Transportation

Tesla Rejected More Advanced Driver Monitoring Features On Its Cars, Says Report (theverge.com) 143

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Engineers inside Tesla wanted to add robust driver monitoring systems to the company's cars to help make sure drivers safely use Autopilot, and Tesla even worked with suppliers on possible solutions, according to The Wall Street Journal. But those executives -- Elon Musk included -- reportedly rejected the idea out of worry that the options might not work well enough, could be expensive, and because drivers might become annoyed by an overly nagging system.

Tesla considered a few different types of monitoring: one that would track a driver's eyes using a camera and infrared sensors, and another that involved adding more sensors to the steering wheel to make sure that the driver is holding on. Both ideas would help let the car's system know if the driver has stopped paying attention, which could reduce the chance of an accident in situations where Autopilot disengages or is incapable of keeping the car from crashing. Musk later confirmed on Twitter that the eye tracking option was "rejected for being ineffective, not for cost."

Android

Google Maps Is Getting AR Directions, Recommendation Features (theverge.com) 38

Google Maps is getting a new augmented reality Street View mode to help you follow directions in real time, along with personalized recommendations to help you discover places in your neighborhood. The Verge reports: The new AR features combine Google's existing Street View and Maps data with a live feed from your phone's camera to overlay walking directions on top of the real world and help you figure out which way you need to go. In addition to directions, the new AR mode can help identify nearby places, too, and Google is even testing adding a helpful augmented reality animal guide to lead you along the way.

Maps is also getting a new tab called "For You" that will feature recommendations specifically tailored to you. Google is using a new "match number" system, which will generate a personal score on how much it thinks you'll like the recommendation based on your past likes and reviews, as well as your saved food preferences. Google is also adding more social features to Maps, making it possible to share multiple places to friends with a single action, and vote on them together in real time to decide where to go without having to leave the app.
The AR directions feature has no release date, but the new social and recommendations features will be coming to both Android and iOS later this summer.
Google

Gmail's 'Smart Compose' Feature Will Write Emails For You (theverge.com) 72

Google announced a new feature called Smart Compose at its annual developer conference today. "Smart Compose will suggest complete sentences within the body of an email as you are writing," reports The Verge. "It will operate in the background, and if you see a phrase pop up that you like, just hit tab to select it, and the text will auto-populate." From the report: Smart Compose also recognizes context. For example, if it's Friday, it might suggest closing out your message with "Have a great weekend!" Google says the Smart Compose feature will start to appear for consumers over the next few weeks and will be integrated for G Suite customers within the next few months.
Android

Google Details New Android P Features, Including iPhone X-Like Gesture Controls (arstechnica.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A public beta for Android P, as it's still known, is out today for those who want to try the software for themselves. The usual caveats with installing unfinished software still apply. Notably, however, Google has made the beta available on devices beyond the company's own Pixel smartphones. Google says those who own the Essential Phone, Nokia 7 Plus, Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Vivo X21, Oppo R15 Pro, and the OnePlus 6 (when it comes out) can access the early build alongside those with a Pixel or Pixel 2 phone. Google is crediting its Project Treble updating initiative for making this expansion possible.

As for the update itself, the biggest news in Preview 1 was a new design style that was applied to the notification panel, main settings screen, and some system UI bits. Android VP of Engineering Dave Burke recapped a couple of features that had already been announced in that earlier preview, including a simplified volume control widget and the option to change the screen orientation even when you've locked the device in portrait mode. Perhaps the most immediately noticeable new feature, however, is a new set of gesture controls that trade Android's traditional home and recent apps buttons for a setup similar to what Apple does with its iPhone X. Swiping up from a flatter button at the bottom of the screen will now display a horizontal (not vertical!) list of your recent apps, with icons for five "predicted apps" placed underneath them. Swiping up a second time from there will display the all apps screen, effectively allowing you to access it from anywhere on the phone. You can also slide the home button sideways to start scrolling through recent apps. The icons for those recent apps appear to be larger than before, and Google showed off the ability to highlight text within them. The back button is still there, but not as a global key; it instead appears to only show up in certain contexts, such as the new recent apps screen.
Also available in Android P is an "adaptive battery" feature that improves battery life, an "adaptive brightness" feature that uses AI to ensure the phone screen's brightness is more appropriately set for your surroundings, and an "app actions" feature that will surface shortcuts for frequently used apps within the app drawer and Search. Google is also including a "digital wellbeing" Dashboard app that will detail how much time you've spent in particular apps, how often you've unlocked your phone, and how many notifications you've received. There will even be an "app timer" to help you limit your time on a particular app, and a "shush" gesture that will make is so the phone automatically goes into Do Not Disturb mode. Finally, there's a "wind down" mode that will turn on Do Not Disturb until the morning and set your phone screen in a grayscale mode, which will intentionally make content on your phone appear less stimulating to ultimately help you put it down.
Privacy

Gmail's 'Self-Destruct' Feature Will Probably Be Used To Illegally Destroy Government Records (vice.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A new update rolling out for Gmail offers a "self destruct" feature that allows users to send messages that expire after a set amount of time. While this may sound great for personal use, activists fear that government organizations will use the feature to delete public records to hide them from reporters and others interested in government transparency. Normally, government emails are available to journalists, researchers, and citizens using Freedom of Information Act requests (and its state-level analogues.) The self destruct feature was announced on April 25 as part of Google's new confidential mode for G Suite. In addition to self destruct, confidential mode allows users to delete messages after they have been sent and places restrictions on how recipients can interact with received emails. "As more local and state governments and their various agencies seek to use Gmail, there is the potential that state public records laws will be circumvented by emails that 'disappear' after a period of time," the National Freedom of Information Coalition wrote in a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. "The public's fundamental right to transparency and openness by their governments will be compromised. We urge you take steps to assure the 'self-destruct' feature be disabled on government Gmail accounts and on emails directed to a government entity."
Microsoft

Windows 10 Is Finally Getting An Improved Screenshot Tool (theverge.com) 143

Today, Microsoft released Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17661 to insiders, which includes a new screenshot experience for the upcoming major update. The Verge reports: Screen Sketch, previously bundled with the Windows Ink feature of Windows 10, is now being made into a separate app that can take screenshots and provide options to annotate them. Microsoft has experimented with a variety of screen snipping tools over the years, but a new winkey + shift + S keyboard shortcut will now bring up an area select tool to snip a screenshot and share it instantly from the clipboard. The app will also trigger a notification so you can annotate the screenshot and share it. You can also replace the print screen button on a keyboard with this feature, making the button a lot more useful than today's winkey + printscreen combo.
Google

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Like the New Gmail UI? (vortex.com) 137

Earlier today, Google pushed out the biggest revamp of Gmail in years. In addition to a new material design look, there are quick links to other Google services, such as Calendar, Tasks, and Keep, as well as a new "confidential mode" designed to protect users against certain attacks by having the email(s) automatically expire at a time of the sender's choosing. Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein shares their initial impressions of Google's new Gmail UI: Google launched general access to their first significant Gmail user interface (UI) redesign in many years today. It's rolling out gradually -- when it hits your account you'll see a "Try the new Gmail" choice under the settings ("gear") icon on the upper right of the page (you can also revert to the "classic" interface for now, via the same menu). But you probably won't need to revert. Google clearly didn't want to screw up Gmail, and my initial impression is that they've succeeded by avoiding radical changes in the UI. I'll bet that some casual Gmail users might not even immediately notice the differences.

The new Gmail UI is what we could call a "minimally disruptive" redesign of the now "classic" version. The overall design is not altered in major respects. So far I haven't found any notable missing features, options, or settings. My impression is that the back end systems serving Gmail are largely unchanged. Additionally, there are a number of new features (some of which are familiar in design from Google's "Inbox" email interface) that are now surfaced for the new Gmail. Crucially, overall readability and usability (including contrast, font choices, UI selection elements, etc.) seem so close to classic Gmail (at least in my limited testing so far) as to make any differences essentially inconsequential. And it's still possible to select a dark theme from settings if you wish, which results in even higher contrast.
Have you tried the new Gmail? If so, how do you like the new interface?
Operating Systems

Microsoft Readies Windows 10 April Update With New Features and Enhancements (hothardware.com) 109

MojoKid writes: Microsoft has been preparing a Spring Creators Update for Windows 10 for a while now, which was recently pushed out as an RTM (Release To Manufacturing) build to all rings of the Windows Insider program. Now dubbed the "Windows 10 April Update," Redmond is billing that "lots of new features" are rolling out with this release, including the ability to resume past activities in timeline and a file sharing feature with nearby devices. Also, based on what has been tested in pre-release builds, there will be other features coming as well, including a rebuilt Game Bar with a new Fluent design UI, a diagnostic data viewing tool in the Security and Privacy section, and Cortana is reportedly easier to use with a new Organizer interface and My Skills tab. It is expected Microsoft will be pushing out this update for Windows 10 this week sometime.
Iphone

New iPhone SE Could Launch In May With Touch ID and A10 Fusion, Without 3.5mm Headphone Jack (macrumors.com) 129

Mac Rumors reports, citing Japanese website Mac Otakara, that Apple will release an updated iPhone SE next month with a similar form factor as the previous model. It is expected to retain Touch ID, but will drop the 3.5mm headphone jack. From the report: Also like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the new iPhone SE will supposedly be powered by Apple's last-generation A10 Fusion chip, up to 40 percent faster than the A9 processor in the current iPhone SE. The chip will likely enable support for the HEIF image format and HEVC video compression standard. The report speculates that the new iPhone SE may have a glass back with wireless charging capabilities, like the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, but evidence is said to be inconclusive at this time.
Android

Google Appears To Be Testing iPhone X-Style Gesture Navigation In Android P (androidpolice.com) 18

A new screenshot that Google recently shared (and since deleted) is stirring up theories about a possible iPhone X-like gesture navigation interface for Android P. Android Police reports: What we see is a decidedly odd navigation layout, with this short little bar in place of the expected home button, a back arrow that's now hollowed-out, and an app-switcher that seems utterly absent. So how would Google's presumably screen-only implementation work? Well, not only does that home bar look like a narrower version of the bar you'll find on the iPhone X, but we hear that the Android version may function in a quite similar way, with users swiping up to access their home screens. While we still haven't heard any details about how app switching might work with this new regime, the back button will reportedly only appear when needed, disappearing on the home screen, for example. As to other controls we can only speculate, like how you would gesture to conjure up the Google Assistant.
Social Networks

Instagram Will Soon Let You Download a Copy of Your Data (techcrunch.com) 22

An Instagram spokesperson has confirmed to TechCrunch that the site will soon let users download a copy of what they've shared on Instagram, including their photos, videos and messages. The new data portability tool could make it much easier for users to leave Instagram and go to a competing image social network. It will also help the site comply with the upcoming European GDPR privacy law that requires data portability, assuming the feature launches before May 25th. From the report: Instagram has historically made it very difficult to export your data. You can't drag, or tap and hold on images to save them. And you can't download images you've already posted. That's despite Instagram now being almost 8 years old and having over 800 million users. For comparison, Facebook launched its Download Your Information tool in 2010, just six years after launch. We're awaiting more info on whether you'll only be able to download your photos, videos, and messages; or if you'll also be able to export your following and follower lists, Likes, comments, Stories, and the captions you share with posts. It's also unclear whether photos and videos will export in the full fidelity that they're uploaded or displayed in, or whether they'll be compressed. Instagram told me "we'll share more details very soon when we actually launch the tool. But at a high level it allows you to download and export what you have shared on Instagram" so we'll have to wait for more clarity.
Firefox

Firefox In 2018: We'll Tackle Bad Ads, Breach Alerts, Autoplay Video, Says Mozilla (zdnet.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Firefox maker Mozilla has outlined its 2018 roadmap to make the web less intrusive and safer for users. First up, Mozilla says it will proceed and implement last year's experiment with a breach alerts service, which will warn users when their credentials have been leaked or stolen in a data breach. Mozilla aims to roll out the service around October. Breach Alerts is based on security consultant Troy Hunt's data breach site Have I Been Pwned. Firefox will also implement a similar block on autoplay video to the one Chrome 66 will introduce next month, and that Safari already has. However, Dotzler says Firefox's implementation will "provide users with a way to block video auto-play that doesn't break websites". This feature is set to arrive in Firefox 62, which is scheduled for release in May.

After Firefox 62 the browser will gain an optional Chrome-like ad filter and several privacy-enhancing features similar to those that Apple's WebKit developers have been working on for Safari's Intelligent Tracking Prevention. By the third quarter of 2018, Firefox should also be blocking ad-retargeting through cross-domain tracking. It's also going to move all key privacy controls into a single location in the browser, and offer more "fine-grained" tracking protection. Dotzler says Mozilla is in the "early stages" of determining what types of ads Firefox should block by default. Also on the roadmap is a feature that arrived in Firefox 59, released earlier this month. A new Global Permissions feature will help users avoid having to deny every site that requests permission for location, camera, microphone and notifications. Beyond security and privacy, Mozilla plans to build on speed-focused Quantum improvements that came in Firefox 57 with smoother page rendering.

Windows

Windows 10 Is Finally Adding Tabs To File Explorer (bleepingcomputer.com) 161

Microsoft has released insider preview build 17618 that includes tabs in File Explorer as part of its Sets feature. Bleeping Computer reports: Windows 10 Sets is an upcoming feature where you can group documents and apps into one tabbed window that are related to the particular task at hand. This feature was released for testing to a small controlled group of insiders in Insider Preview Build 17063 and was subsequently removed after the test. With build 17618, Sets are back and with it come tabs in File Explorer. You can now open different folders in the same File Explorer window with each one having their own tabs. This way one File Explorer window can have a tab for the pictures folder, a tab for the documents folder, and a tab for your documents, which you can easily switch between. If you look closely, though, the Sets feature does more than just allow you to have different tabs for different folders, but also allows you to add applications as a tab in File Explorer. According to Microsoft, in addition to File Explorer, Notepad, Command Prompt, and Powershell are also getting tabbed support.
Displays

Samsung's New TVs Are Almost Invisible (qz.com) 158

Mike Murphy reports via Quartz of Samsung's new top-of-the-line televisions announced at an event in New York today: Samsung's new QLED line of 4K TVs features a technology the company is calling "Ambient Mode." Before you mount the TV, you'll snap a picture of the wall it's going to hang on -- it doesn't matter if it's brick, wood, patterned wallpaper, or just a white wall -- and then after it's up, you can set that picture as the TV's background. The result is something that looks like a floating black rectangle mounted on a wall. Samsung even includes a digital version of the shadow this black rectangle would cast on the wall, as if there really wasn't a large LED panel sitting in the middle of the thin metal strips. There are five QLED models, with minor tweaks between them, ranging in size from 49 inches, up to an absolutely massive 88 inches. The televisions have a built-in timer so that the ambient setting will turn off after a while, in order to spare your electricity bill. Viewing the televisions before Samsung's event, the ambient really did appear to blend them into the walls at first blush. One, against a fake brick wall, was indistinguishable from what was behind it until you really got close up to the screen. The distinction on another, attempting to mimic a painted off-white wall, was a little more obvious. But that's not really the point -- the mode is just intended to give the illusion of invisibility between watching TV, and when you want to show off your new television to a visitor. Pricing isn't available but you can expect them to range from a few thousands dollars all the way up to $20,000 for the largest, sharpest models. Samsung also announced that it's partnering with The Weather Channel, The New York Times, and others to overlay content on the ambient TVs. They will also be able to control any smart device that can control to Samsung's SmartThings system, like Amazon Echoes, Ring doorbells, and Philips Hue Lights. Bixby is baked into the remote to help you search for content and cater to commands.
Android

Android P Drops Support For Nexus Phones, Pixel Tablet (theverge.com) 86

Google has launched the first developer preview of Android P, the company's new mobile operating system that brings new features and improvements over Android Oreo. Unfortunately, developers will only have a small set of blessed hardware to choose from with Android P: the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL. Google's Nexus smartphones and Pixel C tablet will not get Android P when it's fully released. The Verge reports: Eventually, Android P will ship on new phones from other manufacturers, along with the handful of handsets that third-parties bother to update, but there are a couple Android mainstays that won't get to enjoy this marvelous future: Google's Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P phones, and the oft-forgotten Pixel C tablet. As Ars Technica confirmed with Google, those devices won't be getting Android P when it's released fully. Also, as Android Police notes, there's no Developer Preview image for the Nexus Player, which came out in 2014, so it might be done getting updates as well. It's 2018, and we're beyond the two years of major OS update support these devices were promised, so this isn't hugely surprising. All three devices will continue to get monthly security updates through at least November of this year, but they'll remain stuck on Android 8.1 for an underlying OS as far as official Google updates go.

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