Operating system

Try Out New Safari Features Early With Safari Technology Preview

Some of the coolest new features in the upcoming macOS 10.13 High Sierra are in Safari, and you can try them out now without upgrading your entire operating system.

During WWDC 2017, Apple bragged about faster Safari performance, showed off a new block feature for any and all autoplaying videos, and talked about blocking ads from tracking your movements. You can try these features out with Safari Technology Preview. This free download is primarily intended for web developers, who can use the tool to confirm their sites will work on upcoming versions of Safari for macOS and iOS. But it’s also a quick way to try out new features, including those upcoming in macOS High Sierra.

To get started, head to the Safari Technology Preview page on Apple’s website, then download the version for your current operating system.

Mount the DMG file and you’ll find a PKG file.

Double-click the PKG to run the installation process, following the prompts…

How to Diagnose the “USB Device Not Recognized” Error in Windows

Windows is designed to be almost universal in its support of PC accessories, particularly USB-based add-ons like external hard drives, flash drives, game controllers, webcams, microphones, and other peripherals. Most things work out-of-the-box thanks to pre-loaded drivers, but occasionally a gadget will still give you the dreaded “USB device not recognized” error.

There are a lot of different ways that this problem can manifest, and unfortunately Windows still isn’t very good at actually telling users how to solve it. Here are the most common issues and—in at least some cases—how to fix them.

You Might Be Missing Drivers for the Device

Starting with Windows Vista, the operating system loads thousands of generic and specific drivers at the time of its installation, and adds new drivers for detected hardware periodically through Windows Update. So if the gadget you’re plugging in to your computer is simple enough, or it comes from a major manufacturer like Logitech, it should work right away or after a quick, semi-automatic download.

If it doesn’t, it might mean that your device isn’t covered by Microsoft’s generic built-in drivers or the larger database of drivers on the Windows Update servers. That means you’ll need to download the necessary drivers from the manufacturer’s website.

Most drivers should install just like any other Windows program. If that doesn’t work, though, read on.

Your Computer Might Be Using Incorrect or Outdated Drivers

As handy as Windows’ automatic driver detection is, it isn’t perfect. Sometimes it matches the wrong driver with the device, or the device hardware has been updated by the manufacturer to the point where the original driver is no longer applicable. If the installed drivers or ones downloaded from the manufacturer’s site on the web aren’t working, you’ll need to manually select the device and driver using Device Manager.

Open the Start menu and type “Device Manager”. Select the…

How to Manually Update Your Chromebook When the Software Is Too Old

If you buy a Chromebook that has been out for a while, there’s a small chance it could have an issue downloading the latest OS updates. Fortunately, getting your Chromebook to a completely up-to-date state isn’t impossible.

It’s unclear why this failure happens, but if a Chromebook sits on the same build for too long, it simply can’t pull the latest version from Google servers. Instead, it will kick back an error or tell you that the system is up to date when you know it isn’t.

The first solution is the simplest: change channels, then change back.

How to Change Channels on your Chromebook

Open the Settings menu by clicking the system tray and then the gear icon.

From there, click the “About Chrome” option. On the About page, you should see a “Change Channel” button under the “Channel” section. If you’re using the Material Design settings page (as I am in the screenshot below), this option is found under the “Detailed…

What Is kernel_task, and Why Is It Running on my Mac?

So you found something called “kernel_task” in Activity Monitor, and you want to know what it is. Good news: it’s nothing nefarious. It’s actually your operating system.

A “kernel,” if you didn’t know, is at the core of any operating system, sitting between your CPU, memory, and other hardware and the software that you run. When your turn on your Mac, the kernel is the first thing that starts, and basically everything you do on your computer flows through the kernel at some point. Activity Monitor puts all of this varied activity under one banner: kernel_task.

If you’re computer isn’t running slowly, don’t worry about this process taking up a lot of memory or occasionally using up CPU cycles: that’s normal. Unused memory is wasted memory, so kernel_task will put it to work for things like caching files, and running a modern operating system means sometimes using some CPU power.

But if kernel_task is constantly using a majority of your system resources, and your Mac is really slow, you might have a problem. Restarting your Mac is the only way to restart your kernel, and sometimes that will solve all problems. But if the behavior persists, here’s a bit more information.

kernel_task Pretends to Use CPU Cycles To Keep Things Cool

If you’re doing something that takes up a lot of processing power—converting 4K videos, say—you might wonder what’s taking so long and look at the Activity Monitor. Often you’ll see kernel_task is using up a lot of CPU power…power which you’d rather that power be used by your intensive process.

It’s understandable if you’re frustrated, but it turns out your operating system is doing this on purpose to prevent your CPU from overheating. To quote Apple’s support page:

One of the functions of kernel_task is to help manage CPU temperature by making the CPU less available to processes that are using it intensely….

Meet Live OS, a Desk Sensor That Tracks Your Activity

In an effort to increase productivity in workspaces, Herman Miller, the furniture company behind the Aeron chair and the cubicle, has launched a desk sensor that collects data on how and when office spaces are being used.

The data Live OS collects is shown on a dashboard that companies can access. Live OS also includes an app extension that lets individual employees set goals for sitting and standing. In other words, it’s a Fitbit for your desk.

Live OS was launched today at NeoCon in Chicago as part of a collaboration with designer Yves Béhar for smarter office furniture. It pairs with Herman Miller sit-to-stand desks and lets users control the height of their…

Update Your Phone or Skype Won’t Work Anymore

In honor of Skype’s newest update, the video chat and messaging app is dropping support for a variety of platforms.

According to Techcrunch, over a dozen Skype apps and platforms (including SkypeKit-powered phones) are losing Skype support on July 1, meaning you won’t be able to use the service on certain devices. Bummer.

I’m never a fan of dropping support for older operating systems, especially if maintaining it requires minimal work. On the other hand, the operating systems losing support are years old or underutilized, meaning it might make more fiscal sense for Skype to just drop support for them altogether. Operating systems losing support include iOS 7 and earlier, Android 4.0.2 and earlier, BlackBerry OS 7.1 and earlier, and Skype on TV.

SkypeKit-enabled devices are also losing support, though…

What to Do If Your RAM Isn’t Detected By Your PC

RAM is one of the most essential parts of your desktop computer, and it’s also one of the quickest and easiest parts to upgrade. Modern RAM modules are incredibly simple to use, so it’s rare that something goes wrong in installation…but then when something does go wrong, it gets frustrating quickly. If your computer or operating system doesn’t recognize the RAM you’re using, here’s what you need to do to find the problem.

Step One: Check The Seating

On a desktop, installing RAM is simple: fold back both the clips on the RAM slot, then insert the stick firmly straight down. The pressure from your insertion should force both clips to snap back into a locked position with an audible “click,” but sometimes it does require you to snap them back down on the DIMM manually. If the DIMM isn’t exactly perpendicular to the slot and the motherboard, or the clips can’t be completely snapped, it’s not fully inserted. Remove the DIMM and try again.

Laptop designs, due to their lower tolerances for space and volume, are a little trickier. Assuming your laptop allows access to a RAM DIMM slot at all (many newer, smaller designs don’t), the DIMM is generally inserted at an angle, then pushed down towards the laptop frame until it clicks into place. Even a properly-inserted DIMM might not be seated properly; be sure to put as much pressure on the stick as you can without risking damage to the circuit board itself.

Step Two: Check Your Motherboard’s Compatibility

RAM DIMM sticks are fairly standard and well-designed: they can only be inserted one way on both desktops and laptops, desktop and laptop RAM isn’t interchangeable, and different generations of RAM won’t fit in the wrong socket (so a motherboard that only supports DDR4 RAM can’t physically fit DDR3).

That being said, it’s rare but possible that RAM might not be compatible with a motherboard, even if it’s the right type. RAM speed should dynamically shift down if it’s faster than the slot itself can handle, and timings shouldn’t have an impact on the compatibility at all. But it’s possible the RAM DIMM’s capacity is higher than the motherboard is rated for.

Your motherboard has a maximum amount of supported RAM, which includes all the slots on the board taken together. This might be as few as…

What Is UEFI, and How Is It Different from BIOS?

New computers use UEFI firmware instead of the traditional BIOS. Both are low-level software that starts when you boot your PC before booting your operating system, but UEFI is a more modern solution, supporting larger hard drives, faster boot times, more security features, and—conveniently—graphics and mouse cursors.

We’ve seen newer PCs that ship with UEFI still refer to it as the “BIOS” to avoid confusing people who are used to a traditional PC BIOS. Even if your PC uses the term “BIOS”, modern PCs you buy today almost certainly ship with UEFI firmware instead of a BIOS.

What Is a BIOS?

BIOS is short for Basic Input-Output system. It’s low-level software that resides in a chip on your computer’s motherboard. The BIOS loads when your computer starts up, and the BIOS is responsible for waking up your computer’s hardware components, ensures they’re functioning properly, and then runs the bootloader that boots Windows or whatever other operating system you have installed.

You can configure various settings in the BIOS setup screen. Settings like your computer’s hardware configuration, system time, and boot order are located here. You can access this screen by pressing a specific key—different on different computers, but often Esc, F2, F10, or Delete—while the computer boots. When you save a setting, it’s saved to the memory on your motherboard itself. When you boot your computer, the BIOS will configure your PC with the saved settings.

The BIOS goes through a POST, or Power-On Self Test, before booting your operating system. It checks to ensure your hardware configuration is valid and working properly. If something is wrong, you’ll see an error message or hear a cryptic series of beep codes. You’ll have to look up what different sequences of beeps mean in the computer’s manual.

When your computer boots—and after the POST finishes—the BIOS looks for a Master Boot Record, or MBR, stored on the boot device and uses it to launch the bootloader.

You may also see the acronym CMOS, which stands for Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor. This refers to the battery-backed memory where the BIOS stores various settings on the motherboard. It’s actually not accurate anymore, since this method has been replaced with flash memory (also referred to as EEPROM) in contemporary systems.

Why the BIOS Is Outdated

The BIOS has been around for a long time, and hasn’t evolved much. Even MS-DOS PCs released in the 1980s had a BIOS!

Of course, the BIOS has evolved and improved over time. Some extensions were developed, including ACPI, the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface. This allows the BIOS to more easily configure devices and perform advanced power management functions, like sleep. But the BIOS hasn’t advanced and improved nearly as much as other PC technology has since the days of MS-DOS.

The traditional BIOS still has serious limitations. It can only boot from drives of 2.1 TB or less. 3 TB drives are now common, and a computer with a BIOS can’t boot from them….

You can no longer download Netflix on rooted Android phones

Image: mashable / brittany herbert

If you’re an Android user with a rooted phone — there’s bad news for you.

Netflix may no longer work on your rooted or unlocked device, due to an update to the app. Netflix now fully relies on Google’s Widevine DRM, the company told Android Police. The change comes not long after Netflix enabled downloads for offline…

Microsoft’s Apps Problem Has Never Been More Dire

At Microsoft’s Build conference, the dorkiest of companies put on a big show, complete with fog machines and fancy lights, in order to show it’s a cool competitor to Apple and Google. The speakers who came on stage during keynotes had stylish hair. “Do they have dressers backstage?” an attendee asked a group of us when it was all over.

Build exists to get developers excited. The biggest devs blow upwards of $2000 for a three-day pass to the event, where they have unlimited drinks, plentiful meals, and access to Microsoft’s best and brightest. Part of Microsoft’s wooing process involves appearing “hip” to a group of developers who resemble the cast of Silicon Valley in all the worst ways. Hence the light show and Microsoft EVP Terry Myerson’s questionable hoodie and leather vest combo. It wants these devs so amped that they’ll rush back to their MacBook Airs and Surface Books to crank out brilliant software, hopefully for Microsoft’s Windows Store, which has just one third of the apps of much cooler stores from Google and Apple.

With the arrival of Windows 10 S, which can only use apps from the Windows Store, the app marketplace has never been more important than today. Yet time after time over the course of the event, Microsoft dropped the ball on its pitch to developers in favor of niche distractions.

Apple’s a monolith of money and users, and thanks to Android and Chrome OS, Google is right there with it. Both have OS platforms with heavily used app stores. They’ve built customer bases of hungry fans that enthusiastically embrace their hardware and software products, and consequently, developers want to build apps that work with Apple and Google platforms.

Microsoft, on the other hand, can’t seem to ditch the buttoned-up association it’s developed for making the work computer you don’t want to use. Its reputation is seemingly forever cemented by those old Mac vs PC commercials. Attempts to rewrite the script have been met with mixed success. On the hardware side, Microsoft has become a genuine player in the field of coveted kit. The Surface Pro and Studio are ambitious devices that are legitimately exciting. The Surface Laptop announced earlier this month is one of the most interesting products announced so far this year.

But Microsoft’s software landscape is still dorktown and one of the big ways Microsoft’s attempting to undorkify things is by leaning into the Windows Store. There’s a problem though. Microsoft’s app store in uncommonly small compared to the other guys. According to Microsoft, in 2015 there were just 669,000 apps available. (The company hasn’t officially updated that number since.) According to Statista Apple and Google both have more than three times that number of apps available in their stores.

The number of available apps alone doesn’t necessarily dictate the quality of someone’s computing experience, but…