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Microsoft

Microsoft Is Talking About Acquiring GitHub, Says Report (zdnet.com) 164

The Welcome Rain shares a report from ZDNet: Microsoft officials have been talking to GitHub about possibly acquiring the company, according to a June 1 report in Business Insider. BI claims that the two have discussed the possibility of an acquisition on an on-and-off-again basis over the years "but in the last few weeks talks have grown more serious." BI is citing unnamed "people close to the companies" as its sources. "This isn't as surprising as it would have been ten or more years ago," writes The Welcome Rain. "Microsoft is investing a lot in git, including GVFS, a Git Virtual File System to help Git work with very large codebases. What might this mean for the future of Github?"
Windows

Dell is Reportedly Working on a Dual-Screen Windows ARM Device (theverge.com) 35

Dell is working on a foldable dual-screen device, according to a report. According to news blog WinFuture, Dell's supposedly forthcoming device would run Windows 10 and an unreleased Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 ARM processor. From a report: Dell's device is reportedly codenamed "Januss," and has been under development since last summer, but it's not clear whether the device will ever come to market. Dell was working on mobile Windows devices before, and those devices were canceled. Microsoft also canceled its own Surface Mini device, just weeks before it was due to be revealed. The Verge understands that the documents WinFuture has obtained are old, and that Dell could have altered its product plans by now.
Microsoft

Microsoft and Apple Helped Build New Braille Display Standard (engadget.com) 26

An anonymous reader shares a report: Today, the non-profit USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) announced a new standard for braille displays. It was developed in cooperation with Microsoft, Apple and other tech industry leaders. The USB Human Interface Device (HID) standard will make it easier for blind or low vision users to use braille displays across operating systems and hardware. It will also remove the need for specialized or custom drivers and simplify development. "We see the opportunity that advancements in technology can create for people with disabilities and have a responsibility as an industry to develop new ways of empowering everyone to achieve more," said the Microsoft's Windows accessibility program manager lead, Jeff Petty.
Desktops (Apple)

ProtonMail Launches Free ProtonVPN Service For Macs (bleepingcomputer.com) 30

The creators of popular encrypted email service ProtonMail have released a free version of their ProtonVPN software for macOS. From a report: Even though the free version does not contain the full features that you would come to expect from a paid VPN service it is more than capable of obfuscating IP addresses and your location. While ProtonVPN has already released Windows and Android versions, according to Dr. Andy Yen, CEO of ProtonMail, their reason for releasing the free macOS version "is to make the world a safer place by ensuring that citizens around the world have access to an Internet free of spying and censorship. Releasing a free VPN service for macOS is another important step in that direction."
Microsoft

Microsoft Is Now More Valuable Than Alphabet (cnbc.com) 126

Microsoft has surged 40 percent over the past 12 months to become more valuable than Alphabet. "As of Tuesday's close, Microsoft was worth $749 billion and Alphabet's market capitalization stood at $739 billion," reports CNBC. From the report: Microsoft's latest rally has been sparked by growth in its cloud computing business, which is bigger than Google's though it still trails Amazon Web Services. In March, Microsoft reorganized its Windows and Devices Group and moved its engineering resources into other units, including one focusing on cloud and artificial intelligence. Both Microsoft and Alphabet beat analysts' expectations in the first quarter. Microsoft still trails behind Apple's market valuation of $923 billion and Amazon's $782 billion market cap.
Education

Face Recognition Is Now Being Used In Schools (theintercept.com) 206

Presto Vivace shares a report from The Intercept: Officials at the Lockport, New York, school district have purchased face recognition technology as part of a purported effort to prevent school shootings. Starting in September, all 10 of Lockport District's school buildings, just north of Buffalo, will be outfitted with a surveillance system that can identify faces and objects. The software, known as Aegis, was developed by SN Technologies Corp., a Canadian biometrics firm that specifically advertises to schools. It can be used to alert officials to whenever sex offenders, suspended students, fired employees, suspected gang members, or anyone else placed on a school's "blacklist" enters the premises. Aegis also sends alerts any time one of the "top 10" most popular guns used in school shootings appears in view of a camera. The district is spending most of its recent $4 million state "Smart School" grant on these and other enhancements to its security systems, including bullet-proof greeter windows and a mass notification system, according to the Niagra Gazette. Slashdot reader Presto Vivace adds: "This is why municipal elections are so important. Just because this stuff is on the market, does not mean your local school system has to buy it."

The report notes that "all the major school shootings in the last five years in the U.S. have been carried out by current students or alumnae of the school in question." These students wouldn't have their face entered into the face recognition system's blacklist. Furthermore, "Most shooters don't brandish their guns before opening fire; and by the time they do, an object-detection algorithm that could specify the exact type of weapon they're firing would not be of much use," reports The Intercept. "... the technology would give a school, at best, only a few extra seconds in response time to a shooting."
Windows

Windows Server 2016 Has an Update Problem, Users Say 79

madsci1016 writes: Frustrated with how long my Windows Server 2016 Essentials was taking to apply weekly updates, I turned to the web. A quick search revealed that I'm not alone. Many people are reporting similar experiences across the web. All sharing stories of weekly patching taking hours and sometimes ending in hung welcome screens. Some of these threads started a year ago and are still active, with no response from Microsoft addressing the issue. If you use Server 2016, have you experienced this problem?
Windows

Windows 10 Pro Is a Dead End For the Enterprise, Gartner Says (computerworld.com) 218

A prominent Gartner analyst argues that Windows 10 Pro is a dead end for enterprises, citing recent changes by Microsoft to the Windows 10 support schedule. "[We] predict that Microsoft will continue positioning Windows [10] Pro as a release that is not appropriate for enterprises by reducing [...] support and limiting access to enterprise management features," Stephen Kleynhans, a research vice president at Gartner and one of the research firm's resident Windows experts, said in a report he co-authored. Computerworld reports: Last year, the Redmond, Wash. developer announced a six-month support extension for Windows 10 1511, the November 2015 feature upgrade, "to help some early enterprise adopters that are still finishing their transition to Windows as a service." In February, Microsoft added versions 1609, 1703 and 1709 -- released in mid-2016, and in April and October of 2017, respectively -- to the extended support list, giving each 24 months of support, not the usual 18. There was a catch: Only Windows 10 Enterprise (and Windows 10 Education, a similar version for public and private school districts and universities) qualified for the extra six months of support. Users running Windows 10 Pro were still required to upgrade to a successor SKU (stock-keeping unit) within 18 months to continue receiving security patches and other bug fixes.

Another component of Microsoft's current Windows 10 support strategy, something the company has labeled "paid supplemental servicing," was also out of bounds for those running Windows 10 Pro. The extra support, which Microsoft will sell at an undisclosed price, is available only to Enterprise and Education customers. Paid supplemental servicing adds 12 months to the 18 months provided free of charge.

Chrome

Google Chrome 67 Released for Windows, Mac, and Linux (bleepingcomputer.com) 85

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google released earlier today Chrome 67, the latest stable release of its web browser. According to changelogs released with Chrome 67, this version adds support for a Generic Sensors API, improves AR and VR experiences, and deprecates the HTTP-Based Public Key Pinning (HPKP) security feature. Probably the biggest change in Chrome 67 is the addition of the Generic Sensors API. As the name implies, this is an API that exposes data from device sensors to public websites. The new API is based on the Generic Sensor W3C standard. This API is meant primarily for mobile use, and in its current version, websites can use Chrome's Generic Sensors API to access data from a device's accelerometer, gyroscope, orientation and motion sensors. Another API that shipped with Chrome is the WebXR Device API. Developers can use this API to build virtual and augmented reality experiences on Chrome for mobile-based VR headsets like Google Daydream View and Samsung Gear VR, as well as desktop-hosted headsets like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets.
Operating Systems

Sonic and Ultrasonic Attacks Damage Hard Drives and Crash OSes (arstechnica.com) 102

Dan Goodin reports via Ars Technica: Attackers can cause potentially harmful hard drive and operating system crashes by playing sounds over low-cost speakers embedded in computers or sold in stores, a team of researchers demonstrated last week. The attacks use sonic and ultrasonic sounds to disrupt magnetic HDDs as they read or write data. The researchers showed how the technique could stop some video-surveillance systems from recording live streams. Just 12 seconds of specially designed acoustic interference was all it took to cause video loss in a 720p system made by Ezviz. Sounds that lasted for 105 seconds or more caused the stock Western Digital 3.5 HDD in the device to stop recording altogether until it was rebooted. The device uses flash storage to house its firmware, but by default it uses a magnetic HDD to store the large quantities of video it records. The attack used a speaker hanging from a ceiling that rested about four inches above the surveillance system's HDD. The researchers didn't remove the casing or otherwise tamper with the surveillance system. The technique was also able to disrupt HDDs in desktop and laptop computers running both Windows and Linux. In some cases, it even required a reboot before the PCs worked properly. The paper titled "Blue Note: How Intentional Acoustic Interference Damages Availability and Integrity in Hard Disk Drives and Operating Systems" can be found here (PDF).
Windows

Windows 10 Spring Update Improves Linux On WSL With Unix Sockets and More (anandtech.com) 216

Billly Gates writes: Windows 10 build 1803 has come out this month, but with some problems. AnandTech has a deep-dive with the review examing many new features including the much better support for Linux. WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) now has native Curt and Tar from the command prompt as well as a utility to convert Unix to Windows pathnames called WSLpath.exe which is documented here. In addition it was mentioned on Slashdot in the past about OpenSSH being ported natively to Win32 in certain early builds. It now seems the reason was for Linux interoperability with this Spring Update 2. Unix sockets mean you can run Kali Linux on Windows 10 for penetration testing or run an Apache server in the background with full Linux networking support. Deemons now run in the background even with the command prompt closed. [...]
Cloud

Microsoft Wins A Big Cloud Deal With America's Intelligence Community (spokesman.com) 45

wyattstorch516 shared this story from the AP: Microsoft Corp. said it's secured a lucrative cloud deal with the intelligence community that marks a rapid expansion by the software giant into a market led by Amazon.com Inc. The deal, which the company said Wednesday is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, allows 17 intelligence agencies and offices to use Microsoft's Azure Government, a cloud service tailored for federal and local governments, in addition to other products Microsoft already offers, such as its Windows 10 operating system and word processing programs.

The cloud agreement gives Microsoft more power to make its case to the Pentagon as it goes up against competitors like International Business Machines Corp., Oracle Corp. and Amazon for the agency's winner-take-all cloud computing contract for up to 10 years.

That contract is expected to be worth billions of dollars, according to the article, adding that "the Defense Department has said it intends to move the department's technology needs -- 3.4 million users and 4 million devices -- to the cloud to give it a tactical edge on the battlefield and strengthen its use of emerging technologies."

One Microsoft executive said this week's deal reinforces "the fact that we are a solid cloud platform that the federal government can put their trust in."
Chrome

Edge Beats Chrome in Battery Test, Says Microsoft (zdnet.com) 102

The latest installment of Microsoft's browser battery challenge shows once again that Edge consumes less energy than Chrome and Firefox. From a report: With the Windows 10 April 2018 Update rolling out across the globe, Microsoft thinks it's once again time to square Edge up against Chrome and Firefox in a new battery-life test. Microsoft's browser experiment shows a time-lapse of "three identical devices, three different browsers, streaming one video." Firefox, Edge, and Chrome play what appears to be a Netflix video on three Surface Books. As usual, the Edge device lasts the longest, depleting the battery after 14 hours and 20 minutes. The Chrome device lasted 12 hours and 32 minutes, while the Firefox laptop ran out of steam after just seven hours and 15 minutes.
Security

Microsoft Explains Why Windows Defender Isn't Ranked Higher in New Antivirus Tests (zdnet.com) 85

In its most recent reports, AV-Test had very few flattering things to say about Windows Defender. Microsoft's security suite was rated as the seventh best antivirus product in the independent test. In total, 15 AV products were tested. Microsoft, however, has now disputed AV-Test's methodology and conclusion. For some context, the top AV products rated by AV-Test on Windows 10 were Trend Micro, Vipre, AhnLab, Avira, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and McAfee.

Windows Defender was able to detect 100 percent of new and old malware, but it lost few points for performance (which, AV-Test measures on the basis of how a security suite slows applications and websites on the test computer); and usability (which counts false-positives or instances where AV wrongly identifies a file as malicious.) From a report: Windows Defender's performance rating was dragged down because it slowed the installation of frequently used applications more than the industry average, and wrongly detected 16 pieces of legitimate software compared with the industry average of four. But Microsoft wants enterprise customers to know that Windows Defender is only half the picture, given the option for customers to also deploy Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection's (ATP) "stack components" including Smartscreen, Application Guard, and Application Control.

In the January and February test Windows Defender also scored 100 percent on protection. However it did miss two samples. Since then it's retrained its machine-learning classifiers to detect them. But Microsoft notes in a new paper that Defender ATP did catch them, which isn't reflected in AV-Test's or other testing firms' result. Microsoft hopes to change this so that testers include so-called stack components available in ATP. "As threats become more sophisticated, Microsoft and other security platform vendors continue evolving their product capabilities to detect threats across different attack stages," Microsoft's Windows Defender Research team writes. "We hope to see independent testers evolve their methodologies as well. Our customers need greater transparency and optics into what an end-to-end solution can accomplish in terms of total preventive protection, including the quality of individual components like antivirus."

Businesses

Apple Blocks Steam's Plan To Extend Its Video Games To iPhones (reuters.com) 202

Citing "business conflicts," Apple has blocked Steam's plans to distribute PC-based video games to iPhones. It's "a sign that Apple is serious about protecting its ability to take a cut of digital purchases made inside games on its mobile devices," reports Reuters. From the report: Steam, the dominant online store for downloaded games played on Windows PCs, had planned to release a free mobile phone app called Steam Link so that gamers could continue playing on their mobile phones while away from their desktop machines. But Apple has rejected the app, blocking its release, according to a statement from Steam's parent company, the Bellevue, Washington-based Valve. Steam did not give a precise reason for the App Store denials, saying only that Apple cited "business conflicts with app guidelines." But the conflict likely centers on what are known as in-app purchases or micro-transactions, in which gamers can spend small sums of money inside games to buy tokens, extra lives or others so-called digital goods. Lombardi said Steam disabled purchasing its iOS app but did not elaborate on how the change was made. Many analysts believe Apple could lose revenue if they allow Steam's app, which is essentially a store-within-a-store. "Apple takes a 30 percent cut of such purchases made within apps distributed through its App Store," Reuters notes. "[T]hose purchases are among the primary drivers of revenue in Apple's services business."
Youtube

Vevo To Shut Down Site, Giving In To YouTube Empire (rollingstone.com) 92

Vevo, the video-hosting service founded in 2009 as a joint venture between the big three record companies, is shutting down. The company announced in a blog post Thursday that it is shuttering its mobile apps and website, and that "going forward, Vevo will remain focused on engaging the biggest audiences and pursuing growth opportunities." Vevo is almost entirely succumbing to YouTube. Rolling Stone reports: The major record labels set up Vevo -- an abbreviation for "video evolution" -- in 2009 as a designated streaming service for music videos that would ideally bring in greater revenue from more high-end advertisers. Via a distribution deal with YouTube, it received a cut of revenue from putting its music videos on the Google-owned site. But YouTube's might has grown: The video-streaming service recently took Vevo's branding off its music videos, while also securing permission under a new licensing deal to sell Vevo's clips directly to advertisers, cutting out the smaller company's sales force. Though Vevo has been trying to peel away from its dependence on YouTube by touting its own suite of apps and offerings for years, it seems those efforts haven't been met with much success. "Our catalog of premium music videos and original content will continue to reach a growing audience on YouTube and we are exploring ways to work with additional platforms to further expand access to Vevo's content," the company said in its blog post. Vevo users on its website and Android, iOS and Windows Mobile apps will receive a tool to migrate their playlists to YouTube.
Network

Pornhub Launches VPNhub, Its Own Virtual Private Network App (venturebeat.com) 68

"Adult entertainment" giant Pornhub is entering the busy virtual private network (VPN) space with the launch of its very own VPN service. From a report: Dubbed VPNhub, the new service is available for free via native apps on Android, iOS, MacOS, and Windows, though there is a premium subscription available that gets rid of the ads and promises faster speeds. In the U.S., this will cost between $12 and $14 per month, depending on the platform. VPNhub promises unlimited bandwidth, even on the free service, which is key given that Pornhub's core selling point is bandwidth-intensive video, while it offers around 1,000 servers across 15 countries. And it promises that it logs no user data.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Sophisticated Piece of Software Ever Written? (quora.com) 237

An anonymous reader writes: Stuxnet is the most sophisticated piece of software ever written, given the difficulty of the objective: Deny Iran's efforts to obtain weapons grade uranium without need for diplomacy or use of force, John Byrd, CEO of Gigantic Software (formerly Director of Sega and SPM at EA), argues in a blog post, which is being widely shared in developer circles, with most agreeing with Byrd's conclusion.

He writes, "It's a computer worm. The worm was written, probably, between 2005 and 2010. Because the worm is so complex and sophisticated, I can only give the most superficial outline of what it does. This worm exists first on a USB drive. Someone could just find that USB drive laying around, or get it in the mail, and wonder what was on it. When that USB drive is inserted into a Windows PC, without the user knowing it, that worm will quietly run itself, and copy itself to that PC. It has at least three ways of trying to get itself to run. If one way doesn't work, it tries another. At least two of these methods to launch itself were completely new then, and both of them used two independent, secret bugs in Windows that no one else knew about, until this worm came along."

"Once the worm runs itself on a PC, it tries to get administrator access on that PC. It doesn't mind if there's antivirus software installed -- the worm can sneak around most antivirus software. Then, based on the version of Windows it's running on, the worm will try one of two previously unknown methods of getting that administrator access on that PC. Until this worm was released, no one knew about these secret bugs in Windows either. At this point, the worm is now able to cover its tracks by getting underneath the operating system, so that no antivirus software can detect that it exists. It binds itself secretly to that PC, so that even if you look on the disk for where the worm should be, you will see nothing. This worm hides so well, that the worm ran around the Internet for over a year without any security company in the world recognizing that it even existed."
What do Slashdot readers think?
Android

With Steam Link App, Your Smartphone Can Be An Imperfect Gaming Monitor (arstechnica.com) 47

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland shares his experience with Valve's recently announced Steam Link app, which lets users play games running on a PC via a tablet, mobile phone, or Apple TV on the same network. The app launches today for Android 5.0+ devices; iOS support is "pending further review from Apple." From the report: Valve isn't kidding when it says a Wi-Fi router in the 5Ghz band is required for wireless streaming. I first tested iPad streaming on the low-end 2.4Ghz router provided with my Verizon FiOS subscription (an Actiontec MI424WR), with a wired Ethernet connection to my Windows gaming rig on the other end. The Steam Link network test warned me that "your network may not work well with Steam Link," thanks to 1- to 2-percent frame loss and about 15ms of "network variance," depending on when I tested. Even graphically simple games like The Binding of Isaac ran at an unplayably slowed-down rate on this connection, with frequent dropped inputs to boot.

Switching over to a 5GHz tri-band router (The Netgear Nighthawk X6, to be precise), the same network test reported a "fantastic" connection that "look[s] like it will work well with Steam." On this router, remotely played games ran incredibly smoothly at the iPad's full 1080p resolution, with total round-trip display latency ranging anywhere from 50 to 150ms, according to Steam Link's reports (and one-way "input lag" of less than 1ms). At that level of delay, playing felt practically indistinguishable from playing directly on the computer, with no noticeable gameplay impact even on quick-response titles like Cuphead.

XBox (Games)

Microsoft Announces Xbox Adaptive Controller For Players With Disabilities (theverge.com) 19

A new Xbox controller designed for people with disabilities has been announced by Microsoft today. The Xbox Adaptive Controller features two large programmable buttons and 19 jacks that can be connected to a range of joysticks, buttons, and switches to make it easier for a wider range of people to play games on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. The Verge reports: "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," says Solomon Romney, a Microsoft Store learning specialist who was born without fingers on his left hand. "If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler."

The focus is on connectivity and customizability, with players able to build a setup that works for their capabilities and needs. It won't be an all-in-one solution for many games, but through the use of peripherals and the Xbox's system-level button remapping, the possibilities could be endless. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will cost $99.99 and goes on sale later this year.

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