Microsoft

Windows 10 Will Cut Off Devices With Older CPUs (pcworld.com) 63

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) 139

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) 143

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) 548

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

AI

Facebook's AI Keeps Inventing Languages That Humans Can't Understand (fastcodesign.com) 170

"Researchers at Facebook realized their bots were chattering in a new language," writes Fast Company's Co.Design. "Then they stopped it." An anonymous reader summarizes their report: Facebook -- as well as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple -- said they were more interested in AI's that could talk to humans. But when two of Facebook's AI bots negotiated with each other "There was no reward to sticking to English language," says Dhruv Batra, visiting research scientist from Georgia Tech at Facebook AI Research (FAIR). Co.Design writes that the AI software simply, "learned, and evolved," adding that the creation of new languages is a phenomenon Facebook "has observed again, and again, and again". And this, of course, is problematic.

"Should we allow AI to evolve its dialects for specific tasks that involve speaking to other AIs? To essentially gossip out of our earshot? Maybe; it offers us the possibility of a more interoperable world, a more perfect place where iPhones talk to refrigerators that talk to your car without a second thought. The tradeoff is that we, as humanity, would have no clue what those machines were actually saying to one another."

One of the researchers believes that that's definitely going in the wrong direction. "We already don't generally understand how complex AIs think because we can't really see inside their thought process. Adding AI-to-AI conversations to this scenario would only make that problem worse."
Power

Microsoft 'Cuts The Cord' With A Local Power Utility To Pursue Greener Energy (seattletimes.com) 62

Frosty Piss summarizes the Seattle Times: Microsoft will bypass Puget Sound Energy to secure carbon-free power on wholesale markets under an agreement with state regulators. In 2015, 60 percent of PSE electricity came from coal and natural-gas plants, according to company statistics. The agreement calls for Microsoft to pay a $23.6 million transition fee to Puget Sound Energy, which the utility will pass on to its Western Washington customers... But the settlement does not address one major financial issue that hangs over PSE and its customers -- how to handle the costs of shutting down coal-fired units in the Colstrip, Montana, power station... State regulators and Puget Sound Energy determined that Microsoft is legally responsible for a share of the Colstrip, Montana coal-fired generating plant costs.
Security

EternalBlue Vulnerability Scanner Finds Exposed Hosts Worldwide (helpnetsecurity.com) 38

Orome1 quotes Help Net Security:After the recent massive WannaCry ransomware campaign, Elad Erez, Director of Innovation at Imperva, was shocked at the number of systems that still sported the Microsoft Windows SMB Server vulnerabilities that made the attack possible. So, he decided to do something about it: he created Eternal Blues, an easy-to-use vulnerability scanner that he made available for download for free... The statistics collected by the tool, as well as the total number of downloads, show that after the NotPetya attack, people's awareness of the threat did increase... Over 8 million IP addresses were scanned, and a total of 60,000 vulnerable hosts were identified (out of ~537,000 that were responsive). Of the ~537,000 responsive hosts, some 258,000 still had SMBv1 enabled.
One organization in France found two vulnerable hosts after scanning over 13,000 IP addresses, and Erez believes that without his tool, "finding those two needles in the haystack would have been an almost impossible mission... Here is a lesson for IT/Security departments: don't be so certain that you know your network well. Deploy a multi-layered stack of security tools for both risk analysis and real time enforcement."
Bug

24 Cores and the Mouse Won't Move: Engineer Diagnoses Windows 10 Bug (wordpress.com) 352

Longtime Slashdot reader ewhac writes: Bruce Dawson recently posted a deep-dive into an annoyance that Windows 10 was inflicting on him -- namely, every time he built Chrome, his extremely beefy 24-core (48-thread) rig would begin stuttering, with the mouse frequently becoming stuck for a little over one second. This would be unsurprising if all cores were pegged at 100%, but overall CPU usage was barely hitting 50%. So he started digging out the debugging tools and doing performance traces on Windows itself. He eventually discovered that the function NtGdiCloseProcess(), responsible for Windows process exit and teardown, appears to serialize through a single lock, each pass through taking about 200 microseconds each. So if you have a job that creates and destroys a lot of processes very quickly (like building a large application such as Chrome), you're going to get hit in the face with this. Moreover, the problem gets worse the more cores you have. The issue apparently doesn't exist in Windows 7. Microsoft has been informed of the issue and they are allegedly investigating.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Default Font Is at the Center Of a Government Corruption Case (thenextweb.com) 181

Calibri, a font that was created in 2004 and made default option on PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and WordPad by Microsoft in 2007, is currently sitting at the center of a corruption investigation involving Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. From a report: Accused of illegally profiting from his position since the 1990s, Sharif is now under investigation by the Joint Investigative Team -- a collective of Pakistani police, military, and financial regulators -- after a treasure trove of evidence surfaced with 2016's release of The Panama Papers. In a report obtained by Al Jazeera, investigators recommended a case be filed in the National Accountability Court after concluding there were "significant gap[s]" in Sharif's ability to account for his familial assets. [...] Sharif contends that neither he, nor his family, profited from his position of power, a denial that came under scrutiny today after his daughter and political heir apparent, Maryam Nawaz, produced documents from 2006 that prove her father's innocence. Unfortunately for the Nawaz family, type experts today confirmed the documents were written in Calibri, a font that wasn't available until 2007.
Android

Windows Phone Dies Today (theverge.com) 233

From a report: Microsoft is killing off Windows Phone 8.1 support today, more than three years after the company first introduced the update. The end of support marks an end to the Windows Phone era, and the millions of devices still running the operating system. While most have accepted that the death of Windows Phone occurred more than a year ago, AdDuplex estimates that nearly 80 percent of all Windows-powered phones are still running Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, or Windows Phone 8.1. All of these handsets are now officially unsupported, and only 20 percent of all Windows phones are running the latest Windows 10 Mobile OS.
Microsoft

Microsoft Pledges To Bring Better Broadband To Two Million Rural Americans in the Next Five Years (recode.net) 99

Microsoft on Tuesday announced a new campaign to try to "eliminate" the gap in high-speed internet access in the country's hardest-to-reach areas -- an effort called the Rural Airband Initiative, which will set an ambitious target of bringing better broadband to two million Americans within the next five years. From a report: The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant plans to start its efforts in 12 states, offering seed money -- Microsoft wouldn't specify the amount -- to local telecom providers that are trying to improve internet access through means like "white spaces," which are the invisible, wireless radio airwaves that aren't already owned by broadcasters. From Microsoft point of view, this approach -- aimed at delivering speedy wireless internet -- is the best way to improve connectivity in parts of the country that broadband providers long have ignored, given the prohibitive costs of building and sustaining networks there. By Microsoft's count, more than 23 million Americans in rural areas currently lack high-speed internet access, despite billions of dollars in federal investment. But the company emphasized that it is not looking to become a telecom provider -- it's only providing capital to local firms -- and does not seek to profit from the endeavor. Through revenue-sharing agreements, Microsoft instead plans to invest any money it raises in additional projects in other states where internet access is lacking.
Ubuntu

Ubuntu Is Now Available On the Windows Store (windowscentral.com) 121

Ubuntu is now available for download on the Windows Store. "Initially spotted by Rafael Rivera and Necrosoft Core on Twitter, Ubuntu on the Windows Store will let you install and run the Ubuntu terminal on Windows next to your other apps," reports Windows Central. From the report: Ubuntu's arrival, and that of SUSE, are part of a recent push by Microsoft to embrace Linux and the open source community more broadly. This began with the arrival of the Windows Subsystem for Linux in 2016, allowing users to use the Bash shell from within Windows. Keep in mind that this is limited to the Fall Creators Update, which isn't set for a public release until later this year. If you're running a PC testing the Fall Creators Update through the Windows Insider Program, however, you should be able to download and try Ubuntu from the Windows Store just fine.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Offer Local Version of Azure Cloud Service (reuters.com) 75

Microsoft on Monday unveiled a new service that allows customers to use its cloud technology on their own servers, part of the company's efforts to refocus its product line to compete more effectively with rivals Amazon and Google. From a report: "One of the key differentiations we have with Azure versus our two biggest competitors in the cloud platform space is our ability to support true hybrid solutions," Judson Althoff, Microsoft's executive vice president of worldwide commercial business, told Reuters. Microsoft is hoping to carve a niche among customers who cannot or do not want to have to move all their computing operations to the massive shared data centers that are collectively known as the cloud. Azure Stack could serve companies in highly regulated industries or in parts of the world where using the cloud is not yet feasible, Althoff said.
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Sell Office, Windows as a Bundle (axios.com) 263

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft announced plans on Monday to start offering Windows 10 and Office together in a single subscription service. Microsoft 365, as the service is known, will also include security and management tools and come in two flavors: one for large enterprises and the other for small-to-medium businesses. The company didn't say how much it will charge for either version of the service.
Transportation

Could Technology Companies Solve Traffic Congestion? (bloomberg.com) 151

As the Indian city of Bangalore "grapples with inadequate roads, unprecedented growth and overpopulation," can technology companies find a solution? randomErr writes: Tech giants and startups are turning their attention to a common enemy: the Indian city's infernal traffic congestion. Commutes that can take hours have inspired Gridlock Hackathon for technology workers to find solutions to the snarled roads that cost the economy billions of dollars. While the prize totals a mere $5,500, it's attracting teams from global giants Microsoft Corp., Google and Amazon.com. Inc. to local startups including Ola.
Bloomberg reports that the ideas "range from using artificial intelligence and big data on traffic flows to true moonshots, such as flying cars... Other entries suggested including Internet of Things-powered road dividers that change orientation to handle changing situations. There is also a proposal for a reporting system that tracks vehicles that don't conform to the road rules..." And one hackathon official says a team "suggested building smart roads underneath the city and another has sent in detailed drawings of flying cars." Any more bright ideas -- and more importantly, do any of these solutions really have a chance of succeeding?
Microsoft

Microsoft's Last 'Bug Bash' Before Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (betanews.com) 80

Mark Wilson quotes BetaNews: With the launch of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Build 16237 to the Fast Ring yesterday, Microsoft wheeled in numerous fixes and new features. At the same time, the company also announced that the second Bug Bash for the next big update to Windows 10 is about to take place. This is the last Bug Bash that will take place before the release of the final version of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, and it will see an intense period of testing with the help of Windows Insiders. Things kick off on Friday, July 14 and continue for more than a week.

Of course, the whole idea of the insider program is to help Microsoft to home in on bugs and get them fixed before software is released to the masses, but the Bug Bash steps things up a notch. Participants will be asked to take part in quests to check specific elements of the operating system as Microsoft draws closer to pushing out this latest feature update.

This build includes "read out loud" functionality for PDFs, support for emoji 5.0 -- and now when you relaunch Edge after it crashes, your tabs will be restored automatically.
Open Source

Microsoft Makes 'Visual Studio Code Extension for Arduino' Open Source (betanews.com) 65

BrianFagioli quotes BetaNews: Thursday, Microsoft released yet another open source tool on GitHub -- Visual Studio Code Extension for Arduino. This MIT-licensed code should greatly help developers that are leveraging Arduino hardware for Internet of Things-related projects and more. "Our team at Visual Studio IoT Tooling, researched the development tools developers are using today, interviewed many developers to learn about their pain points developing IoT applications, and found that of all layers of IoT, there are abundant dev tools for cloud, gateway, interactive devices, and industrial devices, but limited availability and capability for micro-controllers and sensors...

"Keeping open source and open platform in mind, we started the work to add an extension on Visual Studio Code, the cross-platform, open sourced advanced code editor, for Arduino application development," says Zhidi Shang, R&D and Product Development, Microsoft.

Microsoft's adds that its tool "is almost fully compatible and consistent with the official Arduino IDE," extending its capabilities with "the most sought-after features, such as IntelliSense, Auto code completion, and on-device debugging for supported boards."

Maybe this would be a good time to ask if anybody has a favorite IDE that they'd like to recommend?

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