Netflix announces HDR support for Windows 10 app

Netflix is rolling out an update for its Windows 10 standalone app as well as for Edge browser to bring in support for High Dynamic Range or HDR.

The newly rolled out HDR option will only be available to those Netflix users who have subscribed to a premium plan and own a HDR10-capable device for viewing HDR content on Windows 10. Netflix announced its HDR support not long after Microsoft added the necessary software APIs for developers to incorporate HDR support in the latest Fall Creators Update.

“With HDR enabled, fans can immerse themselves in the delicious colours of Chef’s Table, the terrifying depths of the Upside Down in Stranger Things 2, and enjoy the upcoming Netflix film Bright starring Will Smith,” said Netflix in a blog post on Medium.

The feature will be available for PCs running Intel’s 7th generation Core (i3, i5, or i7 7xxx or 7Yxx) or higher CPUs. These processors are needed to play the Netflix HDR10 encodes. In case of Intel’s integrated GPU, graphics driver: 22.XX.XX series, version 4708 or higher is required.

If the PC is running a discreet Nvidia GPU, models GeForce GTX 1050, GeForce GTX 1060, GeForce GTX 1070, or GeForce GTX 1080, at least 3GB of video RAM is required alongside graphics driver: 387.68 (23.21.13.8768) or higher. On the software front, Windows 10 Creators Update (version 1703) or higher is required and an HDR-capable display is also required.

Netflix claims that it has over 200 hours of HDR content in its library, and expects increased distribution considering the fact that more HDR-capable PCs might come into the market in 2018. HDR capabilities are currently available on high-end TV models as well as some flagship smartphones like the Apple iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, LG V30 among others.

Twitter two-factor authentication now supports third-party apps

Twitter has expanded its two-factor authentication from accepting just SMS to third-party apps now.

Users will be able to install third-party apps for two-factor authentication to verify their accounts thereby paving way for millions of users who were not able to use SMS-based 2FA to proceed with better securing their accounts. You will now be able to use third-party authenticator app such as Google Authenticator, Duo Mobile, Authy or similar installed on your mobile device.

“You’ll now be able to use a third party app for two-factor authentication instead of SMS text messages,” Twitter said on Thursday. These third-party apps work independently and generate codes offline to help you use the two-factor authentication.

Twitter, however, said it will still rely on SMS as two-factor authentication but has now allowed third-party apps as an alternative. The micro-blogging site has given a step-by-step direction on how to use the third-party apps.

This is an important move because SMS-based two-factor authentication uses static codes and for users located in countries where SMS issues have been present, it is definitely a huge positive.

Static codes could be intercepted in the event a hacker or some other malicious third-party has access to one or more alternative ways of viewing messages on a device other than having physical access to it and hence app based dynamic 2FA is definitely a much more secure.

With third-party apps like Google Authenticator, the codes disappear in about 30 seconds, making it a more secure way to verify your identify and access your account.

X.Org Server 1.19.6 released

Just as we come to an end of year 2017, we see release of X.Org Server 1.19.6 with over  two dozen fixes back-ported from the 1.20 master branch.

In a mailing list announcement, Adam Jackson of Red Hat revealed that he is planning to carry out at least one more 1.19.x point release in 2018, which we believe could happen early next year followed by release of xorg-server 1.20.

The X.Org Server 1.19.6 doesn’t come with major changes, but features some GLX fixes, an XWayland fix, some minor RandR work, and other fixes.

The fixes are listed below:

Adam Jackson (10):
      xfixes: Remove the CursorCurrent array
      glx: Fix typos that break GLX_ARB_context_flush_control
      glx: Only flush indirect contexts in MakeCurrent (v2)
      glx: Fix glXQueryContext for GLX_FBCONFIG_ID and GLX_RENDER_TYPE (v2)
      composite: Remove a misleading comment
      composite: Export compIsAlternateVisual
      composite: Make compIsAlternateVisual safe even if Composite is off
      glx: Send GLX_VISUAL_SELECT_GROUP_SGIX attribute for visuals
      glx: Move Composite's synthetic visuals to a different select group
      xserver 1.19.6

Alex Goins (1):
      ramdac: Check ScreenPriv != NULL in xf86ScreenSetCursor()

Daniel Martin (4):
      modesetting: Fix potential buffer overflow
      test: input: Fix used uninitialized warning in dix_event_to_core
      test: signal-logging: Fix looping signed number tests
      os/xdmcp: Honour -once when session is dead

Eric Anholt (1):
      xkb: Print the xkbcomp path being executed when we fail to compile.

Giuseppe Bilotta (3):
      xkb: initialize tsyms
      randr: ProcRRGetOutputInfo: initialize memory
      randr: rrGetScreenResources: initialize memory

Hector Martin (1):
      edid: fix off-by-one error in CEA mode numbering

Michel Dänzer (1):
      present: Only send PresentCompleteNotify events to the presenting client

Nikolay Martynov (1):
      XShmGetImage: fix censoring

Olivier Fourdan (2):
      xwayland: Fix non-argb cursor conversion
      dix: avoid deferencing NULL PtrCtrl

Peter Hutterer (1):
      config/udev: consider ID_INPUT_FOO=0 as 'unset'

Thomas Hellstrom (3):
      glx: Work around a GLX_OML swap method in older dri drivers
      glx: Fix visual fbconfig matching with respect to swap method
      glx: Duplicate relevant fbconfigs for compositing visuals

Tomasz Śniatowski (1):
      os: Fix strtok/free crash in ComputeLocalClient

Microsoft to focus more on the government, small business segment in India

A top Microsoft official in India has revealed expansion plans of the software giant in the country stating that the Redmond-based Windows 10 maker will be focusing on government and small business segment to grow.

Microsoft India president Anant Maheshwari said in an interview that the company’s clear focus areas are the SMB and government sectors. Maheshwari valued the overall information technology opportunity in the country at $107 billion. He added that India is part of Microsoft’s top 14 priority regions and is a ‘fast growing’ market for the company.

According to Microsoft, they have over 200 thousand enterprise customers in India. As far as government is concerned, Microsoft is serving both the central government and state governments in 29 states.

When asked about the implementation of GST (Goods and Services Tax) resulting in some tax notices to IT players, Maheshwari said Microsoft sees the indirect tax reform as a big opportunity.

“There may be some challenges as the tax regime transitions, but broadly for me, I would think of GST as a massive opportunity for anybody who is trying to do digital transition,” he said.

The company employs over 8,000 people in the country who work out of nine offices in various cities. Apart from serving the local market, its staff, the largest in any country outside of the US, also serves the global needs, especially on delivery, research and innovation.

On the rising protectionism and whether its business is affected by the stance of the US president Donald Trump administration, Maheshwari seemed to suggest that it has not had a major impact.

The issue around visa fees, one of the major concerns for the industry, is not a “significant” topic for the company, he said, underscoring that its view on the issue is in sync with the industry lobby Nasscom.

The company’s cloud customer-base has risen in the last few months from India, which will result in a review of the infrastructure capabilities, he said. However, it may not necessarily result in any new data centre or facilities here, he said.

“We have seen a very strong uptick on the public cloud in the last six months, which automatically causes us to look at our capacity and our capacity planning going forward,” Maheshwari said.

“The way to look at capacity planning is not to look at new locations. But also existing locations by ramping up. That is something we will continue to do as we go forward.”

The company competes with tech giants like Amazon and Google for cloud play. Last week, it disclosed that it works with 70 of the 100 top listed companies.

Google Play developers notified of app security and performance changes

Google Play developers will have to keep in mind a few new things pertaining to app security and performance as Google has recently announced such changes.

The changes include requiring new apps and updates to existing apps to target the most recent Android API level, compulsory 64-bit app versions by 2019, and addition of security metadata to each APK. According to the update, all new apps and updates for existing apps will be required to target API level 26 (Android 8.0 Oreo) or higher. Google has made this a mandatory one for new apps starting August 2018 and for updates to existing apps starting November 2018.

Google has also announced on Android Developers Blog new update regarding 64-bit support for apps. While 64-bit architecture for apps was first introduced in Android 5.0, the update requires app developers to submit a compulsory 64-bit library within any of their submitted APKs. This mandate will come into place by August 2019.

Apps that do not include native code are unaffected. Google claims that over 40 percent of Android devices coming online have 64-bit support, while still maintaining 32-bit compatibility. Apple’s iOS 11 recently made the big shift to 64-bit architecture by ending support for 32-bit libraries in June this year.

Further, Google also announced that it would be adding security metadata on top of each APK to verify that it was officially distributed by Google Play. This change will not require any action or change from the developers or users. Instead, it will be inserted into the APK Signing Block, thus not altering the app’s functionality. This metadata is expected to act as a Play badge of authenticity for the Android app.

The new announcements highlight Google’s continued efforts towards improving the quality of content on the Play Store. The tech giant, in August, had rolled out performance and stability rankings for Play Store apps. Over 300 apps were also removed from the Google Play Store, in the same month, for being able to take control of Android devices to perform distributed denial of service (DDoS ) attacks.

New AI method honors privacy of data

Advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning have been partly achieved through the copious amounts of data used for training artificial intelligence systems. Most of the data need protection and so to ensure that health and behaviour data don’t fall into the wrong hands during AI and machine learning projects, scientists have developed what they call concept of differential privacy.

Scientists guarantee that the published model or result can reveal only limited information on each data subject. While previous methods required one party with unrestricted access to all the data, the new method enables learning accurate models for example using data on user devices without the need to reveal private information to any outsider.

The group of researchers at the University of Helsinki and Aalto University, Finland, has applied privacy-aware methods for example to predicting cancer drug efficacy using gene expression.

“We have developed these methods with funding from the Academy of Finland for a few years, and now things are starting to look promising. Learning from big data is easier, but now we can also get results from smaller data”, Academy Professor Samuel Kaski of Aalto University says.