New Xbox One model to cut price to match PS4, report says

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Microsoft discontinues electronic forms software InfoPath, will support latest version until April 2023 #Technology

148459125 520x245 Microsoft discontinues electronic forms software InfoPath, will support latest version until April 2023

Microsoft today announced it is discontinuing InfoPath, its software for designing, distributing, filling, and submitting electronic forms with structured data. The company says it plans to invest in new forms technology across SharePoint, Access, and Word.

As a result, InfoPath 2013 is the last release of the desktop client and InfoPath Forms Services in SharePoint Server 2013 is the last release of the services suite. The company plans to support InfoPath products as follows:

  • The InfoPath 2013 client will be supported through April 2023.
  • InfoPath Forms Services for SharePoint Server 2013 will be supported until April 2023.
  • InfoPath Forms Services in Office 365 will be supported until further notice.

Microsoft says it is working on migration guidance while also building its next generation of forms technology. “Until we have more detailed technology roadmap and guidance to share with you, we encourage you to continue using InfoPath tools,” the company says.

For now, Microsoft will only reveal the following about its vision:

Industry trends and feedback from our customers and partners make it clear that today’s businesses demand an intelligent, integrated forms experience that spans devices. We are looking to make investments that allow you to easily design, deploy, and use intelligent, integrated forms across Office clients, servers, and services—forms that everyone can use on their PC, tablet, or phone. Our goal is to deliver tools that are flexible and agile, so you can quickly connect to your data and processes in new and exciting ways.

More details on migration scenarios and guidance will be released in the fourth quarter of 2014. The company also plans to share more information on the new forms capabilities in SharePoint, Access, and Word “throughout the year,” specifically promising a sneak peek in March at the SharePoint Conference in the “InfoPath and SharePoint Forms Roadmap” session, which will also be posted online soon after.

Top Image Credit: Eric Piermont/Getty Images

How to Use Custom App Icons on Your Kindle Fire (or Any Android Device)

Unlike Google-supplied Android apps, the apps from the Amazon Apps for Android store have incredibly high resolution (a requirement for crisp display in the Kindle OS application carousel). Sideloaded apps, however, don’t get the Amazon treatment and come with fuzzy low-res icons. Read on as we show you how to fix your low-res icon woes.

Why Do I Want to Do This?

We recently shows you how to sideload apps onto your Kindle Fire and, if you follow our instructions, you’ll have no problem enjoying apps from outside the Apps for Android store. While the functionality of the apps is picture perfect, the icons themselves are not so picture perfect, unfortunately.

The reason is simple. All apps in Amazon’s Apps for Android store have an accompanying high-resolution icon that is sent to your Kindle Fire upon purchase. These icons are significantly bigger than standard Android app icons (by a wide margin: the Amazon-supplied icons are up to 675×675 pixels compared to the standard Android icons that don’t exceed 192×192 pixels).

When you install an application from outside the Apps for Android store, you don’t get the pretty high-resolution icon but instead get the much smaller icon embedded in the APK file you installed. While this doesn’t affect the performance of the installed applications one bit, it does make their icons really stand out compared to the sharper Amazon supplied ones (as seen in the screenshot above) and you didn’t buy a tablet with an ultra sharp screen to look at fuzzy icons.

For our purposes, we will be updating the Chrome icon, seen above in all it’s low-res glory, to a higher resolution version using a Windows PC and the free tool APK Icon Editor. (Linux/OS X users will need to take a more complicated route and use APK Manager, a tool we will not be walking you through using.) While we’re using the Kindle Fire to showcase these techniques (because the high-res carousel launcher makes low-res icons painfully obvious), you can use these tricks to upgrade the icons of any app.

Understanding Icon Size Nomenclature and Selecting an Icon

Before we dive into swapping the icons, it helps to have a sense of the nomenclature surrounding the icons. Android icons, per Android Developer standards, come in the following five default sizes:

LDPI – 36 x 36

MDPI – 48 x 48

HDPI – 72 x 72

XHDPI – 96 x 96

XXHDPI – 144 x 144

XXXHDPI –  192 x 192

MDPI size, 48 x 48 is considered the baseline and all icons are proportionally adjusted from that base size (LDPI is 0.5 times the size, XXHDPI is 4.0 the size, etc.) As we mentioned above, the largest size, XXXHDPI is still far too small to look good on the Kindle’s launcher carousel.

Amazon’s carousel apps use a much bigger icon; here are the icon sizes based on the Kindle Fire developer specifications:

Kindle Fire (1st Gen) – 322 x 322

Kindle Fire (2nd Gen) – 365 x 365

Kindle Fire HD 7″ – 425 x 425

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ – 675 x 675

Kindle Fire HD 7″  (2nd Gen) – 425 x 425

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ (2nd Gen) – 675 x 675

Kindle Fire HDX 7″  – 562 x 562

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″  – 624 x 624

Reference the listing for your device (we’ll be replacing the icon for a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″) and then seek out an icon at least that size or larger. For widely used apps like Chrome, it’s simply a matter of searching Google Images for a match. For both the manual and automated methods, you’ll want a PNG file with a transparent background.

Installing the New Icon with APK Icon Editor

Download the APK Icon Editor (we recommend the portable version, packaged in a ZIP file). Extract or install the application. Upon first run, you’ll see a blank editor. Drag and drop your APK file onto the main pane. You can technically drag and drop your APK and the replacement icon simultaneously, but we’re going to do the APK by itself first just so you can see how different the icon sizes really are.

After you drop the APK, click on the “Size Profile” drop down menu on the right hand side of the application. Select the appropriate device.

 

See how much space is around the default icon? That space represents the difference between the icon and the actual resolution of the Kindle’s app carousel icon size. No wonder it looks fuzzy, it’s roughly 460% too small. Drag and drop your new icon onto the pane. If your icon isn’t exactly the same size as the specification, the app will ask if it’s OK to scale it.

Now we’re talking, wall-to-wall icon without a pixel wasted. If it looks the way you want, click Pack APK. The app will repack and sign your APK file.

With the new file in hand, it’s time to sideload it onto the Kindle Fire. If you’re unfamiliar with the process or need a refresher, check out our guide to sideloading apps onto your Kindle Fire here.

After installing the edited app, you’ll be greeted with a carousel entry in all the high-resolution glory you crave:

Compared to the fuzzy 1980s-esque icon found in the first screenshot, this is a remarkable improvement, and without a whole lot of effort at that.

 

 

    



Microsoft Board Set to Meet This Weekend — Just Not During Super Bowl — With CEO Choice Coming Next Week

superbowl xlviii

According to numerous sources, the board of Microsoft will be meeting sometime this weekend to begin its longish process of voting in its new CEO, which is likely to be enterprise head Satya Nadella.

One thing that will interrupt is the Super Bowl, which is apparently some big football game that is important to the Seattle area where the software giant is headquartered.

All joking aside, stepping on the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey is a consideration and Microsoft sources said that the annual sports spectacle is likely to extend the final announcement into early next week.

Does that mean Monday? It would be a stretch. Tuesday. Perhaps. By Wednesday? Let’s hope so!

Re/code had first reported yesterday that internal candidate Nadella was likely to get the nod within a week, which was followed then by other reports of his expected ascension to become the third CEO in Microsoft’s history.

That remains the case, with Nadella discussing with chairman, former CEO and co-founder Bill Gates a more active role in helping him out as he takes over a hopelessly complex and massive company.

Such involvement might include Gates stepping down as the board leader, in favor of director John Thompson, a move first reported by Bloomberg. In any scenario, Gates would remain on the Microsoft board.

More to come, but let’s keep in mind that there has been no vote as yet and there will be no winner until after the final whistle is blown.

Including in the Super Bowl. (Go Hawks!)

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One Scientist’s Bid to Debug Human Software

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Omelchenko / Shutterstock

In late 2003, Gill Bejerano was staring at some perplexing data.

The computer scientist-turned-biologist had written software that could cluster and compare genome regions for humans, rats and mice. He and his research team, a collaboration between UC Santa Cruz and the University of Queensland, found nearly 500 long stretches of DNA where the base pairs matched perfectly.

It didn’t make sense. Less than 2 percent of DNA produces the amino acids that produce the proteins that produce us. The rest was supposed to be “junk DNA,” just hanging along for the evolutionary ride. Instead, the findings, published in the journal Science in 2004, suggested this genetic refuse mattered enough to survival to stay perfectly preserved in the gene pool for millions of years.

It wasn’t the first paper to spot “conserved” regions that weren’t producing proteins across species — but it showed them occurring at a magnitude that few could have imagined. It ultimately shifted the thinking on junk DNA, arguing forcefully that these regions were regulating genes. Moreover, the acclaimed paper was a breakthrough performance for what’s known as computational biology, highlighting how big data, fast computers and smart algorithms can offer fresh insights into the befuddling world of genomics.

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Stanford assistant professor Gill Bejerano Courtesy: Gill Bejerano

Indeed, the size and complexity of the genome is so vast that unraveling its mysteries demands the tools of computer science. To wrap your mind around the staggering amount of data we’re talking about, consider this sentence from the introduction to “Genome” by Matt Ridley: ”If I read the genome out to you at the rate of one word per second for eight hours a day, it would take me a century.”

Now imagine trying to spot commonalities among three data sets of that rough size — for the human, mouse and rat in Bejerano’s study — without a cluster of computers at your disposal.

In the years following that research, he has continued to publish work that further refined our understanding of what “non-coding DNA” is actually doing and developed open source software tools that others can apply for similar purposes.

Given the results of his own pioneering work in computational biology, Bejerano has become something of an evangelist for the field. The assistant professor of developmental biology and computer science at Stanford University is convinced the next great scientific insights, including advances that might eliminate terrible diseases and extend lives, will occur at the intersection of these disciplines.

Bejerano, who moved to the United States from Israel for his postdoctoral work, recently sat down with Re/code at his namesake lab to discuss where his work and computational biology are headed. The interview that follows has been edited for space and clarity.

“If you like working on disruptive things, there is nothing more disruptive right now than what is going on in modern biology and medicine. We are rewriting the books completely.” — Gill Bejerano

Q: I’m new to this beat, but in the first few weeks what I keep hearing is that advances in health and advances in computer science are really getting to the point of offering better treatments and improved diagnostics. That the long-held promise there is starting to be realized. How do you view that?

A: The people who make the machines to generate the data are way ahead of the people analyzing the data. We have amazing new machines we plug into the wall, we hit the big button, we get terabytes or petabytes of cool stuff coming out of that.

It’s completely virgin territory, with a few beautiful experiments panning out and we think hundreds of thousands of additional ones waiting for us.

Part of the fun of a computational person right now is that data is growing exponentially. It’s not even like a kid in a candy store — it’s a warehouse of candy. It’s data, data, data.

We’re building the systems and building the tools. But the gap is an education gap. We’re not filling it up with the right people yet. You need people at the intersection. It’s hard for people coming in purely from an engineering perspective to build the right thing. You have to understand your client. And for people tapping into the intersection of science and tech, the client is biology.

Q: As someone working at this intersection, are you trying to take on the role of an evangelist to some degree? Spreading the word to smart, young people that it’s great to be a computer scientist or a biologist, but it’s really great to be both?

A: Absolutely. It is a lot of fun to be among the first at an intersection, but it gets lonely after a while.

If people in computer science have even a passing interest in biology, they should get their minds outside of hacker books, and get into science and watch TED talks.

The other side is, if you love biology or even want to become a doctor, the first thing you should do is get into a Computer Science 101 class. And if you get into 202 and 303, you’d probably be better off for that. You’ll become dangerous with the computer — and I really think the future is there.

There is no institutional ways of pushing you toward those intersections (in academia today), or at least fewer than there will be in five or 10 years. There aren’t big hurdles, but there’s no illuminated path. You have to jump yourself.

If you like working on disruptive things, there is nothing more disruptive right now than what is going on in modern biology and medicine. We are rewriting the books completely.

Q: You’re also affiliated with Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Lab. How are you applying machine learning and AI to this area?

A: It’s a classic AI area. You have a large amount of data, a tiny fraction of that is annotated and you want to deduce from those annotations what goes on in all the other stuff. This is a prime target for machine learning, and this is exactly where biology and health care are essentially at now.

The challenge is what I said before: It’s very hard to be an agnostic machine learning person and come and say, ‘I know nothing about your field.’

If you don’t understand something about the data, biology and health, have at least a minimum level of understanding, you can’t get around some confounding facts and have an appreciation for what predictions you’re actually making.

Q: What is your lab’s research focus today?

A: A big one is called phenotype-genotype association (finding the connections between an organism’s hereditary information and their form and traits, from behavior to susceptibility to diseases).

Essentially what we’re exploring, in computer science terms, is this:

I show you the machine language code that makes you (the genome) and I show you the output (the human). There are some things about the machine language code we understand and a lot we don’t. And now I start giving you thousands of pairs of variants of the program and variants of the outputs.

(The question becomes can our data analysis tools) tell me something new about what the different pieces of code do? If you have 400 people with a certain disease and 400 people of the same age and ethnicity who don’t have the disease, and that disease is clearly about something messed up in the code, can you find the ‘bug’?

We can play multiple games like that. This is beautiful reverse engineering that is classically computational. It’s programs and output. The output are human beings.

Human beings are fairly complicated, but the program is just three billion base pairs (the rough size of the human genome). So the size stays fixed. The complexity is something we’re chipping away at all the time, which is awesome with today’s resources.

Q: We’re seeing a lot of language from human biology show up in computer science and vice versa, like “coding” and “artificial neural networks.” Is this biomimicry — are we getting closer to computer science working the way biology works and seeing that lead to advances. Or are these just metaphors, useful ways of thinking about it?

A: I don’t know that I have a good answer for you on that one. I don’t know that the field of genetic algorithms (an artificial intelligence technique that attempts to mimic natural selection) has become mainstream. But I don’t know enough about the field to tell you whether it’s exhausted its opportunities or it can’t play the game the way the genome does.

But I think there is a lot more for us to learn from the way that nature does things. If you want to fix something that’s not good in human genomes, you can do 1,000 experiments in labs for 20 years. Or you can look at nature, which has done millions of experiments over millions of years, and pick the best thing it picked.

There are so many experiments being done around us at every single moment in time, that the more we get wise to, the better it will serve us.

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Here’s Why Bill Gates Would Step Down as Chairman of Microsoft

Microsoft Chairman and co-founder Bill Gates

Yesterday, Re/code first reported that Microsoft enterprise head Satya Nadella was the likely choice to be the CEO of the software giant and that a board vote on it would be made within the week.

That was followed by a confirmation by Bloomberg on Nadella as the choice of Microsoft board. But its report also included an intriguing bit of news that Microsoft co-founder and tech icon Bill Gates would step down as chairman in favor of the director John Thompson, as part of the changes.

As many know, Thompson, the former CEO of Symantec, has been leading the search effort for a new CEO — which has been a rather messy and noisy circus so far. He has gained a lot of prominence in doing so and also has not been shy about grabbing the spotlight either, making public comments to media, doing blog post update and generally casting himself as a key decision maker in the process.

While that’s true, it is still Gates who has largely driven the search and Nadella has always been his favored candidate.

So what gives in what could be easily construed as a pushing out of perhaps the most famous man in tech from the company he co-founded and dominated for decades? Why now? Is this his choice? Or is it some kind of backroom trade with Thompson to get Nadella in (a popular conspiracy theory inside Microsoft, by the way)?

And, most importantly, what is the benefit of doing so?

There is obviously a lot to unpack here. But, according to a number of sources inside the company, the possible move — it still not a done deal, although it seems likelier than not — is predicated on the fact that Gates will be spending a lot more time at the company once Nadella is approved. Re/code had previously reported this Bill-is-back notion.

Sources said that Nadella has asked Gates to do so, helping specifically with technology and product problems, and the pair have been scoping out what that would mean and how much time such an arrangement would take.

A lot, apparently, and that’s not something Gates has a lot of. Since he left Microsoft, he has been devoting most of this time to philanthropic efforts at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and that too still requires his focus.

So what gives? Apparently, the chairmanship of Microsoft.

In the move, Gates — who still owns four percent of the company — would still remain a first-among-equals director, but he would shed the myriad of duties of running the board to Thompson.

In many ways, it is not a bad idea, because Gates has been pretty ill-suited to the tasks of the job. I’ll say it if no one else will — he’s a terrible schmoozer of investors, is not someone who cottons to kissing up to Wall Street and, well, he’s still awkward around the niceties required in such a job. (By the way, this is the part of Gates I like!)

Perhaps more significantly, having Gates in the chair seat also maintains some of the dysfunction clearly present in the board, due to his history at Microsoft, his massive wealth from his ownership of the company and — for lack of a better way to say it — the Bill Gates of it all.

That dynamic combined with the continued presence of outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer on the board — who may remain in the short term, but seems set to go when his latest term is up — obviously has to change.

Also not helping: Gates and Ballmer also have a complex and difficult interpersonal relationship — for anyone in a long-term marriage and you’ll quickly grok what that means — that adds into the board issues.

Thus, a new chairman with a power base away from Microsoft’s origins, while moving Gates to a much more productive role seems like a pretty good idea to many.

It’s also clear that Nadella will need Gates around to solidify himself with other leaders at Microsoft and to get them on board and into line. And, given Nadella’s nice-guy-but-not-inspiring rep — I have heard him called the “safe bet” and “conventional choice” about 275 times this week — having Gates standing solidly next to him is a must.

Because while some inside say Gates is now out of touch with the fast-moving trends of tech, he still maintains a status among the troops of Microsoft that is, if not god-like, pretty emotionally gripping.

That can only help Nadella. Though he now runs a very big and successful division of Microsoft, where he has worked since 1992, he has also never run anything this massive and complex and fraught with so many trapdoors and machinations.

Having a wingman like Gates, then, might be a very good way to start.

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