Your WIRED.co.uk daily briefing. Today, Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will no longer be available as a free upgrade after July, self-proclaimed 'bitcoin creator' Craig Wright says that he will be publishing no further evidence to back up his claims, Amazon has leased another 20 cargo planes to join its growing shipping and logistics operation and more.
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Windows 10 has been one of Microsoft's fastest-adopted operating systems, thanks largely to the roll-out of free copies to home users of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, but the company says the free upgrade programme is coming to an end on July 29 (Ars Technica). After that, users who want to move up to the latest OS, which promises rolling updates rather than long waits between versions but has been criticised for limiting user choice, will have to pay $119 (£82). Microsoft still aims to have 1 billion Windows 10 users within the next couple of years, but Windows 7 remains the company's most popular operating system, leading some to speculate that the free upgrade scheme may yet see a further extension.
2. 'Bitcoin creator' Craig Wright will not publish more evidence to back claims
Craig Wright, who has claimed he was the mysterious creator of bitcoin, has backed down on his promise to provide "extraordinary" evidence to support the claim (WIRED.co.uk). In a blog post titled "I'm Sorry" the Australian computer scientist said he was "not strong enough for this". "I believed I could do this. I believed I that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me," he wrote. "But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do no have the courage. I cannot." On April 2 Wright publicly stated that he was the founder of the cryptocurrency, who had previously only been known using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.
Amazon is continuing to take on more of its own shipping and handling, with the announcement that it will be leasing 20 Boeing 767 cargo planes from Atlas Air Worldwide to bolster its US freight operation (The Verge). The deal also allows Amazon to buy up to a 30 per cent stake in Atlas over the next 10 years. Amazon is highly competitive on delivery prices and speed, particularly in the USA, but this has resulted in a 34 per cent increase in its shipping and fulfilment costs. Reducing its reliance on third-party couriers such as UPS and FedEx is a clear method of keeping those costs down to manageable levels.
A new report published in the Cell Host and Microbe journal describes a bacterium – Wolbachia – that both limits the reproductive capabilities of the Aedes aegypti mosquito and makes the insects less effective at transmitting viruses (PopSci). A trial saw Zika-infected human blood given to Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes. Two weeks water, saliva taken from the mosquitoes was found to infect other mosquitoes with Wolbachia, but not with Zika. Wolbachia isn't known to be dangerous to humans and can't pass to humans through a mosquito's saliva, making it a potentially effective method of controlling the spread of the virus.
5. Your skin could be your next smartwatch control surface
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University's Future Interfaces Group in the USA have developed a way to turn your skin into a touch controller for your smartwatch (TheNextWeb). A ring worn on your non-watch-bearing hand sends a high frequency signal to a sensing band attached the watch when you touch your finger to your watch arm. This tracks and calculates the movement and controls the watch like a touchpad. Giving users more space to work makes a great deal of sense when it comes to smartwatches, which are by necessity compact, and the system even lets you drag virtual shortcut buttons to fixed points on your arm. Sadly, there are currently no plans to develop the technology commercially.
6. No link between mobile phones and brain cancer in 29-year study
A new study published in Cancer Epidemiology provides further evidence that there is no causal link between mobile phone use and the incidence of brain cancer in a population (Gizmodo). The study draws together data on 19,858 men and 14,222 women diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia – where all cancer diagnoses are registered by law – between 1982 and 2012, and national mobile phone usage data from 1987 (when mobile phones were first introduced) to 2012. The results show stable levels of brain cancer in women and a slight increase in men over 70, but the latter trend was visible from 1982, before Australia even had a cellular phone network.
7. Google is feeding an AI romance novels to improve its language skills
To give its AI a better grasp of how people use language in informal ways, Google has given it 2,865 romance novels to read (The Verge). Google's Andrew Dai, the engineer running the project, says that the aim is to make the bot more conversational: "It would be much more satisfying to ask Google questions if it really understood the nuances of what you were asking for, and could reply in a more natural and familiar way." He says that "we're getting good at understanding sentiment and understanding whether a person likes something by how they describe it," but that some nuances are still lost, and the bot has yet to get a grip on sarcasm.
Users spend an average of 50 minutes a day on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger – about a one-sixteenth of an average person's waking day, putting it among the USA's most popular hobbies (The New York Times). Only TV and movie consumption, clocking in at 2.8 hours per day, exceeds it. By comparison, YouTube users spend an average of 17 minutes a day on the site, while Twitter's userbase averages just a minute each. It explains Facebook's booming advertising success, especially as its most active users are in the highly desirable 18 - 34 demographic. Andrew Lipsman of analytics firm comsScore said that "generally speaking, higher usage on Facebook skews to younger users and towards millennials specifically. You hear a narrative that young people are fleeing Facebook. The data show that's just not true[…] they spend a lot of time on multiple networks. But they spend more time on Facebook by a wide margin."
9. Sonic, Zelda and The Sims inducted into World Video Game Hall of Fame
The World Video Game Hall of Fame has announced that this year it will be adding Grand Theft Auto III, The Legend of Zelda, The Oregon Trail, The Sims, Sonic the Hedgehog and Space Invaders to its roster of titles notable for having "enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and [...] exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general" (VentureBeat). It's hard to argue with most of the games' significance, although they were up against some strong competition from the other finalists, which included Elite, Final Fantasy, Minecraft, Sid Meier’s Civilization and Street Fighter II. Run by the Strong National Museum of Play in the USA, the hall of fame was set up in 2015, and its first inductees included DOOM, Tetris and World of Warcraft.
Roboticists from UC Berkeley’s Biomimetics Millisystems Lab in the USA have given their cockroach-like VelociRoACH robot insects the ability to cooperate in order to get across obstacles bigger than themselves (TechCrunch). Starting at the bottom of a step, the front robot gets its forelegs up onto the edge before being boosted up by its fellow, before winching its friend up using a magnetic tether. Graduate researcher Carlos Casarez based the behaviour on that of Australian jumping ants and says that "in the future, we plan to improve the reliability of the cooperative step climbing behavior by adding closed-loop feedback control involving robot-to-robot localization, connection contact sensors, and IMU/motor torque information from each robot."
Nintendo NX may revert to cartridges for games
The mysterious Nintendo NX may see Nintendo return to using cartridges rather than optical media. That's according to Taiwanese site Money-Link, which reports that Macronix, a manufacturer of "non-volatile memory", expects a revenue increase coinciding with the launch window of Nintendo's next console. Macronix produces the cartridges currently used by the handheld 3DS console family, and has worked with the gaming company since at least 2001. Per a translation of Money-Links' report by Screen Critics, the company "suggested that as Nintendo had just announced it will release a new generation console in March next year, and the console will be launched at the same time in Japan, America and Europe, ROM sales are expected to increase in the latter half of this year, and it will have a large growth potential."
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