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.

Apple could combine iPhone, Mac and iPad apps

Reports have emerged that Apple is mulling to combine apps on its three platforms – the iPhone, Mac and iPad in a bid to make it easier for users to access apps on all platforms without them having to purchase separate version for all three.

People familiar with the matter have revealed to Bloomberg that developers working on iPhone, iPad and Mac apps will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac hardware.

As of now developers are required to develop two sets of apps – one for iOS and other for MacOS. This in effect is a lot of work and developers and customers have been complaining about Mac not getting as many apps as iOS. With a single app for all machines, Mac, iPad and iPhone users will get new features and updates at the same time.

Reports also suggest that the iPhone maker intends to roll out the changes as part of next fall’s major iOS and macOS updates. The roll out will be part of a secret project, codenamed “Marzipan”.

Theoretically, the plan could be announced as early as the summer at the company’s annual developers conference if the late 2018 release plan remains on track. Apple’s plans are still fluid, the people said, so the implementation could change or the project could still be cancelled.

 

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.

App could predict and intervene in users’ overeating habits

Smartphone apps are becoming more intelligent and capable with each passing day and now a new app capable of predicting and intervening in users’ overeating habits has been developed.

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the University of Connecticut (UConn) are working on an app aimed at helping users manage their overeating challenges in three key ways: by tracking eating patterns, providing interventions, and helping change behavior. The app — and its distinctive methodology — showed tremendous promise in an early pilot study.

To that end researchers have also presented a paper at the annual symposium for the American Medical Informatics Association. In the paper scientists noted that a user study of 16 participants, all over the age of 18, overweight, and not necessarily trying to lose weight, showed positive results. At the end of the month-long pilot, nine of the participants lost an average of five pounds, three weighed the same, and four gained an average of two pounds.

The research team’s three-pronged approach is an important differentiator in a crowded marketplace. According to a 2017 report in the International Journal of Obesity, there are nearly 29,000 weight-related apps on the market, with most focused only on tracking physical activity, calories, and body weight. The drawback with most weight-loss apps is that they are burdensome to use and don’t focus on actually trying to change the user’s behavior.

The WPI/UConn app, dubbed SlipBuddy, is built to do just that. In addition to tracking stress and eating, it’s a personalized intervention system built through the integration of behavioral strategies and technologies like mobile devices, machine learning, and text mining. The work is aimed at helping users identify what triggers them to overeat and inserting new stimuli that, instead, trigger healthy behaviors.

SlipBuddy is designed to keep user interaction simple. Users are asked to check in three times a day to note their stress levels, fatigue, and hours of sleep, and whenever they feel they’ve overaten. Over time, as the app collects information (which is stored as anonymized data on a WPI server), the system uses machine learning to find patterns that can be used to predict when the user is likely to overeat. The app uncovers user-specific triggers, like late-night eating, watching TV, or sleepless nights. When the app predicts that the likelihood of overeating is high, it suggests interventions–for example, taking a walk, turning off the TV, or engaging in other activities that can help users reduce stress without resorting to eating.

Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17063 released

Microsoft Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17063 has been released for members of Windows Insider program.

The new build contains some of the highly anticipated features such as Timeline, app-tabbing feature Sets, among other things. The Timeline feature was long overdue after it original announcement in May and released schedule for the Fall Creator Update. However, the feature is now released as a preview meaning that the public release will still take some time.

The Timeline feature provides users a way to resume your past activities. It comes as an enhanced version of Task View that can be accessed with Win+Tab key combination. By default, Timeline shows snapshots of the apps you were using at a particular time. But there is also a ‘See all’ button that opens all the apps you used on a given day. Moreover, the feature comes with a search bar that can be used to find any of the previous apps.

Alongside its presence on PCs, Timeline allows you to resume your past activities on other Windows 10 devices. The switching between apps will also eventually available for Android and iOS devices through cross-platform Cortana and Microsoft Edge apps.

It is worth noting here that not all apps will get the ability to let users resume their activities through Timeline. Therefore, in the latest Preview release of Windows 10, you will be able to see your Web browsing activities in Microsoft Edge, open your previous files in Microsoft Office or access your past work in the updated UWP (Universal Windows Platform) versions of Maps, News, Money, Sports, and Weather.

In addition to Timeline, Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17063 has brought Sets for some testers. This new feature will enable tabs for apps such as Microsoft Office and Edge to help you easily move from one task to another. Moreover, the addition is apparently inspired by the way Microsoft Edge browser handles different tabs.

The new Windows Insider build also includes tons of other new features. For instance, Microsoft Edge gets an updated dark theme with better contrast and dark blacks. Cortana’s Notebook has also received a new look. Additionally, Microsoft has improved gestures for precision touchpads. There are also several improvements to Windows Shell. Besides, the new Windows Insider build has a large number of bugs that could cause some conflicts with the new features as well as your overall experience.