7 Days: A week of Microsoft's Seeing AI, Windows Phone dies again, and porn in public

7 Days is a weekly roundup of the Editors' picks of what's been happening in the world of technology - written with a dash of humor, a hint of exasperation, and an endless supply of (Irish) coffee.

Another week has come to an end - a week filled with all sorts of exciting news and intriguing developments across the tech world. Make sure you haven't missed anything - grab a drink, get comfy, and let 7 Days bring you up to speed on what's been going on.

Image: People's Daily Online

Quantum leap

A group of researchers from a Chinese university succeeded in "teleporting" information, between a site in Tibet and an orbiting satellite, by using quantum entanglement. It's the first time that data has been transferred into space using this method, so it's quite a big deal.

Hype

Hyperloop One, a company that was formed to commercialize Elon Musk's ultra-fast transportation concept, completed its first test run at its DevLoop test track, reaching 70mph. It'll still be a while before such vehicles are zooming around with passengers at 750mph, though.

Meanwhile, Musk himself is believed to have spent millions of dollars buying the X.com domain from PayPal, and initially said he had "no plans right now" to actually use it. Three days later he was "excited to announce the launch of x.com"...

Image: Shutterstock

PC sales sink again

Gartner's latest figures make for more grim reading for the PC market. For the 11th consecutive quarter, global PC shipments dropped again, falling by another 4.3%.

Processing power

AMD's monstrous new Threadripper CPUs will go on sale next month, priced from $799. The new processor family is aggressively priced to compete with Intel, with the range-topping CPU offering 16 cores and 32 threads.

Bitcoin miners building their own PCs might want to consider the new $140 ASRock H110 Pro BTC+ motherboard, which supports a whopping thirteen graphics cards through PCI-e.

Safe and secure

DJI builds restrictions into its firmware to prevent its drones from being flown in certain areas, such as around airports, where drones and planes are not a good mix. But Russian hackers are continuously circumventing those measures, prompting DJI to force its drones to auto-update their firmware.

Elsewhere, news emerged of another security threat on Android. McAfee published details of new 'LeakerLocker' ransomware that's been installed thousands of times in apps downloaded from the Google Play Store. It's hard to take Google seriously whenever it says Android is a secure platform, when its own app store distributes malicious apps.

Perhaps this new feature will help. Google introduced a new 'panic mode' in Android 7.1 Nougat, which can detect the frantic presses of the Back button that might result from having your device hijacked by malware or ransomware, and help you to regain control.

Oops

It's been quite a week for apparent mistakes.

In Pakistan, the 'Calibri' font distributed with Microsoft software is at the center of a corruption scandal involving the country's Prime Minister and his family. Documents dated February 6, 2006 were written using the font - but those who wrote the documents overlooked the fact that Calibri wasn't available in Office until almost a year later, raising doubts about their authenticity.

It seems Motorola made an unfortunate slip-up of its own, when it apparently published an image of its unannounced Moto Z2, which has since been removed.

Did Samsung make a similar error? The company tweeted an image of an unknown device, leading many to speculate that it might be our first official look at the Galaxy Note8. But given that the tweet hasn't been deleted, that may not be the case.

A Galaxy not so far away

We won't have to wait too much longer for the Galaxy Note8 to be formally announced, as a Samsung executive confirmed that it will be unveiled next month. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Note Fan Edition - the refurbished version of Samsung's fiery flagship, which went on sale last week - seems to be a big hit so far.

The Korean company is currently trying to entice more buyers to go for its Galaxy S8 and S8+ flagships in the US, by offering them a free $200 Visa gift card with either device.

More money than sense

If you're keen to spend a ton of cash on a device that will be stuck with outdated software before you know it, and will go out of fashion in the blink of an eye, you'll just love the new Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon, an Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch, priced from $2,450.

But there's bad news for fans of $20,000 Android phones with ghastly, tasteless designs: Vertu is in serious trouble, shutting down its UK manufacturing operations, as it struggles with $165 million of debt.

Android delights

Speaking of fashion, big displays and slim bezels are clearly 'in' this season, as seen on the first render of Google's second-generation Pixel XL. LG has adopted the same formula - stylishly applied to its G6 flagship earlier this year - on its new Q6, Q6+ and Q6a handsets that it unveiled this week.

The Nokia 6 launched in the US on Monday, priced as low as $179.99, but many are eagerly anticipating its next devices. HMD Global is expected to launch the Nokia 2, 7 and 8 in the coming months.

Razer is reportedly working on a new Android smartphone with a gaming twist, as it prepares for a $5 billion IPO. This would certainly explain its acquisition this year of Nextbit, which is closing most of its support channels later this month.

Microsoft announced a big update for its Outlook mobile app on Android and iOS, with new navigation and 'intelligent search' features - but it's not available on Android just yet.

Microsoft mobiles

Microsoft's phone business has died many deaths over the years, but the company hammered another nail into its well-worn coffin this week, as it terminated mainstream support for Windows Phone 8.1 on Tuesday. The OS will continue to work on those devices, but given that even Microsoft has been ditching its own app support for it - recently shutting down Skype on Windows Phones - it's effectively dead. Again.

Of course, Microsoft is focusing - if that's the right word - on Windows 10 Mobile these days, opening pre-orders in the UK and elsewhere in Europe for the IDOL 4 Pro. The Alcatel flagship launched last year under a different name in the US, where it was a sales flop - so the company has rebranded it for Europe, and slapped a much higher price tag on it. You've got to admire such brazen stupidity.

In the US, Microsoft slashed another $100 off HP's Elite x3 and Desk Dock bundle. The HP flagship also got a firmware update on Thursday.

Insider info

The latest Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview, build 15230, shows how little Microsoft has been working on its mobile OS. Not a single new feature has been added to its mobile previews for three months.

There were plenty of new features in preview build 16241 for PCs, which rolled out to the Fast ring on Thursday (fixes and known issues in that build can be found here). Microsoft also released a new SDK and ISOs for build 16232 on Wednesday.

The first Windows Server Insider Preview, build 16237, arrived this week too (known issues here).

Microsoft rolled out a new Skype update for Windows Insiders on Monday, banishing the unloved hamburger button as part of a UI refresh. The company also released a general update for Skype on Windows 10 with a range of improvements.

Microsoft as a service

All versions of Windows 10 received updates this week - including the original release (Version 1507), which is supposedly no longer supported. Microsoft also released updates for Windows 7 and 8.1 as part of its Patch Tuesday rollouts.

Three new apps were added to Office 365 Business Premium, with the added perk of MileIQ for companies that subscribe to Microsoft's productivity platform.

On Monday, Microsoft 365 was announced, bringing together Office 365 and Windows 10 subscriptions into a single plan, in what the company described as "a fundamental shift" in how it serves the needs of business customers. Microsoft also revealed that virtualization use rights will soon be available to enterprise customers with Windows 10 subscriptions.

Surface tension

Microsoft updated the Surface Pro 4's firmware to enable support for its latest Type Covers, which were introduced alongside its new Surface Pro tablet in June. But the matching Surface Pens still aren't available in the new colors that Microsoft previously announced, and won't go on sale until later this summer. Whichever way you look at it, that's pretty poor.

In happier news, Microsoft said it had identified the cause of the 'sleep' issue plaguing the new Surface Pro, and rolled out a fix for the problem - but it's not yet clear if that has fully resolved the issue.

Meanwhile, on the Windows Store

When Microsoft announced that Ubuntu was coming to the Windows Store, some people might well have wondered if it was a joke. It wasn't, of course - Windows Insiders can now grab Ubuntu 16.04 LTS from the Store.

The developer of popular image editing software Paint.NET shared more details on plans to bring the app to the Windows Store too.

But in another example of Microsoft's dwindling commitment to its own mobile platform, it revealed that its LinkedIn app for Windows phones is being killed off, telling users to access the service via their browser instead.

Microsoft’s all-Seeing AI

My favorite announcement at Microsoft's Build conference last year was that of Seeing AI, an incredible mobile app that can help blind people to 'see' the world around them. Powered by Microsoft's artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, the amazing app is now available to download free on iOS in the US.

It seems that Microsoft wants to change the world using those technologies. On Wednesday, it announced its new AI for Earth initiative, aiming "to solve global environmental challenges".

Meanwhile, Google's DeepMind team has been getting its AI to teach itself to walk - with disturbing results.

Microsoft broadband

In addition to environmental issues, Microsoft wants to tackle another big problem. Over 23 million people living in rural areas across the US still have no access to high-speed broadband, so Microsoft announced a $10 billion plan to improve connectivity in those areas, by delivering broadband through TV 'white spaces' - unused wireless spectrum previously allocated for TV broadcasting.

Xbox excitement

Microsoft released its latest Xbox One update with customer gamerpics, Arena improvements, simplified sign-in using your controller, and more. It also brought improvements to its Xbox app on iOS and Android, along with hints of its new Fluent Design language in the app on Windows 10.

The Xbox team will be at next month's gamescom 2017 expo, promising the "latest news and announcements on Xbox One X", and a 20th anniversary Age of Empires event, including some big news for fans of the franchise.

Game on

New gameplay footage from Crackdown 3 leaked online this week, offering a glimpse of what to expect ahead of the game's release in October.

You can now get a ten-hour trial of Mass Effect: Andromeda on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, providing access to the game's single-player and multiplayer modes.

But there's bad news for Nintendo Switch owners. Lawbreakers, the latest first-person shooter from Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski, won't be coming to the Nintendo console as it doesn't have enough buttons. No, really.

Half-alive and kicking

Almost 20 years after its release, Valve released an update for the original Half-Life, prompting excited gamers to hunt for possible clues about the mythical Half-Life 3. Don't get your hopes up...

...and finally

A study published by Symantec this week found that 1 in 6 people watch porn using public Wi-Fi networks. But if you're among them, or even if you use public Wi-Fi for other purposes, just make sure you read the terms and conditions before you sign up - or you could end up scrubbing toilets.


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From all of us
on the Neowin team,
have a great weekend!

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