Breakfast Briefing: Surface upgrades incoming, no booth babe ban, Bill Gates' WinFS regrets

Today's technology tales - Wi-Fi and pen improvements for Surface, the "booth babes" that won't go away and Bill Gates talks Windows

Stewart Mitchell
12 Feb 2013

Today's technology stories include a dusting of upgrades for Microsoft's Surface tablets, why the "booth babe" will still be on show at next year's CES, Bill Gates' biggest Windows regrets and the UK's pragmatic work in space.

Microsoft planning Surface upgrades

Microsoft's Surface Pro may only have been out for a few days, but ZDNet details a range of upcoming upgrades to the tablet and its little brother, the Surface RT. Incoming improvements revealed by executives include better Wi-Fi connection reliability, possible new cover choices and upgrades to the digitiser pen to make it work with more apps.

"The Surface pen does work with Photoshop, which runs on Surface Pro, though advanced features such as pressure sensitivity and eraser functionality may not be available at this time," the company said. "Microsoft is working with the necessary partners to make advanced features of the Surface pen available across a number of applications in the near future."

CES refuses to ban "booth babes"

The Consumer Electronics Association, the group that puts on the CES tech show each year, has refused calls to ban so-called "booth babes".

"We do not want to create and impose arbitrary or unenforceable rules, or worse, inch our event towards a Talibanesque ban on exposure of skin," Karen Chupka, CEA's senior vice president of events and conferences, told the BBC, suggesting to do so would somehow also require banning blue jeans and t-shirts, while "trampling on freedom of expression".

"More, mandating and enforcing a dress code would present a challenge to our security personnel and divert them from their most important and essential duty: ensuring the safety of all of our customers," she added.

Despite the security and freedom of expression concerns, the CEA will encourage tech firms to have some "thoughtful consideration" regarding their objectification of women - not that the CEA called it that - because it might offend people or reflect badly on their company.

Bill Gates' biggest regret: WinFS

Ars Technica has looked through a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" with Bill Gates where he was trying to talk about charitable work, but also touched upon technical issues. The Microsoft founder said the latest version of Windows was the best yet, but also admitted to some regrets of his time leading the software empire - chief among them was the failure of WinFS, a layered storage system designed to synchronise data across applications.

As interviews goes it had more interest than a "Windows 8 after 90 days" Q&A published by Microsoft itself, with one Windows 8 communications team member putting searching questions to Windows boss Tami Reller. Paxman this is not.

"With Windows 8, we’ve built an OS that scales across the entire segment: tablets, to PCs to everything PCs can become, with one consistent scalable experience," Reller said under the probing investigation. "Windows 8 is a big, ambitious change and we’re only just getting started."

Space – the pragmatist's frontier

The UK might not run attention seeking Mars landings or have its own Space Station GB, but that doesn't mean Britain isn't an active participant in extraterrestrial activity. Wired points out that the UK is, in fact, leading the way in some space technologies – in particular the run-of-the-mill satellites that support services like Freesat TV and GPS satnavs.

"Historically, the UK government hasn't put many resources into these big prestige project like launchers or manned missions," said David Parker, chief executive of the UK Space Agency. "The ISS has cost the US more than $100 billion. We have not put money into those kinds of projects. We have taken a very commercial and mean and lean approach, but technologically and scientifically what we are doing is top notch."

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