The Windows 11 2022 Update Is Now Available

Windows 11 was released last year, and now Microsoft has rolled out the first reasonably respectable update to the desktop operating system. The upgrades are helpful but relatively small compared to some of the big operating system changes Microsoft has made in the past. It seems Microsoft didn’t feel like improving all that much, considering Chief Product Officer Panos Panay called Windows 11 “the most used and popular version of Windows ever” in this week’s announcement.

Microsoft has highlighted new accessibility and security improvements for the desktop operating system. New accessibility improvements highlight live captions and add more “natural” sounding automated text-to-speech narrators. A new Focus mode works like a Do Not Disturb feature on your smartphone, blocking all on-screen notifications for a set amount of time.

On the security side, Microsoft says it will soon add identity theft alerts to Windows Defender (if you subscribe to the Microsoft 365 Office suite). Microsoft Defender SmartScreen notifies you when you enter credentials on a website that is known to be malicious or has suffered a data breach.

There are also some layout and usability changes like improved window alignment that lets you align individual browser tabs to different parts of the screen. (Hooray, room for more browser tabs.) There are also some new updates for photos. Some focus on creating more pleasing visual arrangements, and others find new ways to display old photos of memorable events, even if sometimes you don’t want the memory.

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Microsoft has also played up its environmental efforts, saying it can now schedule power-hungry system updates at a specific time of day in specific locations so they put less strain on electrical systems. The sleep and screen off settings have also been tweaked to use a little less power.

Here’s more news from the world of consumer technology.

A more hackable Chromebook

Framework, a company that designs gadgets with repairability in mind, is launching a new laptop. It’s a Chromebook – the result of an official partnership with Google – designed to be extremely customizable. Like Framework’s more traditional laptop PCs, the Chromebook has four connector slots that can be customized with a combination of ports. There are options for USB-C ports, HDMI ports, Micro SD slots, and even 1 terabyte storage options. The pluggable parts are hot-swappable, which means you can swap out your ports or memory on the fly if you need a different connector. (Don’t worry, there’s a headphone jack built in.)

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And since Framework places great emphasis on repairability, the Chromebook is also built to be disassembled. It comes with a screwdriver that can be used to disassemble just about any part of the machine, and you can swap out internal parts or even the keyboard and screen bezel. For those who are privacy conscious, it has a physical switch that instantly turns off the microphone and camera.

The Framework Chromebook is available for pre-order now, starting at $999. The company says it will begin shipping in early December.

Google’s cheaper Chromecast

Google’s plug-n-watch Chromecast is a handy little puck that you can stick in the side of a TV to stream movies and shows from all sorts of services. Google now has a new Chromecast, and for just $30 it’s a simple, affordable option for running streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max on just about any screen or monitor.

It’s definitely a budget option. The resolution of the $30 dongle is 1080p; It doesn’t support 4K like Google’s $50 Chromecast, which is still available. Both come with a remote that accepts input from both your hands and voice, and both work with Google’s Stadia cloud gaming platform.

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Amazon reignites the fire

Amazon recently updated its cheapest Kindle and is now sprucing up its Fire HD tablets. Sure, these cheap Android tablets aren’t iPads. You can’t even run the full range of Android apps. But if you or your kids have used and liked Fire HD tablets, or if your household gets most of its content from Amazon, this is a neat upgrade.

According to Amazon, the two new Fire HD 8 tablet models will receive a supposed speed boost of 30 percent. Both have a claimed battery life of 13 hours. The base model starts at $100 and comes with 32 or 64GB of storage. Of course there is also a plus version. The new Fire HD Plus gets an extra gigabyte of RAM (3GB) and costs $120. Both tablets can accept microSD cards up to 1TB if you want more storage.

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