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The right shape for big-screened, portable computers – The Verge

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Last week, Tom Warren argued that Apple finally admits Microsoft was right about tablets by adding trackpad support to the iPad. I knew he was working on this piece when I wrote last Thursday’s newsletter, so I didn’t want to step on his spot, but now that it’s out it has me thinking about the right shape for portable, big-screened computers.

I largely agree with Tom’s points, but want to put special emphasis on where he ends: “Now that Apple and Microsoft are aligned on what a tablet can offer in terms of hardware, the battle between PC and iPad will shift toward what both do in software.”

Pointing out that the iPad is about to work a lot more like a Surface isn’t about Nelson Ha Ha-ing Apple’s change. That’s fun for a day or two — but Tom knows, I know, and you know that the differences between the two are still quite real. The iPad is still working to emerge from its iPhone stage while the Surface is still working to leave its desktop legacy behind.

What I have been thinking about now that I’m working from home all the time (besides the obvious things like checking in with people I care about and seeing what I might do to help those who can’t work from home) is that there’s a fundamental rightness to the tablet plus keyboard deck with trackpad idea. And I’ll throw Chrome OS in that mix as well — many Chromebooks also have convertible form factors, though few have detachable keyboards.

I don’t have a home office, so instead I’m picking different places in my apartment to work — and having a device that can conform to the space I’m in is a boon. Sometimes it’s at the kitchen table, sometimes a chair, the floor, the couch, the bed. It’s helpful for me to switch it up a bit, and computers that let me bounce between touching the screen or using a trackpad just feel like they fit better.

In short, being able to remove, stow, or at least hide away the keyboard so you can just interact directly with the screen increasingly feels like an essential feature to me. As does having a trackpad for moving a cursor around the screen when you want to be in a more productive mode. It could be a detachable like the iPad and Surface, or a convertible like many Windows or Chrome OS laptops.

This is no great revelation, but I’m just appreciating it more these days. And although my MacBook is the computer I’m still the most productive on, it’s the one that feels most out-of-step with the times. I don’t want to rehash the arguments about how touch doesn’t belong on the Mac, but I do think if you step back a bit you can see how they’re starting to feel like rationalizations for a shortcoming, not justifications for a choice.


What to do when you’re home all day

The Verge Guide to Working at Home.

Half-Life: Alyx is a satisfying return to City 17. Excellent review from Adi Robertson, which includes this incredible line: “Playing a great VR game is often like visiting a Michelin-star restaurant where the waiter continuously pokes you with a fork.”

Subscribe to Home Screen: a newsletter to brighten your inbox. My friend TC Sottek is launching a newsletter:

Today, I’m announcing my own little love letter to the internet: a new newsletter called Home Screen, which I’ll be sending out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It’s going to be filled with fun links, happy internet happenings, and other curiosities from the World Wide Web. It’s not quite Upworthy, but I do hope it will be uplifting — something to brighten our screens while we’re stuck at home.

Disney is releasing Onward on digital platforms today, Disney Plus on April 3rd.

Amazon is making dozens of kids’ shows, including Arthur, completely free.

Google and YouTube launch new resources to help teachers and families educate students at home.

Virtual F1 and NASCAR events are filling the gap left by canceled races. I love it so much when you see a story and are like “huh I wonder if that’s a thing” and it turns out to be a huge, deep, fascinating thing with lots of great stories to tell inside it. Sean O’Kane has some of them here:

The race went off without much of a hitch. There were a few more wrecks than you’d find in the eNASCAR series. And yes, at one point (and while fighting for the lead, no less), Pike said Kligerman’s computer tried to force a Windows update, sending him straight into the wall.

Fashion influencers are rethinking their curated aesthetics because they can’t leave their houses. Fascinating story from Ashley Carman.

Do people still want to see cute outfits during a recession? How do you take a studio-quality photo when the only photographer available to you is your husband? What happens when you feel mentally and emotionally exhausted? The curated aesthetic people have railed against — which has defined much of Instagram up until now — might slowly disappear.

European streaming video gets throttled

Netflix will reduce its European network traffic by 25 percent to manage surge.

YouTube joins Netflix in reducing video quality in Europe.

Disney Plus and Facebook are also reducing streaming quality in Europe.

Amazon and Apple are reducing streaming quality to lessen broadband strain in Europe.

Big tech’s attempts to help out

Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company is donating “millions” of masks to healthcare workers.

Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy groups work to bring at least 1,000 coronavirus tests per day to Bay Area.

Microsoft to prioritize cloud access for first responders and emergency services.

Verizon gives all mobile customers 15GB of extra data during coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon will help Seattle residents receive at-home COVID-19 testing.

Snap rolling out ‘Here For You’ mental health tool early with focus on coronavirus.

Dish is letting the major US carriers borrow spectrum during quarantine data crunch.

New study aims to use health data from a smart ring to identify coronavirus symptoms.

Amazon will help Seattle residents receive at-home COVID-19 testing.

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Skype rolls out 'Meet Now' for hosting video calls without downloading an app – MobileSyrup

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Skype is rolling out a new feature to makes it easier to host online video meetings.

Dubbed ‘Meet Now,’ the feature takes a page out of Zoom’s book by letting Skype users generate shareable meeting links. Then, anyone with the link can quickly join the Skype meeting, no sign-ups or downloads required.

It’s a fairly simple system. Users can quickly create a meeting on Skype’s website with a click. Once the unique meeting link is active, you can share it via Outlook or Gmail, or copy it to your clipboard to send it another way. Anyone can join using the link, even if they’re not on Skype. Plus, the links don’t expire, so you can continue to access the free meeting space in the future.

If you’re using a computer, the link will open the Skype web app and you’ll be free to join the call. If you don’t have a Skype account, you’ll join as a visitor.

On mobile, things are a little different. The link will automatically open in the Skype app if it’s installed on your phone. If it isn’t, the link directs you to the app store on your phone to download Skype so you can participate.

Unfortunately, there are a few caveats. The first is that the Meet Now feature only works with Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome. If you use Safari or Firefox, you’ll need to download the Skype app instead.

The other caveat stems from Zoom. That free video conferencing app recently adjusted how it handles meeting links because online trolls were abusing the system to take over meetings and share graphic content (called ‘Zoombombing’). Zoom added passwords by default to meetings, along with a new waiting room feature to give hosts more control over who can join a meeting in hopes of reducing the ‘Zoombombing’ antics.

Depending on how Skype handles its Meet Now links, the platform could become the next Zoom. Hopefully Microsoft learned a lesson or two from Zoom before implementing Meet Now.

Source: Skype, (2)

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Zoom enables meeting passwords by default, waiting rooms to cut down on intruders – MobileSyrup

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Free video conferencing app Zoom announced its first feature change to improve security and privacy: passwords by default.

The announcement comes after the company said it would halt development on new features for 90 days to devote all its resources to fixing the numerous security and privacy flaws plaguing the app.

For those who haven’t followed the Zoom saga, the video conferencing service grew massively in popularity over the last few months — from an average 10 million daily users to 200 million daily users — thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in remote work and physical distancing measures. However, with that popularity Zoom also became a target. Over the last week, reports have detailed several vulnerabilities with Zoom, a flaw that leaked email addresses and something called ‘Zoombombing.’

Zoom’s plan to add passwords by default for all meetings should help prevent that latter issue. Previously, people were able to join publicly available Zoom meetings through links traded online. While that feature was intended to make joining meetings a seamless experience, it also enabled the Zoombombing mischief that has run rampant on the platform. Specifically, Zoombombing is when someone joins a public Zoom meeting and takes advantage of the screen sharing tool to take over the meeting. Often, Zoombombers share graphic content like pornography.

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While Zoom users could mitigate Zoombombings by adjusting the default settings so that only specific meeting participants can share their screen, the addition of passwords to all meeting rooms should help. Zoom already turned on passwords by default for new meetings, instant meetings and meetings joined through a ‘meeting ID.’ Starting April 5th, it will turn on passwords for previously scheduled Zoom meetings too.

Zoom’s waiting rooms feature will help cut down on unwanted participants

Ultimately, the process of joining a meeting shouldn’t change for most users. Zoom notes on its support page that attendees who join through meeting invites or calendar events will not have to use a password. Instead, the changes apply to people who try to join manually through a meeting ID.

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Along with the new password protections, Zoom will enable waiting rooms by default for all meetings. That means when meeting participants join a call, they’ll have to wait in a “waiting room,” a virtual buffer between participants and the call. From there, meeting hosts can grant some or all in the waiting room access to the meeting.

Zoom released the above YouTube video detailing the changes and how they work. You can also read up on the changes on Zoom’s support website.

The Verge notes that the changes could also help fix another security issue plaguing Zoom. Security researchers recently developed a tool that could scan and identify 100 non-password-protected Zoom meeting IDs in an hour. Plus, the tool could scrape information about those meetings. It’s possible the new password-by-default approach could protect users against similar scanning tools.

Source: Zoom Via The Verge

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Forget Zoom: Skype unveils free 'Meet Now' video calls – Tom's Guide

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There’s no question that Zoom has quickly become the leader in video meetings and video calls during the coronavirus pandemic. It offers free, 40-minute conference calls with up to 100 attendees, and lots of people are using this tool to stay in touch and have fun with features like swapping out Zoom backgrounds.

But there’s also serious questions about Zoom’s security and privacy issues, only some of which the company has addressed thus far. In order to capitalize on Zoom’s troubles, Skype has rolled out Skype Meet Now calls that don’t require a sign-up or installation.

Here’s how it works. Meet Now allows you to host conference calls by generating a free unique link with one click. You then share that link with participants to enjoy unlimited meetings via Skype. According to Microsoft, which owns Skype, your meeting link does not expire and can be used at any time.

Skype says that you’ll be able to leverage its features during your video conferences. This includes the ability to record your call and save it for later. The company stores your recording for 30 days. You can also blur your background before entering the call, which is helpful for those of us are don’t have the neatest home office or who have pets or children jumping in and out of the frame.

With Skype Meet Now, you can also share your screen at any time, which makes it easier to collaborate with colleagues and share presentations with a group.

Meet Now works on any device with the Skype app installed, and you don’t even need a Skype account to join these calls. You can also use the Skype web client for making calls.

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