Starwatch Consumer

Windows 8 is getting a radical makeover

Updated: 2013-05-31T02:06:56Z

Windows 8.1

Microsoft is trying to fix what it got wrong with its radical makeover of Windows. It is making the operating system easier to navigate and enabling users to set up the software so it starts in a more familiar PC format.

Windows 8 appeared last October for tablets and personal computers with a tile-based layout for selecting programs, replacing a desktop design that let users start programs from a button. The update will restore the “Start” button and add search and other features.

Mortgage rates

Average rates on fixed mortgages jumped this week to their highest in a year, but still low by historical standards.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate for the 30-year loan rose to 3.81 percent, from 3.59 percent last week. The average on the 15-year loan rose to 2.98 percent, from 2.77 percent.

Home run

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes ticked up in April to the highest in three years. The increase points to growth in home sales in the coming months.

The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales rose 0.3 percent to 106. That’s the highest since April 2010, when a homebuyer tax credit inflated sales.

High hopes

Consumer sentiment last week hovered near a five-year high as more Americans said the economy was improving and their finances were mending.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index still slipped a bit to minus 29.7 in the period ending May 26 compared with minus 29.4 a week earlier.

Smaller Galaxy

Samsung Electronics unveiled a smaller and less powerful version of its flagship Galaxy S4 handset as it looks to widen its lead in the smartphone market.

Samsung’s Galaxy S4 mini features a 4.3-inch screen, 1.7-gigahertz dual-core processor and 8-megapixel camera, the company said.

Samsung did not specify a retail price or when the phone will be available.

Gearing up

Self-driving cars being developed by Google and some automakers are getting a lift from U.S. auto safety regulators eager to accelerate automation that they predict could prevent many crashes.

U.S. Transportation Department regulators released a policy intended to advance testing of self-driving cars and to encourage development of precursor technologies, such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems and brakes that apply themselves when a crash is sensed to be imminent.

Coast to coast

Tesla Motors is expanding a network of fast-charging stations so owners of the luxury Model S electric cars can drive from New York to Los Angeles.

The carmaker is tripling the number of the solar-powered supercharger stations.

| Star news services

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