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Android

ZDNet: Linux 'Takes The World' While Windows Dominates The Desktop (zdnet.com) 66

ZDNet editor-in-chief Steve Ranger writes that desktop dominance is less important with today's cloud-based apps running independent of operating system, arguing that the desktop is now "just one computing platform among many." An anonymous reader quotes his report: Linux on the desktop has about a 2% market share today and is viewed by many as complicated and obscure. Meanwhile, Windows sails on serenely, currently running on 90% of PCs in use... That's probably OK because Linux won the smartphone war and is doing pretty well on the cloud and Internet of Things battlefields too.

There's a four-in-five chance that there's a Linux-powered smartphone in your pocket (Android is based on the Linux kernel) and plenty of IoT devices are Linux-powered too, even if you don't necessarily notice it. Devices like the Raspberry Pi, running a vast array of different flavours of Linux, are creating an enthusiastic community of makers and giving startups a low-cost way to power new types of devices. Much of the public cloud is running on Linux in one form or another, too; even Microsoft has warmed up to open-source software.

Bug

Google Discloses An Unpatched Windows Bug (Again) (bleepingcomputer.com) 78

An anonymous reader writes: "For the second time in three months, Google engineers have disclosed a bug in the Windows OS without Microsoft having released a fix before Google's announcement," reports BleepingComputer. "The bug in question affects the Windows GDI (Graphics Device Interface) (gdi32.dll)..." According to Google, the issue allows an attacker to read the content of the user's memory using malicious EMF files. The bad news is that the EMF file can be hidden in other documents, such as DOCX, and can be exploited via Office, IE, or Office Online, among many.

"According to a bug report filed by Google's Project Zero team, the bug was initially part of a larger collection of issues discovered in March 2016, and fixed in June 2016, via Microsoft's security bulletin MS16-074. Mateusz Jurczyk, the Google engineer who found the first bugs, says the MS16-074 patches were insufficient, and some of the issues he reported continued to remain vulnerable." He later resubmitted the bugs in November 2016. The 90-days deadline for fixing the bugs expired last week, and the Google researcher disclosed the bug to the public after Microsoft delayed February's security updates to next month's Patch Tuesday, for March 15.

Microsoft has described Google's announcements of unpatched Windows bugs as "disappointing".
It's funny.  Laugh.

Web Comic 'Pokey The Penguin' Celebrates Its 19th Anniversary (twitter.com) 65

It's one of the longest-running comics on the internet. (Slashdot is approaching its 20th anniversary, and in its first year ran two stories about Pokey.) Open source developer Steve Havelka of Portland, Oregon created the truly bizarre strip back in 1998 -- one legend says it was originally a parody of another comic drawn with Microsoft Paint -- and he's since sporadically cranked out 637 strips.

Since 2010 he's also been publishing the cartoons in printed books, and this year launched an equally surreal page on Patreon identifying himself as "Steve Havelka, THE AUTHORS of Pokey the Penguin," offering supporters a "mystery item in the mail". Pokey has lots of fans -- he earned a shout-out in the videogame Hitman: Blood Money -- and very-long-time Slashdot reader 198348726583297634 informs us that on this 19th anniversary Pokey "is celebrating on Twitter!" where he's apparently accosting other web cartoonists and touting a new birthday strip. (Not to be confused with that truly horrible Pokey-goes-to-a-party movie created in Adobe Flash.)

I'd like to hear from any Slashdot readers who remember Pokey the Penguin -- but I'm also curious to hear from Slashdot readers who have never read the strip. ComixTalk called it "one of those webcomics that really only exist because of the Internet -- it would be hard to see something like this in any other medium... there's just something about Pokey the Penguin that fits online."
Android

99.6 Percent of New Smartphones Run Android or iOS (theverge.com) 90

The latest smartphone figures from Gartner show how much iOS and Android are dominating the smartphone market. According to the report, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. For comparison, this figure was 96.8 percent in the second quarter of 2015. The Verge reports: Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share. It's worth noting that although, in retrospect, this state of affairs seems inescapable, for years analysts were predicting otherwise. Three years ago, Gartner said that Microsoft's mobile OS would overtake iOS for market share in 2017, while BlackBerry would still be hanging around as sizable (if small) player.
Businesses

Tech Jobs Took a Big Hit Last Year (fortune.com) 118

Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune: Tech jobs took it on the chin last year. Layoffs at computer, electronics, and telecommunications companies were up 21 percent to 96,017 jobs cut in 2016, compared to 79,315 the prior year. Tech layoffs accounted for 18 percent of the total 526,915 U.S. job cuts announced in 2016, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm based in Chicago. Of the 2016 total, some 66,821 of the layoffs came from computer companies, up 7% year over year. Challenger attributed much of that increase to cuts made by Dell Technologies, the entity formed by the $63 billion convergence of Dell and EMC. In preparation for that combination, layoffs were instituted across EMC and its constituent companies, including VMware.
Businesses

Check Your Privacy Filters: Facebook Wants To Be the New LinkedIn (cnet.com) 85

From a report on CNET: Facebook isn't just for wasting time in the office. It can now help you find a new job entirely. The social network has unveiled a Jobs page, which allows businesses to list all kinds of work for you to find. You can even apply for the job and make contact with recruiters directly through Facebook. This could be seen as a challenge to competing services such as LinkedIn, the recruiting network acquired by Microsoft last December. But while LinkedIn is entirely focused on business, Facebook's social aspects could make it easier for potential employers to trawl your profile for details of your personal life.
Security

Russian Cyberspies Blamed For US Election Hacks Are Now Targeting Macs (computerworld.com) 250

You may recall "APT28", the Russian hacking group which was tied to last year's interference in the presidential election. It has long been known for its advanced range of tools for penetrating Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux devices. Now, researchers have uncovered an equally sophisticated malware package the group used to compromise Macs. From a report on ComputerWorld: The group -- known in the security industry under different names including Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, and APT28 -- has been operating for almost a decade. It is believed to be the sole user and likely developer of a Trojan program called Sofacy or X-Agent. X-Agent variants for Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS have been found in the wild in the past, but researchers from Bitdefender have now come across what appears to be the first macOS version of the Trojan. It's not entirely clear how the malware is being distributed because the Bitdefender researchers obtained only the malware sample, not the full attack chain. However, it's possible a macOS malware downloader dubbed Komplex, found in September, might be involved. Komplex infected Macs by exploiting a known vulnerability in the MacKeeper antivirus software, according to researchers from Palo Alto Networks who investigated the malware at the time. The vulnerability allowed attackers to execute remote commands on a Mac when users visited specially crafted web pages.Further reading on ArsTechnica.
Microsoft

Microsoft Delays February Patch Tuesday Indefinitely (sans.edu) 88

UnderAttack writes: Microsoft today announced that it had to delay its February Patch Tuesday due to issues with a particular patch. This was also supposed to be the first Patch Tuesday using a new format, which led some to believe that even Microsoft had issues understanding how the new format is exactly going to work with no more simple bulletin summary and patches being released as large monolithic updates. Ars Technica notes the importance of this Patch Tuesday as "there's an in-the-wild zero-day flaw in SMB, Microsoft's file sharing protocol, that at the very least allows systems to be crashed." They also elaborate on the way Microsoft is "continuing to tune the way updates are delivered to Windows 7, 8.1, Server 2008 R2, Server 2012, and Server 2012 R2."
Microsoft

Microsoft Calls For 'Digital Geneva Convention' (usatoday.com) 142

Microsoft is calling for a digital Geneva Convention to outline protections for civilians and companies from government-sponsored cyberattacks. In comments Tuesday at the RSA security industry conference in San Francisco, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said the rising trend of government entities wielding the internet as a weapon was worrying. From a report on USA Today: In the cyber realm, tech must be committed to "100% defense and zero percent offense," Smith said at the opening keynote at the RSA computer security conference. Smith called for a "digital Geneva Convention," like the one created in the aftermath of World War II which set ground rules for how conduct during wartime, defining basic rights for civilians caught up armed conflicts. In the 21st century such rules are needed "to commit governments to protect civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace," a draft of Smith's speech released to USA TODAY said. This digital Geneva Convention would establish protocols, norms and international processes for how tech companies would deal with cyber aggression and attacks of nations aimed at civilian targets, which appears to effectively mean anything but military servers.
XBox (Games)

Microsoft's 'Forza' Video Game Francise Tops $1 Billion in Sales (xbox.com) 35

Here's another area where Microsoft, whose cloud services are doing very well, continues to make a lot of money: video games. Microsoft has minted its fifth billion-dollar video-game franchise. The "Forza" racing series in December topped $1 billion in lifetime sales since the first game's release 12 years ago, Microsoft said. From company's blogpost: As of December, more than 14 million unique players were involved in the Forza community on Xbox One and Windows 10, the award-winning Forza Horizon 3 sold through 2.5 million units, and Forza continued its run as the best-selling racing franchise of this console generation. Additionally, our online racing community expanded significantly: over three million players joined us online each month and we launched the Forza Racing Championship, an eSports league for players of all skill levels to compete for glory and real-world prizes. "Since the beginning, Forza has combined stunning graphics, racing's leading simulation engine, and an emphasis on fun and accessibility," said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. "With the Forza series, Turn 10 Studios has built the world's largest racing community. We couldn't be more proud of their success." Other game franchises in Microsoft's billion-dollar club are "Halo," "Minecraft," "Gears of War", and "Age of Empires".
Cloud

Microsoft Launches Outlook.com Premium Email Service, Costs $20 Per Year (thurrott.com) 79

Outlook.com Premium email service, which Microsoft began testing in October, is now available to all. You get the following features with this paid service, via a report: Outlook.com Premium provides a number of useful features: (1) Custom domain support for five users.

(2) Information sharing: Outlook Premium helps you easily share calendars, contacts, and documents (via OneDrive) between those five users.

(3) Ad-free inbox: Like Ad-Free Outlook.com, Outlook Premium offers no "banner ads" for a "distraction-free view of your email, photos, and documents."

Microsoft

Microsoft's Open-Source Graph Engine Takes On Neo4j (infoworld.com) 17

An anonymous reader quotes a report from InfoWorld: Sometimes the relationships between the data you've gathered are more important than the data itself. That's when a graph processing system comes in handy. It's an important but often poorly understood method for exploring how items in a data set are interrelated. Microsoft's been exploring this area since at least 2013, when it published a paper describing the Trinity project, a cloud-based, in-memory graph engine. The fruits of the effort, known as the Microsoft Graph Engine, are now available as an MIT-licensed open source project as an alternative to the likes of Neo4j or the Linux Foundation's recently announced JanusGraph. Microsoft calls Graph Engine (GE) as "both a RAM store and a computation engine." Data can be inserted into GE and retrieved at high speed since it's kept in-memory and only written back to disk as needed. It can work as a simple key-value store like Memcached, but Redis may be the better comparison, since GE stores data in strongly typed schemas (string, integer, and so on). How does all this shape up against the leading open source graph database, Neo4j? For one, Neo4j has been in the market longer and has an existing user base. It's also available in both an open source community edition and a commercial product, whereas GE is only an open source project right now.
EU

The City Of Munich Now Wants To Abandon Linux And Switch Back to Windows (techrepublic.com) 557

"The prestigious FOSS project replacing the entire city's administration IT with FOSS based systems, is about to be cancelled and decommissioned," writes long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino. TechRepublic reports: Politicians at open-source champion Munich will next week vote on whether to abandon Linux and return to Windows by 2021. The city authority, which made headlines for ditching Windows, will discuss proposals to replace the Linux-based OS used across the council with a Windows 10-based client. If the city leaders back the proposition it would be a notable U-turn by the council, which spent years migrating about 15,000 staff from Windows to LiMux, a custom version of the Ubuntu desktop OS, and only completed the move in 2013...

The use of the open-source Thunderbird email client and LibreOffice suite across the council would also be phased out, in favor of using "market standard products" that offer the "highest possible compatibility" with external and internal software... The full council will vote on whether to back the plan next Wednesday. If all SPD and CSU councillors back the proposal put forward by their party officials, then this new proposal will pass, because the two parties hold the majority.

The leader of the Munich Green Party says the city will lose "many millions of euros" if the change is implemented. The article also reports that Microsoft moved its German headquarters to Munich last year.
Microsoft

Microsoft Allowed To Sue US Government Over Email Surveillance (bloomberg.com) 56

A judge has ruled that Microsoft is allowed to sue the U.S. government over a policy that prevents the tech company from telling its users when their emails are being intercepted. From a report on Bloomberg: The judge said Microsoft has at least made a plausible argument that federal law muzzles its right to speak about government investigations, while not ruling on the merits of the case. "The public debate has intensified as people increasingly store their information in the cloud and on devices with significant storage capacity," U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle said in Thursday's ruling. "Government surveillance aided by service providers creates unique considerations because of the vast amount of data service providers have about their customers."
Chrome

Most of the Web Really Sucks If You Have a Slow Connection (danluu.com) 325

Dan Luu, hardware/software engineer at Microsoft, writes in a blog post: While it's easy to blame page authors because there's a lot of low-hanging fruit on the page side, there's just as much low-hanging fruit on the browser side. Why does my browser open up 6 TCP connections to try to download six images at once when I'm on a slow satellite connection? That just guarantees that all six images will time out! I can sometimes get some images to load by refreshing the page a few times (and waiting ten minutes each time), but why shouldn't the browser handle retries for me? If you think about it for a few minutes, there are a lot of optimizations that browsers could do for people on slow connections, but because they don't, the best current solution for users appears to be: use w3m when you can, and then switch to a browser with ad-blocking when that doesn't work. But why should users have to use two entirely different programs, one of which has a text-based interface only computer nerds will find palatable?
Microsoft

Microsoft Teases Windows 10's Upcoming 'Project Neon' Design Language (windowscentral.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windows Central: Microsoft just gave developers a sneak peek at Project Neon, Microsoft's upcoming design language for Windows 10 that aims to add fluidity, animation and blur to apps and the operating system. We exclusively revealed that this was in the works in late 2016, and today Microsoft has given us a first peak at what Project Neon will look like. During the Windows Developer Day livestream, an image of Project Neon was seen the background of one of the PowerPoint slides being shown off on stage. Although not much, it's further confirmation that this is the end goal for Windows 10's UI, and Project Neon will be bringing a fresh coat of paint to apps. Project Neon should benefit all types of Windows 10 devices, including Windows 10 Mobile, HoloLens and even Xbox. We're still several months away from Project Neon being everywhere in Windows 10, and we're expecting to see more at BUILD this coming May. In fact, a lot of the Project Neon APIs are available in the latest Insider Preview builds of Windows 10, meaning developers can already begin taking advantage of these new user interfaces and design language! Animations and transitions are a big deal with Project Neon, with the goal of making the operating system and apps feel like they work together. Peter Bright does a good job summarizing the looks of the screenshot via Ars Technica: "The picture shows a refreshed version of the Groove music app on a Windows desktop. The fundamentals of the app and its layout aren't changed, underscoring that Neon is very much an iteration of the current Metro/Microsoft Design Language (MDL). The window has shed its discrete title bar and one pixel border, with the application content now extending to the very edge of the window. The search text field no longer has a box around it, and the left hand pane has a hint of translucency to it." You can view the screenshot here and judge it for yourself.
Microsoft

Cortana Now Reminds You To Do the Things You Promised in Emails (theverge.com) 134

From a report: Microsoft is adding a new feature to Cortana today that will remind you to keep your promises. Suggested reminders lets Cortana remind you when you've promised to do something in an email. Microsoft is using machine learning to highlight phrases in emails where you might promise your boss something, or make a commitment to a friend or family member. The result is a reminder that pops up telling you "don't forget you mentioned this." Cortana's suggested reminders will be available in the US first on Windows 10 PCs, and Microsoft is planning to bring them to iOS and Android in the coming weeks. Microsoft is supporting Outlook.com and Office 365 accounts for these reminders, and other accounts like Gmail will be supported soon. You'll need to connect an Outlook.com or Office 365 account to Cortana to enable the feature, and you'll start receiving reminders once the service detects your promises and commitments.
Windows

Developer Explains Why All Windows Drivers Are Dated June 21, 2006 (microsoft.com) 236

For years, people have wondered why all Windows drivers are dated June 21, 2006. Long time developer at Microsoft, Raymond Chen explains (much of the entire post in summary): When the system looks for a driver to use for a particular piece of hardware, it ranks them according to various criteria. If a driver provides a perfect match to the hardware ID, then it becomes a top candidate. And if more than one driver provides a perfect match, then the one with the most recent timestamp is chosen. If there is still a tie, then the one with the highest file version number is chosen. Suppose that the timestamp on the driver matched the build release date. And suppose you had a custom driver provided by the manufacturer. When you installed a new build, the driver provided by Windows will have a newer timestamp than the one provided by the manufacturer. Result: When you install a new build, all your manufacturer-provided drivers get replaced by the Windows drivers. Oops. Intentionally backdating the drivers avoids this problem. It means that if you have a custom manufacturer-provided driver, it will retain priority over the Windows-provided driver. On the other hand, if your existing driver was the Windows-provided driver from an earlier build, then the third-level selection rule will choose the one with the higher version number, which is the one from the more recent build. It all works out in the end, but it does look a bit funny.
Botnet

Programmer Develops Phone Bot To Target Windows Support Scammers (onthewire.io) 97

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: The man who developed a bot that frustrates and annoys robocallers is planning to take on the infamous Windows support scam callers head-on. Roger Anderson last year debuted his Jolly Roger bot, a system that intercepts robocalls and puts the caller into a never-ending loop of pre-recorded phrases designed to waste their time. Anderson built the system as a way to protect his own landlines from annoying telemarketers and it worked so well that he later expanded it into a service for both consumers and businesses. Users can send telemarketing calls to the Jolly Roger bot and listen in while it chats inanely with the caller. Now, Anderson is targeting the huge business that is the Windows fake support scam. This one takes a variety of forms, often with a pre-recorded message informing the victim that technicians have detected that his computer has a virus and that he will be connected to a Windows support specialist to help fix it. The callers have no affiliation with Microsoft and no way of detecting any malware on a target's machine. It's just a scare tactic to intimidate victims into paying a fee to remove the nonexistent malware, and sometimes the scammers get victims to install other unwanted apps on their PCs, as well. Anderson plans to turn the tables on these scammers and unleash his bots on their call centers. "I'm getting ready for a major initiative to shut down Windows Support. It's like wack-a-mole, but I'm getting close to going nuclear on them. As fast as you can report fake 'you have a virus call this number now' messages to me, I will be able to hit them with thousands of calls from bots," Andrew said in a post Tuesday.
Patents

Microsoft Now Offers Patent Troll Defense For Azure Customers (thestack.com) 31

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft Azure will now offer customers protection against patent trolling, via Redmond's considerable collection of 10,000 legal patents. The practice of patent trolling has become an industry hazard for startups in the last fifteen years, with companies forming solely for the purpose of exploiting obscure or difficult-to-research patents which may overlap with the IP of startups. As of today, Azure is offering 'uncapped indemnification coverage', including coverage against open-source implementations of entities such as Hadoop, which forms the basis of Azure's HD Insight product.

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