Browsing articles from "July, 2015"

‘Rogue Nation’ Fulfills The Mission Of A Reliable Blockbuster Series

Jul 31, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on ‘Rogue Nation’ Fulfills The Mission Of A Reliable Blockbuster Series

A spry 52 when the film was shot, Tom Cruise — still his own stuntman — careens a motorcycle, sans helmet, around a winding Moroccan highway at suicide-miles-per-hour.i

A spry 52 when the film was shot, Tom Cruise — still his own stuntman — careens a motorcycle, sans helmet, around a winding Moroccan highway at suicide-miles-per-hour.

Bo Bridges/Paramount Pictures


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A spry 52 when the film was shot, Tom Cruise — still his own stuntman — careens a motorcycle, sans helmet, around a winding Moroccan highway at suicide-miles-per-hour.

A spry 52 when the film was shot, Tom Cruise — still his own stuntman — careens a motorcycle, sans helmet, around a winding Moroccan highway at suicide-miles-per-hour.

Bo Bridges/Paramount Pictures

The most mercilessly thrilling action sequence of 2015 is still the entirety of Mad Max: Fury Road. But a credible challenger has at last arrived in the perilously punctuated Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, a super-fun sequel that spends its best 15 minutes at the Vienna State Opera.

In this masterful set piece, various constituencies of spy and counterspy angle to assassinate or protect the Chancellor of Austria, who’s watching Puccini’s Turandot from a balcony box — oblivious, like the rest of the audience, to the sweaty melee playing out literally in the wings. Ethan Hunt, the colorless, odorless, highly acrobatic secret agent embodied by Tom Cruise, fights a side of Slavic beef 150 percent his own size. Elsewhere, a new-to-the-series spy of murky loyalties, played by the ravishing Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, waits for a specified note in the score to fire her rifle. Onstage, a Chinese prince tries to solve three riddles to win the hand of Princess Turandot. The price of a wrong answer in Puccini’s opera is his life.

Clipped out of the almost-as-good 131-minute feature surrounding it, this sequence would work beautifully as a short film. It’s a sterling example of the elegance, wit and harrowing flesh-and-blood stunt work that have made the “Missions: Impossible” the most reliable blockbuster series going: Five films, some weirder than others, but not a stinker in the bunch.

The only thing that (slightly) disappoints about the otherwise copacetic new Rogue Nation is that unlike every prior Mission, it’s not a big stylistic departure from its predecessor, 2011’s Brad Bird-directed, best-seen-in-IMAX Ghost Protocol. Every entry has come from a different auteur director, and Cruise-the-producer has allowed each one to leave their stamp on the malleable franchise. This time, it’s Christopher McQuarrie, a veteran screenwriter and relatively green director who previously teamed with Cruise on Jack Reacher and Edge of Tomorrow.

Like those two overlooked gems, Rogue Nation is exciting, stylish and funny. It’s also 10 minutes too long, an overage I suspect McQuarrie would’ve corrected had the film’s original release date not been moved up by five months.

There are a few factors contributing to the déjà vu: 1) Rogue Nation’s retains more of the previous film’s players than is customary. Hunt allies Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner both get major screen time, and Ving Rhames, the only actor besides Cruise to show up in every movie, has an expanded role. 2) Robert Elswit, the Oscar-winning cinematographer who provided Ghost Protocol‘s desert gloss, is back, giving this follow-up a similarly airy look. 3) Cruise has the same haircut for two consecutive movies. 4) The plot involves Hunt going, you know, rogue and being, um, hunted by his own government — for the fourth time in five films!

But what Rogue Nation lacks in novelty, it more than makes up for with verve. A spry 52 when the film was shot, Cruise — still his own stuntman — clings to the fuselage of an Airbus A400 cargo plane flying thousands of feet off the ground, swims underwater for several minutes without a breath, careens a motorcycle, sans helmet, around a winding Moroccan highway at suicide-miles-per-hour, and uses his oft-demonstrated if little-remarked spider-strength to shimmy up a pole to which he’s handcuffed, using only his hips and his abs. Are you not entertained?

Woven in among the capers is an espionage story that recalls the first film, the Brian De Palma-directed Mission: Impossible of a generation ago by being more opaque than is strictly necessary. I’m sure I’ll sort it out on a second or third viewing. All that matters is that Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust (great name, that) is a marvelous addition; a smooth, alluring operator who is Hunt’s equal in every way. Her signature move when clobbering taller, male opponents is to leap onto their shoulders and wrestle them to the ground with her legs. It never gets old. And unlike the heroine of the year’s biggest hit, Jurassic World, she’s sensible enough to take off her heels before rappelling down the side of a building. There’s only a flicker of attraction between her and Hunt.

There’s some other inspired casting. Sean Harris, who plays the leader of a ring of presumed-dead covert agents now using their skills to sow strategic unrest, looks like a lab-grown hybrid of good guys Cruise and Pegg. And Alec Baldwin brings his welcome comic pomposity as a C.I.A. official who convinces a Senate panel to shutter and defund the Impossible Mission Force, making Hunt a fugitive.

Trying to sum up the danger of allowing Hunt to roam free, Baldwin is reduced to poetic abstraction. He reels off all the usual superspy credentials before concluding, “Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny.”

It’s an absurd line, and the movie could’ve used a few more of those. (McQuarrie gave Cruise better jokes in Jack Reacher). But you won’t remember it. Because even without the Turandot sequence Rogue Nation still has at least three other stand-up-and-cheer set pieces, executed with a rigor and clarity the crude Fast Furious series can’t touch. Everyone knows action speaks louder than words.

What Selfies Tell Us About Ourselves And How Others See Us

Jul 31, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on What Selfies Tell Us About Ourselves And How Others See Us

Ramona Martinez is under no illusion that this selfie is a work of art.

Ramona Martinez is under no illusion that this selfie is a work of art.

Ramona Martinez/NPR


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Ramona Martinez/NPR

Ramona Martinez is a production assistant at NPR who worked on an All Things Considered story earlier this week about the culture and meaning of selfies. Here, she offers a selfie postscript that further parses philosophical issues not covered in the piece.

We can probably all agree that smartphones are now an inseparable part of ourselves (if you can afford one, that is), and so is the Internet. Whether that’s a good thing is still undergoing intense philosophical scrutiny.

What is not up for debate is that a lot of our socializing occurs online, and as we interact with others, we leave behind a curated “digiself” — the links you post on Facebook, the comments, the selfies. This concept is even more clearly demonstrated on platforms like Tumblr — a way to socialize and digitally scrapbook whatever interests you.

Millennials do not use social media just because it’s addicting — it’s practically a career requisite. Many organizations want to know that you are “social media savvy” — and many companies expect you to have an online presence (or personal brand). Public relations, publishing houses, journalists, even small business — it’s pretty much in every young person’s favor to be online.

To selfie, or not to selfie?

Crowd of diverse people

Texting.

Both the interviewees for the piece (tech writer Sarah Purewal and digital artist Molly Soda) use selfies in this utilitarian way: Sarah’s readers expect her to be well-versed in all forms of social media and therefore trying out selfie apps. And, as a self-employed artist, it’s natural that Molly would want attention, lest she go the route of the lonely Van Gogh.

But the utilitarian justification for the selfie is not our focus — nor was it the focus of the piece. We hear a lot about why the selfie amplifies our deep-seated vanity. Given that, I asked Molly and Sarah, and many other women: What is the value of the selfie?

Although not every selfie is art, the selfie is tangential to the traditional self-portrait. Although this is self-evident, Molly pointed out that perhaps the ease of the technology makes some people consider selfies worthless. (For more on this, see the Dada movement — artists who used everyday objects, and who believed that almost anything could be art. Also see Cindy Sherman for more on self-portraiture.)

The selfie is a way to quickly relate: Where you are, how you are feeling, perhaps what is happening?

The selfie is a way for you to have control over how others see you, and to be seen. People can become famous through Instagram without actually being famous, and that is democratizing even if ethically weird.

In an age where a private picture sent to an ex-boyfriend can ruin your career, the naked selfie is a way for women to take back control from those who wish to shame them for being sexual. Instead of thinking, “Please God, don’t let him put that online,” these women instead say: “Now you have nothing to hold over my head, and furthermore I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

The selfie is a way to challenge unfair beauty standards. For example, young women all over the world are no longer shaving their body hair, rejecting a patriarchal beauty standard. When a celebrity or instafamous girl posts a picture of her hairy pits or her makeup-free face — that’s a big deal. Populating the Internet with images of girls as they truly are (not how a male-dominated society expects them to be) is a politically subversive form of resistance.

Yes, but what about the edited selfie? That is trickier.

Neither Molly nor Sarah thought there was anything wrong with editing your selfies, and I don’t either. I would never tell a woman that how she chooses to represent herself is wrong (there are enough people doing that already!). There are women who participate in mainstream standards of beauty, women who completely reject them, and women who take a middle path (Molly obviously loves makeup and also has visible armpit hair).

Regardless of which path they choose, people should not be shamed for merely participating in social media, our new arena for camaraderie and political resistance. Even if you personally don’t post selfies, everyone wants to leave this earth having been noticed or remembered, and we try to ensure that in our own way. If that is the mark of narcissism, then we are all narcissists (although I think the correct word is human).

The Most Popular High School Plays and Musicals

Jul 30, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on The Most Popular High School Plays and Musicals

Cast members of Notre Dame Academy's Godspell perform during the fifth annual Minty Awards for high school theater at the St. George Theatre on Staten Island, N.Y.i

Cast members of Notre Dame Academy’s Godspell perform during the fifth annual Minty Awards for high school theater at the St. George Theatre on Staten Island, N.Y.

Kathryn Carse/Landov


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Cast members of Notre Dame Academy's Godspell perform during the fifth annual Minty Awards for high school theater at the St. George Theatre on Staten Island, N.Y.

Cast members of Notre Dame Academy’s Godspell perform during the fifth annual Minty Awards for high school theater at the St. George Theatre on Staten Island, N.Y.

Kathryn Carse/Landov

True, I never basked in the glow of the high school stage. But I have fond memories of working behind the scenes, as stage crew. Dressed in black, I rushed the bed onstage for Tevye’s dream sequence in Fiddler on the Roof.

I’ve also spoken with many people who weren’t involved in theater at all but can still — for some reason — remember the shows their schools performed.

There’s just something about the high school stage.

Recently, my mom told me that she and her best friend, Chris, had been reminiscing about McDowell High School’s performance of South Pacific in 1965. She wasn’t in the show but can still name friends and classmates who were.

All of this got me wondering: “Were other high schools performing the same shows that year?”

As it turns out, the answer is in Dramatics — a monthly magazine for theater students and teachers. It’s been publishing an annual ranking of the most popular high school plays and musicals since 1938.

Until now, no one has ever compiled the data. It wasn’t even digitized. Six months ago, Don Corathers, the magazine’s editor, began digging through the archives for hard copies of each original issue — nearly 100 pages in all.

The NPR Ed team analyzed more than 100 pages of data from old issues of Dramatics magazine.i

The NPR Ed team analyzed more than 100 pages of data from old issues of Dramatics magazine.

LA Johnson/NPR


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The NPR Ed team analyzed more than 100 pages of data from old issues of Dramatics magazine.

The NPR Ed team analyzed more than 100 pages of data from old issues of Dramatics magazine.

LA Johnson/NPR

Last winter, he wrote to explain a delay: “What’s taking so long, other than the distraction of publishing a magazine, is that we have to locate the articles in bound copies in order to scan them.”

Eventually, he found them all, made copies — a huge stack — and mailed them to the NPR Ed team here in Washington, D.C.

The Plays

Over the last 76 years, the most popular plays have consistently been Our Town and You Can’t Take It With You, according to our analysis.

Why, you ask?

“Most high school teachers need a big cast, lots of female roles, and something that won’t scare your grandma,” says Corathers, who’s been with Dramatics since 1979.

For both plays: check, check and check.

You Can’t Take It With You has been performed so often that it led to this cheeky, 2008 photo caption: “You Can’t Take It With You — but evidently you can perform it forever.”

Indeed. Even into the 1980s it was the most-produced high school play in America, topping the list every year that decade but one, 1982, when it fell just short of Our Town.

Oldies But Goodies

One thing is obvious: These plays are old.

“The consciousness of school theater seems to be stuck in about 1954” — so says a 1992 issue of Dramatics. And in 2007: “Our straight plays are getting older. A lot older.”

“In the 60s the language and subject matter changed,” explains Corathers. “It was also excruciatingly expensive to put on a play, so new plays had small casts. People were just not writing plays that could be produced in high schools.”

In 1976 — noticing that schools were eschewing new for old — the magazine’s editors wrote an op-ed. They urged schools to produce more contemporary works.

“Only four plays are fresh to the list this year,” editor Thomas Barker bemoaned. “Four of sixty-eight.”

Barker’s argument: Theater should reflect society, and society had changed.

A year later — with little movement in the rankings — the editors backed down:

“No more going out on limbs, no more coaxing, no more labored analysis,” they wrote. “We will let the charts speak for themselves.”

And Corathers believes that, even today, those old staples of the stage are still relevant. Good theater is good theater, he says, no matter when it was written.

Looking at the nearly 80 years of data, another trend stands out:

More often than not, popular plays stayed popular over time.

Corathers offers this explanation: School theater directors and educators use the magazine’s survey to find ideas for next year. The rankings make it easy for a theater director to sell the school’s principal on a safe slate.

In short, says Corathers: “The list becomes self perpetuating.”

Oh, The Musicals!

Musicals didn’t really make waves in rankings until 1960. But Bye Bye Birdie and Oklahoma! have been the most popular titles ever since.

In recent years, musical tastes appear to have shifted, with more contemporary titles moving up the list.

Disney Theatrical plays a substantial role. “Live theater is adapting animated films,” says Corathers, pointing to Beauty and the Beast. “They are instantly family-friendly. They are familiar stories with great songs and lovely music.”

In 2009, Dramatics noted that Memorial High School in Houston, Texas was on trend as it performed Disney’s Beauty and the Beast — the top-ranked musical of the current decade.

But don’t retire the standards just yet. During the 1963-1964 school year, the magazine highlighted a performance by Preston High School in Preston, Idaho of Bye Bye Birdie — the fourth most popular musical of the 1960s. It then cracked the top five in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s.

The Rights To Perform

One last tidbit. The popularly of many productions (especially musicals) seems to depend almost entirely on licensing. High schools can’t produce a show until it’s run its course on Broadway and in regional theaters.

In 1975, the amateur performance rights for Godspell became available, and it’s rumored that the licensing agency’s telephone switchboards were jammed for days after. That year, Godspell was the top high school musical.

Same’s true for Les Miserables. The school version was released in 2002. And, by 2003 it had cracked the top of the list.

A Caveat

The Dramatics data set for high school productions is more of an index than a comprehensive ranking. Our own Bob Mondello (movie critic, yes, but also a theater aficionado) reminds us that “the Educational Theater Association is only polling its member-schools in the lists it prints in Dramatics. The organization had 500 members in 1938; it has close to 5,000 today.”

Corathers estimates about 12,000 high schools in the U.S. have drama programs.

Still, as far as we can tell, it’s the most authoritative survey of its kind — and tells some fascinating stories.

How We Did This

In a spreadsheet, we compiled separate lists of the plays and musicals listed in Dramatics’ annual survey. Because of inconsistencies in the lists over time (some years included the number of schools while others listed only a rank), we scored shows according to their rank in a given year: 15 points to the number one show, 14 points to the second, and so on. Any show that ranked below 14 was awarded one point. For more information on this project, email npred@npr.org.

KPCC’S Off Ramp

Jul 30, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on KPCC’S Off Ramp

KPCC’S Off Ramp

WWII ‘Good Luck Flags’ Head Back To Japan

Jul 30, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on WWII ‘Good Luck Flags’ Head Back To Japan

Dallas Britt of Auburn, Washington is one of seven Pacific Northwest veterans journeying to Tokyo with a special cargo of World War II flags. (Courtesy Tom Banse)

Seven Pacific Northwest veterans of World War II leave Thursday for Tokyo. They’re carrying 70 captured Japanese flags to return for the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

From the Here Now Contributors Network, Tom Banse reports on a journey rich with symbolism, but which may nearly bankrupt its organizers. In fact, the group has started a crowd-funding campaign to help support its efforts.

Trip organizers Rex and Keiko Ziak attend to last-minute details while simultaneously opening an exhibit on yosegaki hinomaru flags in Portland last week. (Courtesy Tom Banse)

One of the 70 flags to be returned for repatriation to the family of the fallen Japanese soldier it once belonged to. (Courtesy Tom Banse)

Reporter

Related:

Medicare, Medicaid Turn 50 Years Old

Jul 30, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Medicare, Medicaid Turn 50 Years Old

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation establishing Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare being government health coverage for senior citizens and Medicaid being government health coverage for the poor.

The first enrollee? Former President Harry Truman.

Today, in 2015, there are more than 52 million Americans on Medicare and 31 million low-income Americans are covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

ema href=”http://hereandnow.wbur.org/” target=”_blank”Here Now’/a/ems Jeremy Hobson discusses the signing.

Mexico’s Soccer Coach Fired After Punching TV Reporter

Jul 29, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Mexico’s Soccer Coach Fired After Punching TV Reporter

The Guardian describes Mexico's fired coach, Miguel Herrera, as combustible.

NPR’s Melissa Block speaks to ESPN soccer commentator Fernando Palomo about Miguel Herrera’s coaching style, legacy and strange appeal.

Episode 642: The Big Red Button

Jul 29, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Episode 642: The Big Red Button

Would you ride in Google's self-driving car?i

Would you ride in Google's self-driving car?

Automation is all around us: elevators, automatic doors at the supermarket, and auto-pilots on airplanes. For the most part, we never think about it. It makes our lives easier, cheaper, and safer. But with every new automation, there is this transitional moment. When something first goes automatic, it is disorienting. It freaks us out.

And the big question surrounding automation isn’t just about economics or technology. It’s about psychology. How do designers make us comfortable with something that can be really scary?

Today’s episode is a collaboration with 99% Invisible.

Music: Cory Gray’s “Plans For The Day” and Broken Bells’ “Control.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Spotify/ Tumblr.

How We Work: A Week In The Ombudsman’s Office

Jul 29, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on How We Work: A Week In The Ombudsman’s Office

Editor’s Note: Elizabeth is out of the office this week. In the interim, we thought it was a good time to answer readers who have been asking about our process. Here’s a look at how we operate in the Ombudsman’s office.

First, a note from Elizabeth: The Ombudsman’s office serves primarily as a liaison between the newsroom and listeners, to make the newsroom leaders aware of how listeners feel and help listeners understand why the newsroom makes the decisions it does. I investigate listener concerns and issues of journalism ethics and occasionally suggest changes. I have no management authority, however; the newsroom can take my suggestions (or not). I don’t speak for the newsroom or for NPR—just for myself—and I don’t have the power to print a correction or set policy.

When I write about topics I sometimes add my own opinion. Some listeners and NPR.org readers have expressed concern that when I disagree with them they are not being represented. But reasonable people will not always agree on everything, and listeners and readers themselves frequently see issues from conflicting perspectives. For issues that I choose to write about, I try to give a public airing to a wide range of listeners’ opinions. When I weigh in myself it is to add one more perspective or suggest corrections. But I make note of all the perspectives I receive and pass them along internally.

While NPR has traditionally used the title Ombudsman, I tweeted recently that I actually prefer the title The New York Times uses for the role, that of “public editor,” mostly because it makes clear that my role is primarily focused on the newsroom, and not NPR as a whole. Readers often write with questions about specific NPR underwriting, or management issues, but those areas are outside my purview.

Now turning it over to Annie, the office’s editorial researcher, who will explain what a typical week looks like. – Elizabeth Jensen

  • We read through all the letters and emails to the Ombudsman and answer as many as we can, unless they are outside our purview. We get about 200 emails per week. About half of those are questions we can answer easily. Others we investigate and respond to individually. Some we collect into a file that provides the basis for a long column by the Ombudsman; others are marked as possible candidates for shorter pieces. The rest are made note of or forwarded to the appropriate person in the organization. Spam is deleted accordingly.
  • We have access to the emails sent to the individual NPR-produced shows and browse them for recurring themes. We read over 100 of these emails per day during a slow week. These are typically comments on individual stories, but occasionally listeners raise ethical issues and question NPR’s adherence to its journalistic standards.
  • We field any snail mail or phone calls that might come in. (While the postcards are endearing, we much prefer you direct your comments to us via email. Because of the volume of listener questions, we cannot return all phone calls.)
  • We read the user comments on our posts for interesting takes and respond when we can answer quick questions.
  • We also keep up with other media reporters and industry news. Sometimes, if another media organization is struggling with an ethical issue, we may encounter it as well.
  • We check in on social media throughout the day. You can comment on our pieces and interact with other listeners on Facebook and reach out to Elizabeth on Twitter.
  • We, of course, listen to and read as much NPR content as possible. Elizabeth listens to Morning Edition and All Things Considered every day, among other programs. I tune in via NPR One and listen to the NPR-produced podcasts. We both monitor NPR.org content throughout the day.
  • How do we decide which issues are worthy of a column? In general, we look for topics that will be of interest to a large number of listeners and readers, or issues that we feel need to be addressed on a timely basis. We rely heavily on NPR’s in-house ethics guidelines, and also consider general journalistic principles, such as those laid out in the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics. Readers sometimes ask how many emails we need to get to raise an issue. The short answer is: there is no answer. Sometimes a single, thoughtfully-written email will spark a conversation as big as does a 500-plus email campaign generated by a special interest group.
  • I do a little research on the topic before Elizabeth and I discuss the issue at hand. If she wants to weigh in or write about it, we reach out to the appropriate reporter/editor/host/producer and their supervisors to understand the reporting process and editorial decisions. We also work closely with Mark Memmott, NPR’s Standards and Practices editor, who often issues guidance to the newsroom on style and ethics. If you think a correction is warranted on a story, start by sending him an email via the Contact Us form. If the results are not satisfactory and you feel a follow-up is later needed, reach out to our office.
  • When Elizabeth writes about an issue sometimes she offers an opinion and sometimes she just opens it up for discussion. Oftentimes, we examine several issues in a mailbag column. Ombudsman posts can have an influence (like in this case) but the Ombudsman does not have any direct power to reshape policy.
  • The blog posts are circulated internally as well as on social media and often show up on the NPR.org homepage and Facebook page. We’re happy to interact on social media and via email if you have questions, comments and other feedback on our posts.
  • Every six months, NPR’s chief executive Jarl Mohn gets a report summarizing the office’s interactions with listeners and readers, excerpts of which are also distributed to top newsroom executives.

FAQs and Useful Links:

  • A lot of people get NPR confused with PBS. Although we love their work, we are separate organizations. If you have questions or comments about PBS programming, please contact the PBS Ombudsman.
  • For content that is produced by a member station—for example, local newscasts or programs aired exclusively by your local station—contact that member station directly. If you still need help on an issue involving a member station, sometimes the CPB Ombudsman can intervene.
  • Was your comment on a post deleted? Having trouble with Disqus? Here is the comment moderation explainer that we will send you, which includes instructions on how to contact Audience Services. It’s Audience Services that can help resolve your issue. We regret that we cannot help you with questions about deleted comments or other commenting issues.
  • Ever wonder why NPR calls the president Obama and not Mr. President? A former ombudsman wrote a column about the policy change that decided the president would no longer receive the honorific “Mr.” on second references.
  • Have a question or complaint about NPR’s funding and corporate underwriting? That topic is outside of the Ombudsman’s purview but here are two columns on underwriting guidelines, part one and part two.
  • Other common topics that fall outside our reach: listener thoughts about NPR’s on-air personalities, audio quality, and technical issues on the website. We cannot accept press releases or story ideas, which should be directed to the individual programs found on NPR.org.

Windows 10 Rolls Out, Along With Concern Over Sharing Wi-Fi Passwords

Jul 29, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Windows 10 Rolls Out, Along With Concern Over Sharing Wi-Fi Passwords

With Windows 10, Microsoft is more closely uniting its operating systems that run tablets, phones, and desktops.i

With Windows 10, Microsoft is more closely uniting its operating systems that run tablets, phones, and desktops.

Microsoft


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Microsoft

With Windows 10, Microsoft is more closely uniting its operating systems that run tablets, phones, and desktops.

With Windows 10, Microsoft is more closely uniting its operating systems that run tablets, phones, and desktops.

Microsoft

Microsoft rolled out Windows 10 as a free upgrade Wednesday, hoping to become more relevant to mobile users as it updates a key operating system. But one feature, which shares your Wi-Fi with your contacts list, is drawing skepticism.

Windows 10 comes as a free update for users who are now running Windows 7 and 8. And Windows users have been eager to get their hands on the first substantial update to the system since October 2012. (If you’re unsure which version of Windows you have, here’s how to find out.)

The new operating system includes user-friendly features, such as a personal assistant named Cortana and integration with a new browser, Edge. It also promises to unite Microsoft’s systems for PCs, phone, tablets, and Xbox, merging those products in a way that echoes strategies at Apple and Google.

Windows 10 users will also be able to use a new generation of Universal Windows apps, such as one from Twitter that “gives you instant access to top Tweets, photos and videos without requiring a login.”

But one Windows 10 feature, Wi-Fi Sense, has sparked concern from cyber security experts. As Microsoft explains, Wi-Fi Sense “automatically connects you to Wi-Fi around you to help you save your cellular data and give you more Internet connectivity options.”

One way it does that is by storing your Wi-Fi password — and sharing an encrypted version of it with your Outlook and Skype contacts, and even your Facebook friends. If you directly share your password with someone, the circle can get even wider, as it could then spread to include their contacts, as well.

Wi-Fi Sense was previously part of the Windows Phone operating system. In Windows 10, it’s activated when a user chooses the “express” installation settings.

Calling it “a disaster waiting to happen,” security expert Brian Krebs writes that because the Windows computer system is far more popular than its Phone OS, the new Wi-Fi feature is “a serious concern for much of the planet.”

Krebs recommends opting out of Wi-Fi Sense and tells Windows users to “change your Wi-Fi network name/SSID to something that includes the terms ‘_nomap_optout’ — a move that should also keep Google from mapping your network’s location.

Microsoft says the system works by allowing people to share Internet access without seeing each other’s passwords. “No networks are shared automatically,” the company says in a FAQ about the Windows 10 feature.

Not everyone is alarmed by Wi-Fi Sense. Even if it’s downloaded and activated, Ars Technica says, nothing will happen unless two steps are taken:

  • “First, you need to sign in with a Microsoft account. Wi-Fi Sense won’t work with a local account.
  • “Whenever you connect to a new W-Fi network, it asks if you want to share it with other people.”

Other than this issue, we’re not seeing many complaints about Windows 10, beyond the predictable mixed results reported by people rushing to download new software on the first day of availability.

In fact, CNET calls Windows 10 “the Goldilocks version of Microsoft’s venerable PC operating system — a ‘just right’ compromise between the familiar dependability of Windows 7, and the forward-looking touchscreen vision of Windows 8.”

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