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What’s new in Windows 10 Build 2004

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Enlarge / One upside of Windows 10 2004: You won’t find old install CDs all over the office two decades from now.

Ramzi Haidar/AFP via Getty Images

The Internet may have fun trying to guess the next natural feature of California or animal alliteration name for the other major operating systems, but Windows build naming conventions can be downright hard to parse. The latest officially released build was originally known as 20H1—meaning the first half of 2020. As it got closer to release status, it received its official build number: 2004, meaning April 2020. However, it didn’t actually hit release status for another month, on May 27.

Maybe that’s all indicative of what awaits users when they finally upgrade to Windows 10 2004; this is not Microsoft pumping out major changes like its debut of Windows 2000 roughly two decades ago. Still, a new Windows release is a new Windows release. So we recently spun up a fresh VM with a clean install of Build 2004 to take a look at its new features.

Edge, Installation size, Search, and Kaomoji

The very first thing we noticed after a fresh install of Build 2004 was Edge. To be specific, Legacy Edge. You’ll still need to go out of your way to install the new and improved Chromium-based Edge, which we’re going to keep calling “Edgium” until the legacy version finishes going away.

Using Windirstat to pull a directory treemap on the brand-new Windows 10 2004 installation, we see 14GiB used. It’s worth noting that this 14GiB is before either installing any applications, or—and this is important—hitting Windows Update.

Windows Update will still tend to bloat up the operating system pretty rapidly, and the SxS directory in particular still balloons with legacy versions of code that has been replaced in security upgrades. Unfortunately, you cannot remove any of that without damaging your OS. There are methods to reduce the size of SxS (pronounced Side by Side) somewhat, but they’re limited and kind of a pain in the butt. Even the optimized results still get inexorably larger over time.

Although there’s no Edgium, 2004’s Internet access did get modernized in one unexpected place—the Start menu. We’re not really big fans of searching the Internet directly from a Start menu—we prefer a little more logical separation between what’s local and what’s remote. If you’re into that, though, you can do things like type “weather” into the Start bar and get attractively formatted Internet results directly in the menu itself without ever opening a real browser.

Speaking of search, Microsoft says it noticed how commonly people were turning its Search Indexer service off, so the company took several steps to try to convince users to turn this back on. Microsoft’s search indexer now recognizes many new signals of high disk activity—or potential high disk activity—that trigger it to either slow down or entirely pause its disk activity:

  • Gaming mode is on
  • Power savings mode is on
  • Low power mode is on (constrained mode or connected standby)
  • The device is waking up after being in low power mode or in a log-on state
  • Device goes from AC > DC
  • CPU usage goes above 80 percent
  • Disk usage goes above 70 percent
  • The device’s battery charge is less than 50 percent
  • The device’s display state goes to screen off

Microsoft pretty aggressively polls its Windows Insiders running preview builds, and it says that the results of pop-up dialogs asking Insiders why they’d disabled Search Index showed significant improvement after the new signals were in place.

Beyond Internet and search, what else is new? Emoji and kaomoji. If you’ve been using the smileyface button in social media sites to get access to emoji from your Windows PC or laptop, you’re doing it wrong. Any standard graphical text interface on Windows—including Notepad—provides direct access to emoji by using the keyboard shortcut [Windows key] + [.].

The [Windows key] + [.] shortcut to bring up an emoji selection panel is pretty old news—it has been in Windows since Build 1803. And in Build 1903, the emoji panel added kaomoji support. Kaomoji are traditional, generally elaborate text-mode constructions such as the ¯_(ツ)_/¯ shruggie. Build 2004 adds significantly to the kaomoji section of the emoji panel, adding classics like ヾ(⌐■_■)ノ♪ and (∩^o^)⊃━☆ to its repertoire.

Listing image by Jim Salter

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Meta highlights NFT, blockchain hopes as it shutters its Novi crypto wallet

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Meta will shut down its pilot of the Novi digital wallet, one of the last remnants of the company’s beleaguered cryptocurrency push, in September, Bloomberg reported this week.

Novi users in parts of the US and Guatemala will no longer be able to log in starting on September 1.

And as of July 21, they won’t be able to add to the wallets. In fact, Novi’s website urges users to empty their accounts “as soon as possible.” Novi says it will “attempt to transfer your balance to the bank account or debit card you’ve added to Novi” if you still have money in your account after the pilot ends.

The pilot for Novia, originally known as Calibra, launched in October, but Meta was already turning from its crypto dreams, which, at their height, included the company’s own stablecoin, Diem, formerly known as Libra. Novia launched with Paxos Trust Co.’s USDP stablecoin instead. It also had some integration with WhatsApp.

But last year, the head of the project, David Marcus, departed Meta. And in January, we detailed the fall of Meta’s cryptocurrency aspirations, signaled by the company selling off its assets (mostly intellectual property) and refunding investors.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his crypto hopes in 2019, with dreams of using crypto for easy transactions in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. But despite big-name investments, US regulators’ concerns about distribution, network policing, and fears of overly concentrated economic power going to member companies derailed Meta’s plans. Ultimately, it became unclear if the Federal Reserve would let the project’s bank issue the stablecoin.

Although Novi will soon be dead, Meta insists that the cryptocurrency wallet’s technologies aren’t. Despite skepticism around non-fungible tokens—pertaining to their necessity, reputation, and value (the largest NFT marketplace, OpenSea, fell 85 percent in the first half of 2022, according to Financial Times)—Meta is leveraging Novi technology for other metaverse-y projects, including building Meta’s capabilities around blockchain and “digital collectibles,” a company representative told Bloomberg.

“You can expect to see more from us in the web3 space because we are very optimistic about the value these technologies can bring to people and businesses in the metaverse,” the representative reportedly said.

Meta is already testing NFTs on Instagram as a purported way for creators to make money. In late June, Zuckerberg said the company will bring that testing to Facebook “soon.”

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YouTube flags horror video as “for kids,” won’t let creator change rating

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Enlarge / YouTube thinks the dark and creepy “Local58TV” series is for kids.

Google’s wonderful content moderation bots are at it again. After previously doing things like including suicide instructions in a children’s video, and the whole Elsagate problem, YouTube is now flagging a horror video as “for kids.” Worst of all, this is against the creator’s wishes. The video was previously flagged as for ages 18 and up, and YouTube decided it was for kids and won’t let the creator restore its content rating.

The video in question is from horror series Local58TV. The creator, Kirs Straub, checked his account over the weekend to find that his not-for-kids content has been spotted by YouTube’s content moderation AI, and automatically marked for kids.

“For kids” in this context means Google has flagged the video for inclusion in the “YouTube Kids” app, which is a separate interface for YouTube that is supposed to only show a “safe” curated slice of YouTube. The “Kids” flag also means the video is forced to comply with US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), so comments are turned off.

Local58TV has millions of views across its nine videos and is famous enough to have a Wikipedia page. The channel’s about page describes itself as “ANALOG HORROR AT 476 MHz. Unsettling shorts in the found footage/VHS aesthetic from Kris Straub.” The channel’s most popular video, “Contingency,” is a faux public service announcement from the “US Department for the Preservation of American Dignity.” The message, set to an ultra-creepy rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, declares that America has lost the war and was forced to surrender. Before the occupiers arrive though, you can “take America with you” by murder/suiciding your family. The video continues with instructions. This is obviously not the type of channel that is for kids!

YouTube, this title does not mean what you think it means.
Enlarge / YouTube, this title does not mean what you think it means.

YouTube doesn’t get the Local58TV vibe though. It automatically flagged one episode, titled “Show For Children” as for children. You can see how an AI bot might get its wires crossed from that title, but it immediately says “Not for Children” in the description, and the creator, Straub, originally set the video’s age rating as “18+” when it was uploaded.

The episode is a black-and-white cartoon where a cute cartoon skeleton wanders around a graveyard looking for a cute cartoon girlfriend skeleton, only to find horrifying, more realistic skeletons and other creatures in the open graves. At the end of the video, seemingly from depression, the cute skeleton lays down in a grave and dies, turning into a realistic skeleton. The cartoon is something an AI bot might not understand, but a human could immediately tell the unsettling video is not kid-friendly. YouTube is certainly not hurting for money having done $28.8 billion in revenue last year, but it does not hire a significant number of human moderators.

YouTube not only flagged a video explicitly marked as “inappropriate for kids” as “made for kids” it also won’t let the creator change it back. The video’s content is now labeled “Made for kids (set by YouTube)” and Straub is forced to file an appeal with YouTube to get the video’s age rating corrected.

Even if you’re using robots for moderation, it doesn’t make a ton of sense for YouTube to be in this position. For every single video upload, YouTube asks if a video is kid-friendly or not. Since YouTube already has this data, it’s not clear why it would ever try to automatically categorize videos, especially by lowering an age rating that was explicitly set as “adults only.” For something as delicate and subjective as whether or not certain content should be viewed by a kid, it seems like Google should be erring on the side of caution.

🎵 One of these things is not like the others! One of these things, doesn't belong! 🎵
Enlarge / 🎵 One of these things is not like the others! One of these things, doesn’t belong! 🎵

At press time, Straub went public with the issue 20 hours ago and it hasn’t been resolved. The “Team YouTube” Twitter account said it was “looking into” the complaint nine hours ago. You can tell the video is still flagged for children due to the disabled comments section and the “Try YouTube Kids!” ad at the bottom. You also only get suggestions for other “kids” content, which, at a glance, does not appear to feature as much death as the usual Local58TV content.

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IDC: “All eyes will be on Apple” as Meta’s VR strategy “isn’t sustainable”

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Enlarge / The Oculus Quest 2.

A recent media release from market research firm IDC predicts that Meta (the parent company of Facebook) may not be able to compete in the mixed-reality business in the long run if its strategy remains unchanged.

The media release offers a bird’s-eye view of the virtual reality hardware marketplace. In the release, IDC research manager Jitesh Ubrani said that, while “Meta continues to pour dollars into developing the metaverse, [the company’s] strategy of promoting low-cost hardware at the expense of profitability isn’t sustainable in the long run.”

A similar concern was raised by tech industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo late last month. Kuo predicted that Meta would make moves to scale down investment in virtual reality, creating an opening for Apple and other competitors. He also wrote that Meta’s practice of selling VR headsets at a loss is unsustainable.

Currently, Meta owns 90 percent of the VR headset market, according to the IDC release. In distant second is ByteDance’s Pico, at just 4.5 percent. Overall, VR headset shipments jumped 241.6 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2022. But the industry faced significant supply issues in Q1 2021, contributing to “a favorable comparison” for this year’s Q1.

Like Kuo a couple of weeks ago, IDC research director Ramon Llamas said that “all eyes will be on Apple as it launches its first headset next year.” Apple’s headset is expected to be much more expensive than Meta’s offerings, driving up the average unit price for the product category across the board, and Llamas believes Apple’s offering “will appeal primarily to a small audience of early adopters and Apple fans.”

In other words, don’t expect the first Apple headset to ship vastly more units than Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 right out of the gate. It’s just a first step in a long-term plan to own the mixed-reality market. As several reports over the past couple of years have noted, that plan will ultimately involve low-cost AR glasses and other products that will seek to broaden the user base for mixed-reality hardware.

Apple and Meta are not the only companies working on mass-market mixed-reality hardware products. We reported in April that Amazon posted several job listings soliciting candidates who can help the company build an “advanced” AR/VR product. And in December, we learned from job listings that Google plans to build a new augmented-reality device and operating system.

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