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A lot of us are interested in finding out what are the latest features that Microsoft plans on releasing update after update. Those of us that want to also have an active role in the development process can also be part of the Windows Insider program.
It is an open software testing program by Microsoft that allows users who own a valid license of Windows to register for pre-release builds of the operating system. These builds were previously only accessible to software developers.
While this in itself seems like something very exclusive, even here Microsoft delivers the content based on categories on rankings, also known as Rings.The different Rings in the Windows Insider program
Microsoft currently has multiple Rings, and these are the following:
However, the Fast, Slow and Release Preview Rings are the only ones where users are the ones that test out the builds.1. The Fast Ring
Those that are part of the Fast Ring are the first users to receive the pre-release builds after testing from Microsoft. Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring receive updates prior to Windows Insiders in the Slow Ring but might experience more bugs and other issues.
However, those in the Fast Ring may receive updates at around once per week, up to twice per week at the end of the build’s development cycle.2. The Slow Ring
Those that are part of the Slow Ring are usually users that want to test out the latest features that Microsoft introduced, but also hate facing bugs and issues.
Since the build was previously tested by those in the Fast Ring and then again for a period by Microsoft employees, this build is a bit more stable. The only downside is that Insiders in the Slow Ring receive updates less often.3. The Release Preview Ring
The content that Insiders in the Release Preview Ring receive is nearly identical to what the average customer receives upon official release. Like the retail version, this one receives monthly updates, security fixes, bug fixes. These are by far the most stable builds that feature the fewest bugs possible.Closing thoughts
As you may have noticed, Windows builds go through a wide variety of stages before reaching the general public. This ensures a sense of quality control from both Microsoft employees and customer feedback. And the best part is that joining the Windows Insider program is completely free.
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Artwork: Chip TaylorSince 1996, the whistleblower site Cryptome has been posting sensitive government and corporate documents. Now Cryptome has been stricken from the Web after releasing the Microsoft Online Services Global Criminal Compliance Handbook , a “spy guide” for law enforcement detailing what data Microsoft has, keeps, and can relinquish. Since most of you are Microsoft users, there are a few tidbits of information you’ll need to know before purchasing Xbox Live points, logging onto Office Live, or sending an e-mail through Hotmail.(Editor’s Note: See Microsoft Relents, Cryptome Returns for an update on this issue.)
What is the “Spy Guide”?
The Global Criminal Compliance Handbook is a quasi-comprehensive explanatory document meant for law enforcement officials seeking access to Microsoft’s stored user information. It also provides sample language for subpoenas and diagrams on how to understand server logs.
I call it “quasi-comprehensive” because, at a mere 22 pages, it doesn’t explore the nitty-gritty of Microsoft’s systems; it’s more like a data-hunting guide for dummies.Which of My Microsoft Services are Affected?
The sites referenced are:
Windows Live ID
Microsoft Office Live
Windows Live Spaces
Windows Live Messenger
MSN GroupsWhat Information Does Microsoft Have?
It depends on the service. We’ll deal with the big dogs here:
Windows Live ID
Windows Live ID is a one-stop shop for user info retention and is used on a multitude of sites to limit scattered user names and passwords. Due to its wide reach, Windows Live ID could allow law enforcement agencies to access tons your personal Web surfing information. Microsoft keeps “the last 10 Microsoft site and IP connection record combinations (not the last 10, consecutive IP connection records).”
“E-mail account registration records are retained for the life of the account. Internet Protocol connection history records are retained for 60 days,” according to the document. But if you, like many, switched over to Gmail and let your Hotmail account lapse, all e-mail content is “typically deleted after 60 days of inactivity. Then if the user does not reactivate their account, the free MSN Hotmail and free Windows Live Hotmail account will become inactive after a period of time.”
E-mail content that is older than 180 days can be disbursed “as long as the governmental entity follows the customer notification provisions in ECPA (see 18 U.S.C. §§ 2703(b), 2705).” If the content is less than 181 days, you need a search warrant.
Xbox Live stores a lot of information:
Credit card number
First/last name with zip code Serial number but only if box has been registered online
Service request number from Xbox Hotline (e.g. SR 103xx-xx-xx)
IP history for the lifetime of the gamertag (only one gamertag at a time)Office Online and Windows Live SkyDrive
The scariest part of the handbook comes here. Office Online and Windows Live SkyDrive are both services that store documents and files in the cloud. The two pages devoted to these services describe only what the products are and not the access Microsoft has to pertinent information. What can Microsoft get at? How long is everything stored? What are the legal parameters? All of this is uncertain and worthy of a little spine-shake.The Legalese
The last page of the document details the legal procedures required to obtain Microsoft’s information, but with warrantless wiretapping being such a big fad lately — as evidenced lately by Google’s shady dealings with the NSA — one never knows how many reams of red tape the government can snip through to get what it wants.
A Brief Case History
It’s uncertain as to how John Young, Cryptome’s proprietor, obtained The Global Criminal Compliance Handbook; what’s assured is that it caught Microsoft’s attention. The corporation quickly filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice alleging copyright infringement.
Some organizations have a problem with Microsoft’s use of the DMCA in this case. “[The Electronic Frontier Foundation” find[s] it troubling that copyright law is being invoked here. Microsoft doesn’t sell this manual. There’s no market for this work. It’s not a copyright issue. John [Young’s] copying of it is fair use. We don’t do this anywhere else in speech law,” Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told ReadWriteWeb. Cohn stated that in cases involving libel or trade secrets there is a procedure of going to court, making a case, and getting an injunction — filing a DMCA complaint “makes censorship easy.”
Either way, Microsoft prevailed. Cryptome’s host, Network Solutions, tore the site down. Young filed a counterclaim yesterday.
Personally, I feel The Global Criminal Compliance Handbook isn’t as nightmarish as some may paint it (save for the cloud computing part). Microsoft needs to have measures to work with the government in cases of danger, plain and simple. But with so much data out there, so much of it “owned” by Microsoft, I cannot help but feel exposed and vulnerable.
New Test for Alzheimer’s Risk? Slow gait and weak grip help predict brain disease
Sudha Seshadri, a professor of neurology at the BU School of Medicine, is a senior investigator for the Framingham Heart Study and the senior author of a new study linking slow walking speed and weak handgrip with the development of brain disease later on. Photo by Janice Checchio
Two powerful tools for early Alzheimer’s detection may fit in the palm of your hand. In fact, according to new research based on data from the Framingham Heart Study, one of those tools is your hand.
Doctors want to identify patients at risk for brain diseases like dementia and stroke early, before symptoms develop, with tests that are fast, cheap, painless, and easy for general practitioners to perform as part of a regular checkup. Today, brain scans like MRI can help predict dementia risk, but they are not practical for routine screenings. Now, a new study shows that by measuring walking speed with a standard stopwatch, and handgrip strength with a simple device called a dynamometer, doctors can predict which patients are at the highest risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. In patients over 65, handgrip strength also helps predict stroke. The results were published in the July 14, 2023, issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The research was based on data from physical and cognitive exams of volunteers in the Framingham Heart Study, which began in 1948 and has now followed the development of cardiovascular and other diseases in its subjects for three generations. Between 1999 and 2005, a research team led by Erica Camargo Faye, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who was then a fellow in the neurology department of the Boston University School of Medicine (MED), and Galit Weinstein, who shares appointments at MED and the University of Haifa in Israel, examined handgrip strength and walking speed of more than 2,100 people ranging in age from 35 to 84 years old, none of whom had been diagnosed with brain disease. Over 11 years, the researchers followed up to see which people developed Alzheimer’s or suffered strokes. They then looked for links between their initial test results and the emergence of these diseases.
They found that those with the weakest handgrip during the first round of testing—the bottom 10 percent of the group—were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia during the 11-year follow-up period. In people over 65, weak grip was additionally linked with higher rates of stroke. The researchers also found that those whose fastest walking pace was less than one meter per second had almost triple the risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia, compared to those who walked faster. “These measurements for physical capability are really simple,” says Weinstein, so they are easy for doctors to incorporate into routine office visits.
Though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, early prediction and detection could encourage people at high risk to make lifestyle changes—like staying physically active—that reduce their risk of developing the disease, says senior author Sudha Seshadri, a MED neurology professor and a senior investigator for the Framingham Heart Study. “Once they have the clinical symptoms, it seems to be too late to make an effective difference,” she says. A simple in-office test could also help high-risk people get additional neurological testing and care early. Those who know that they are at high risk may choose to have difficult family conversations before symptoms develop, adds Seshadri.
Why are walking speed and handgrip such strong predictors of brain disease? “There’s actually a prominent neurological component” to these tasks, says Seshadri. As we age, physical and mental facility both decline, probably because of general deterioration in the brain and the nerves that coordinate the body’s movements. That link makes some researchers wonder whether improving physical strength and agility through exercise could delay the progression of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Though this study does not explicitly address that question, says Weinstein, there is a growing consensus that the link between brain and body goes both ways. “Physical function can do so much that can affect vascular function, and this in turn can definitely affect your brain health,” she says.
“Healthy mind, healthy body,” says Seshadri. “There’s some truth to that! It’s a cliché for a reason.”
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Smartphones today are no longer used just for communication. Instead, many tasks that we used to perform on our PCs have now migrated to the mobile realm. This begs the question: Are our Android phones really secure enough to handle more sensitive operations, such as banking activities and storing confidential documents? Enter Clario, a cybersecurity app that’s built for the modern age, where phishing attacks and malware have become extremely common. This review of Clario looks at what the app brings to the table.
This is a sponsored article and was made possible by Clario. The actual contents and opinions are the sole views of the author who maintains editorial independence, even when a post is sponsored.Do You Really Need an Antivirus on Your Phone
According to a recent report from FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, phishing scams created the most victims in 2023 in the US, with the trend expected to continue well into 2023. As a consequence, it has become imperative that smartphone users learn how to protect themselves and their data. This is where Clario hopes to make a difference with its mobile app that makes fighting malicious attacks a real breeze.
Phishing scams today can easily infiltrate your mobile device, as cybercriminals have become increasingly adept at using undetectable methods. On top of that, the majority of people still tend to believe that phishing happens when you receive fraudulent messages sent to trick you into handing over your personal information, such as credit card data and other sensitive info such as passwords.
That’s not always the case, though. Your Android can get hacked much easier. For example, just by pressing on a link or installing an app that you got via social media, text message or email, you could land yourself in trouble.
Malware, which can take the form of spyware, adware or ransomware, is another relevant issue on Android. Like in the case of phishing attacks, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether your device was infected. This is by design, as the hackers that designed the malware don’t want you to find it and remove it.Overview of Features
Clario for Android is a minimalist cybersecurity app with a modern-looking interface that’s easy to navigate and absorb. The app is free to install and comes with a 7-day free trial, which doesn’t require you to input your card details – always a plus in our book. You’ll have to sign up with an account, though, but options for using your Google/Apple accounts are available.
Clario works by performing multiple scans to assess the health of your mobile phone. It will start by searching for spyware, but you can also configure it to scan for viruses and other types of malware.
The app comes with four protection areas, including Device, Identify, Browsing and Network. The first area is where you’ll find the antivirus and spyware detectors, while the browsing and network section hide a VPN option for browsing protection and public Wi-Fi security, respectively. Under Identity, you can turn on the data breach monitoring feature.
While this review focuses on Clario for Android, note that the service is also available on iOS, macOS and the Web. A Windows option is not yet available at this point.Using Clario
Clario puts the emphasis on simplicity, so it’s a great choice for basically anyone looking to boost their phone’s security status quickly. The app is uncomplicated and quite minimalist when it comes to features for the time being. You can learn how to confidently use it within just a few minutes.
The app will nudge you to set up your mobile protection system by walking you through its main features and suggesting that you make the necessary adjustments. First, it will scan for any spyware. Next, it will start checking for any threats targeting your social media accounts.
For instance, the app issued a warning to update my Instagram protection by adding two-factor authentication. It’s up to you whether you want to deal with this now or skip the step and take care of it later.Lightning-Fast Performance
A few weeks before installing Clario on my device, I might have been the target of a possible phishing attempt. I received a link in one of my WhatsApp groups, and because I was pretty distracted at the time, I pressed on it without giving it much thought. The link opened a shady-looking page where I was invited to answer questions for a chance to win a car. Naturally, I got out of there as fast as possible but eventually forgot the incident and continued with my daily affairs.
While I didn’t notice any suspicious activity on my phone after the event, I was quickly reminded of the possible threat hiding inside my phone once I installed Clario. Needless to say, I was quite anxious to perform the scans and assess my device’s health. Fortunately, the results showed that my phone was not harmed. Throughout this experience I appreciated how quickly the app scanned my device. All I had to do was press “Device,” then select one of the two scanning options. The results appeared a few minutes later.
On top of hunting for malware, Clario also scans your device and shows you any data breaches found in relation to the accounts you’ve used on the phone in question. For each breach it encounters, the app will offer suggestions of what you can do to remedy the situation.VPN Services Are Included
The last two tiles in the Clario app are dedicated to VPN protection, which is great. This way you don’t need to install another app to take care of your VPN needs. In “Browsing,” you can enable the VPN and select a particular country to browse from to hide your location. While in “Network,” you can turn on the VPN whenever you’re looking to connect to a possibly unsecure public Wi-Fi. When the VPN is enabled, a notification will be shown at the top of your phone’s display.
Have a question you need answered? Clario focuses a lot on user experience by putting 600 security experts at your disposal who are available 24/7 to cover the key aspects of your digital life. You can get in touch with a Clario expert by tapping the “How can we help?” bar at the bottom.Getting Clario
As already mentioned above, Clario is free to download and install on Android. Once the seven-day free trial expires, users who want to keep using the app will have to purchase a subscription. Clario currently offers a 77 percent discount on its 12-month plan. This one covers six separate devices and will cost you $69.99 per year. Alternatively, you can sign up with the monthly plan that costs $12 and covers three devices.Closing Thoughts
Clario for Android encompasses a capable antivirus as well as robust VPN features and makes them available for normal people who aren’t really experts in the field of mobile security. We loved its uncomplicated nature. But those who prefer having more options with their antivirus may be put off by the app’s seemingly limited functionality.
For instance, Clario does not offer an app privacy checker nor anti-theft options. However, keep in mind that the mobile app is very much still in development, so these options may eventually make their way to the service.
Clario does tend to focus on users’ needs rather than its antivirus technology. It offers a 24/7 live chat if you ever find yourself in need of any help. The bottom line is that after using the app for a week, we can’t really think of a good reason why you shouldn’t give Clario a try. If you’re looking for basic malware protection and a VPN, jump on board with the 7-day free trial and see how the app feels, then decide whether it’s for you or not.
Alexandra is passionate about mobile tech and can be often found fiddling with a smartphone from some obscure company. She kick-started her career in tech journalism in 2013, after working a few years as a middle-school teacher. Constantly driven by curiosity, Alexandra likes to know how things work and to share that knowledge with everyone.
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While many factors make an ESG fund worth investing in, these are the ten that investors seem to flock to the most.
iShares ESG MSCI EAFE ETF (ESGD)
With nearly $6.5 billion in assets from over 400 companies, iShares ESG MSCI EAFE ETF  (ESGD) comprises many large and mid-sized stocks in Europe, Australia, Asia, and the Far East. This fund is ideal for those hoping to build a sustainable equity portfolio that will bring in great returns over the long run.
Vanguard FTSE Social Index Fund (VFTAX)
What sets Vanguard FTSE Social Index Fund  apart is its commitment to exclude all companies in the alcohol, tobacco, weapons, fossil fuels, nuclear power, gambling, and adult entertainment industries. Instead, the fund invests in companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and countless other large companies that pass the strict ESG criteria.
iShares Global Clean Energy ETF (ICLN)
This iShares fund has far fewer companies under its umbrella — just over 80, for the time being — but the total assets still come close to that of iShares ESG MSCI EAFE ETF. As a matter of fact, iShares Global Clean Energy ETF  currently holds nearly $6 billion in net assets. The fund focuses exclusively on clean energy stocks from all over the world.
Shelton Green Alpha Fund (NEXTX)
As one might tell from the name, Shelton Green Alpha Fund  focuses primarily on the green economy: companies that help make the Earth greener while also demonstrating above-average potential for future growth. Any company that prioritizes products and services that better the environment is especially attractive to this ESG fund.
iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF (ESGU)
This iShares fund has that same focus on large- and mid-cap stocks that demonstrate those all-important environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices that other iShares funds have. Still, the iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF  is unique for the way it hones explicitly in on U.S. companies only. With nearly 350 holdings and over $21 billion in net assets, this strategy seems to work quite well for the fund.
Parnassus Core Equity Investor (PRBLX)
A primary goal of the Parnassus Core Equity Investor ESG  is to maintain its high quality through both market highs and market lows. This means investing in U.S. companies that pass the ESG test and perform incredibly well during market downturns. With this unique strategy, it ultimately hopes to outperform the S&P 500 Index.
iShares MSCI USA ESG Select ETF (SUSA)
Of course, while the intentions with ESG funds are always good, certain companies are inevitably going to become embroiled in controversy from time to time. In an attempt to avoid this, iShares MSCI USA ESG Select ETF  turns its attention to companies that stay away from low ESG ratings and have averted any severe controversies in their histories. Their net assets are lower than other iShares ESG funds on this list, but it’s worth it when considering the fund’s commitment to the ESG mission.
Parnassus Mid Cap Fund Investor (PARMX)
The Parnassus Mid Cap Fund Investor  aims to avoid companies that would perform poorly during market downturns while still staying committed to companies with high ESG ratings. This fund invests solely in high-quality companies with a small range of expected investment outcomes hoping to protect capital during downturns. Ultimately, the end goal is to outperform the Russell Midcap Index.
iShares ESG Aware MSCI EM ETF (ESGE)
As with the Parnassus funds, it helps for an ESG fund to have a specific index in mind when establishing particular financial goals. In the case of iShares ESG Aware MSCI EM ETF , that index they hope to mirror is the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. To do this, the iShares ESG Aware MSCI EM ETF invests in large- and mid-cap stocks that are just beginning to show great potential, such as Alibaba and Tencent.
SPDR S&P 500 Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF (SPYX)
The SPDR S&P 500 Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF  is a more ESG-friendly alternative to the S&P 500 Fossil Fuel Free Index, allowing investors in the fund to have the peace of mind that they are not investing in any fossil fuels or other non-ESG compliant companies.
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Today, Microsoft unveiled its new console, Xbox One, from its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. There’s still going to be news coming out between now and another announcement at E3 in June (which we’ll be at), but this is what we saw so far.TV, TV, TV
This is just barely a gaming console. Microsoft is pitching it as something more like a Living Room Entertainment Box. For about half of today’s presentation, no games were even mentioned; instead, Microsoft opted to show the ways Xbox One is integrated with TV. It functions sort of like an amped-up Google TV: it’s a command center that hooks up to a cable box and allows you to control what’s happening on TV through gestures and voice control. You can switch between TV, games, and a web browser–all through a single system. Say “Xbox on” and the console fires up, then “Switch to TV” or “Switch to internet” and it flips over.
Xbox AnnouncementALWAYS ONLINE
One big, controversial rumor was that the Xbox One would require an internet connection to play any games. That’s turned out to be both true and false. Your games are downloaded to the console’s hard drive, but certain features in certain games may require an internet connection. It’s up to the game-makers to decide if they want to use those.
[Update: According to Kotaku, you will need to connect to the internet at least once a day, even if you’re not looking to play a game online.]
But there are apparently some restrictions on used games. The first time you use a game, it gets tied up to your Xbox account. If you want to move that to other accounts, you’ll need to pay a fee.NEW LOOK
This is actually a pretty major departure from the Xbox 360’s design at launch. The controller, as predicted, looks fairly similar, but the sleek black console-box is a far cry from the white-and-green 360 we saw before a black version was adopted. That makes sense: after all, if this is something meant to work as more than just a console, it needs to be able to disappear in the living room.
Xbox OneNEW HARDWARE
The Xbox did get a bump in power (obviously): it’ll have 8GB of RAM, USB 3.0, a fancy Blu-ray player, and an HDMI in port, but more interesting is probably the overhaul of Kinect. The Xbox’s motion-sensitive camera looks like it’ll be better at picking up movement, with a 1080p camera replacing the lower-res VGA sensor of the last generation. Microsoft also announced that the gadget would automatically respond to a specific user’s voice and movement patterns. In other words, it knows you, and just you. Apparently that new Kinect is a mandatory feature, too.GAMES
This is last for a reason. For better or worse, Microsoft seems to be backing off the idea of a console devoted only, or even mostly, to games. Even an announcement seemingly about the popular Halo game series ended up being an announcement about a live-action Halo TV series.
There’s a racing game (Forza Motorsport 5) and the new Call of Duty: Ghosts (in a promotional video, they made a big deal out of the game featuring a dog, for some reason). There’s also a partnership between Microsoft and EA for a slew of sports games, including the next edition of the popular FIFA series. More original franchises, they say, are on the way. We’ll probably see more when Microsoft takes to the more game-centric E3 next month for another announcement.
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