AI

Microsoft's Cortana Doesn't Put Up With Sexual Harassment (hothardware.com) 71

MojoKid writes: Not long after Apple unveiled its Siri personal assistant to the world, it took very little time before people began asking her outrageous questions, sometimes inappropriate or just humorous, if for no other reason than they just could. When creating Cortana, Microsoft was well-aware of what its digital assistant was going to have to deal with, so, believe it or not, it was designed in such a way to handle abuse in a specific manner. According to Microsoft's Deborah Harrison, who is one of eight writers for Cortana, a chunk of the earliest queries were about Cortana's sex life. A specific goal was to make sure Cortana wasn't treated as a subservient. If she's insulted, she doesn't apologize or back down. She handles it with tact, so as to reduce the chance of further abuse.
Windows

Windows 10 Gets Core Console Host Enhancements (nivot.org) 211

x0n writes: As of Windows 10 TH2 (10.0.1058), the core console subsystem has support for a large number of ANSI and VT100 escape sequences. This is likely to prepare for full Open SSH server/client integration, which is already underway over on github. It looks like xterm is finally coming to Windows. OpenSSH was previously announced (last year) by the very forward-looking PowerShell team. The linked article provides some context, and explains that the console host isn't the same as either cmd.exe or powershell.exe, but there is a lot of overlap in functionality.
Microsoft

Even With Telemetry Disabled, Windows 10 Talks To Dozens of Microsoft Servers (voat.co) 499

An esteemed reader writes: Curious about the various telemetry and personal information being collected by Windows 10, one user installed Windows 10 Enterprise and disabled all of the telemetry and reporting options. Then he configured his router to log all the connections that happened anyway. Even after opting out wherever possible, his firewall captured Windows making around 4,000 connection attempts to 93 different IP addresses during an 8 hour period, with most of those IPs controlled by Microsoft. Even the enterprise version of Windows 10 is checking in with Redmond when you tell it not to — and it's doing so frequently.
Education

K-12 CS Framework Draft: Kids Taught To 'Protect Original Ideas' In Early Grades 132

theodp writes: Remember that Code.org and ACM-bankrolled K-12 Computer Science Education Framework that Microsoft, Google, Apple, and others were working on? Well, a draft of the framework was made available for review on Feb. 3rd, coincidentally just 3 business days after U.S. President Barack Obama and Microsoft President Brad Smith teamed up to announce the $4+ billion Computer Science for All initiative for the nation's K-12 students. "Computationally literate citizens have the responsibility to learn about, recognize, and address the personal, ethical, social, economic, and cultural contexts in which they operate," explains the section on Fostering an Inclusive Computing Culture, one of seven listed 'Core K-12 CS Practices'. "Participating in an inclusive computing culture encompasses the following: building and collaborating with diverse computational teams, involving diverse users in the design process, considering the implication of design choices on the widest set of end users, accounting for the safety and security of diverse end users, and fostering inclusive identities of computer scientists." Hey, do as they say, not as they do! Also included in the 10-page draft (pdf) is a section on Law and Ethics, which begins: "In early grades, students differentiate between responsible and irresponsible computing behaviors. Students learn that responsible behaviors can help individuals while irresponsible behaviors can hurt individuals. They examine legal and ethical considerations for obtaining and sharing information and apply those behaviors to protect original ideas."
Patents

Patent Troll VirnetX Awarded $626M In Damages From Apple (arstechnica.com) 132

Tackhead writes: Having won a $200M judgement against Microsoft in 2010, lost a $258M appeal against Cisco in 2013, and having beaten Apple for $368M in 2012, only to see the verdict overturned in 2014, patent troll VirnetX is back in the news, having been awarded $626M in damages arising from the 2012 Facetime patent infringement case against Apple.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Acquire SwiftKey Predictive Keyboard Technology Company For $250M (hothardware.com) 118

MojoKid writes: SwiftKey has been one of the more popular predictive keyboard offerings in the mobile space since it was first released in beta form on the Android market back in 2010. What made SwiftKey so appealing was its intelligent predictive texting technology. SwiftKey isn't a simple keyboard replacement. Rather, the software uses a combination of artificial intelligence technologies that give it the ability to learn usage patterns and predict the next word the user most likely intends to type. SwiftKey refines its predictions, learning over time by analyzing data from SMS, Facebook, and Twitter messages, then offering predictions based on the text being entered at the time. It is estimated that SwiftKey is installed on upwards of 500 million mobile devices. According to reports, Microsoft is apparently buying the UK-based company for a cool $250 Million. What Microsoft intends to do with SwiftKey is not clear just yet, but the company has been purchasing mobile apps at a good clip as of late.
Windows

Windows 10 Passes Windows XP In Market Share 311

An anonymous reader writes: Six months after its release, Windows 10 has finally passed 10 percent market share. Not only that, but the latest and greatest version from Microsoft has also overtaken Windows 8.1 and Windows XP, according to the latest figures from Net Applications. Windows 10 had 9.96 percent market share in December, and gained 1.89 percentage points to hit 11.85 percent in January. Maybe it will jump even faster soon, but not necessarily for the best of reasons.
Windows

Windows 10 Now a 'Recommended Update' For Windows 7 and 8.1 Users (betanews.com) 580

Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft has been accused of pushing Windows 10 rather aggressively, and the company's latest move is going to do nothing to silence these accusations. For Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, Windows 10 just became a 'recommended update' in Windows Update.

This is a change from the previous categorization of the upgrade as an 'optional update' and it means that there is renewed potential for unwanted installations. After the launch of Windows 10, there were numerous reports of not only the automatic download of OS installation files, but also unrequested upgrades. The changed status of the update means that, on some machines, the installation of Windows 10 could start automatically.

Communications

After More Than a Decade, MSN Chat Authentication Is Documented (goo.gl) 27

An anonymous reader writes: After MSN Chat closed in 2003, and then again in 2006, some guy has finally documented the authentication system used — over a decade later! Developer Joshua Davison writes by way of explanation: I think it's important to document the challenge we (users, scripters, hackers) faced connecting to MSN Chat, which is the only known 'proper' implementation of IRCX v8.1 at this time. MSN Chat introduced a GateKeeper SASL authentication protocol, which implemented 'GateKeeper' and 'GateKeeperPassport' (not dissimilar to the widely documented NTLM authentication protocol, which was also implemented as NTLM, and NTMLPassport) The GateKeeper Security Support Provider (GKSSP) functioned in two ways; allowing a user to login with a Microsoft Account (Previously known as Microsoft Passport, .NET Passport, Microsoft Passport Network, and Windows Live ID), and also allowed guest authentication for users without, or not willing to use a Microsoft Account. While most users didn't need or want to understand how the protocol worked, there were many of us who did, and many that just preferred to use MSN Chat outside of the browser.
Privacy

Ask Slashdot: How Do I Reduce Information Leakage From My Personal Devices? 256

Mattcelt writes: I find that using an ad-blocking hosts file has been one of the most effective way to secure my devices against malware for the past few years. But the sheer number of constantly-shifting server DNs to block means I couldn't possibly manage such a list on my own. And finding out today that Microsoft is, once again, bollocks at privacy (no surprise there) made me think I need to add a new strategic purpose to my hosts solution — specifically, preventing my devices from 'phoning home'. Knowing that my very Operating Systems are working against me in this regard incenses me, and I want more control over who collects my data and how. Does anyone here know of a place that maintains a list of the servers to block if I don't want Google/Apple/Microsoft to receive information about my usage and habits? It likely needs to be documented so certain services can be enabled or disabled on an as-needed basis, but as a starting point, I'll gladly take a raw list for now.
Cloud

Microsoft Serves Cloud From the Sea Bed (datacenterdynamics.com) 104

judgecorp writes: A Microsoft Research project to run a data center underwater was so successful the team actually delivered commercial Azure cloud services from the module, which was 1km off the US Pacific coast for three months. The vessel, dubbed Leona Philpot after a Halo character, is a proof of concept for Project Natick, which proposes small data centers that could be submerged for five years or more, serving coastal communities.
Microsoft

Microsoft Edge's Private Browsing Mode Isn't Actually Private (betanews.com) 159

JustAnotherOldGuy writes: The forensic examination of most web browsers has proven that they don't have a provision for storing the details of privately browsed web sessions. However, in the case of Microsoft Edge, the private browsing isn't as private as it seems. Previous investigations of the browser have resulted in revealing that websites visited in private mode are also stored in the browser's WebCache file. The Container_n table stores web history, and a field named 'Flag' with a value of '8' shows that website was visited in private mode. An investigator can easily spot the difference and use this evidence against a person. The not-so-private browsing featured by Edge makes its very purpose seem to fail, and you can't help but ask how such a fundamental aspect of private browsing could be so fantastically borked. It beggars belief.
Windows

Microsoft's Windows Phone Platform Is Dead (windows10update.com) 455

Ammalgam writes: Tom Warren at the Verge today gave voice to what a lot of other technology analysts and today definitively declared that Microsoft's Windows Phone platform is dead. This largely based on the abysmal adoption numbers released in Microsoft's most recent earnings report. Mr. Warren articulates the obvious by stating: "With Lumia sales on the decline and Microsoft's plan to not produce a large amount of handsets, it's clear we're witnessing the end of Windows Phone. Rumors suggest Microsoft is developing a Surface Phone, but it has to make it to the market first. Windows Phone has long been in decline and its app situation is only getting worse. With a lack of hardware, lack of sales, and less than 2 percent market share, it's time to call it: Windows Phone is dead. "

Now this news should not be surprising to anyone who has watched the slow decline of Windows Phone. Last December, in an article on Windows10update.com, Onuora Amobi also wrote off the platform. In this case, his analysis was based on the nonconformity of the Microsoft user interface to Apple and Android's widely adopted aesthetic appeal. He wrote "I believe Windows Phone is dead. Kaput. Finished. Over. Done. ... Windows 10 is successful in part because it's a return to Windows 7 in many ways and that's what made the consumers happy. One of the definitions of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result". This is exactly what Microsoft is doing and it's insane. Over 90% of Microsoft's desired audience like the look and feel of iPhones and Android devices. They do – it's not good or bad – it just is what it is. They spend their money on those two user interfaces."

Security

Attackers Use Microsoft Office To Push BlackEnergy Malware (csoonline.com) 51

itwbennett writes: Researchers at SentinelOne reverse engineered the latest variant of the BlackEnergy 3 rootkit (the same malware used in recent attacks against Ukraine's critical infrastructure) and found indicators that suggest it is being used by insiders and that it is the byproduct of a nation-sponsored campaign. 'BlackEnergy 3 exploits an Office 2013 vulnerability that was patched some time ago, so it only works if the target machine isn't patched or an employee (either deliberately or after being tricked into it) executes the malicious Excel document,' writes CSO's Steve Ragan.
Technology

Creator of Minecraft Develops Experimental VR Project (roadtovr.com) 63

An anonymous reader writes: Despite his on-again off-again relationship with VR headset maker Oculus, the creator of Minecraft, Markus "Notch" Persson, has developed an experimental virtual reality project that leverages WebVR technology to run directly within a browser using a Rift DK2 headset. Notch contributed $10,000 to Oculus' 2012 Kickstarter, and even traveled from Europe to visit the company in its early days. After Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014, his enthusiasm dwindled, saying "I definitely want to be a part of VR, but I will not work with Facebook." One month before selling his own company to Microsoft for a similar sum, he said he was "officially over being upset about Facebook buying Oculus."
AI

Microsoft Releases Its Deep Learning Toolkit On GitHub (microsoft.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is moving its machine learning Computational Network Toolkit (CNTK) from its own hosting site, CodePlex, to GitHub. They're also putting it under the MIT open source license. The move marks an effort to make it easier for developers to collaborate on building their own deep learning applications using the CNTK. Under the CodePlex license, access was restricted to academics only, and it was wholly targeted to that audience. Now that it's opening the project to everyone, Microsoft hopes to attract a greater number of developers, and a wider variety as well. This follows similar releases from Google and Baidu.
Security

Hot Potato Exploit Gives Attackers the Upper Hand On Multiple Windows Versions 127

An anonymous reader writes: By chaining together a series of known Windows security flaws, researchers from Foxglove Security have discovered a way to break into almost all of Microsoft's recent versions of Windows. The exploit, named Hot Potato, relies on three different types of attacks, some of which were discovered back at the start of the new millennium, in 2000. Going through these exploits one by one may take attackers from minutes to days, but if successful, the attacker can elevate an application's permissions from the lowest rank to system-level privileges. All of these security flaws have been left unpatched by Microsoft, with the explanation that by patching them, the company would effectively break compatibility between the different versions of their operating system.
Microsoft

Microsoft Asks Node.js To Allow ChakraCore (Edge) Alongside Google's V8 Engine (softpedia.com) 146

campuscodi writes: Microsoft has submitted an official pull request to the Node.js project, through which it's asking the project's maintainers to enable support for ChakraCore, the JavaScript engine packed inside Microsoft's Edge browser, as an alternative to Node's built-in V8 engine, developed by Google. Earlier in December 2015, Microsoft open-sourced ChakraCore. Microsoft has also been one of the biggest companies to adopt Node.js early on, and is also part of the Node.js Foundation's Board o Directors. The main reason to add ChakraCore support in Node.js will help the IoT version of Windows 10 to run JS apps on IoT devices, just like Samsung is also thinking about.

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