Weekly Bytes | Microsoft’s ‘affordable’ Surface laptop, Chrome’s password protection, and more
Here's our curated list of important tech news from this week in byte size.
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Microsoft launches Surface Laptop Go in India
Microsoft has launched its Surface Laptop Go in India at a starting price of ₹63,499. The software giant said the new addition to the Surface line-up combines performance, battery life and style, and is the most affordable and lightweight Surface laptop yet – weighing 1.11 kg. The device features a 12.4” PixelSense touchscreen display, full-size keyboard, finger print reader (on select models), built-in Studio Mics, Omnisonic Speakers, Dolby Audio and 720p HD camera. The Surface laptop is powered by 10th Gen Intel i5 Quad-Core Processor with up to 16GB RAM and 256GB storage. The new device is available via commercial authorised resellers, authorised retail and online partners. In November 2020, Microsoft had launched two Surface 2-in-1 devices in India, the compact Surface Go 2 and the premium Surface Book 3. In another update, Microsoft has increased the file size limit for uploads to 250 GB, making it easier for its users to store as well as share large files in Microsoft 365.
Chrome 88 to improve password protection
Google has announced new updates to improve password protection with Chrome 88. The browser will allow users to easily check and fix weak passwords through Chrome’s password settings, that can be accessed by clicking on the key icon under their profile. Users can then click on ‘check passwords’, and change any of the passwords listed under ‘compromised’ and ‘weak’ categories. In addition, Chrome users will be able to manage all their passwords in one place, in Chrome settings on desktop and iOS. The new features with Chrome 88 will be rolled out over the coming weeks, Google said in a blog post. In another development, Google’s rival search engine surpassed 100 million daily search queries for the first time in 12 years.
Facebook improves photo descriptions for blind or visually impaired
Facebook has improved its AI-powered photo descriptions for people who are blind or visually impaired. Its automatic alternative text (AAT) technology, which utilises object recognition to generate descriptions of photos on demand, can now reliably recognise over 1,200 concepts, more than 10 times as many as the original version launched in 2016, the social network noted in a blog post. AAT can identify things like activities, landmarks, types of animals, and include information about the positional location and relative size of elements in a photo, it added. Further, users have an option to get more detailed descriptions about photos of specific interest. In another update, Facebook said on Thursday it was referring its decision to indefinitely suspend the accounts of former U.S. President Donald Trump to its independent content oversight board.
SpaceX is building floating spaceports
SpaceX’s Starship is being built to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond. The aerospace company is also building floating “spaceports” for operating the powerful launch vehicle, and has bought two oil rigs in the Port of Brownsville, Texas, for this purpose, reporters for NASASpaceflight.com, and CNBC confirmed. SpaceX is converting the rigs into floating launchpads, and has renamed them Deimos and Phobos (possibly after the two moons of Mars). In June 2020, CEO Elon Musk had Tweeted, “SpaceX is building floating, superheavy-class spaceports for Mars, moon & hypersonic travel around Earth.” In December last year, Starship SN8’s fight tested was conducted. In another development, Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reached space with key mid-air rocket launch.
Apple Watch can help detect COVID-19 at pre-symptomatic stage
Wearable devices like Apple Watch have been designed to continuously measure vital signs and can help detect COVID-19 before the onset of symptoms, according to a study by Stanford University, published in Nature Biomedical Engineering. The study examined physiological and activity data from 32 people infected with COVID-19, out of over 5000 participants. 81% of the people who tested positive, had changes in their heart rate, number of daily steps or time asleep, it noted. According to the study, 63% of the COVID-19 cases could have been detected before symptom onset in real time by monitoring extreme rise in resting heart rate. In another update, Several MacBook Air M1 users complained of a screensaver bug.
Google systems not affected by SolarWinds hack
The hacking attack on the U.S. government agencies and other companies that used SolarWinds’ network management software did not impact Google, according to a company blog post. “Based on what is known about the attack today, we are confident that no Google systems were affected by the SolarWinds event,” the search giant noted. “We make very limited use of the affected software and services,” it added. Further, Google said that the seriousness of the SolarWinds hack is deeply concerning, however, it also highlights the opportunities for government, industry, and other stakeholders to collaborate and build effective technology that can fundamentally improve the software ecosystem. In another development, Google Cloud rolled out image search, product recommendations for retailers.
You can read more at thehindu.com/technology