Consumer Reports: “Microsoft Surface Laptops and Tablets Not Recommended”

Consumer Reports is removing its “recommended” designation from four Microsoft laptops and cannot recommend any other Microsoft laptops or tablets because of poor predicted reliability in comparison with most other brands.

To judge reliability, Consumer Reports surveys its subscribers about the products they own and use. New studies conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center estimate that 25 percent of Microsoft laptops and tablets will present their owners with problems by the end of the second year of ownership.

The decision by Consumer Reports applies to Microsoft devices with detachable keyboards, such as the new Surface Pro released in June and the Surface Book, as well as the company’s Surface Laptops with conventional clamshell designs.


A number of survey respondents said they experienced problems with their devices during startup. A few commented that their machines froze or shut down unexpectedly, and several others told CR that the touch screens weren’t responsive enough.

The new studies of laptop and tablet reliability leverage data on 90,741 tablets and laptops that subscribers bought new between 2014 and the beginning of 2017. Predicted reliability is a projection of how new models from each brand will fare, based on data from models already in users’ hands.

Take anything that comes out of Consumer Reports labs with a grain of salt, but this is an interesting report to read over.


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JavaScript for People Who Hate JavaScript

Zach Holman:

I have a long history with JavaScript, dating back to the glory days of the most perfect technology ever to have graced computers: DHTML.

DHTML was totally rad, like how the Budweiser frogs were rad. In the late 90’s you really couldn’t do much of anything on the web except add 88×31 buttons and build with 1×1.gif spacer tricks. But then Dynamic HTML came out in IE4 and a whole world of hover animations, mouse pointer effects, and pretty much nothing else were possible. It was really cool.

Then I did a bunch of other JavaScript from time to time. Everything was pretty terrible until jQuery and Mootools and a slew of other frameworks finally came out in the mid-2000s. That make things almost tolerable for awhile.

Then I started working at GitHub, and my JavaScript experience basically degraded to slinging together some horrific string concatenation and then pushing a pull request, making sure to CC the @github/js team so they would fix everything for me.

Suffice to say, I’ve hated JavaScript for quite some time. But now I’m building a hip new calendar called During, it made a lot of sense to get back into this crappy frontend junk, since a calendar is one of them client-side-heavy apps your parents warned you about growing up.

You know what’s fucked up? I’m kind of loving JavaScript now. I think 2017 is finally the year of “JavaScript on the Desktop”, where “DESKTOP” is an acronym for Developers Enjoy javascript now even though they thought it Sucked compared To Other Programming languages before. (I’m really shit at abbreviations, sorry.)


Anyway, I’m pretty excited about all this stuff, which is a fun feeling. Hasn’t really been since Rails 0.10 since I’ve been this jazzed up about specific tools in programming. And that’s really cool. Being a novice again — even if it’s for a language I first tried, in some form, almost two decades ago — is a really eye-opening, frustrating, and exciting experience. A+ would learn JavaScript again in 2037.

I’ve been using JavaScript since 1998, I can relate to what Zach’s saying here.

I never left JavaScript though and continued using it throughout the years on both server and client side, especially use it heavily with Flybase, but with React and other technologies out now, it’s gotten to be so much more powerful.

When it comes to JavaScript, this is an exciting year for it.


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David Letterman makes his return to television on Netflix

David Letterman, the longest-serving host in U.S. late night television – the original host of Late Night (NBC) and The Late Show (CBS) – is returning to television for a new series for Netflix.

The yet-to-be-named, six-episode series has Letterman combining two interests for which he is renowned: in-depth conversations with extraordinary people, and in-the-field segments expressing his curiosity and humor. In each hour-long episode, Letterman will conduct a long-form conversation with a singular guest – and will also explore topics on his own, away from the studio. The series is set to premiere in 2018.

Said Letterman, “I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix. Here’s what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely.”

“Just meeting David Letterman was a thrill; imagine how exciting it is for me to announce that we will be working together,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix. “David Letterman is a true television icon, and I can’t wait to see him out in the wild, out from behind the desk and interviewing the people he finds most interesting. We’ll have to see if he keeps the beard.”

The project is being produced by RadicalMedia, the Academy Award® and Emmy-winning company behind Netflix’s What Happened, Miss Simone?, Oh Hello on Broadway and Abstract: The Art of Design, and Letterman’s Worldwide Pants.

In 33 years on late-night television, David Letterman hosted 6,028 episodes of Late Night (NBC) and The Late Show (CBS), and is the longest-running late-night broadcaster in American history.

As a writer, performer and producer, Letterman is one of the most-nominated individuals in Emmy Award history, with 52 nominations, resulting in 10 wins. Letterman is also a two-time Peabody-Award winner, a Kennedy Center Honoree, and will receive the Mark Twain Prize in October.

From his roots in comedy, Letterman also became renowned as an interviewer, sharing the stage with U.S. presidents, cabinet officials, Medal of Honor recipients, and virtually every presidential candidate for more than 20 years. Through his guest interviews, Letterman also brought to light important global issues such as world hunger and climate change.


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What’s Wrong with Touch Bar?

Josh Centers:

Last October, when Apple unveiled the redesigned MacBook Pro, I wanted one immediately (see “New MacBook Pros Add Context-sensitive Touch Bar,” 27 October 2016). Practically speaking, I needed a second Mac, and a portable one at that. But I was mostly lured in by the Touch Bar, both for its novelty factor, and because, as a technology writer, I like to have experience with each unique Apple device to inform our articles.

Alas, closing in on a year later, I’ve found that I don’t use the Touch Bar much. I was forced to confront this unhappy fact when Adam suggested that I write an article about interesting uses of the Touch Bar. After some research, we agreed that there wasn’t enough there to warrant an article. Although there was a flurry of fascinating developer projects after launch, nothing significant ever shipped.

I’m not saying the Touch Bar is useless, because that isn’t true. At least in theory, it’s more capable and more flexible than a row of physical keys. And Touch ID is fantastic for logging into my MacBook Pro and authenticating 1Password. But if you were to ask me today if you should spend the $300–$400 extra on a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, I would say no for two reasons:

  • Per Apple’s own Human Interface Guidelines, no functionality should be exclusive to the Touch Bar. That makes sense because Touch Bar-equipped Macs are a small minority, but the flip side is that the Touch Bar provides no additional functionality apart from Touch ID. That wouldn’t be terrible if using the Touch Bar was faster than using other interface elements, but it’s not, because of the second problem.

  • The Touch Bar offers no tactile feedback, and it’s impossible to use it without looking, as you can do with the function keys. On my iMac, my keyboard of choice is the Apple Wireless Keyboard. If I need to adjust volume or pause audio playback, I just tap the appropriate key, generally without looking. On my MacBook Pro, I have to take my eyes off the screen to find the right button on the Touch Bar, and then in the case of volume (as of macOS 10.13 High Sierra), adjust the slider accordingly.

Those two factors alone make the Touch Bar largely pointless. Here’s a simple example: in Microsoft Word, the Touch Bar offers shortcuts to items in the toolbar. Let’s say you want to bold some selected text. On a Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro, you have three main (there are others, but they’re even slower) ways to do this:

  • Press Command-B on the keyboard, which lets you keep your hands on the keyboard and eyes on the screen.

  • Click the Bold button in Word’s toolbar, which takes your hands off the keyboard but keeps your eyes on the screen.

  • Tap the Bold button on the Touch Bar, which takes your eyes off the screen and your hands off the keyboard.

In most cases, the Touch Bar is the slowest way to perform an action! It’s a cool-looking racing stripe that slows you down in many cases, and even worse, eliminates useful physical keys that you probably reach for reflexively, like Esc.

That’s not all. The screen is too small to be useful in some cases. For instance, you can use the Touch Bar to switch tabs in Safari, which looks cool, but you can barely make out what’s in each tab.


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The iPad Pro: 10.5 vs. 12.9

David Sparks:

I’ve spent a lot of time now with both the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros. I’m hearing from a lot of listeners and readers who want some help choosing which iPad to buy. I have a few thoughts about that.

The Good News: They Are Both Great iPads

The first point to acknowledge is that Apple has largely leveled the playing field. A new 10.5-inch iPad and 12.9-inch iPad have the same internals. They have the same screen technology, processors, quick-charging capabilities, camera, RAM, and all the other internal bits. In the past, choosing one size over another usually came with compromises. One had a better screen than the other. One had a better camera than the other. That is no longer the case. Now you just get to pick which screen size is most appropriate for you, and you are going to have a great iPad.


The conventional wisdom is that if you want to replace a laptop, you get a 12.9-inch iPad, and if you are keeping a laptop, get the 10.5-inch iPad. I think that is too simplistic. You could replace a laptop with a 10.5-inch iPad. Likewise, I use my 12.9-inch iPad alongside my laptop all the time.

I think for most folks the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the starting place. It is big enough without being too big. The fact that the slightly larger screen now makes it even easier to type on than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will make the 10.5-inch iPad Pro the most popular choice by far.

I think the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the one you would choose for particular reasons. Maybe you do a lot of multitasking and getting two full-size iPad apps on the screen is important. Or maybe you just have less than perfect vision and need things a little bigger. Either way, if you plan to use the iPad on the go, the bigger one can be a pain, and you need a tangible reason to justify putting up with that.

For me, if my vision were better, I would be tempted to work with the 10.5-inch iPad exclusively. However, I do a lot of work on my iPad and being able to pull out the bigger one for certain tasks sure is nice. I won’t be upgrading my 12.9-inch iPad to the latest iteration, but I won’t be getting rid of my first generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro either.


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500 Startups shuts down its Canada fund

Katie Roof and Jon Russell, writing for TechCrunch:

Following sexual harassment allegations that led to the resignation of 500 Startups co-founder Dave McClure, it’s now emerged that the troubled VC firm has abandoned its Canada fund.

According to reports in The Globe and Mail and BetaKit, the saga made it difficult to move forward with the next phase of 500 Canada, where it had a profit-sharing relationship. The firm was in the process of raising a $30 million fund, having already closed an initial $15 million commitment, but it is reported to have received pushback from LPs who were concerned that McClure would still be involved.


500 Startups provided us with the following statement:

“We remain bullish on Canada’s startup ecosystem and deal flow. It’s why we invested in Canada before the 500 Canada fund, and why we will continue to do so going forward. Though this partnership didn’t work out, we are thankful to the LPs who supported the fund, and we look forward to continuing to support our 60+ investments in Canada and investing in more Canadian companies.”


McClure’s image is closely tied to 500 Startups, so it is easy to imagine that his tarnished reputation will have a knock-on effect among the firm’s portfolio, LPs and prospective partners. Meanwhile, 500 Startups continues to tout its diversity stats, which are better than the industry average — 67 percent of the managing partners and 44 percent of the wider 500 Startups team are women, according to its website. 

500 Startups has a large international presence, investing through localized funds located across Asia, Europe and Latin America. Collectively, it has raised over $500 million for its funds since 2010. Despite that, there have been examples of planned funds that failed to raise necessary capital, most recently in India earlier this year.


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Apple removes VPN Apps from China App Store

ExpressVPN blog:

We received notification from Apple today, July 29, 2017, at roughly 04:00 GMT, that the ExpressVPN iOS app was removed from the China App Store. Our preliminary research indicates that all major VPN apps for iOS have been removed.

Users in China accessing a different territory’s App Store (i.e. they have indicated their billing address to be outside of China) are not impacted; they can download the iOS app and continue to receive updates as before.


We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.


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Speedy Chicken Tikka Masala

Speedy Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular Indian dishes out there, and I love it, but I wanted to make a simpler version that was both speedy, healthy and tasty.

This dish is great when served over rice.

what you need:

  • 4 teaspoons garam masala
  • half teaspoon salt
  • quarter teaspoon turmeric
  • half cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced Onions
  • 4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, undrained
  • one third cup whipping cream
  • half cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

How to make it

  1. Stir together garam masala, salt and turmeric in a small dish.
  2. Place flour in a shallow dish.
  3. Sprinkle chicken with half a teaspoon of the spice mixture and dredge in the flour.
  4. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Cook the chicken until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  6. Transfer to a plate.
  7. Heat the remaining oil in the pan over medium-low heat.
  8. Add garlic, onion and ginger and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown at about 5 to 7 minutes.
  9. Add the remaining spice mix and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  10. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of flour and stir until coated.
  11. Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
  12. Cook, stirring often, until thickened and the onion is tender, should take about 3 to 5 minutes.
  13. Stir in cream.
  14. Add the chicken to the pan.
  15. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked through, around 3 to 4 minutes.
  16. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
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