This Week in Tech 611: Bezel Come Back

At the F8 Developer Conference, Facebook shows off its hot new augmented reality technology – which looks a whole lot like Snapchat. Apple is secretly working on non-invasive blood sugar detection, which could be a boon to millions of diabetics. Apple also wants to save the Earth by using 100% recycled materials in its products, covering its headquarters in solar panels, and manufacturing its own sweat. Wait, what? Google, which has made billions in ad revenue, is working on an ad blocker. The Samsung Galaxy S8 came out this week and has yet to explode. Bixby, Samsung’s voice assistant, seems to be fizzling. According to Qualcomm, the first Windows PC using an ARM chip could be out later this year. in completely unrelated news, Intel has canceled the Intel Developer Forum. HTC’s newest phone, codenamed Ocean, will have a squeezable frame and a questionable logo. Steve Ballmer’s new site makes government spending more accessible. Another bad week for Uber. And McDonald’s new uniforms highlight the techno-dystopia we all live in.

This Week in Tech 610: Zombie Shopping Malls

United “overbooking”: what’s the real story? A murder streamed on Facebook Live. Apple sues Qualcomm, Qualcom sues Apple right back. Windows 10 Creators Update is here – are you excited for 3D Paint? The internet Archive emulates early Macs. Princeton creates an unblockable ad blocker. Nintendo stops selling the NES Classic – why? The death of the American mall.

Microsoft’s continuing efforts to be cool

There’s an old saying in Silicon Valley: “nobody ever got fired for using Amazon Web Services.” And among SV startups there are three business models that are en vogue: get bought out by Facebook, get bought out by Google, and get bought out by Apple.

Typically missing from this conversation is anything to do with Microsoft. Sure, it’s one of the largest IT companies in the world; sure, it has a huge cloud platform of its own; sure, it has popular and capable development tools, but ya know, it’s just not very cool, is it?

Microsoft’s successes—and it certainly has them—tend to feel rather corporate. Take Azure. It’s probably behind only AWS in terms of customers and adoption, but generally when Microsoft talks about how widely Azure is being used, the company normally talks about the number of Fortune 500 customers, and it doesn’t get more uncool and boring than that.

And so it’s AWS that seems to be the cloud platform of choice among new companies. While Azure outages are starting to be felt, it’s still AWS outages that cause popular new services to break, not Azure ones. When those same companies build new apps, it’s always iOS that they care about, with Windows, and even Android, as secondary or tertiary considerations.

But Microsoft is changing, and one might almost think that it were a deliberate effort to court a market that’s seen as not just trendy but trend-setting, a hotbed of innovation.

The language is starting to change a little. At its Azure event in San Francisco (where else?) last year, on top of the surprising statement that “Microsoft (heart) Linux,” those Azure numbers gained a little diversity. Yes, Fortune 500 got a mention. But CEO Satya Nadella also told the world that 40 percent of Azure revenue was coming from startups and Independent Service Vendors. The message: it’s not only chosen by suits and megacorps. It’s a little bit cool.

Likewise, the decisions to open source .NET and make Visual Studio a cheaper and more versatile development environment are things that appeal to a different kind of computer user—one that previously might very well not have had a great deal of interest in Microsoft or its products. A Microsoft that’s not reflexively opposed to developing for other platforms? A Microsoft building great tools that you can use on other platforms? That’s a little bit cool.

Excitement around hardware such as the HoloLens augmented reality headset, and even the much more open and humble approach being taken to the development of Windows 10, similarly make Microsoft look a bit more interesting, a bit more innovative, a bit more cool than it once did.

Other recent moves show that the company is more overtly courting the world of startups. Last year, Microsoft bought startup Acompli for $200 million. Acompli has developed an Outlook-style mail, contacts, and calendaring app for iOS and Android which has already been transitioned to use the Outlook branding. Today it was announced that Redmond has bought Sunrise, developer of an iOS and Android calendaring app, with the price rumored to be $100 million.

Read More: Microsoft’s continuing efforts to be cool | Ars Technica.

Oops! Microsoft accidentally teases Windows 9 ‘coming soon’ on social media


Microsoft’s internal censors seem to be sleeping on the job this year. In June, the Surface Pro 3 manual included several references to a small-screen Surface Mini despite the fact that a small-screen Surface Mini was never actually released. And now, as rumors of Windows 9 swirl, Microsoft China appears to have confirmed the impending reveal.

Posting to Weibo—a Chinese social media site—Microsoft China posed its followers a question: “Microsoft’s latest OS Windows 9 is coming soon, do you think the start menu at the left bottom will make a comeback?” (Translation courtesy of The Verge.)

Oops. And not just because Microsoft has already announced the return of the Start menu.

The post was accompanied by a screenshot of a Windows 9 logo mock-up by Shy Designs, seen above. Microsoft China appears to have quickly realized the error of its ways, as the Weibo message has since been removed, though not before Cnbeta noticed and first reported it.

Several reports from oft-reliable sources say Microsoft is prepared to announce Windows 9 in “technical preview” form at the end of September or early in October, just before Windows 7 PCs disappear from store shelves, though Microsoft itself has yet to confirm it. Leaks suggest Windows 9 will better let a PC be a PC and a tablet be a tablet, bringing several mouse-friendly changes to the desktop and possibly killing the desktop completely in tablets and phones powered by mobile ARM processors.

If Windows 9 is indeed incoming—and Microsoft China’s slip-up suggests it is—we have some suggestions for features we’d want to see. But one of the most crucial improvements Microsoft needs to make ASAP has nothing to do with the core operating system itself: The company needs to clean up the Windows Store pronto if it ever hopes to make Metro apps viable on the desktop. Fortunately, Microsoft’s already taking its first tentative steps towards fixing the mess.

via Oops! Microsoft accidentally teases Windows 9 ‘coming soon’ on social media | PCWorld.

Windows 8.1 users won’t receive any more patches unless spring update is installed

Microsoft is staying true to a promise it delivered all the way back in April: Windows 8.1 users who have yet to install the Windows 8.1 Update released this spring won’t be able to download today’s Patch Tuesday updates—or any future Patch Tuesday updates—until they get around to upgrading their operating system.

The threat only applies to Windows 8.1 users. If you’re still on Windows 8, 7, or Vista, you should continue receiving patches normally. You can see whether you’re running Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 by opening the Charms bar, heading to PC Settings > PC and devices > PC info, and looking under the “Windows” section.

If you’re on a Windows 8.1 system without the Spring Update, your computer won’t automatically download today’s patches via Windows Update. Furthermore, if you’ve altered your system settings to manually select which patches to install, you won’t even see today’s patches in Windows Update, a Microsoft spokesperson tells CNET. Don’t try to get clever, either: Trying to install the updates manually will result in a failed installation.

Microsoft postponed this deadline once, as the Windows 8.1 support end date was originally supposed to die out in May.

Most Windows users should have received the Windows 8.1 Update when it was released in April, assuming you haven’t changed the default option to install Windows updates automatically. And if you chose not to install the update, well, what are you waiting for? The Spring Update makes Microsoft’s Metro vision truly PC-friendly for the first time, by dynamically adjusting its interface and behavior to let a PC be a PC and a tablet be a tablet. Plug in a mouse and you’ll get a desktop-focused experience; touchscreen users will stick to Windows 8.1’s usual finger-friendly design.

It’s great. And if that carrot doesn’t sway you to install the Windows 8.1 Spring Update, the “No more updates” stick certainly should.

via Windows 8.1 users won’t receive any more patches unless spring update is installed | PCWorld.

Microsoft woos Windows XP holdouts with $50 gift cards

With the clock ticking down until Windows XP goes end-of-life on April 8, Microsoft’s dangling $50 gift cards to coax people into buying new PCs and fleeing the threat of perpetual zero-day attacks.

A new Microsoft Store offer entices holdouts with a $50 gift card, 90 days of free support, and free data transfer (using Laplink’s software) to their new PC. The free support is par for the course for Microsoft, while the Laplink data transfer off is open to all Windows XP users, so the $50 is the only truly unique part of the offer. The deal, which has been going since the beginning of the month and noticed by The Next Web this weekend, persists until April 30.

The $50 gift card has a few strings attached, however. You’ll only receive the bonus if you buy one of the 16 devices profiled on the offer page: There are four laptops, four tablets, four hybrids, and four all-in-ones to choose from, all running Windows 8.1. The simply superb Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet is the cheapest option, ringing in at $230, though the $50 discount can’t be applied to the purchase of the new device; it’s only good for future Microsoft Store purchases.

A $50 gift card might not be as tempting to stubborn Windows XP lovers as a $50 discount might be, but it’s a nice touch for folks already looking to jump ship from the soon-to-be-sunk operating system. And hey: Grabbing a new PC means never having to see Microsoft’s annoying “Run from Windows XP!” pop-ups again.

Buying a new PC isn’t the only option for Windows XP owners, though. If you don’t have the cash or desire to buy a whole new PC but don’t mind trying something new, these three free Linux operating systems make it easy to migrate from Windows XP and they work just fine on older hardware. And if you absolutely, positively can’t break loose from the operating system—like, say, because you have a critical program that only works on Windows XP—be sure to check out PCWorld’s guide to staying secure after the Windows XPocalypse hits.

Either way, you should be thinking about how you’re going to get away from Windows XP: Sticking with the operating system past April 8 is a security risk. Every single bulletin in this month’s Patch Tuesday touched Windows XP in some way, and after the OS goes end-of-life, those exploits will be wide-open “hit me!” signs for hungry hackers.

via Microsoft woos Windows XP holdouts with $50 gift cards | PCWorld.

IE’s Flash made Windows 8 most vulnerable Windows OS, research says

According to a new research from the Denmark-based security company Secunia, out of all the Windows operating systems currently supported by Microsoft, Windows 8 is the most vulnerable. Dubbed Secunia Vulnerability Review 2014, the research says that while Windows 7 and Windows XP vulnerabilities doubled in 2013, it was Windows 8 which reported the highest number of flaws.

So, despite of being touted as more secure than its predecessors, why is Windows 8 at the top of the vulnerability chart? Well, the reason is Flash — at least this is what the security firm says in its report. Out of 156 flaws reported in Windows 8, 55 were due to the integration of Adobe System’s Flash Player into IE.

Although Adobe’s Flash is widely known for being one of the most prolific sources of security vulnerabilities in Windows this is the first time it’s directly affecting the image of Windows 8. Will it have any effect on Windows 8 sales? Probably not. While Microsoft’s latest operating system isn’t selling as fast as its predecessor, the software giant recently announced that it sold 200 million copies of Windows 8.

Secunia’s annual report on software vulnerabilities takes a look at 50 of the most commonly used programs and operating systems. This year’s report also says that the time gap between when a flaw is reported and when a fix is delivered is narrowing; 86 percent of the vulnerabilities found in the top 50 software products had a fix available on the day of disclosure.

via IE’s Flash made Windows 8 most vulnerable Windows OS, research says – TechSpot.

PC makers to rebel against Microsoft Windows at Consumer Electronics Show

Microsoft could find itself in a precarious position at the Consumer Electronics Show early next month in Las Vegas. That’s because a number of computer manufacturers are expected to unveil systems that can simultaneously run Windows and Google’s Android mobile platform according to two different analysts as reported by Computerworld.

Tentatively known as PC Plus, these machines will run Windows 8.1 as well as Android apps. Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies said the initiative would take place through software emulation and was being backed by Intel. He wasn’t sure what kind of performance could be expected but it is their way to try and bring more touch-based apps to the Windows ecosystem.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, independently said there were three possible implementations that could be used including dual-boot, software emulation or some type of virtualization-based solution. Either way, it would certainly make buzz at CES as OEMs will be trumpeting it.

It’s a desperate move by OEMs but as the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. Manufacturers have seen the PC business shrink in size over the last couple of years as sales of smartphones and tablets have cannibalized the once-thriving industry.

If true, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how the initiative plays out. One scenario could see manufacturers move away from Windows for mobile devices like notebooks, instead opting for a true mobile OS. It’s no secret that Microsoft is working to further optimize Windows 8 to better meet the demands of all users but there’s still a lot of work left to be done.

via PC makers to rebel against Microsoft Windows at Consumer Electronics Show – TechSpot.

Windows 8 loses market share for the first time… sort of

The month of October was an interesting one for Microsoft as Windows 8 lost market share for the first time since launching a year ago – technically speaking. The decline came as a result of users upgrading to Windows 8.1 in addition to customers purchasing new PCs according to the latest report from Net Applications.

Data shows Windows 8’s market share dropped from 8.02 percent to 7.53 percent (0.49 percent). Meanwhile, Windows 8.1 adoption jumped from 0.87 percent to 1.72 percent, good for an increase of 0.85 percent. That’s pretty solid when you consider Windows 8.1 wasn’t released until the middle of the month.

Elsewhere, Windows 7 pretty much held steady with an increase of just 0.03 percent (from 46.39 percent to 46.42 percent). Interestingly enough, it’s the first time that Windows 7 has gained more share than Windows 8. Windows Vista finished the month with 3.63 percent market share, Windows XP closed with 31.24 percent while all other versions of Windows accounted for 1.84 percent.

Gazing at the bigger picture, Windows operating systems were responsible for 90.66 percent of the market, Mac finished at 7.73 percent and Linux held 1.61 percent.

Looking ahead, we will likely get a much better impression of market share during the month of November as operating systems like Windows 8.1 and OS X 10.9 Mavericks will have a complete month of stats under their belt.

Do you think Windows 8.1 will be adopted at a faster rate this holiday season compared to Windows 8 last year?

via Windows 8 loses market share for the first time… sort of – TechSpot.

Microsoft awards $100,000 to single researcher in Windows 8.1 bounty program

Microsoft has awarded $100,000 to James Forshaw, a security researcher at Context Information Security, for coming up with a new exploitation technique around the built-in protections of Windows 8.1. The announcement was made on Microsoft\’s BlueHat blog and marks the second payout since the company kicked off its first bounty programs earlier this year — the first involved IE 11 and totaled $28,000 paid out to six security researchers.
The company isn\’t detailing the exploit until it is fully addressed. Coincidentally, Microsoft notes one of its own engineers found a variant of the attack that Forshaw reported, but his submission “was of such high quality and outlined some other variants” that they thought it deserved the maximum payment for new attack techniques.
Forshaw was also among the group of researchers who cashed in on the IE11 Preview Bug Bounty, bringing his total earnings up to $109,400. Not a bad week indeed. The Australian researcher has been credited with identifying several dozen software security bugs at similar events, including a $20,000 bounty from HP’s TippingPoint for exploiting Oracle\’s Java software at Pwn2Own.
Microsoft explains that payouts for new mitigation bypass techniques are far more generous than traditional bug exploits because learning about them helps the company develop defenses against entire classes of attack.
Commenting on the approach, Context Security’s Forshaw said, “Microsoft’s Mitigation Bypass Bounty is very important to help shift the focus of bounty programs from offense to defense. It incentivizes researchers like me to commit time and effort to security in depth rather than just striving for the total vulnerability count.”
The company is also running a separate program called BlueHat Bonus for Defense that will award up to $50,000 for defensive ideas that accompany a qualifying Mitigation Bypass submission.
via Microsoft awards $100,000 to single researcher in Windows 8.1 bounty program – TechSpot.