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Future Windows updates will take longer to install, but it’ll feel quicker

Enlarge (credit: William Warby / Flickr)

One of the less appealing aspects of the twice-yearly Windows 10 feature updates is that they're slow to install and, for most of the installation process, your PC is out of commission, doing nothing more than displaying a progress indicator.

Thanks to a new upgrade process, the next update—expected to be released in April—should result in substantially less downtime. The install process is split into two portions: the "online" portion, during which your PC is still usable, and the "offline" portion after the reboot, during which your PC is a spinning percentage counter.

Microsoft estimates that the Creators Update, released almost a year ago, would take about 82 minutes on average during the offline phase. Improvements made in the Fall Creators Update cut that to about 51 minutes, and the next update (which still hasn't actually been blessed with an official name) will cut this further still, to just 30 minutes.

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The US Galaxy S8 finally gets Android 8.0 Oreo, only 6 months after launch

Enlarge / The Samsung Galaxy S8+. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

While Samsung's newest flagship, the Galaxy S9, is just hitting the market, last year's flagship, the Galaxy S8, is getting some love, too. Samsung and its US carrier partners are finally upgrading the Galaxy S8 to Android 8.0 Oreo, a version of the OS that came out six months ago.

Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint are all pushing out the update now, with no word yet on updates for the AT&T or unlocked US version.

Most of Google's engineering efforts on Android 8.0 came in the form of Project Treble, a massive overhaul of the underlying Android bits to modularize the OS away from the hardware, which should lead to easier updates. Due to the complexity of this change, the update is mostly meant for new devices that were built with Oreo in mind, and it's not coming to most upgrading phones. The rest of the changes are nice-to-have things like a revamped notification hierarchy and a lockdown on background processing.

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DirectX Raytracing is the first step toward a graphics revolution

Enlarge / This image from EA’s SEED group shows off realistic shadows, reflections, and highlights using DXR. (credit: Project PICA PICA from SEED, Electronic Arts)

At GDC, Microsoft announced a new feature for DirectX 12: DirectX Raytracing (DXR). The new API offers hardware-accelerated raytracing to DirectX applications, ushering in a new era of games with more realistic lighting, shadows, and materials. One day, this technology could enable the kinds of photorealistic imagery that we've become accustomed to in Hollywood blockbusters.

Whatever GPU you have, whether it be Nvidia's monstrous $3,000 Titan V or the little integrated thing in your $35 Raspberry Pi, the basic principles are the same; indeed, while many aspects of GPUs have changed since 3D accelerators first emerged in the 1990s, they've all been based on a common principle: rasterization.

Here’s how things are done today

A 3D scene is made up of several elements: there are the 3D models, built from triangles with textures applied to each triangle; there are lights, illuminating the objects; and there's a viewport or camera, looking at the scene from a particular position. Essentially, in rasterization, the camera represents a raster pixel grid (hence, rasterization). For each triangle in the scene, the rasterization engine determines if the triangle overlaps each pixel. If it does, that triangle's color is applied to the pixel. The rasterization engine works from the furthermost triangles and moves closer to the camera, so if one triangle obscures another, the pixel will be colored first by the back triangle, then by the one in front of it.

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Low-power microLED display tech could power future Apple Watches

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Apple is reportedly taking a big step into making its own displays, and it isn't using the technology you may be most familiar with. According to a Bloomberg report, a secret facility in California close to Apple Park houses engineers developing microLED displays for Apple mobile devices. While Apple has been making its own chips for its mobile devices for a few years, this would be the first time the company has attempted build its own displays.

MicroLED technology is still in its infancy, particularly in its application in consumer electronics. We last saw microLEDs show up in Samsung's gigantic, 146-inch TV dubbed "The Wall," which it debuted at CES in January. Making microLED displays is no easy task since the panels are made up of individual pixels that need to be individually calibrated. Each pixel is self-emitting as well, meaning microLED displays do not require individual backlights. But, microLEDs produce displays that are incredibly bright, with deep blacks and high contrast ratios, and that are slimmer and don't require as much power as their LCD counterparts.

Due to the complexity of microLED display development and application, Apple is reportedly still in the experimental phases when it comes to these panels. The company reportedly has about 300 engineers working on the initiative, reportedly code-named "T159n" which is being overseen by Lynn Youngs, who helped develop touchscreen display technology for the original iPhone and iPad. Apple also gleaned some intellectual property about microLED development when it acquired the screen-tech startup LuxVue back in 2014.

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Apple’s App Store mysteriously went dark in Iran yesterday

Enlarge / Tehran, the capital city of Iran. (credit: A.Davey via Creative Commons)

Yesterday, users in Iran lost access to Apple's App Store. When users attempted to connect or download apps, they received a message saying that the App Store was "unavailable in the country or region" in which they resided. The cessation of services began around noon GMT yesterday, and services resumed around 5:00am GMT this morning, according to social media posts and sources who spoke with Bleeping Computer. A virtual private network (VPN) could still reach the App Store normally.

Media coverage and social media posts were quick to speculate that the store's downtime was an Apple-imposed ban driven by US economic sanctions against Iran, as Apple is based in the US. However, we are not yet aware of evidence to support this. An accidental outage is also possible, as is a block imposed by Iran's government—Iran has previously blocked the Google Play store, though that block was later lifted. Apple has not responded to our requests for clarification.

Because of US sanctions, Apple has no formal presence or operation in Iran, and its App Store is not officially supported there. The company does not sell phones there, nor does it work with any vendors that do. It nevertheless had an 11-percent market share in the country as of last year, as Iranians have purchased millions of iPhones smuggled in from other countries. Iranian app developers have published apps to the App Store for use by Iranian iPhone owners.

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