your smartphone, laptop, and other devices tell you whether you’re using Wi-Fi 4 or 5 would be an obvious improvement. That isn’t up to the Wi-Fi Alliance, though, so individual companies will have to decide if they want to make this information more readily available to their customers. Hopefully most of them decide to do so.
The Wi-Fi Alliance said this new versioning system will officially go into effect when 802.11ax (sorry, Wi-Fi 6) debuts sometime in 2019. It’s not clear if companies that want to use Wi-Fi 4 or 5 to refer to 802.11n and 802.11ac will do so before the new version comes out.
In less than a week’s time Google will be holding court in New York to reveal some less-than-mysterious new hardware offerings. Those Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones might have been thoroughly leaked ahead of next week’s gathering, but what other surprises has Google managed to keep under wraps?
The event officially gets under way at 11am ET on Tuesday, October 9, and as in past years you should be able to watch it live on YouTube. Gizmodo will be there reporting on all the new hardware to find out what’s neat, what’s noteworthy, and what’s not worth your time. Until then, here’s a crash course on everything we expect to see.
The Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3 XL
This one’s basically a foregone conclusion, and that’s not only because Google typically reveals its smartphones in October and the company tagged the official invite with the #madebygoogle hashtag it reserves for hardware. For months we’ve been inundated with leak after leak after leak of the devices leading up to this event.
The first and most thorough reveal came from Russian blog Rozetked, which seemingly got its hands on a Pixel 3 XL almost two months ago. The leak appears to reveal that, at least for its larger handset, Google will also be embracing the notorious smartphone notch, while maintaining a larger bottom bezel to accommodate the Pixel’s forward-facing stereo speakers. The size of the Pixel 3 XL’s 2960 x 1440-pixel display hasn’t been confirmed yet, but the device apparently runs on a Snapdragon 845 processor and will come installed with Android 9 Pie—no surprises there.
The leaked photos also revealed the smartphone’s packaging, which included what looked like a fully wired version of Google’s Pixel Buds, but they weren’t tested to see if they worked with the company’s Google Assistant or instant translation features like the wireless versions do.
Those of you with smaller hands and pockets weren’t left out of the leak fun, however. About a month ago a bunch of photos of the purported Pixel 3 appeared in an Imgur gallery, revealing a generous but reasonably-sized 5.5-inch screen (a half-inch larger than the Pixel 2), a two-tone back panel, a pair of eight-megapixel front-facing cameras that could facilitate wide-angle selfie shots, but no screen notch up top. Instead, the Pixel 3 will have aesthetically-pleasing matching bezels on the top and bottom.
One other feature gleaned from the Pixel 3 photos is a battery with a potential capacity of around 3,000 mAh, which is not only larger than the Pixel 2’s, but also larger than the 2,658 mAh battery Apple is including with the iPhone Xs.
A Google Home smart speaker with a display
Smart speakers became more than just talking heads when Amazon upgraded Alexa and the Echo Show with a touchscreen display back in 2017. Screens are now en vogue, and a smart addition as the Lenovo Smart Display for Google Assistant proved.
Yesterday Google revealed a new Aqua-colored version of the Google Home Mini, which seems to indicate the product isn’t going to see a refresh next week. And if the pretty affordable Home Mini isn’t getting an update this year, which is the most popular smart speaker Google sells, would the pricier Google Home be getting one? So far there’s no evidence that’s happening.
The Chromecast 3
Potentially first leaked by FCC documentation back in April, there’s now no doubt that a new version of Google’s streaming stick is en route after Best Buy sold a Chromecast 3 to a customer before the device was officially listed in the store’s system. Reddit user GroveStreetHomie shared a photo of the third-generation Chromecast they managed to buy, which, according to previous leaks, will run on a quad-core Amlogic S905X processor powered by 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage enabling 4K content to be streamed at up to 60 frames per second.
New Pixel Buds
When Apple killed the headphone jack, it tried to make up for it with a great pair of wireless earbuds that helped fill the hole. Google followed suit with its own wireless earbuds called the Pixel Buds that were, by comparison, definitely not as great. There’s a lot of room for improvement here, and a lot of catch up needed given how many excellent wireless earbud options are now on the market. Google could start by removing the cord that tethers the Pixel Buds together, improving the functionality of the charging case, and maybe even making that fancy real-time translation functionality available on more Android phones.
A follow-up to the Pixelbook
The $1,000, transforming, Chrome OS-running Pixelbook is coming up on its one-year anniversary, which means it’s almost an antique at this point. Does Google plan to release an updated version with improved specs? There have been rumors about two successors in development code-named “Nocturne” and “Meowth” which were both apparently referenced in the Chromium source code (Google’s open-source web browser) earlier this year.
According to 9to5Google, the new Pixelbook might actually be named the Pixel Slate and will come in the form of a Chrome OS-powered detachable tablet that can separate from a backlit keyboard accessory, instead of having it just flip out of the way beneath the screen. The Pixel Slate would potentially come in a version powered by Intel’s Kaby Lake processor for better performance, or the low-power Amber Lake variant for maximizing the device’s battery life and improving its price point.
Other rumored features include a 3:2-ratio, 3,000 x 2,000-pixel display, two USB-C ports but no SD card slot, and a fingerprint sensor located on the tablet’s bezel.
Honda Motor is investing $750 million in General Motors’ self-driving car unit, with plans to commit an additional $2 billion in the coming years, in an effort to jointly develop a fully autonomous car for mass production. Read More