Government

New York City Cops Will Replace Their 36,000 Windows Phones With iPhones (theverge.com) 215

The New York City Police Department says it will give up its 36,000 Windows phones and transition to iPhones by the end of the year. The Verge reports: The switch is prompted in part by news in July that Microsoft was ending support for Windows Phone 8.1, which a large percentage of all Windows-powered phones are still using. It's a predictable end to the Windows phone, considering that its market share had already slipped below 1 percent at the time the police department adopted its phones last year. The ill-fated decision to go with the Windows phone was made solely by its NYPD deputy commissioner for IT, according to The New York Post, and apparently did not receive further judgment before implementing the program. The Windows models were Nokia Lumia 830 and Lumia 640 XL, equipped with special 911 apps, case management apps, and the ability to receive assignments. They were purchased as part of a $160 million initiative to modernize the NYPD, which has been around since 1845. The new business for Microsoft's phones was clearly not enough to keep Windows Phone alive.
Open Source

How Open Source Advocates Celebrated The 26th Anniversary of Linux (linux.com) 99

To celebrate Linux's 26th anniversary, the Linux Foundation tweeted a picture of Tux on a birthday cake, and linked to an essay on OpenSource.com by FreeDOS founder Jim Hall: My first Linux distribution was Softlanding Linux System (SLS) 1.03, with Linux kernel 0.99 alpha patch level 11. That required a whopping 2MB of RAM, or 4MB if you wanted to compile programs, and 8MB to run X windows... To celebrate, I reinstalled SLS 1.05 to remind myself what the Linux 1.0 kernel was like and to recognize how far Linux has come since the 1990s.
"Getting X windows to perform was not exactly easy..." Hall writes, adding "the concept of a desktop didn't exist yet." Meanwhile Phoronix celebrated by republishing that fateful email Linus Torvalds sent on August 25, 1991. And Fossbytes shared the most recent statistics about modern-day Linux's 20 million lines of code from the Linux Foundation: During the period between the 3.19 and 4.7 releases, the kernel community was merging changes at an average rate of 7.8 patches per hour; that is a slight increase from the 7.71 patches per hour seen in the previous version of this report, and a continuation of the longterm trend toward higher patch volumes.
Software

Why Are There So Many Knobs in Audio Software? (theoutline.com) 214

John Lagomarsino, writing for The Outline: Skeuomorphic design, where user interfaces emulate the appearance of physical objects, has been popular for pretty much the history of personal computing. The ideas of "files," "folders," and the "recycle bin" in Windows could be considered skeuomorphs, intended to help transition early computer users from analog to digital, as could the idea of an "inbox" and "outbox" in email and the paperclip that symbolizes attachments. More recently, a lot of early iOS apps were famous for their heavy-handed skeuomorphic elements, with felt textures and chunky drop shadows. But no area of computing has so thoroughly gone for it more than audio software. The first Billboard #1 single that was recorded to a hard drive instead of tape was "Livin' La Vida Loca" in 1999; 18 years later, in 2017, most audio software still looks like the designers attempted to replicate physical equipment piece for piece on a computer screen. Faders, switches, knobs, needles twitching between numbers on a volume meter -- they're all there. Except you have to control them with a mouse. Winamp may have been Patient Zero in this gaudy epidemic, but it has spread far and wide. I spend a lot of my time mixing and editing audio, and that often involves having multiple audio plugins (essentially applications that run inside the main audio program) from multiple vendors running simultaneously. But all audio software, for what I suppose are historical reasons, features the most egregious skeuomorphic design in all of software. Alone, each plugin is hideous in its own unique way. A panel of 3D knobs here, a pixelated oscilloscope there.
Facebook

Fake Messages Rigged With Malware Are Spreading Via Facebook Messenger (bleepingcomputer.com) 44

According to recent warnings issued by Avira, CSIS Security Group, and Kaspersky Lab, a virulent spam campaign has hit Facebook Messenger during the past few days. "The Facebook spam messages contain a link to what appears to be a video," reports Bleeping Computer. "The messages arrive from one of the user's friends, suggesting that person's account was also compromised." From the report: The format of the spam message is the user's first name, the word video, and a bit.ly or t.cn short-link. Users that click on the links are redirected to different pages based on their geographical location and the type of browser and operating system they use. It's been reported that Firefox users on Windows and Mac are being redirected to a page offering a fake Flash Player installer. Kaspersky says this file installs adware on users' PCs. On Chrome, the spam campaign redirects users to a fake YouTube page pushing a malicious extension. It is believed that crooks use this Chrome extension to push adware and collect credentials for new Facebook accounts, which they later use to push the spam messages to new users.
Windows

Microsoft .NET Core 2.0 For Linux Released; Redhat Will Bundle Microsoft's .NET (zdnet.com) 185

Billly Gates writes: Microsoft recently released Visual Studio 15.3 for Windows and Visual Studio 7.1 for Mac with .NET core 2.0. In addition to porting Microsoft Code and SQL Server to Linux, they have ported .NET. Redhat will bundle .NET in their software offerings instead of relying on Mono. .NET core is Microsoft's open-source .NET platform which is not based off Mono and available for Linux, Mac, and Windows here.
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Never Again Sneakily Force Windows Downloads on Users (betanews.com) 200

A reader shares a report Windows users in Germany were particularly unimpressed when Microsoft forcibly downloaded many gigabytes of files to upgrade from Windows 7 and 8 to Windows 10. Having held out for 18 months, and losing its case twice, Microsoft has finally agreed to stop its nefarious tactics. After a lengthy battle with Germany's Baden-Wurtenberg consumer rights center, Microsoft made the announcement to avoid the continuation of legal action. A press release on the Baden-Wurtenberg website reveals that Microsoft has announced it will no longer download operating system files to users' computers without their permission: Microsoft will not download install files for new operating systems to a user system's hard disk without a user's consent. The consumer rights center hoped for this resolution to be reached much sooner, but Microsoft's decision will please the courts and could have a bearing on how the company acts in other countries.
Sony

Sony Blocks Yet Another Game From Cross-Console Play With Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 151

"Back in June, Sony told Eurogamer that the company did not have 'a profound philosophical stance' against letting PS4 users play games with those on other platforms," reports Ars Technica. "That said, the company's continued refusal to allow for cross-console play between PS4 and Xbox One players has become an absolute and unmistakable trend in recent months." The latest game to be denied by Sony for cross-console play is Ark: Survival Evolved, which comes out of a two-year early access period next week on Windows, Mac, PS4, and Xbox One. From the report: In a Twitter response posted over the weekend, Ark lead designer and programmer Jeremy Stieglitz said that cross-platform play between PS4 and Xbox One is "working internally, but currently Sony won't allow it." This isn't a huge surprise, considering that the developers of Rocket League, Minecraft, and Gwent have made similar statements in recent months. Since Microsoft very publicly opened Xbox Live to easy cross-platform play back in March, Sony has said that it's "happy to have a conversation" about the issue, but it has failed to follow through by allowing any linkage between the two competing consoles (cross-platform play between the PS4 and PC has been available in certain games since the PS4's launch, though).

The question continues to be why, exactly, Sony seems so reluctant to allow any games to work between its own PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live. Speaking with Eurogamer in June, Sony's Jim Ryan suggested that, in the case of Minecraft, Sony was wary to expose that game's young players to "external influences we have no ability to manage or look after." Ryan also told Eurogamer that cross-platform decisions were "a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders." That suggests there may be some financial issues between the parties involved that are preventing cross-console play from moving forward. Perhaps Sony wants someone else to pay for the work required to get its network talking to Microsoft's? The bottom line, though, might be that Sony just doesn't want to partially give away its sizable advantage in console sales by letting Microsoft hook into that vast network of players.

Businesses

The Windows App Store is Full of Pirate Streaming Apps (torrentfreak.com) 98

Ernesto Van der Sar, reporting for TorrentFreak: When we were browsing through the "top free" apps in the Windows Store, our attention was drawn to several applications that promoted "free movies" including various Hollywood blockbusters such as "Wonder Woman," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and "The Mummy." Initially, we assumed that a pirate app may have slipped past Microsoft's screening process. However, the 'problem' doesn't appear to be isolated. There are dozens of similar apps in the official store that promise potential users free movies, most with rave reviews. Most of the applications work on multiple platforms including PC, mobile, and the Xbox. They are pretty easy to use and rely on the familiar grid-based streaming interface most sites and services use. Pick a movie or TV-show, click the play button, and off you go. The sheer number of piracy apps in the Windows Store, using names such as "Free Movies HD," "Free Movies Online 2020," and "FreeFlix HQ," came as a surprise to us. In particular, because the developers make no attempt to hide their activities, quite the opposite.
Government

Microsoft Avoids Washington State Taxes, Gives Nevada Schoolkid A Surface Laptop (seattletimes.com) 72

theodp writes: The Official Microsoft Blog hopes a letter from a Nevada middle schooler advising Microsoft President Brad Smith to "keep up the good work running that company" will "inspire you like it did us." Penned as part of a math teacher's assignment to write letters to the businesses that they like, Microsoft says the letter prompted Smith to visit the Nevada school to meet 7th-grader Sky Yi in person as part of the company's effort to draw attention to the importance of math and encourage students and teachers who are passionate about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. In an accompanying video of the surprise meeting, Smith presents Yi with a new Surface Laptop that comes with Windows 10 S, a version of the OS that has been streamlined with schools in mind. "Not bad for a little letter," the Microsoft exec says.

Speaking of Microsoft, Nevada, and education, Bing Maps coincidentally shows the school Smith visited is just a 43-minute drive from the software giant's Reno-based Americas Operations Center. According to the Seattle Times, routing sales through the Reno software-licensing office helps Microsoft minimize its tax bills (NV doesn't tax business income) to the detriment, some say, of Washington State public schools.

Microsoft's state and local taxes will drop to just $30 million for the last year (from an average of $214 milion over the previous 14 years) according to the Seattle Times. "A Microsoft spokesman said the decline in 2017 was caused by the company's deferring taxes on some income to future years and the winding down of the company's smartphone business."
Government

US State Department Suffers Worldwide Email Outage (usatoday.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: The U.S. State Department's email system underwent a worldwide outage Friday, affecting all its unclassified communications within and outside of the department. The system was fully restored by Friday afternoon [after 12 hours], said a State Department official briefed on the incident who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

It was not clear what caused the early morning outage, but spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters it was not "any external action or interference."

IT

Developer Accidentally Deletes Three-Month of Work With Visual Studio Code (bingj.com) 765

New submitter joshtops writes: A developer accidentally three-month of his work. In a post, he described his experience, "I had just downloaded VScode as an alternative and I was just playing with the source control option, seeing how it wanted to stage -- five thousand files -- I clicked discard... AND IT DELETED ALL MY FILES, ALL OF THEM, PERMANENTLY! How the f*uk is this s*it possible, who the hell is the d******* who made the option to permanently delete all the files on a project by accident even possible? Cannot even find them in the Recycle Bin!!!! I didn't even thought that was possible on Windows!!! F*ck this f*cking editor and f*ck whoever implemented this option. I wish you the worst.'
Desktops (Apple)

In Defense of the Popular Framework Electron (dev.to) 138

Electron, a popular framework that allows developers to write code once and seamlessly deploy it across multiple platforms, has been a topic of conversation lately among developers and users alike. Many have criticised Electron-powered apps to be "too memory intensive." A developer, who admittedly uses a high-end computer, shares his perspective: I can speak for myself when I say Electron runs like a dream. On a typical day, I'll have about three Atom windows open, a multi-team Slack up and running, as well as actively using and debugging my own Electron-based app Standard Notes. [...] So, how does it feel to run this bloat train of death every day? Well, it feels like nothing. I don't notice it. My laptop doesn't get hot. I don't hear the fan. I experience no lags in any application. [...] But aside from how it makes end-users feel, there is an arguably more important perspective to be had: how it makes software companies feel. For context, the project I work in is an open-source cross-platform notes app that's available on most platforms, including web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. All the desktop applications are based off the main web codebase, and are bundled using Electron, while the iOS and Android app use their own native codebases respectively, one in Swift and the other in Kotlin. And as a new company without a lot of resources, this setup has just barely allowed us to enter the marketplace. Three codebases is two too many codebases to maintain. Every time we make a change, we have to make it in three different places, violating the most sacred tenet of computer science of keeping it DRY. As a one-person team deploying on all these platforms, even the most minor change will take at minimum three development days, one for each codebase. This includes debugging, fixing, testing, bundling, deploying, and distributing every single codebase. This is by no means an easy task.
Microsoft

We're Not Walking Away From Continuum, Says HP (theregister.co.uk) 44

An anonymous reader shares a report: While Windows roadmaps purportedly leaked to a blog last week appear to have a big hole in them where mobile should be, HP Inc tells us it has been assured by Redmond there are no plans to drop Continuum. HP is the sole major mobile vendor committed to the Windows Mobile Edition of Windows 10 and bet big on Continuum, the multimode "use-your-phone-as-a-PC" feature on which some of HP's ambitions rest. El Reg was impressed by HP's plans to build an ecosystem around the multi-mode capabilities of the HP Elite x3 phone, which doubles up as a PC replacement. (Or tries to.) Launching in over 50 markets, the ecosystem includes a streaming apps service HP Workplace to fill in the app gap, and even a "lap dock." HP pitched it at field workers and verticals. The only thing letting Inc-ers down was the quality of the software from Microsoft. Spring came and went without the expected improvements to Continuum. Unauthorised briefings last week suggest the Windows Mobile branch of Windows 10 is now an orphan.
Mozilla

64-bit Firefox is the New Default on 64-bit Windows (mozilla.org) 178

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Users on 64-bit Windows who download Firefox will now get our 64-bit version by default. That means they'll install a more secure version of Firefox, one that also crashes a whole lot less. How much less? In our tests so far, 64-bit Firefox reduced crashes by 39% on machines with 4GB of RAM or more.
Debian

OpenSource.com Test-Drives Linux Distros From 1993 To 2003 (opensource.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes OpenSource.com: A unique trait of open source is that it's never truly EOL (End of Life). The disc images mostly remain online, and their licenses don't expire, so going back and installing an old version of Linux in a virtual machine and getting a precise picture of what progress Linux has made over the years is relatively simple... Whether you're new to Linux, or whether you're such an old hand that most of these screenshots have been more biographical than historical, it's good to be able to look back at how one of the largest open source projects in the world has developed. More importantly, it's exciting to think of where Linux is headed and how we can all be a part of that, starting now, and for years to come.
The article looks at seven distros -- Slackware 1.01 (1993), Debian 0.91 (1994), Jurix/S.u.S.E. (1996), SUSE 5.1 (1998), Red Hat 6.0 (1999), Mandrake 8.0 (2001), and Fedora 1 (2003). Click through for some of the highlights.
Democrats

Russian Group That Hacked DNC Used NSA Attack Code In Attack On Hotels (arstechnica.com) 197

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A Russian government-sponsored group accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee last year has likely been infecting other targets of interest with the help of a potent Windows exploit developed by, and later stolen from, the National Security Agency, researchers said Friday. Eternal Blue, as the exploit is code-named, is one of scores of advanced NSA attacks that have been released over the past year by a mysterious group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. It was published in April in the group's most damaging release to date. Its ability to spread from computer to computer without any user action was the engine that allowed the WCry ransomware worm, which appropriated the leaked exploit, to shut down computers worldwide in May. Eternal Blue also played a role in the spread of NotPetya, a follow-on worm that caused major disruptions in June. Now, researchers at security firm FireEye say they're moderately confident the Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear, APT 28, and other names has also used Eternal Blue, this time in a campaign that targeted people of interest as they connected to hotel Wi-Fi networks. In July, the campaign started using Eternal Blue to spread from computer to computer inside various staff and guest networks, company researchers Lindsay Smith and Ben Read wrote in a blog post. While the researchers didn't directly observe those attacks being used to infect guest computers connected to the network, they said a related campaign from last year used the control of hotel Wi-Fi services to obtain login credentials from guest devices.
Microsoft

Microsoft Dismisses Consumer Reports' Surface Complaints, But Doesn't Offer Much Evidence 66

Microsoft has publicly responded to Consumer Reports, saying that it disagrees with the publication's Surface reliability findings. But the company hasn't offered much in the way of evidence. In a blog post, Surface chief Panos Panay writes: In the Surface team we track quality constantly, using metrics that include failure and return rates -- both our predicted 1-2-year failure and actual return rates for Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are significantly lower than 25%. Additionally, we track other indicators of quality such as incidents per unit (IPU), which have improved from generation to generation and are now at record lows of well below 1%. Surface also ranks highly in customer satisfaction. 98% of Surface Pro 4 users and Surface Book users say they are satisfied with their device, and our Surface Laptop and new Surface Pro continue to get rave reviews. Long-time watcher Paul Thurrott writes: Does changing the time frame from "by the end of the second year of ownership" to "1-2 year failure rate" skew the results because more failures happen later in a product's lifetime? Also, he introduces the notion of "return rates" here. By definition, the feedback that Consumer Reports receives is from product owners, not those who have returned products. If someone is almost two years into device ownership, they are not returning the product. They're just using it. And dealing with it. So consider the issue muddled, in just one carefully-constructed sentence. Which I believe was crafted to confuse the issue. But there is more. "Additionally, we track other indicators of quality such as incidents per unit (IPU), which have improved from generation to generation and are now at record lows of well below 1 percent," Panay offers. It's not possible to understand how an "incident" relates to a "failure." Mostly because he doesn't explain the term. Likely because doing so would betray that this is an apples to oranges comparison. [...] I will point the reader to Welcome to Surfacegate, my description of Microsoft's feeble attempts to ignore and then slowly fix endemic issues with those exact two Surface models. And anecdotally, I'll point to the fact that the three Surface Book models I've used have all had reliability problems. But the biggest issue I have with "customer satisfaction" is that it's kind of a bullshit measurement when it comes to premium products.
Oracle

Oracle Fiddles With Major Database Release Cycle Numbers (theregister.co.uk) 69

An anonymous reader shares a report: Big Red has changed its database release cycle, scrapping names that see decimal points and numbers added on for an indeterminate amount of time, instead plumping for annual releases numbered by the year. So what would have been Oracle Database 12.2.0.2 will now be Oracle Database 18; 12.2.0.3 will come out a year later, and be Oracle Database 19. The approach puts Oracle only about 20 years behind Microsoft in adopting a year-based naming convention (Microsoft still uses years to number Windows Server, even though it stopped for desktop versions when it released XP). [...] Well, Big Red will surely be using the revamp as a way to boost sales of database licences -- a crucial part of its business -- which have been in decline for two years running. In fiscal 2016, Oracle reported a 12 per cent drop in annual sales of new software licences, and its most recent results for fiscal 2017 revealed a further 5 per cent drop. And, for all that Oracle has shouted about its cloudy success of late, it isn't yet a major money-maker for the biz. New software license sales make up a quarter of overall revenue, while support for that software makes up a further 45 per cent. In part, the new numbering will be a handy marketing ploy. Rather than playing with the decimal points, a release with a new whole number could be an attempt to give the impression of agility in the face of younger, fresher competitors. Meanwhile, fewer patches and releases on each system also allows Oracle to know more quickly, and more accurately, what security features each customer has. The annual numbering system is also a very simple way of telling you your system is old.
Microsoft

Kaspersky Drops Antitrust Complaint After Microsoft Promises To Make Changes To Windows 10 (theverge.com) 31

Security firm Kaspersky said Thursday it was withdrawing its European antitrust complaint against Microsoft after the software giant promised to make changes to the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update that have appeased Kaspersky and help its anti-virus software provide notifications and alerts to renew virus definitions. From a report: Kaspersky originally filed its complaint back in June, claiming that Microsoft disabled its anti-virus software during Windows upgrades and that the software maker was using its dominance to "fiercely promote" its own Windows Defender software. Microsoft admitted in late June that Windows 10 prompts to install a new version of anti-virus from third parties like Kaspersky after an update, but it disables the old version if it's not compatible. Microsoft now says it "will work more closely with AV vendors to help them with compatibility reviews in advance of each feature update becoming available to customers." The software maker will also provide better visibility of release schedules for Windows 10 updates, giving anti-virus vendors more time to test changes.
AI

Blizzard and DeepMind Turn StarCraft II Into An AI Research Lab (techcrunch.com) 52

Last year, Google's AI subsidiary DeepMind said it was going to work with Starcraft creator Blizzard to turn the strategy game into a proper research environment for AI engineers. Today, they're opening the doors to that environment, with new tools including a machine learning API, a large game replay dataset, an open source DeepMind toolset and more. TechCrunch reports: The new release of the StarCraft II API on the Blizzard side includes a Linux package made to be able to run in the cloud, as well as support for Windows and Mac. It also has support for offline AI vs. AI matches, and those anonymized game replays from actual human players for training up agents, which is starting out at 65,000 complete matches, and will grow to over 500,000 over the course of the next few weeks. StarCraft II is such a useful environment for AI research basically because of how complex and varied the games can be, with multiple open routes to victory for each individual match. Players also have to do many different things simultaneously, including managing and generating resources, as well as commanding military units and deploying defensive structures. Plus, not all information about the game board is available at once, meaning players have to make assumptions and predictions about what the opposition is up to.

It's such a big task, in fact, that DeepMind and Blizzard are including "mini-games" in the release, which break down different subtasks into "manageable chunks," including teaching agents to master tasks like building specific units, gathering resources, or moving around the map. The hope is that compartmentalizing these areas of play will allow testing and comparison of techniques from different researchers on each, along with refinement, before their eventual combination in complex agents that attempt to master the whole game.

Slashdot Top Deals