Tech Retrospect: Anonymous Facebook and better MacBook Airs

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a series of updates at F8, and Apple released a slight refresh to the MacBook Air that's not only faster, but cheaper. All that and more in this week's rundown of tech news.

Facebook turns 10 this year, yet remarkably it seems like only in the past 12 months or so that people have started caring about privacy. As public awareness grows and users realize just how much the social network knows about you, there's a growing desire for people to have more control over how that information is shared. At this year's F8 developer conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced some updates that should make things a bit better.

Most talked about is the new anonymous log-in feature. Right now, plenty of sites and apps allow you to sign in by clicking on a big, blue button. Behind the scenes, your Facebook details are handed over and an account is created. With the anonymous feature, a second button will be added, an ominous black one, that will allow you to sign in without handing over any information at all. The idea is that you can take the app or service for a test drive, see if you like it, and then (hopefully for the developer) sign up for real later.

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James Martin/CNET

Facebook also promised a more granular view into what information is handed over, including discrete controls for managing how much is shared with each site. Nice progress, though it's something of a small step in the grand scheme of things.

Zuckerberg also talked about a change to the company's mantra. What was "Move fast and break things" is now becoming "Move fast with stable infrastructure" -- far less catchy, but better. Up until now, Facebook's developer interfaces changed so quickly and unpredictably that developers trying to work with the network were asking for a lot of trouble. A more stable platform will be far more appealing.

MacBook Air cheaper and faster

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Apple

The venerable MacBook Air hasn't seen a major update since 2010, yet it still ranks up there as my favorite laptop for frequent travelers -- such as myself. It got even better this week, with Apple slotting in the latest generation of Haswell processors. They're slightly faster and more efficient, but more importantly the laptops are now notably cheaper: $100 across the board. That means you can now get an 11-inch with 128GB of storage and a 1.4GHz Core i5 processor for $899 -- a steal. But with talks of a Retina-equipped Air finally making a debut at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference this year, those looking for something a bit more may want to wait for a month or so.

Microsoft fixes ugly IE bug

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Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

Thought XP wasn't going to get any more updates? So did we, but Good Guy Microsoft just surprised us. A nasty bug uncovered this week was serious enough to have governments around the world recommending people stop using Internet Explorer -- all current versions of it. Microsoft was quick to deliver a fix, and threw in support for XP while it was at it. Good on ya.

Disney reveals 'Star Wars Episode VII' cast

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Lucasfilm

I normally end with a fun video, but this week you'll have to make do with a picture -- and one that got the world's social networks worked up in quite a state. It's a photo of many of the major players in the upcoming "Star Wars Episode VII," and there are plenty of familiar faces. As expected, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher all return, as well as original series favorites Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, and Kenny Baker as R2-D2. Max von Sydow, from "The Seventh Seal," joins the cast, along with motion-capture extraordinaire Andy Serkis. Those with time machines will want to set them for December 18, 2015, the date when the film is expected to premiere.

 

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