Windows

Intel, Microsoft, Dell, HP and Lenovo Expect PCs With Fast 5G Wireless To Ship Next Year (pcworld.com) 48

Intel, along with Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft said Thursday that the companies expect the first 5G Windows PCs to become available during the second half of 2019. From a report: That's about the same time that Intel plans to begin shipping its XMM 8000 commercial modems, marking the company's entrance into the 5G market. Intel will show off a prototype of the new 5G connected PC at Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. In addition the company will demonstrate data streaming over the 5G network. At its stand, Intel said that it will also show off eSIM technology -- the replacement for actual, physical SIM cards -- and a thin PC running 802.11ax Wi-Fi, the next-gen Wi-Fi standard.
Facebook

Why Decentralization Matters (medium.com) 93

Chris Dixon has an essay about the long-term promise of blockchain-based networks to upend web-based businesses such as Facebook and Twitter. He writes: When they hit the top of the S-curve, their relationships with network participants change from positive-sum to zero-sum. The easiest way to continue growing lies in extracting data from users and competing with complements over audiences and profits. Historical examples of this are Microsoft vs Netscape, Google vs Yelp, Facebook vs Zynga, and Twitter vs its 3rd-party clients. Operating systems like iOS and Android have behaved better, although still take a healthy 30% tax, reject apps for seemingly arbitrary reasons, and subsume the functionality of 3rd-party apps at will. For 3rd parties, this transition from cooperation to competition feels like a bait-and-switch. Over time, the best entrepreneurs, developers, and investors have become wary of building on top of centralized platforms. We now have decades of evidence that doing so will end in disappointment. In addition, users give up privacy, control of their data, and become vulnerable to security breaches. These problems with centralized platforms will likely become even more pronounced in the future.
Businesses

Mines Linked to Child Labor Are Thriving in Rush for Car Batteries (bloomberg.com) 138

Metal vital to many electric vehicles has tripled in 18 months. From a report: The appetite for electric cars is driving a boom in small-scale cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some mines have been found to be dangerous and employ child labor. Production from so-called artisanal mines probably rose by at least half last year, according to the estimates of officials at three of the biggest international suppliers of the metal, who asked not to be named because they're not authorized to speak on the matter. State-owned miner Gecamines estimates artisanal output accounted for as much as a quarter of the country's total production in 2017. That's a concern for carmakers from Volkswagen to Tesla, who are seeking to secure long-term supplies of the battery ingredient but don't want to be enmeshed in a scandal about unethical mining practices.

Tech giants including Apple and Microsoft endured bad publicity after a 2016 Amnesty International report said children were being sent down some Congolese mines to dig for cobalt destined for their gadgets. Pit and tunnel collapses killed dozens of workers in 2015, the advocacy group said. Cobalt has tripled in value in the last 18 months as the rise of electric vehicles intensifies competition for scarce resources. Two-thirds of the world's supply comes from Congo, the second-poorest nation. The boom in the metal, currently trading above $80,000 a metric ton, has triggered more mining in the cobalt-rich Katanga region, where sprawling hand-dug mines dot the landscape, and searching for ore is as commonplace as farming.

Windows

Microsoft Finally Documents the Limitations of Windows 10 on ARM (thurrott.com) 121

For over a year we've been treated to the fantasy that Windows 10 on ARM was the same as Windows 10 on x86. But it's a bit more nuanced than that. Paul Thurrott: 64-bit apps will not work. Yes, Windows 10 on ARM can run Windows desktop applications. But it can only run 32-bit (x86) desktop applications, not 64-bit (x64) applications. (The documentation doesn't note this, but support for x64 apps is planned for a future release.)
Certain classes of apps will not run. Utilities that modify the Windows user interface -- like shell extensions, input method editors (IMEs), assistive technologies, and cloud storage apps -- will not work in Windows 10 on ARM.
It cannot use x86 drivers. While Windows 10 on ARM can run x86 Windows applications, it cannot utilize x86 drivers. Instead, it will require native ARM64 drivers instead. This means that hardware support will be much more limited than is the case with mainstream Windows 10 versions. In other words, it will likely work much like Windows 10 S does today.
No Hyper-V.
Older games and graphics apps may not work. Windows 10 on ARM supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11, and DirectX 12, but apps/games that target older versions will not work. Apps that require hardware-accelerated OpenGL will also not work.

Windows

Microsoft Stops Pushing Notifications To Windows 7 and 8 Phones (engadget.com) 64

The end of Microsoft's Windows Phone project has been a long time coming, and now there's another nail in the coffin. From a report: Microsoft is ending support for all push notifications for Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8.0 starting Tuesday, February 20th. According to Microsoft's blog post, in addition to the discontinuation of push notifications, live tiles will no longer be updated and the find my phone feature will not work. It's important to note that this doesn't apply to newer devices.
The Courts

Man, Seeking New Copy of Windows 7 After Forced Windows 10 Upgrade, Sues Microsoft (bleepingcomputer.com) 356

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: An Albuquerque man has sued Microsoft and its CEO -- Satya Nadella -- seeking a fresh copy of Windows 7 or $600 million in damages. According to a civil complaint filed last week on February 14, Frank K. Dickman Jr. of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is suing Microsoft because of a botched forced Windows 10 upgrade. "I own a ASUS 54L laptop computer which has an OEM license for Windows Version 7," Dickman's claim reads. "The computer was upgraded to Windows Version 10 and became non-functional immediately. The upgrade deleted the cached, or backup, version of Windows 7." Dickman says that the laptop's original OEM vendor is "untrustworthy," hence, he cannot obtain a legitimate copy of Windows 7 to downgrade his laptop.
IBM

IBM Sues Microsoft's New Chief Diversity Officer To Protect Diversity Trade Secrets (geekwire.com) 197

theodp writes: GeekWire reports that IBM has filed suit against longtime exec Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, alleging that her new position as Microsoft's chief diversity officer violates a year-long non-compete agreement, allowing Microsoft to use IBM's internal secrets to boost its own diversity efforts. A hearing is set for Feb. 22, but in the meantime, a U.S. District Judge has temporarily barred McIntyre from working at Microsoft. "IBM has gone to great lengths to safeguard as secret the confidential information that McIntyre possesses," Big Blue explained in a court filing, citing its repeated success (in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017) in getting the U.S. government to quash FOIA requests for IBM's EEO-1 Reports on the grounds that the mandatory race/ethnicity and gender filings represent "confidential proprietary trade secret information." IBM's argument may raise some eyebrows, considering that other tech giants -- including Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook -- voluntarily disclosed their EEO-1s years ago after coming under pressure from Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Congressional Black Caucus. In 2010, IBM stopped disclosing U.S. headcount data in its annual report as it accelerated overseas hiring.
Microsoft

'Microsoft Should Scrap Bing and Call it Microsoft Search' (cnet.com) 205

Chris Matyszczyk, writing for CNET: Does anyone really have a deep, abiding respect for the Bing brand? Somehow, if ever I've heard the brand name being used, it seems to be in the context of a joke. That doesn't mean the service itself is to be derided. It does suggest, though, that the brand name doesn't incite passion or excesses of reverence. The Microsoft brand, on the other hand, has become much stronger under Satya Nadella's stewardship. It's gained respect. Especially when the company showed off its Surface Studio in 2016 and made Apple's offerings look decidedly bland. Where once Microsoft was a joke in an Apple ad, now it's a symbol of a resurgent company that's trying new things and sometimes even succeeding. The funny thing about Bing is that it's not an unsuccessful product -- at least not as unsuccessful as some might imagine. Last year, Redmond said it has a 9 percent worldwide search market share, enjoying a 25 percent share in the UK, 18 percent in France and 17 percent in Canada. And look at the US. Microsoft says it has a 33 percent share here. Wouldn't it be reasonable to think that going all the way with Microsoft branding and letting Bing drift into the retirement home for funny names might be a positive move?
Microsoft

LinkedIn Users Will Soon Know What Jobs Pay Before Applying for Them (adweek.com) 62

LinkedIn just introduced a way to help its members avoid going through the interview process for jobs with salaries that do not meet their expectations. From a report: The professional network announced the rollout of Salary Insights, which will add estimated or expected salary ranges to open roles, getting the numbers either through salary ranges provided by employers or estimated ranges from data submitted by members. The feature will launch "in the coming weeks." Salary Insights marks the next step after LinkedIn Salary, which the professional network launched in November 2016 to provide its users with information on salaries, bonuses and equity data for specific job titles, as well as factors that impact those salaries, including experience, industry, company size, location and education level.
Education

Learning To Program Is Getting Harder (slashdot.org) 403

theodp writes: While Google suggests that parents and educators are to blame for why kids can't code, Allen Downey, Professor at Olin College argues that learning to program is getting harder . Downey writes: The fundamental problem is that the barrier between using a computer and programming a computer is getting higher. When I got a Commodore 64 (in 1982, I think) this barrier was non-existent. When you turned on the computer, it loaded and ran a software development environment (SDE). In order to do anything, you had to type at least one line of code, even if all it did was another program (like Archon). Since then, three changes have made it incrementally harder for users to become programmers:
1. Computer retailers stopped installing development environments by default. As a result, anyone learning to program has to start by installing an SDE -- and that's a bigger barrier than you might expect. Many users have never installed anything, don't know how to, or might not be allowed to. Installing software is easier now than it used to be, but it is still error prone and can be frustrating. If someone just wants to learn to program, they shouldn't have to learn system administration first.
2. User interfaces shifted from command-line interfaces (CLIs) to graphical user interfaces (GUIs). GUIs are generally easier to use, but they hide information from users about what's really happening. When users really don't need to know, hiding information can be a good thing. The problem is that GUIs hide a lot of information programmers need to know. So when a user decides to become a programmer, they are suddenly confronted with all the information that's been hidden from them. If someone just wants to learn to program, they shouldn't have to learn operating system concepts first.
3. Cloud computing has taken information hiding to a whole new level. People using web applications often have only a vague idea of where their data is stored and what applications they can use to access it. Many users, especially on mobile devices, don't distinguish between operating systems, applications, web browsers, and web applications. When they upload and download data, they are often confused about where is it coming from and where it is going. When they install something, they are often confused about what is being installed where. For someone who grew up with a Commodore 64, learning to program was hard enough. For someone growing up with a cloud-connected mobile device, it is much harder.
theodp continues: So, with the Feds budgeting $200 million a year for K-12 CS at the behest of U.S. tech leaders, can't the tech giants at least put a BASIC on every phone/tablet/laptop for kids?
DRM

Pirates Crack Microsoft's UWP Protection, Five Layers of DRM Defeated (torrentfreak.com) 135

A piracy scene group has managed to get past the five layers of DRM in Microsoft's Unified Windows Platform UWP -- which enables software developers to create applications that can run across many devices. From a report: This week it became clear that the UWP system, previously believed to be uncrackable, had fallen to pirates. After being released on October 31, 2017, the somewhat underwhelming Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection became the first victim at the hands of popular scene group, CODEX. "This is the first scene release of a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) game. Therefore we would like to point out that it will of course only work on Windows 10. This particular game requires Windows 10 version 1607 or newer," the group said in its release notes. CODEX says it's important that the game isn't allowed to communicate with the Internet so the group advises users to block the game's executable in their firewall.
Security

Google Exposes How Malicious Sites Can Exploit Microsoft Edge (zdnet.com) 51

Google's Project Zero team has published details of an unfixed bypass for an important exploit-mitigation technique in Edge. From a report: The mitigation, Arbitrary Code Guard (ACG), arrived in the Windows 10 Creators Update to help thwart web attacks that attempt to load malicious code into memory. The defense ensures that only properly signed code can be mapped into memory. However, as Microsoft explains, Just-in-Time (JIT) compilers used in modern web browsers create a problem for ACG. JIT compilers transform JavaScript into native code, some of which is unsigned and runs in a content process.

To ensure JIT compilers work with ACG enabled, Microsoft put Edge's JIT compiling in a separate process that runs in its own isolated sandbox. Microsoft said this move was "a non-trivial engineering task." "The JIT process is responsible for compiling JavaScript to native code and mapping it into the requesting content process. In this way, the content process itself is never allowed to directly map or modify its own JIT code pages," Microsoft says. Google's Project Zero found an issue is created by the way the JIT process writes executable data into the content process.

AI

Microsoft Launches LinkedIn-Powered Resume Assistant For Office 365 Subscribers 23

Microsoft and LinkedIn have launched their Resume Assistant, a Word-integrated tool that aims to help you write your resume by suggesting work experience descriptions pulled from similar LinkedIn profiles and requirements from real job postings. "The feature is available to Microsoft Office 365 subscribers, but one does not need a LinkedIn account to use it," reports Quartz. From the report: What's more, when you're done, Resume Assistant promises to "surface relevant job opportunities for you directly within Microsoft Word." The tool is the newest product to come out of Microsoft's takeover of LinkedIn, the high price of which raised more questions than it answered. Industry analysts speculated that Microsoft might have more up its sleeve than just trying to snag more users -- offering companies an entire hiring, learning, and training package, perhaps.
Crime

Electronics-Recycling Innovator Faces Prison For Extending Computers' Lives 288

schwit1 shares a report from Los Angeles Times: Prosecutors said 33-year-old [Eric Lundgren, an electronic-waste recycling innovator] ripped off Microsoft by manufacturing 28,000 counterfeit discs with the company's Windows operating system on them. He was convicted of conspiracy and copyright infringement, which brought a 15-month prison sentence and a $50,000 fine. In a rare move though, a federal appeals court has granted an emergency stay of the sentence, giving Lundgren another chance to make his argument that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Lundgren does not deny that he made the discs or that he hoped to sell them. But he says this was no profit-making scheme. By his account, he just wanted to make it easier to extend the usefulness of secondhand computers -- keeping more of them out of the trash.

The case centers on "restore discs," which can be used only on computers that already have the licensed Windows software and can be downloaded free from the computer's manufacturer, in this case Dell. The discs are routinely provided to buyers of new computers to enable them to reinstall their operating systems if the computers' hardware fails or must be wiped clean. But they often are lost by the time used computers find their way to a refurbisher. Lundgren said he thought electronics companies wanted the reuse of computers to be difficult so that people would buy new ones. He thought that producing and selling restore discs to computer refurbishers -- saving them the hassle of downloading the software and burning new discs -- would encourage more secondhand sales. In his view, the new owners were entitled to the software, and this just made it easier. The government, and Microsoft, did not see it that way. Federal prosecutors in Florida obtained a 21-count indictment against Lundgren and his business partner, and Microsoft filed a letter seeking $420,000 in restitution for lost sales. Lundgren claims that the assistant U.S. attorney on the case told him, "Microsoft wants your head on a platter and I'm going to give it to them."
Microsoft

Windows 10 Compatibility Issues Forcing US Air Force To Scrap a Significant Number of Computers (betanews.com) 151

The US Department of Defense has decreed that the Air Force must complete its migration to Windows 10 by March 31 2018. From a report: Failure to do so will result in any systems not running Microsoft's latest operating system being denied access to the Air Force Network. However, because Windows 10 is not compatible with many of the Air Force's existing systems, a significant number of computers will need to be replaced in order to hit the deadline.
Microsoft

Hey Microsoft, Stop Installing Apps On My PC Without Asking (howtogeek.com) 511

Chris Hoffman, writing for How To Geek: I'm getting sick of Windows 10's auto-installing apps. Apps like Facebook are now showing up out of nowhere, and even displaying notifications begging for me to use them. I didn't install the Facebook app, I didn't give it permission to show notifications, and I've never even used it. So why is it bugging me? Windows 10 has always been a little annoying about these apps, but it wasn't always this bad. Microsoft went from "we pinned a few tiles, but the apps aren't installed until you click them" to "the apps are now automatically installed on your PC" to "the automatically installed apps are now sending you notifications." It's ridiculous.
Windows

Windows 10 Is Adding an Ultimate Performance Mode For Pros (engadget.com) 151

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: When you're creating 3D models or otherwise running intensive tasks, you want to wring every ounce of performance out of your PC as possible. It's a good thing, then, that Microsoft has released a Windows 10 preview build in the Fast ring that includes a new Ultimate Performance mode if you're running Pro for Workstations. As the name implies, this is a step up for people for whom even the High Performance mode isn't enough -- it throws power management out the window to eliminate "micro-latencies" and boost raw speed. You can set it yourself, but PC makers will have the option of shipping systems with the feature turned on. Ultimate Performance isn't currently available for laptops or tablets, but Microsoft suggests that could change.
Businesses

Bill Gates: Tech Companies Inviting Government Intervention (axios.com) 150

In an interview with Axios on Tuesday, Bill Gates warned Apple and other tech giants that they risk the kind of nightmarish government intervention that once plagued his Microsoft if they act arrogantly. Axios reports: The big picture: "The companies need to be careful that they're not ... advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we've come to count on." Asked if he sees instances of that now, Gates replied: "Oh, absolutely." Why it matters: With the Big Tech companies feeling they're suddenly drawing unfair scrutiny, this is Microsoft's co-founder saying they're bringing some of the problems on themselves, by resisting legitimate oversight.
Microsoft

Microsoft: We're Developing Blockchain ID System Starting With Our Authenticator App (zdnet.com) 57

Microsoft has revealed its plans to use blockchain distributed-ledger technologies to securely store and manage digital identities, starting with an experiment using the Microsoft Authenticator app. From a report: Microsoft reckons the technology holds promise as a superior alternative to people granting consent to dozens of apps and services and having their identity data spread across multiple providers. It highlights that with the existing model people don't have control over their identity data and are left exposed to data breaches and identity theft. Instead, people could store, control and access their identity in an encrypted digital hub, Microsoft explained. To achieve this goal, Microsoft has for the past year been incubating ideas for using blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies to create new types of decentralized digital identities.
Bug

Skype Can't Fix a Nasty Security Bug Without a Massive Code Rewrite (zdnet.com) 151

ZDNet reports of a security flaw in Skype's updater process that "can allow an attacker to gain system-level privileges to a vulnerable computer." If the bug is exploited, it "can escalate a local unprivileged user to the full 'system' level rights -- granting them access to every corner of the operating system." What's worse is that Microsoft, which owns Skype, won't fix the flaw because it would require the updater to go through "a large code revision." Instead, Microsoft is putting all its resources on building an altogether new client. From the report: Security researcher Stefan Kanthak found that the Skype update installer could be exploited with a DLL hijacking technique, which allows an attacker to trick an application into drawing malicious code instead of the correct library. An attacker can download a malicious DLL into a user-accessible temporary folder and rename it to an existing DLL that can be modified by an unprivileged user, like UXTheme.dll. The bug works because the malicious DLL is found first when the app searches for the DLL it needs. Once installed, Skype uses its own built-in updater to keep the software up to date. When that updater runs, it uses another executable file to run the update, which is vulnerable to the hijacking. The attack reads on the clunky side, but Kanthak told ZDNet in an email that the attack could be easily weaponized. He explained, providing two command line examples, how a script or malware could remotely transfer a malicious DLL into that temporary folder.

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