Microsoft wants Windows 10 on as many PCs as possible, so it's no longer waiting for people to request a free upgrade. In the coming months, some older machines will start the upgrade process automatically.
That's a change from the way Microsoft delivered Windows 10 after its release this summer. Initially, owners of PCs running Windows 7 or 8 had to make a request, then wait to be notified when it was available for downloading.
Now the company says it's offering Windows 10 to all eligible users through the Windows Update service, which notifies PC owners when various software upgrades are available. By early next year, Microsoft will recategorize the upgrade from "optional'' to "recommended.'' That means the process will start automatically if users have Windows Update set to download all recommended updates.
Many PC owners use that setting to make sure they don't miss vital security fixes or essential upgrades. Some might question whether Windows 10 is essential, though Microsoft says it contains important security features and other improvements. The company also wants to increase demand for Windows 10-related apps and services.
PC owners can decline the upgrade, even if it's downloaded automatically. In a blog post, Microsoft executive Terry Myerson said users will get a prompt asking whether they want to complete the change. He also said the program will save a copy of each user's old operating system and settings for 31 days, so people can switch back.
Private Web surfing
Surfing the Internet just got a little more private.
Firefox's private-browsing mode now includes tracking protection, which limits the data that websites can collect while you're browsing them.
Now, if you're shopping for shoes and put a pair in your online shopping bag, but never complete the transaction, you might see an ad for those shoes pop up elsewhere later. Tracking protection will prevent the shoe website from collecting the data needed to produce that ad, said Nick Nguyen, a vice president at Mozilla, which makes Firefox.
"If you go to a store and buy a pair of shoes, they don't know your name or anything about you,'' Nguyen said. "But online, you click a link and you don't know you're being tracked until after you're tracked.''
When it's in private browsing mode, Firefox will now block third-party trackers from being loaded at all, making the user invisible to most forms of tracking technology, he said.
The feature can be turned off if users desire.
"It's not a perfect solution,'' Nguyen said. "But it's much better than having nothing, and we'll continue to evolve it.''
New VR camera
Recording live-action scenes for virtual-reality devices has been limited by the fact that cameras are stuck in one position and headset wearers can't lean their heads over to get a different view.
That'll change with a new camera called Immerge from startup Lytro. The spherical head unit includes hundreds of tiny cameras that measure light coming in from every direction, a technique known as light field photography.
The camera will allow viewers to do such things as lean to their left or right within about a cubic meter of space (1.3 cubic yards) to look around real-life objects rendered in the virtual world.
Renting the camera will run in the low thousands of dollars each day. The fee includes servers to hold several terabytes of footage. Each set, about the size of a cabinet, is good for one hour of shooting. Servers can be swapped out while shooting.
CEO Jason Rosenthal says the resolution of the camera is close to four times better than the 4K standard known as Ultra HD and will also render images in 3-D. The current practice of using software to stitch together footage shot from multiple cameras isn't needed, he says.