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Cortana Coming To iOS, For 2000 Beta Testers ( 28

TechCrunch, InformationWeek, PC World, and other sources report that Microsoft's voice-recognition based personal assistant app Cortana is coming to iOS for a small group of beta testers. From TechCrunch: According to the description that accompanies the test build of Cortana for iOS, Microsoft explains how the assistant can help Windows users with iPhones connect the two platforms. For example, Microsoft suggests how you can set reminders on your PC – like a reminder to pick up milk on the way home – then be notified via your iPhone when you’re on the road. ... Testers report that the beta build is being distributed by Apple’s TestFlight. As one blogger and earlier tester points out that could mean only a small number of testers will be brought on initially, given TestFlight’s limitation of 2,000 testers per application. That may also explain why a good many who signed up for Cortana’s beta are saying that have still yet to receive their invite at this time. (A staged rollout is another possibility.)

Hacker Cracks Lumia Bootloader, Offers Tool For Root Access and Custom ROMs ( 69

MojoKid writes: Microsoft and Nokia have worked hard making Lumia smartphones difficult to break into at a low-level, but software hacker Heathcliff has just proven that it's not impossible. He's just released a solid-looking tool called Windows Phone Internals, and it can do everything from unlocking the bootloader to replacing the phone's ROM. WP Internals is a completely free download, though Heathcliff welcomes donations by those who've found the tool useful. According to the "Getting Started" section of the tool, supported models include Lumia 520, 521, 525, 620, 625, 720, 820, 920, 925, 928, 1020, and 1320. If your model is not on the list, the developer has said that he hopes to add more models in the near future.
The Courts

Czech Judge Cuts Deal With Software Pirate: Get 200K YouTube Views Or Pay Huge Fine 94

An anonymous reader writes: A judge allowed a software pirate to make a anti-piracy PSA and get away from paying a $373,000 / €351,000 fine he owed Microsoft and other software manufacturers. The only condition was that his video should get over 200,000 views on YouTube. From the BBC's coverage of the trial's unusual outcome: [The defendant, known only as Jakub F] came to the out-of-court settlement with a host of firms whose software he pirated after being convicted by a Czech court. In return, they agreed not to sue him. ... The firms, which included Microsoft, HBO Europe, Sony Music and Twentieth Century Fox, estimated that the financial damage amounted to 5.7m Czech Crowns (£148,000). But the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which represented Microsoft, acknowledged that Jakub could not pay that sum. Instead, the companies said they would be happy to receive only a small payment and his co-operation in the production of the video. In order for the firms' promise not to sue to be valid, they said, the video would have to be viewed at least 200,000 times within two months of its publication this week. ... But, if the video did not reach the target, the spokesman said that — "in theory" — the firms would have grounds to bring a civil case for damages."

Windows 10 Fall Update Uninstalls Desktop Software Without Informing Users ( 357

ourlovecanlastforeve sends this report from Martin Brinkmann of gHacks: Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system may uninstall programs — desktop programs that is — from the computer after installation of the big Fall update that the company released earlier this month. I noticed the issue on one PC that I upgraded to Windows 10 Version 1511 but not on other machines. The affected PC had Speccy, a hardware information program, installed and Windows 10 notified me after the upgrade that the software had been removed from the system because of incompatibilities. There was no indication beforehand that something like this would happen, and what made this rather puzzling was the fact that a newly downloaded copy of Speccy would install and run fine on the upgraded system. An IT Director I know had this happen with ESET antivirus as well, on multiple computers. He says fixes have been rolled out for both TH2 and the antivirus software to prevent this from happening. Other reports mention CPU-Z, AMD's Catalyst Control Center, and CPUID as software that's being automatically uninstalled.

Microsoft Blames Layoffs For Drop In Female Employees ( 179

itwbennett writes: This year, women made up 26.8 percent of Microsoft's total workforce, down from 29 percent in 2014, the company reported Monday. In a blog post discussing the numbers, Gwen Houston, Microsoft's general manager of diversity and inclusion, pointed the finger at the thousands of layoffs the company made to restructure its phone hardware business: 'The workforce reductions resulting from the restructure of our phone hardware business ... impacted factory and production facilities outside the U.S. that produce handsets and hardware, and a higher percentage of those jobs were held by women,' she said.

Video Volvo Wants To Use Holograms To Sell Cars

Volvo is teaming up with Microsoft to use its HoloLens technology to show cars to prospective customers. HoloLens using augmented reality to add digital images to the real world.

Nearly 35,000 Comment On New Federal STEM OPT Extension Rule ( 55

theodp writes: Computerworld reports that the comments are in on the Department of Homeland Security's new proposed rule to extend OPT for international STEM students from 29 months to at least 36 months. The majority of the comments received by DHS support extending the program, CW notes, which is probably not surprising. Rather than choosing to "avoid the appearance of improper influence" by declining to respond to a "We the People" petition protesting a pending U.S. Federal judge's ruling that threatens to eliminate OPT STEM extensions altogether in February, the White House informed the 100k petition signers that they had the President's support, and pointed to the comment site for the proposed DHS OPT STEM rule workaround. Like the "We the People" petitioners, it's unclear whether the DHS commenters might represent corporate, university, and/or student interests, although a word cloud of the top 100 names of commenters (which accounted for 17,000+ comments) hints that international students are well-represented. By the way, in rejecting the 'emergency changes' that were enacted by DHS in 2008 to extend OPT for STEM students without public comment, Judge Ellen Huvelle said, "the 17-month duration of the STEM extension appears to have been adopted directly from the unanimous suggestions by Microsoft and similar industry groups."

Microsoft Pulls Windows 10 November Update (1511) ISOs ( 195

AmiMoJo writes: When Microsoft released Windows 10 version 1511 earlier this month, the company also updated the installer files it delivers via a free, downloadable media creation tool (MCT). That upgrade option worked as advertised for more than a week. This weekend, however, the new files have been pulled and the media creation tool available for download from that page instead installs the July 2015 (build 10240) release. A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed they wish people install the older version and get the 1551 update via Windows Update. The more recent release is still available via an unpublished link (EXE download).
XBox (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Xbox One Or PlayStation 4? 374

An anonymous reader writes: I'm looking at getting the kids a new gaming console for Christmas this year. I'm stuck trying to decide between getting an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4. I'm really wary on the PlayStation because of the 5 PS2s with broken optical drives sitting in my garage; none lasted more than two years. On the other hand, I'm also wary of buying a Microsoft product; I'm a Linux user for life after getting tired of their crappy operating system. I've also considered getting a gaming PC, whether Linux or Windows, but it's more expensive and game reviews show most are not as good as a dedicated game console. The kids want Fallout 4, and I want Star Wars Battlefront and any version of Gran Turismo. We currently have a Nintendo Wii and a crappy gaming PC with some Steam games. So, which gaming console should I get that will last a long time?

Happy 30th Birthday, Windows! 249

v3rgEz writes: And what a ride it's been. Today marks the 30th anniversary since the debut of Windows 1.01, the first commercial release of Windows. At the time, it was derided as being slow, buggy, and clunky, but since then ... Well, it looks a lot better. .The Verge has a pictorial history of Windows through the years. What's your fondest memory of Bill Gates Blue Screen-of-death that could?

Microsoft Open-Sources Visual Studio Code ( 158

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft today unleashed a torrent of news at its Connect(); 2015 developer event in New York City. The company open-sourced code editing software Visual Studio Code, launched a free Visual Studio Dev Essentials program, pushed out .NET Core 5 and ASP.NET 5 release candidates, unveiled Visual Studio cloud subscriptions, debuted the Visual Studio Marketplace, and a lot more. The source for Visual Studio Code is available at GitHub under the MIT license. They've also released an extension (preview) for Visual Studio that facilitates code debugging on Linux.

Microsoft Invests $1 Billion In 'Holistic' Security Strategy ( 80

ancientribe writes: Microsoft has invested $1 billion over the past year in security and doubled its number of security executives, according to company's CISO Bret Arsenault. In an address today (webcast), CEO Satya Nadella officially announced the launch of a new managed security services group and a new cyber defense operations center — all part of its new strategy of holistic and integrated security across its products and services. Microsoft execs rarely detail the company's strategy so publicly, so that in itself underlines how security is a major element in its strategy.

Microsoft's Plan To Port Android Apps To Windows Proves Too Complex ( 131

An anonymous reader writes: The Astoria project at Microsoft has failed because a breakthrough was needed to overcome the complexity of the software development challenge. Microsoft tried to automate mapping the Android UI into the Windows 10 UI and to map Google services within the app such as maps, payments and notifications into Microsoft equivalents. Automated conversion of a UI from one platform to another has never been successfully demonstrated. When I first saw Microsoft's Android bridge at Build 15, I thought it was achievable. But project Astoria, as it is called, is much too complex. Drawing on my architectural knowledge of the underlying Microsoft/Lumia hardware that is very similar to Android phones.I concluded that in the context of partitioning the device or running a VM Microsoft would succeed. But Microsoft tried something much more ambitious. Rather than "failed," The Next Web reports that for now the project may have only been delayed.

Microsoft Brings Its Embrace-Extend-Extinguish Game To K-12 Schools? 168

theodp writes: A year after it paid $2.5 billion to buy Minecraft, Microsoft has announced a partnership with that makes a Minecraft-themed introduction to programming a signature tutorial of this year's Hour of Code, which hopes to reach 200 million schoolchildren next month in what the Microsoft-funded nonprofit is billing as the largest learning event in history. "A core part of our mission to empower every person on the planet is equipping youth with computational thinking and problem-solving skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a press release, which also notes that "Microsoft is gifting Windows Store credit to every educator who organizes an Hour of Code event worldwide." Of the Minecraft tutorial, CEO Hadi Partovi gushed, "Compared to what you would otherwise be doing for school, this is, like, the best thing ever."

Microsoft To Provide New Encryption Algorithm For the Healthcare Sector 85

An anonymous reader writes: The healthcare sector gets a hand from Microsoft, who will release a new encryption algorithm which will allow developers to handle genomic data in encrypted format, without the need of decryption, and by doing so, minimizing security risks. The new algorithm is dubbed SEAL (Simple Encrypted Arithmetic Library) and is based on homomorphic encryption, which allows mathematical operations to be run on encrypted data, yielding the same results as if it would run on the cleartext version. Microsoft will create a new tool and offer it as a free download. They've also published the theoretical research. For now, the algorithm can handle only genomic data.

Microsoft Kills Off Zune Music Service ( 66

alphadogg writes: It's one of those "You mean it was still alive?" moments: Microsoft today officially has killed off its Zune music streaming and download service. The company notified users in September that Zune services would be retired on Nov. 15. Microsoft has been phasing out its Zune brand for some time now, with Zune music service being morphed into Xbox music and then Groove music. Devices were discontinued in 2011.
Christmas Cheer

'Twas the Week Before the Week of Black Friday 146

theodp writes: It's almost time for America's answer to the Running of the Bulls (YouTube), kids. So, if you're dreaming of a cheap tech Christmas, it's time to peruse the 2015 Black Friday ads and make your game plan. Get lucky at Best Buy this year, and you could score a $299.99 Dell 15.6" touchscreen laptop (i3, 8GB memory, 1 TB HD), a $399.99 Microsoft 10.8" Surface 3 (Atom x7, 2GB memory, 64GB storage), $899.99 MacBook Pro 13.3" laptop (i5, 4GB memory, 500MB HD), $99 Acer 11.6" Chromebook (Celeron, 2GB memory, 16GB storage), or, for those on a tight budget, a $34.99 7" Amazon Fire tablet. Fight the crowds at Walmart, and you could snag a $199 HP 15.6" laptop (Celeron, 4GB memory, 500GB drive) or $199 iPad mini 2. And for stay-at-home shoppers, Dell's Windows 10 price-breakers include a $149.99 14" laptop (Celeron, 2GB memory, 32GB storage) and a $229 15.6" laptop (i3, 4GB memory, 500MB HD). So, in your experience, has Black Friday been like a claw machine — suckering you with big prizes, but never delivering — or have you actually walked away with a great deal?

Microsoft Open Sources Its Machine Learning Toolkit ( 15

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft has this week made its Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit (DMTK) openly available to the developer community. Researchers at the Microsoft Asia lab have released the toolkit on GitHub under an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) license, to encourage the use of multiple computers in parallel to solve complex problems. Its design builds on a parameter server-based programming framework, which allows big data machine learning tasks to be easily scaled, and flexibly and efficiently executed. The toolkit also contains two distributed machine learning algorithms, which can be used to train the world's fastest and largest topic model, as well as the largest word-embedding model.
This is a welcome move, especially after Google did something broadly similar.

Microsoft Rolls Out Major Fall Update To Windows 10 ( 181

Ammalgam writes: Microsoft has rolled out a major update to Windows 10 called the Fall Update, November Update or Threshold 2. The update is now publicly available for everyone to download. Microsoft has confirmed it will be a staggered release. This update is full of fixes and refinements to Windows 10 including substantial changes to Edge, Cortana, icons, the Start Menu, Activation and multiple enterprise features. Here is a full list of changes. Have you updated your Windows 10 install yet? What was your experience?

Windows 3.1 Glitch Causes Problems At French Airport -- Wait, 3.1? ( 406

OakDragon writes: Microsoft has tamped down the earth on XP's grave, steered Internet Explorer toward the nursing home, and is trying to convince everyone Windows 10 is a bright up-and-comer. But in the Paris airport of Orly, a system called DECOR — which helps air traffic controllers relay weather information to pilots — is running on Windows 3.1. That program suffered a glitch recently that grounded planes for some time. The airport actually runs on a variety of old systems, including Windows XP and UNIX. Maintenance is a problem. There are only three people in Paris that work on DECOR issues, and one of them is retiring soon. Hardware is also an issue. "Sometimes we have to go rummaging on eBay to replace certain parts," said Fiacre. "In any case, these machines were not designed to keep working for more than 20 years."