Microsoft

Microsoft Launches Windows Bug Bounty Program With Rewards Ranging From $500 To $250,000 (venturebeat.com) 1

Microsoft on Wednesday announced the Windows Bounty Program. Rewards start at a minimum of $500 and can go up to as high as $250,000. From a report: To be clear, Microsoft already offers many bug bounty programs. This is also not the first to target Windows features -- the company has launched many Windows-specific bounties for those starting in 2012. The Windows Bounty Program, however, encompasses Windows 10 and even the Windows Insider Preview, the company's program for testing Windows 10 preview builds. Furthermore, it also has specific focus areas: Hyper-V, Mitigation bypass, Windows Defender Application Guard, and Microsoft Edge.
Data Storage

Upcoming USB 3.2 Specification Will Double Data Rates Using Existing Cables (macrumors.com) 114

A new USB specification has been introduced today by the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which is comprised of Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and other companies. The new USB 3.2 specification will replace the existing 3.1 specification and will double data rates to 20Gbps using new wires available if your device embraces the newest USB hardware. Mac Rumors reports: An incremental update, USB 3.2 is designed to define multi-lane operation for USB 3.2 hosts and devices. USB Type-C cables already support multi-lane operation, and with USB 3.2, hosts and devices can be created as multi-lane solutions, allowing for either two lanes of 5Gb/s or two lanes of 10Gb/s operation. With support for two lanes of 10Gb/s transfer speeds, performance is essentially doubled over existing USB-C cables. As an example, the USB Promoter Group says a USB 3.2 host connected to a USB 3.2 storage device will be capable of 2GB/sec data transfer performance over a USB-C cable certified for USB SuperSpeed 10Gb/s USB 3.1, while also remaining backwards compatible with earlier USB devices. Along with two-lane operation, USB 3.2 continues to use SuperSpeed USB layer data rates and encoding techniques and will introduce a minor update to hub specifications for seamless transitions between single and two-lane operation.
Google

Google Enters Race For Nuclear Fusion Technology (theguardian.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google and a leading nuclear fusion company have developed a new computer algorithm which has significantly speeded up experiments on plasmas, the ultra-hot balls of gas at the heart of the energy technology. Tri Alpha Energy, which is backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has raised over $500 million in investment. It has worked with Google Research to create what they call the Optometrist algorithm. This enables high-powered computation to be combined with human judgement to find new and better solutions to complex problems. Working with Google enabled experiment's on Tri Alpha Energy's C2-U machine to progress much faster, with operations that took a month speeded up to just a few hours. The algorithm revealed unexpected ways of operating the plasma, with the research published on Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports. The team achieved a 50% reduction in energy losses from the system and a resulting increase in total plasma energy, which must reach a critical threshold for fusion to occur.
IT

Adobe Announces that in 2020, Flash Player Will Reach Its 'End-of-Life' in Light of Newer Technologies (webkit.org) 147

Adobe said on Tuesday it will stop distributing and updating Flash Player at the end of 2020 and is encouraging web developers to migrate any existing Flash content to open standards. Apple is working with Adobe, industry partners, and developers to complete this transition. From a blog post: Apple users have been experiencing the web without Flash for some time. iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch never supported Flash. For the Mac, the transition from Flash began in 2010 when Flash was no longer pre-installed. Today, if users install Flash, it remains off by default. Safari requires explicit approval on each website before running the Flash plugin.
Microsoft

Microsoft Confirms It's Not Killing Off Paint After Outpouring of Support (cnbc.com) 231

Microsoft said late Monday that it will not be killing off its Paint app in the next update of Windows 10. It will be made available via the Windows Store for free and will not be completely removed. CNBC reports: The U.S. technology company recently released a list which labeled Paint "deprecated," meaning it was considering removing the app when the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update gets released later this year. Fans on social media decried the potential death of Paint, which has been in existence for 32 years. But Microsoft released a blog post shortly after to clarify that Paint would not be completely removed, but instead made available via the Windows Store for free. "Today, we've seen an incredible outpouring of support and nostalgia around MS Paint. If there's anything we learned, it's that after 32 years, MS Paint has a lot of fans. It's been amazing to see so much love for our trusty old app," Megan Saunders, a general manager at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post on Monday. "Amidst today's commentary around MS Paint we wanted to take this opportunity to set the record straight, clear up some confusion and share some good news: MS Paint is here to stay, it will just have a new home soon, in the Windows Store where it will be available for free."
AI

Quest for AI Leadership Pushes Microsoft Further Into Chip Development (bloomberg.com) 34

From a Bloomberg report: Tech companies are keen to bring cool artificial intelligence features to phones and augmented reality goggles -- the ability to show mechanics how to fix an engine, say, or tell tourists what they are seeing and hearing in their own language. But there's one big challenge: how to manage the vast quantities of data that make such feats possible without making the devices too slow or draining the battery in minutes and wrecking the user experience. Microsoft says it has the answer with a chip design for its HoloLens goggles -- an extra AI processor that analyzes what the user sees and hears right there on the device rather than wasting precious microseconds sending the data back to the cloud. The new processor, a version of the company's existing Holographic Processing Unit, is being unveiled at an event in Honolulu, Hawaii, today. The chip is under development and will be included in the next version of HoloLens; the company didn't provide a date. This is one of the few times Microsoft is playing all roles (except manufacturing) in developing a new processor. The company says this is the first chip of its kind designed for a mobile device. Bringing chipmaking in-house is increasingly in vogue as companies conclude that off-the-shelf processors aren't capable of fully unleashing the potential of AI. Apple is testing iPhone prototypes that include a chip designed to process AI, a person familiar with the work said in May. Google is on the second version of its own AI chips. To persuade people to buy the next generation of gadgets -- phones, VR headsets, even cars -- the experience will have to be lightning fast and seamless.
Microsoft

Microsoft Paint To Be Killed Off After 32 Years (theguardian.com) 378

Microsoft's next Windows 10 update, called the Fall Creators Update, will bring a variety of new features. But one long-standing stalwart of the Windows experience has been put on the chopping block: Microsoft Paint. From a report: First released with the very first version of Windows 1.0 in 1985, Paint in its various guises would be one of the first graphics editors used by many and became a core part of Windows. Starting life as a 1-bit monochrome licensed version of ZSoft's PC Paintbrush, it wasn't until Windows 98 that Paint could save in JPEG. With the Windows 10 Creators Update, released in April, Microsoft introduced the new Paint 3D, which is installed alongside traditional Paint and features 3D image making tools as well as some basic 2D image editing. But it is not an update to original Paint and doesn't behave like it. Now Microsoft has announced that, alongside Outlook Express, Reader app and Reading list, Microsoft Paint has been signalled for death having been added to the "features that are removed or deprecated in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update" list.
Microsoft

Microsoft Launches A Counterattack Against Russia's 'Fancy Bear' Hackers (thedailybeast.com) 97

Kevin Poulsen writes on the Daily Beast: It turns out Microsoft has something even more formidable than Moscow's malware: Lawyers. Last year attorneys for the software maker quietly sued the hacker group known as Fancy Bear in a federal court outside Washington DC, accusing it of computer intrusion, cybersquatting, and infringing on Microsoft's trademarks... Since August, Microsoft has used the lawsuit to wrest control of 70 different command-and-control points from Fancy Bear... Rather than getting physical custody of the servers, which Fancy Bear rents from data centers around the world, Microsoft has been taking over the Internet domain names that route to them. These are addresses like "livemicrosoft[.]net" or "rsshotmail[.]com" that Fancy Bear registers under aliases for about $10 each. Once under Microsoft's control, the domains get redirected from Russia's servers to the company's, cutting off the hackers from their victims, and giving Microsoft a omniscient view of that servers' network of automated spies. "In other words," Microsoft outside counsel Sten Jenson explained in a court filing last year, "any time an infected computer attempts to contact a command-and-control server through one of the domains, it will instead be connected to a Microsoft-controlled, secure server."
AI

Mozilla's New Open Source Voice-Recognition Project Wants Your Voice (mashable.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: Mozilla is building a massive repository of voice recordings for the voice apps of the future -- and it wants you to add yours to the collection. The organization behind the Firefox browser is launching Common Voice, a project to crowdsource audio samples from the public. The goal is to collect about 10,000 hours of audio in various accents and make it publicly available for everyone... Mozilla hopes to hand over the public dataset to independent developers so they can harness the crowdsourced audio to build the next generation of voice-powered apps and speech-to-text programs... You can also help train the speech-to-text capabilities by validating the recordings already submitted to the project. Just listen to a short clip, and report back if text on the screen matches what you heard... Mozilla says it aims is to expand the tech beyond just a standard voice recognition experience, including multiple accents, demographics and eventually languages for more accessible programs. Past open source voice-recognition projects have included Sphinx 4 and VoxForge, but unfortunately most of today's systems are still "locked up behind proprietary code at various companies, such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft."
Bug

Debian, Gnome Patched 'Bad Taste' VBScript-Injection Vulnerabilities (neowin.net) 72

Slashdot reader KiloByte warned us about new exploit for .MSI files named "bad taste". Neowin reports: A now-patched vulnerability in the "GNOME Files" file manager was recently discovered which allowed hackers to create dodgy MSI files which would run malicious VBScript code on Linux... Once Nils Dagsson Moskopp discovered the bug, he reported it to the Debian Project which fixed it very rapidly. The GNOME Project also patched the gnome-exe-thumbnailer file which is responsible for parsing MSI and EXE files inside the GNOME Files app... If you run a Linux distribution with the GNOME desktop it's advisable to run the update manager and check for updates as soon as possible before you become affected by this critical vulnerability.
Businesses

Google, Apple, Amazon Hit Record Lobbying Highs (axios.com) 84

An anonymous reader shares a report: The last three months brought record-high lobbying spending from four major tech companies: Google spent $5.93 million, Apple spent $2.2 million, Amazon spent $3.21 million, Uber spent $430,000. Facebook spent $2.38 million this quarter, up from the same period last year but far from a record. Microsoft's bill for the quarter was just over $2 million.
Microsoft

For the First Time, Microsoft Got More Revenue From Office 365 Subscriptions Than From Traditional Office Software Licensing (axios.com) 249

Ina Fried, reporting for Axios: Shares of Microsoft hit record territory in after-hours trading on Thursday, topping $75 a share, after the software giant's better-than-expected financial results. As has been the case for the last several quarters, strength in Microsoft's cloud business, including Office 365 and Windows Azure, was the key to the company's growth. Of note, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood told analysts that, for the first time, Microsoft got more revenue from Office 365 subscriptions than from traditional Office software licensing. Why it matters: Microsoft has shown an ability to grow its business even as the PC market has stalled, reflecting moves the company made in the cloud both since Satya Nadella took over as CEO as well as some that were in place before he took over the top spot.
Microsoft

Apple, Google and Microsoft Are Hoarding $464 Billion In Cash (cnn.com) 256

Apple, Google and Microsoft are sitting on a mountain of cash -- and most of it is stashed far away from the taxman. Those three tech behemoths held a total of $464 billion in cash at the end of last year, according to a Moody's report published this week. From a report: Apple alone had a stunning quarter-trillion dollars of cash thanks to years of gigantic profits and few major acquisitions. That's enough money to buy Netflix three times. It's also more cash than what's sitting on the balance sheet of every major industry except tech and health care. All told, non-financial U.S. companies studied by Moody's hoarded $1.84 trillion of cash at the end of last year. That's up 11% from 2015 and nearly two and a half times the 2008 level. Roughly $1.3 trillion -- 70% of the total -- is being held overseas, where the money isn't subject to U.S. taxes. Apple, Google owner Alphabet, Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle hold 88% of their cash overseas. Moody's said the tower of money stashed abroad reflects the "negative tax consequences of permanently repatriating money to the U.S."
Microsoft

Windows 10 Will Cut Off Devices With Older CPUs (pcworld.com) 273

Reader Baron_Yam shares a PCWorld report: No Windows 10 Creators Update for you, Microsoft says -- at least, not if you happen to be the unlucky owner of certain older Atom-based Windows devices, and other aging models in the future. After stories arose of failed attempts to upgrade such hardware to the Creators Update, Microsoft confirmed late Wednesday that any hardware device that falls out of the manufacturer's support cycle may be ineligible for future Windows 10 updates. In the case of the four "Clover Trail" processors (part of the Cloverview platform) that have fallen into Intel's End of Interactive Support phase, they will be ineligible for the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft confirmed. Instead, they'll simply be offered the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, plus security updates through January, 2023, the end of the original Windows 8.1 support period. The problem, however, is that Microsoft's language opens up the possibility that any unsupported hardware device could be excluded from future Windows 10 updates. "Recognizing that a combination of hardware, driver and firmware support is required to have a good Windows 10 experience, we updated our support lifecycle policy to align with the hardware support period for a given device," Microsoft said in a statement. "If a hardware partner stops supporting a given device or one of its key components and stops providing driver updates, firmware updates, or fixes, it may mean that device will not be able to properly run a future Windows 10 feature update." The reader adds, it's not a case of "feature updates are not recommended and may not work", it's a case of "we will block feature updates to your device".
Businesses

Microsoft's Wilsonville Jobs Are Going To China, Underscoring Travails of Domestic Tech Manufacturing (oregonlive.com) 149

An anonymous reader tips us a story: Just two years ago, Microsoft cast its Wilsonville factory as the harbinger of a new era in American technology manufacturing. The tech giant stamped, "Manufactured in Portland, OR, USA" on each Surface Hub it made there. It invited The New York Times and Fast Company magazine to tour the plant in 2015, then hired more than 100 people to make the enormous, $22,000 touch-screen computer. But last week Microsoft summoned its Wilsonville employees to an early-morning meeting and announced it will close the factory and lay off 124 employees -- nearly everyone at the site -- plus dozens of contract workers. Panos Panay, the vice president in charge of the Surface product group, traveled from corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to tell the staff that Microsoft was moving production to the same place it makes all other Surface products. Though workers present say he didn't disclose the location, Microsoft has previously said it makes its other Surface computers in China. The company hasn't explained, in public or to its Wilsonville employees, why it gave up on domestic manufacturing so quickly and didn't respond to repeated inquiries for comment. But the only thing surprising about Microsoft's decision is that it tried to make its computers in the U.S. in the first place.
Security

Exploit Derived From EternalSynergy Upgraded To Target Newer Windows Versions (bleepingcomputer.com) 61

An anonymous reader writes: "Thai security researcher Worawit Wang has put together an exploit based on ETERNALSYNERGY that can also target newer versions of the Windows operating system," reports Bleeping Computer. "ETERNALSYNERGY is one of the NSA exploits leaked by the Shadow Brokers hacking group in April this year. According to a Microsoft technical analysis, the exploit can allow an attacker to execute code on Windows machines with SMB services exposed to external connections. The exploit works up to Windows 8. According to Microsoft, the techniques used in the original ETERNALSYNERGY exploit do not work on newer platforms due to several kernel security improvements. Wang says his exploit targets the same vulnerability but uses a different exploitation technique. His method 'should never crash a target,' the expert says. 'Chance should be nearly 0%,' Wang adds." Combining his exploit with the original ETERNALSYNERGY exploit would allow a hacker to target all Windows versions except Windows 10. This is about 75% of all Windows PCs. The exploit code is available for download from Wang's GitHub or ExploitDB. Sheila A. Berta, a security researcher for Telefonica's Eleven Paths security unit, has published a step-by-step guide on how to use Wang's exploit.
Intel

Windows 10 Creators Upgrade Cuts Support For Some Intel PCs Early (pcworld.com) 148

Windows PCs with Intel's Clover Trail Atom chips will not upgrade to the Windows 10 Creators Update, which could wind up being trouble in the future. PCWorld reports: Owners of some Windows 10 laptops and tablets are crashing into a worrying roadblock when they try to install the Windows 10 Creators Update. Windows Update initially says the notebooks are compatible with the upgrade, but fails to install it after downloading the setup files, instead displaying the following message: "Windows 10 is no longer supported on this PC. Uninstall this app now because it isn't compatible with Windows 10." That sounds ominous, but you don't need to uninstall your existing version of Windows 10, and there's no app to uninstall. Instead, the message means your PC's hardware isn't compatible with the Creators Update.

A recent ZDNet article thrust this issue into the spotlight, but Microsoft laid out details about the error in an April forum post. Microsoft won't let affected hardware install the Creators Update because "Icons and/or text throughout the Windows interface may not appear at all, or may appear as solid color blocks on some devices." Can I install the Windows 10 Creators Update? Nope. But you might be able to in the future, according to the April forum post. "Microsoft is working with our partners to provide compatible drivers for these processors. Until then, Windows Update will prevent devices containing one of the processors listed above from installing the Creators Update." [Devices with these Intel "Clover Trail" processors are impacted: Atom Z2760; Atom Z2520; Atom Z2560; Atom Z2580.]

Microsoft

US Appeals Court Upholds Nondisclosure Rules For Surveillance Orders (reuters.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a report: A U.S. federal appeals court on Monday upheld nondisclosure rules that allow the FBI to secretly issue surveillance orders for customer data to communications firms, a ruling that dealt a blow to privacy advocates. A unanimous three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sided with a lower court ruling in finding that rules permitting the FBI to send national security letters under gag orders are appropriate and do not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution's free speech protections. Content distribution firm CloudFlare and phone network operator CREDO Mobile had sued the government in order to notify customers of five national security letters received between 2011 and 2013.
Windows

'Windows 10 Is Failing Us' (betanews.com) 551

Reader BrianFagioli writes: While Windows 10 is arguably successful from a market share perspective, it is still failing in one big way -- the user experience. Windows 8.x was an absolute disaster, and Microsoft's latest is certainly better than that, but it is still not an enjoyable experience. Before the company tries to add new features (and misses deadlines) like Timeline and Cloud Clipboard, it should focus more on improving the existing user experience. Right now it is failing us and things are not getting better. Even the third-party solutions that aim to turn this spying off aren't 100-percent successful. Unless you unplug from the internet entirely, you can't stop Windows from phoning home to Microsoft. This is a shame, as some consumers are being made to feel violated when using their own computer. Another issue that I can't believe hasn't been resolved is having two locations for system settings. Seriously, Microsoft? We still have "Settings" and "Control Panel" Live Tiles are still worthless, and it is time for Microsoft to kill them. Nobody opens an app launcher and stares at the icons for information. It is distracting and pointless. If I want the weather, I'll open a weather app and see it -- not stare at the icon for the information. It sort of made sense in the Windows 8.x era since you were presented with a full screen of app icons more often, but with a more traditional start-button design in Windows 10, it is time to retire it. Another example: Microsoft doesn't force you to use Edge and Bing entirely, but it still does force you. Cortana is a hot mess, but if you opt to use her, she will only open things in Edge. Searches are Bing-only. In other words, the virtual assistant ignores your default browser settings. Why? Not for the user's benefit. Sadly, the Windows Store is a garbage dump -- many of the "legit" apps are total trash.
Microsoft

Microsoft Yanks Three Bad Patches Of Their Last Outlook Patch (computerworld.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes ComputerWorld's Woody Leonhard: I just received word from Gunter Born that Microsoft has pulled three of its Outlook patches... There's no specific recommendation that you uninstall the yanked patches -- indeed, there's no description of the problems caused by the latest round -- but earlier versions of the bad patches-of-patches had a nasty habit of crashing Outlook... Microsoft still hasn't fixed any of the Office 2007 bugs it introduced in the June security patches.
If you're keeping score at home, the yanked patches are:
  • KB 4011042 - July 5, 2017, update for Outlook 2010
  • KB 3191849 - June 27, 2017, update for Outlook 2013
  • KB 3213654 - June 30, 2017, update for Outlook 2016

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