A closer look at DirectX 12 At the Game Developers Conference this year, Microsoft pulled back the curtain on Direct3D 12, the first major update to its graphics APIs since 2009. The company announced some pretty big changes, including support for a lower level of abstraction and compatibility with not just Windows, but also Windows Phone and the Xbox One. This will be the first version of Direct3D to unify graphics programming across all of Microsoft's gaming platforms. It may also be the first version of Direct3D to eke significant performance gains out of current hardware. The Tech Report (also, AnandTech's Return of the DirectX vs. OpenGL Debates)

Microsoft's Cortana hands on: The best of Google Now and Siri combined Microsoft has been active in speech recognition research for decades, so it isn't surprising that it has introduced a voice-based personal digital assistant – only that it took them so long to do so! Named Cortana, the application is a hybrid of local and cloud functionality that will be built into Windows Phone 8.1. I had a chance to try it out this week at Microsoft's Build 2014 conference. For the most part I was quite impressed, although the code's beta designation is certainly still appropriate. ExtremeTech

FCC sides with local cable commissions against Comcast The Federal Communications Commission has upheld a ruling ordering Comcast to stop charging its customers for cable equipment under the guise of service fees. The FCC denied an appeal by Comcast, which argued that its practice of charging customers separately for a DTA (digital terminal adapter) – a converter box that allows cable subscribers with older televisions to receive digital channels, which the company said would be provided at no charge – is not subject to rate regulation, because it is a service fee.  Star Tribune

Messaging app adds an assistant to the conversation Making plans via text message can be a pain. A new messaging app called Emu aims to alleviate some of that pain by bringing a contextually aware assistant into the process. Created by Gummi Hafsteinsson, who previously worked on Apple's personal assistant, Siri, and Dave Feldman, who ran the design team for Yahoo Messenger, Emu is like a more proactive text version of Siri that analyzes messages and adds helpful details for making plans. Emu was released Wednesday for the iPhone. MIT Technology Review

Samsung's graphene breakthrough could finally put the wonder material into real-world devices Samsung appears to have stumbled across the holy grail of commercial graphene production: A new technique that can grow high-quality single-crystal graphene on silicon wafers – graphene that is suitable for the production of graphene field-effect transistors (GFETs) – and afterward, once the graphene has been peeled off, the silicon wafers can even be reused! Samsung is dressing this up as a breakthrough for flexible, wearable computers. ExtremeTech

These maps show that Android is for people with less money This map showing the locations of 280 million individual posts on Twitter shows a depressing divide in America: Tweets coming from Manhattan tend to come from iPhones. Tweets coming from Newark, N.J., tend to come from Android phones. If you live in the New York metro area, you don't need to be told that Manhattan is where the region's rich people live, and the poor live in Newark. Manhattan's median income is $67,000 a year. Newark's is $17,000, according to U.S. Census data. Business Insider

New Steve Jobs email a treasure trove of information about Apple TV, Google 'holy war,' and behind-the-scenes strategy A new email from Steve Jobs that was published during today's Samsung lawsuit (via The Verge) has revealed a lot about Apple's plans for its products in 2011 and beyond. As we've previously noted, Jobs referred to 2011 as a year of "holy war" against Google, but this document goes above that and describes how exactly Apple planned to wage this war. 9to5Mac

Tech start-ups are targets of ransom cyberattacks Scott Heiferman and Gary Burns had less than four minutes to decide whether to pay up or go down. One Thursday morning, an email popped into their inbox informing Mr. Heiferman, one of the founders, and Mr. Burns, the chief technology officer of Meetup, a New York Internet company that connects groups offline, that their site would go down unless they paid $300 worth of Bitcoins. The NY Times

Inside Square's stealth approach to Bitcoin integration San Francisco-based mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) giant Square sent a jolt of excitement through the bitcoin ecosystem when it announced that it would allow users to pay for goods and services with the digital currency via its online marketplace, Square Market. With a valuation of $5bn, Square is already a giant in the payments space despite its relative newcomer status. CoinDesk

Why no one trusts Facebook to power the future In the coming years, one billion more people will gain access to the Internet thanks to drones and satellites hovering in the stratosphere. And soon, we'll be able to sit down with friends in foreign countries and immerse ourselves in experiences never previously thought possible, simply by slipping on a pair of virtual reality goggles. ReadWrite

The "Cuban Twitter" scam is a drop in the Internet propaganda bucket This week, the Associated Press exposed a secret program run by the U.S. Agency for International Development to create "a Twitter-like Cuban communications network" run through "secret shell companies" in order to create the false appearance of being a privately owned operation. The Intercept

I had my DNA analyzed, and all I got was this lousy story It's a situation many have faced before or will in the future: last month, I was up early waiting for a call and a medical update. Unfortunately, the news wasn't great: a doctor said I had an elevated risk – around two to three times higher than the average person---of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease. On the bright side, this news was complicated. Ars Technica