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Chrome OS 42 goes official, brings Google Now to Chromebooks

Late last month, Google previewed a new launcher for Chrome OS, but as of the new Chrome OS 42 release, the new launcher is now available to the masses.

Launcher 2.0 in Chrome OS 42 has a new look that?s based on the Material Design look and feel featured in Android Lollipop. Google Now integration means you can quickly get information?such as weather conditions, stock quotes, and your calendar events?at a glance, and perform Google searches with your voice.

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Disney's fabric-based 3D printer puts out squishable objects you'll want to hug

The typical, consumer-grade 3D printer creates objects made of thin layers of stiff, brittle plastic fused together. Of course, hard plastic isn?t ideal for all projects, so that?s why researchers from Disney, Cornell University, and Carnegie Mellon Univeristy have developed a new 3D-printing technique that creates objects out of layers of felt.

Disney?s fabric 3D printing method starts by taking a 3D model of an object, and ?slicing? into printable layers?a typical part of the 3D printing process. Next, the printer laser-cuts shapes out of adhesive fabric that correspond to the sliced layers, then transfers that layer onto the printer?s build platform. It then applies heat to each layer to ?activate? the fabric?s adhesive.

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How to make Linux's desktop look good on high-resolution displays

Ultra-high-resolution displays with high pixel densities are all the rage now, and for good reason: They look amazing compared to conventional displays. The big problem for PC users is that a lot of software isn't designed with that level of pixel density in mind.

If you're running GNOME 3 in Linux, your first boot will have you looking for your reading glasses. (Windows suffers from similar issues with high-DPI displays.)

Luckily, you can save your eyes and enjoy that glorious screen you paid for with a few steps. This article will show you how to change the scaling settings for GNOME 3, Mozilla?s Firefox and Thunderbird, and Chromium.

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Shape-shifting robot reveals secrets of Fukushima reactor

Two robots that can change their shape on command have provided the most detailed look yet inside the heart of reactor number 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan.

The reactor is one of three that suffered a core meltdown after the massive tsunami that knocked electrical systems offline at the plant in March 2011, prompting a nuclear emergency that will take decades to clean up.

One of the most difficult jobs for the plant?s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), is how to safely decommission the reactors that melted down, which are much too dangerous for humans to enter.

The robots are inspecting the reactor?s primary containment vessel (PCV), a large concrete structure that sits around the reactor and most of its associated machinery and piping. Molten nuclear fuel melted through the bottom of the reactor following the tsunami and is thought to have fallen to the floor of the PCV.

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Google's Project Loon close to launching thousands of balloons

Google says its Project Loon is close to being able to produce and launch thousands of balloons to provide Internet access from the sky.

Such a number would be required to provide reliable Internet access to users in remote areas that are currently unserved by terrestrial networks, said Mike Cassidy, the Google engineer in charge of the project, in a video posted Friday.

The ambitious project has been underway for a couple of years and involves beaming down LTE cellular signals to handsets on the ground from balloons thousands of feet in the air, well above the altitude that passenger jets fly.

?At first it would take us 3 or 4 days to tape together a balloon,? Cassidy says in the video. ?Today, through our own manufacturing facility, the automated systems can get a balloon produced in just a few hours. We?re getting close to the point where we can roll out thousands of balloons.?

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Comcast to bring two-gigabit Internet service to Bay Area, boost existing tiers

Comcast said Friday that it will bring its 2-gigabit symmetrical Gigabit Pro service to San Francisco Bay Area consumers in May, sidestepping Google and its own fiber plans. The company also said it will boost the speeds of some of its more premium tiers and add a new Extreme 250 tier.

A Comcast spokesman said that prices for each of the services would be announced closer to the launch date. Comcast also said it would upgrade its Performance tier from 50 Mbps (megabits per second) to 75 Mbps, and its Blast tier from 105 Mbps to 150 Mbps, all for free.

Comcast previously announced plans to launch the Gigabit Pro service in Atlanta.

Why this matters:Cynics will see this as a way to appease Silicon Valley techies who may be lobbying the Federal Communication Commission and the Department of Justice to enforce net neutrality andblock Comcast?s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. It?s certain that these new bandwidth tiers won?t come cheap. But to Silicon Valley techies with nothing to spend money on but rent, food, gadgets, and sweet, sweet Internet, how can you say no?

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Keep Windows 10 preview up to date -- or face a dead PC

Testers running Windows 10?s preview must keep the OS relatively up to date or face a bricked PC that won?t boot.

The first three builds of Windows 10 Technical Preview?9841, 9860 and 9879, all released in 2014?will refuse to boot at the end of April, according to a message posted by a Microsoft support engineer on the company?s discussion forum.

Personal computers running the three 2014 builds have been displaying warnings of the impending expiration for the last two weeks. Starting Wednesday, the PCs have been rebooting every three hours, another hint from Microsoft to update.

?Approximately 2 weeks after the license expires, the build will no longer boot at all,? said a support engineer identified only as ?RajithR? in a message dated April 10. That step is to start April 30.

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Apple's 12-inch MacBook can use third-party USB Type-C cables

If you?re buying a new 12-inch MacBook and scrambling to find cables that work with the laptop?s new USB Type-C port, you have more options than Apple?s pricey cables.

MacBook users can instead buy less expensive USB Type-C cables from third parties. The new MacBook also can work with third-party USB Type-C chargers, a big change from the company?s proprietary MagSafe chargers, which are used for other MacBooks.

The MacBook has just one USB Type-C port, and MacBook owners may need to buy a range of cables for charging and connections to monitors or external peripherals.

?Your MacBook will charge from USB-C power adapters not manufactured by Apple if they adhere to the USB Power Delivery specification,? Apple said on a support page updated this week.

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First Apple Watch health IT apps bring important messages to the wrist

Many of the first Apple Watch health IT apps will give doctors faster access to critical information and ease communication between health care providers, while other apps will attempt to get patients more engaged with their health.

Don?t expect doctors to glance at their wrists to view X-rays or a patient?s chart, though. Given the Apple Watch?s screen size, functions that involve text messages work best on the device.

?Doctors get that the watch is a tool to help them deal with information overload,? said Michael Nusimow, CEO of drchrono, which makes EHR (electronic health record) software.

Like many other companies in the health space, drchrono announced its app this week at a large health IT conference put on by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, a nonprofit that looks to use IT to improve medical care. About a dozen companies in the health care industry announced their Apple Watch apps this week.

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FCC faces seventh net neutrality lawsuit

Broadband provider CenturyLink has joined the long list of ISPs and trade groups suing the U.S. Federal Communications Commission over its net neutrality rules.

CenturyLink filed its lawsuit Friday, becoming the seventh organization to challenge the rules approved by the FCC in late February. The FCC officially published the rules in the Federal Register, the official publication for U.S. agency rules, earlier this week, prompting a round of lawsuits.

The company objected to the FCC?s reclassification of broadband from a lightly regulated information service to a more heavily regulated common-carrier service. CenturyLink spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to ?build, maintain and update an open Internet network and does not block or degrade lawful content,? it said in a statement.

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Why investors are so excited about Slack

It wasn?t long after the launch of Slack?s namesake team-communication software last year that the San Francisco company was catapulted into the ?unicorn? club?that growing group of startups with valuations above $1 billion.

More than a few eyebrows were raised when the company achieved a $1.1 billion valuation last October, but this week, the company went much, much further. A new funding round has brought Slack another $160 million beyond the $180 million it had raised already, and its valuation is now $2.8 billion.

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UNICEF taps Snapchat to spread word about Nigeria's child refugees

UNICEF has turned to Snapchat for a social media campaign highlighting the plight of the 800,000 children who have been forced to flee their homes in northeast Nigeria by the conflict raging between the military and insurgents.

To reinforce the message of its new report, Missing Childhoods, UNICEF (the United Nations Children?s Fund) is using Snapchat for the first time. The agency is sharing images from leading Snapchat artists based on drawings by children in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The initiative is called #BringBackOurChildhood, and is modelled after the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign launched a year ago after hundreds of girls were kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria, by the Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect Boko Haram.

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How much should we allow Google, Facebook and others to tell us what to think?

Increasingly, computers are deciding what news stories we read, and may even end up teaching our children to speak. But whether we should allow them to is becoming the subject of a heated debate related to the use of algorithms.

Algorithms are pieces of code that, much like a recipe, provide a set of instructions to complete a task. They are used by companies like Google and Facebook to determine what search results are relevant and what posts are shown in someone?s timeline. They are used to mediate social, political, personal and commercial interactions for billions of people and can act as powerful gatekeepers that are increasingly used to make decisions for us or about us.

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Five to Try: Hearthstone's card combat hits phones, and Google's scribble-bas...
Need new Android apps and games? Here are the week's top picks.
Docker update speeds and organizes container deployments

With updates for both the core Docker engine and its registry software, Docker has endeavored to make its popular software container technology faster to deploy and easier to manage.

Docker Engine 1.6 and the Docker Registry 2.0, both released Thursday, work together to simplify the process of managing Docker containers, according to the company.

Taken together, the technologies will form the foundation for running and managing Docker containers for years to come, Docker asserted in a blog post.

Docker rewrote the Registry from scratch, using Google?s Go programming language. Going forward, the Registry will serve as a central server for storing and delivering Docker containers. Like the Docker Engine itself, the Docker Registry is open source. Docker, the company, uses it as the core for its Docker Hub public service.

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