ICYMI: March 9, 2016

ICYMI: March 9, 2016

Happy Wednesday. Five years ago today, the space shuttle Discovery made her final landing after 39 missions over 27 years of service. You can see the shuttle at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

And a handy reminder: astronaut Scott Kelly, who is newly earthside after a 340-day mission on the ISS, had the chance to try out the Microsoft Hololens and said of it:

"It worked great. I was really surprised. We messed around with it for, like, two hours, and immediately, I sensed — this is a capability we could use right now."

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The biggest story of yesterday and why you should care today:

That Microsoft released a whole lot of Windows 10 updates at once, some for Fast Ring folks, some for the Slow Ring. However, as our own Richard Hay reported, the one to pay attention to is PC Cumulative Update KB 3140768, because it fixes ten not-insignificant security issues:

Here is a quick snapshot of those fixes in KB3140768:

  • Improved support for Bluetooth, wearables, and apps accessing contacts.

  • Improved reliability in app installation and Narrator.

  • Improved performance for hibernation, content entry in apps, and downloading and installing updates.

  • Fixed issue that didn't allow login to an Xbox from a PC running Windows 10.

  • Fixed security issue created when attempting to play corrupted content.

  • Fixed security issue that could allow remote code execution while viewing a PDF in Microsoft Edge.

  • Fixed additional issues with .NET Framework, Internet Explorer 11, and networking.

  • Fixed additional security issues with Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer 11, USB storage driver, kernel mode drivers, .NET Framework, graphic fonts, OLE, secondary logon, PDF library, and Adobe Flash Player.

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The most useful tech news: Did you know you can use Apple's earbuds to fix the weird buzzing sounds you've been hearing every time you use your Xbox One with headphones?

And find out how your boss will be able to monitor your (company-issued) iPhone usage once you upgrade to iOS 9.3.

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The most amusing tech news:  Those of you who read Andy Weir's The Martian or watched the enormously successful film adaptation are familiar with one of astronaut Mark Watney's survival tactics: Turning a packet of vacuum-packed potatoes into a bumper crop of spuds using only Martian soil, some of his colleague's freeze-dried fecal matter and good, old fashioned ingenuity.

Scientists on Earth have since dedicated themselves to replicating the experiment, only without the element of poop. Researchers at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands used a simulacrum of Martian soil (provided by NASA), plus some grass clippings as much-needed organic matter, and successfully cultivated tomatoes, peas, radishes, leeks, quinoa, chives and spinach. (No potatoes as of yet.)

Before anyone starts getting excited about Martian crops as the next big thing in foodie circles, scientists caution that Martian soil contains a lot of lead, arsenic and mercury, and the plants would pick those heavy metals up as they grew. But it's nice to know that should anyone else get stranded on Mars, all they need is the bag of grass clippings that surely get included in every payload, and then they're good for growing their own vegetables.

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What we published yesterday: 

Windows 10 Updates Are Everywhere Today — The production build of Windows 10 for PCs is now sitting at Version 1511 (OS Build 10586.164) thanks to Cumulative Update KB3140768 which landed via Update Tuesday. On the Windows 10 Mobile side of things, the current public build, which is still technically pre-release software, is Build 10586.107 however, a new Slow and Preview Ring build was released  - 10586.164.

Bing Images Integrated into Microsoft Edge and Office — Previously you could highlight text on a webpage in Microsoft's new web browser and then right click that text to Ask Cortana about it and she would search for anything that might be available about it in Bing. That capability has now been extended to images on web pages 

Gallery: AfterShokz TREKZ Titanium Bone Conduction Headphones — These are fantastic headphones and the sound they produce is rich and full. As a safety device for runners and bikers who need to be extra vigilant, they are well worth a look.

Gallery: VR SHINECON Virtual Reality Headset — The VR SHINECON does a good job of delivering enough of a test bed to allow anyone to enjoy the technology’s first steps.

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