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This is how Microsoft designed its new colorful Windows 10 icons
The new Windows 10 icons.

Microsoft has started rolling out new colorful app icons in Windows 10 today that overhaul the look and feel of the operating system. Changes to many of the built-in Windows 10 app icons have started rolling out today, but more are coming in the months ahead. It’s part of what the company describes as a “multi-year effort across Microsoft’s design teams to redesign our icons.”

Windows has always suffered from a variety of different icons that are sometimes decades old, and Microsoft originally embarked on an effort to try to simplify some of these in Windows 10 when it first debuted nearly five years ago. Microsoft picked monochrome icons that were simplified but were designed for colorful Live Tiles that never really caught on with app developers and Windows 10 users.

The evolution of the new calculator icon.

“Flat, monochrome icons look great in context of colorful tiles, but as more icon styles enter the ecosystem, this approach needs to evolve,” reveals Christina Koehn, a design leader for Windows and Devices at Microsoft. “When icons in the taskbar and Start menu are different styles, it creates more cognitive load to scan and find applications. We needed to incorporate more visual cues into the icon design language using our modernized Fluent Design Language.”

Microsoft has now evolved its icons to better reflect its cross-platform approach, while sticking to the familiarity of what Windows users are used to. “Leveraging the Fluent Design System, we introduced depth and color to our iconography,” explains Koehn. “These additional cues are subtle, but they make a world of difference when scanning an interface.” This splash of color should make it easier to scan for apps on the taskbar or Start menu, and Microsoft is planning to use similar icons with its design language across its apps for Windows, iOS, Android, and macOS.

Windows 10’s new icons in the taskbar.

The new colorful icons are designed to feel familiar and look similar, all while “honoring” the legacy of the Windows operating system in an attempt to evolve it. Microsoft’s design teams “explored a myriad of design directions for the calculator icon,” according to Koehn, all the way from its monochrome version to the Fluent version that now exists in the OS. It’s interesting to witness Microsoft’s experiments with trying to evolve something as simple as a calculator icon and also the company’s evolution of the Windows Mail icon over the past nearly 20 years.

“You’ll start to see some the new icons today and even more in the coming months,” reveals Koehn. “Redesigning these icons signals our commitment to the evolution of the Windows OS, honoring its legacy while redefining the archetype in which it lives.”

How the Windows Mail icon has changed over the years.

Microsoft has clearly taken its time to get these new icons right, and they’re part of a much broader effort to leverage the company’s Fluent Design system across multiple apps and services. Designers are now working closely together to create hardware and software that has a common design system across all of Microsoft’s products.

The software maker also previously overhauled its Office icons and design and is trying to encourage others to use its Fluent Design system for a variety of mobile apps. Microsoft’s updated Edge browser also has a new icon, and even Office itself has a more modern logo.

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20 Feb.
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Russia is meddling in 2020 campaign to help Trump, intelligence officials say
NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Russia is already interfering in the 2020 campaign to help President Donald Trump toward reelection, according to a briefing given to the bipartisan House Intelligence Committee last week. The briefing, as reported in paired articles from The Washington Post and The New York Times, suggests many of the same tactics used in 2016 could be employed in the months to come, including troll campaigns and targeted hacking attempts.

The day after the briefing was given, President Trump abruptly replaced his acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, in what the Post describes as a direct response to the briefing. The Post is less clear on the contents of the briefing, but the Times reports from five different sources that the briefing primarily concerned active Russian threats to election security.

Neither article describes any specific intelligence from the briefing, but there have already been some public signs of Russia-linked election meddling. In February, Facebook took down dozens of accounts believed to be engaged in propaganda campaigns, including many the company attributed to Russia. In January, a phishing attack on the Biden-linked Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma was also attributed to Russia in a possible replay of the 2016 DNC server hack, although the evidence for the attribution is tenuous.

In 2016, Russian election meddling efforts ranged from Facebook troll accounts — operated by the notorious Internet Research Agency — to a sophisticated and targeted effort to steal and disseminate emails from the Democratic National Committee. That hacking effort had a significant impact on national opinions in the run-up to the election.

President Trump has consistently questioned whether Russia was involved, despite definitive attribution from his own intelligence services. Earlier this week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed a Trump surrogate had offered him a pardon in exchange for evidence that would cast doubt on Russian involvement in the hack.

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20 Feb.
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Bloomberg debate video would violate Twitter’s deepfake policy, but not Facebook’s
Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate In Las Vegas Ahead Of Nevada Caucuses Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

As platforms prepare for the upcoming 2020 election season, Twitter and Facebook are divided on whether a video posted by the Mike Bloomberg presidential campaign would violate their policies on manipulated media.

On Thursday, Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign posted a video to Twitter that was edited to make it appear as though there was a long, embarrassing silence from Bloomberg’s Democratic opponents after he mentioned that he was the only candidate to have ever started a business during Wednesday night’s debate. Candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg are shown searching for the words to respond to Bloomberg’s challenge.

Anyone? pic.twitter.com/xqhq5qFYVk

— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) February 20, 2020

Twitter told The Verge that the video would likely be labeled as manipulated media under the platform’s new deepfakes policy that officially goes into place on March 5th.

However, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone confirmed on Twitter that the same video would not violate the platform’s deepfakes rules if it were posted to Facebook or Instagram. Facebook’s policy “does not extend to content that is parody or satire, or video that has been edited solely to omit or change the order of words” likely not affecting videos like Bloomberg’s. A video must also be created with an artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithm to trigger a removal.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Verge that the Bloomberg video would not be labelled as misinformation either.

Bloomberg spokesperson Galia Slayen told The Verge the edits made were so flagrant as to not be deceptive. “It’s tongue in cheek,” Slayen said. “There were obviously no crickets on the debate stage.”

The edited Bloomberg clip is an early real-world example of how Twitter will classify “manipulated media” under its new policy. Earlier this month, a video posted to President Donald Trump’s feed was deceptively edited to depict House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripping up the president’s State of the Union speech to spite veterans and a single mother. Twitter declined to confirm whether that video would receive the same disclosure noting the manipulation to users. At the time, Facebook and YouTube said the video did not violate their platforms’ policies.

This also isn’t the first time the Bloomberg campaign has challenged social media platforms. Last week, Facebook announced that it would allow influencers and popular meme pages to post sponsored content for politicians after Bloomberg launched a meme campaign on Instagram. So long as the influencer uses the platform’s branded content tool and discloses that the post is an ad, it is allowed to run and won’t be subject to being cataloged in Facebook’s political ads library.

Updated 4/20/20 at 9:21PM ET: Added clarification on whether the Bloomberg video would be labelled as misinformation on Facebook.

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20 Feb.
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Japanese mission to land a rover on a Martian moon and bring back a sample is a go

A bold mission by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to Mars’ two moons, including a lander component for one of them, is all set to enter the development phase after the plan was submitted to the Japanese government’s science ministry this week.

Dubbed the “Martian Moons Exploration” (MMX) mission, the goal is to launch the probe in 2024, using the new H-3 rocket being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which is expected to launch for the first time sometime later in 2020. The probe will survey and observe both Phobos and Deimos, the two moons that orbit the Red Planet, which are both smaller and more irregularly shaped than Earth’s Moon.

The MMX lander will park on Phobos, while the probe studies the two space-based bodies from a distance. This is the first-ever mission that seeks to land a spacecraft on one of the moons of Mars, and it’ll include a rover that is being developed by JAXA in partnership with teams at German space agency DLR and French space agency CNES.

The mission will include an ambitious plan to actually collect a sample of the surface of Phobos and return it to Earth for study — which will mean a round-trip for the MMX spacecraft that should see it make its terrestrial return by 2029.

NASA is also planning a Mars-sample return mission, which would aim to bring back a sample from the Red Planet itself using the Mars 2020 six-wheel rover that it’s planning to launch later this year.

Both of these missions could be crucial stepping stones for eventual human exploration and colonization of Mars. It’s possible that Phobos could act as an eventual staging ground for Mars missions, as its lower gravity makes it an easier body from which to depart for eventual astronauts. And Mars is obviously the ultimate goal for NASA’s Artemis program, which seeks to first establish a more permanent human scientific presence on the Moon before heading to the Red Planet.

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20 Feb.
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