Despite all the updates it has received, Microsoft Windows largely remains in the shadows. No one really talks about it as long as it works. With a flurry of updates for April, Microsoft is changing the conversation surrounding the world’s biggest operating system.
Rather than simply releasing an update filled with ones and zeroes, Microsoft leverages on how its users interact with the system. Specifically, the new update aims to bring back the value to a user’s time.
The update’s most notable feature is Timeline. The time travel feature allows users to cycle back through the apps and files they used over the last 30 days. Users can access the feature through a button on the taskbar. It works in a comparable way to Android’s Task Viewer.
The new update also has a Focus Assist feature. Windows will now block notifications from social media and other apps while you work. The feature aims to allow users to work distraction-free. Additionally, users can also set the feature to turn on automatically throughout the day.
The new Dictation feature brings more refined voice control features to Windows. The feature allows users to take down notes and memos with just their voice.
Finally, the Windows update also infuses fresh features to Microsoft Edge. The system’s default web browser now offers tab muting and full-screen reading, among others.
The new update will roll out to Microsoft Windows devices starting May 8.
Along with this update, Microsoft has also announced Apple’s music management app iTunes is now available on the Microsoft Store.
Apple discontinues the 12-inch Macbook and 2017 Macbook Air
Both models are gone from Apple’s online store
Apple is discontinuing the 12-inch Macbook which was announced and sold by Apple four years ago. The company is also killing off the 2017 Macbook Air.
The 12-inch Macbook was introduced in 2015. The controversial and highly-divisive laptop features a 12-inch Retina display, an Intel Y-series processor, and a single USB-C port. Meanwhile, the 2017 Macbook Air was a refresh of the second-generation Macbook Air featuring a 13-inch non-Retina display, an Intel 5th-generation processor, and USB-A ports with a MagSafe connector.
As it stands, both the 12-inch Macbook and 2017 Macbook Air are not available anymore at Apple’s online store. The move by Apple follows its recent revamping of its Macbook lineup. Following the recent revamp, both the third-generation Macbook Air and Macbook Pro receive substantial updates and lower price tags.
Starting today, only the third-generation Macbook Air and the Macbook Pro is available to purchase from the online store. However, Apple authorized resellers and physical stores might still sell the discontinued products until their supplies last.
Raspberry Pi 4 offers more power for the same price
Now with support for 4K
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced the fourth version of its popular and very useful miniature budget computer. The Raspberry Pi 4 keeps the same form-factor and starting price of its predecessor, but it has more power to offer. This would mean wider applications and nifty inventions for those who like to tinker with a Raspberry Pi.
The most notable upgrade of the Raspberry Pi 4 is its CPU. The new chipset features faster and more efficient four Cortex-A72 cores clocked at 1.5GHz. This will deliver three times better performance. Memory has also seen an upgrade from the LPDDR2 standard to LPDDR4. It now comes with up to 4GB of memory, which is four times that of any previous Pi.
Complementing the new CPU is a better GPU. The new VideoCore VI GPU can handle 4K/60fps HEVC video playback. It can support dual-monitor setups at up to 4K resolution as well using the micro HDMI ports. Moreover, the board now has two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, and now charges via USB-C.
As for wireless connectivity, there’s Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band Wi-Fi. Additionally, there’s a Gigabit Ethernet for an even faster internet connection.
The Raspberry Pi 4 is available starting today through Approved Resellers worldwide and directly at the Raspberry Store. It comes with 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB of RAM for US$ 35, US$ 45, and US$ 55, respectively.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: Dell embraces a circular economy
Sustainability is at the core of everything Dell does
As consumers our top considerations when buying a new device are specs, performance, value for money, and design. We rarely think about the impact we and the technology we use have on the environment. The only time we probably ever do is when we need to dispose an irreparable phone or a dinosaur laptop. When that moment comes, we also don’t know exactly what to do or where to bring our old devices.
Fortunately there are companies like Dell that think ahead and consider the entire lifecycle of their products — from sourcing materials, to manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and recycling — and beyond. This approach is called a circular economy.
In a traditional, linear product cycle, recycling or refurbishing is thought of at the end of the product’s life, if at all. In Dell’s circular economy, the concept of waste is designed out of the system. This means sustainability is at the core of everything that they do. Here are some ways Dell is minimizing their footprint as a company while helping us consumers reduce ours as well:
Trade-in and recycling programs, not just for Dell products
Through Dell Reconnect, you can take that old computer sitting in your attic to a Goodwill store for recycling or refurbishing. The program also provides green jobs, and ensures that no environmentally sensitive materials are sent to landfills.
If you’re due for an upgrade, the company can also recycle your old laptop for you, no matter the brand. You may also trade in any eligible piece of electronics, including smartphones and consoles, to earn a gift card that you can use to buy yourself a shiny new Dell laptop.
Packaging made of bamboo, mushrooms, ocean-bound plastics
To solve mountains of packaging problems we face after unboxing a new device — large fancy boxes, plastic, and foam — Dell has come up with the 3Cs packaging strategy, which stands for cube (size and shape), content (material choice), and curb (recyclability).
For Dell, wasted space inside any packaging is just that — wasted — so the company is continuously finding ways to minimize the amount of material needed to create packaging, as well as reduce box sizes so as to fit more products in storage and during shipping.
More importantly, Dell uses the best possible material to protect the product, and consider that which makes most sense for each region by using what’s locally available. In 2009, Dell was the first to use packaging made from bamboo. Not only is it a renewable alternative to petroleum-derived foams, the bamboo they used also grew near their manufacturing facilities.
In 2011, Dell developed cushion packaging made of mushroom, which has a smaller footprint compared to the usual protective foam, and is compostable. Recently, the company also started taking ocean-bound plastics back to the economy where they can be reused to make the trays found inside Dell boxes.
The company reuses boxes up to 7 times before they are recycled. So when you buy a new laptop and the box is not in its most perfect form, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In certain markets, Dell also rewards customers for returning packaging that can be refurbished and reused.
Ink made of smog
Here’s an unexpected way Dell is putting waste back into the economy and using locally available materials at the same time. Traditionally seen as a pollutant, the company is using ink made from smog in India to print some of its packaging.
A startup called Chakr Innovations developed the device called Chakr Shield which captures 90% of particulate matter emissions from diesel generators. The captured soot is then turned into carbon black, which is used to make ink. Dell is the first to use the ink on a larger scale and it works just as well as regular ink.
Backpack made of recycled windshields
Dell doesn’t just make computers and printers, they also make a whole array of accessories, and some of them are made with sustainability in mind. The Dell Pro Backpack 15 is made with a more environment-friendly solution-dyeing process. It’s also water-resistant, which is made possible by a layer of coating that’s made from reclaimed windshields.
Jewelry made of used computers
In its effort to reduce waste dumped in landfills, Dell also reclaims gold from motherboards through its recycling programs, reuses them to make not only new motherboards, but jewelry as well. So that old laptop you’re going to trade in for a new one? Parts of it will end up on someone’s finger or ears at some point, not in a developing country that becomes a dumpsite for other companies and countries.
Vivian Tai, Head of Global Environmental Affairs for the APJ region says the company is integrating sustainability efforts not for Dell’s benefit, but to provide better value for customers. She says sourcing and bringing what many consider “waste” back to life is challenging but is important to the company. Just this year, Dell already reached two of its 2020 goals: recover two billion pounds of used electronics and use 100 million pounds of recycled-content, plastic and other sustainable materials, one full year ahead of schedule.
Next time you need to buy a new laptop, take sustainability into consideration, too. Technology plays a big role in making our lives easier, and the good that it can do should not end at that but also extend beyond its usual lifecycle. It’s not just big companies who benefit from minimizing our ecological footprint — it’s also us, consumers, and the generations that come after us.
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