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Microsoft

Microsoft Says Summer's Windows 10 Upgrade Fit For Business (computerworld.com) 111

Microsoft has moved Windows 10 August update to the Current Branch for Business release track, putting the "Anniversary Update" in the queue for automatic downloads and installation on enterprise PCs. From a report on ComputerWorld: The move will also set in motion a two-month countdown clock on support for the original mid-2015 version of Windows 10. "Windows 10 1607, also known as the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, has been declared as Current Branch for Business (CBB) and is ready for deployment," Michael Niehaus, a director of product marketing, said in a post to a company blog that used similar wording to the first upgrade to the CBB. In April, Microsoft moved the November 2015 upgrade to the corporate delivery track. Microsoft issued the Anniversary Update Aug. 2, even though its numerical designation of 1607 referred to July (07) of this year (16). The upgrade will be released in January through Windows Update, Windows Update for Business and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), Niehaus said.
Mozilla

Mozilla Puts New Money To Use Fighting For 'Internet Health' (cnet.com) 101

Stephen Shankland, writing for CNET: Mozilla is marshaling public support for political positions, like backing net neutrality, defending encryption and keeping government surveillance from getting out of hand, says Denelle Dixon-Thayer, Mozilla's chief legal and business officer. The organization is funding the efforts with revenue from Firefox searches, which has jumped since 2014 when it switched from a global deal with Google to a set of regional deals. Mozilla brought in $421 million in revenue last year largely through partnerships with Yahoo in the US, Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China, according to tax documents released alongside Mozilla's 2015 annual report on Thursday. Pushing policy work brings new challenges well beyond traditional Mozilla work competing against Google's Chrome browser and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. They include squaring off against the incoming administration of Donald Trump.
Microsoft

Nokia Dials Back Time To Sell Mobile Phones Again (bbc.com) 123

Nokia said Thursday mobile phones carrying its brand will make a comeback via a new venture that will reunite the Nokia brand with veteran Nokia execs who aim to move into smartphones capitalizing on an existing operation that sells low-cost basic phones. From a report on BBC: It's thanks to a deal with a small team based at a business park on the fringes of Helsinki, who are engaged in what will seem to many a foolhardy mission. They call themselves HMD Global -- and they believe they can make Nokia a big name in mobile phones once again. I met Arto Nummela, Pekka Rantala and Florian Seiche in a cafe on what is still the Nokia campus. That very day Arto and Pekka had stopped working for the Nokia Windows mobile phone business owned by Microsoft -- because they had acquired both it and the Nokia brand to start their new business. Yes, it is complicated, but so is the recent history of what was just a few years back Europe's technology superpower and the biggest force in mobile phones. After the launch of the iPhone in 2007, Nokia faltered and by 2011 was on what its first American chief executive, Stephen Elop, called a burning platform. Then, the phone business was sold to Microsoft, which soon found it had made a disastrous purchase as the Nokia Windows combination failed to claim a significant slice of a market dominated by Apple's iOS and Android. Now, the Finnish business -- which remained a big force in telecoms infrastructure after the sale of the mobile unit -- has licensed the Nokia brand to HMD Global, which aims to take it back to the future.
Windows

Wielding Their Windows Phones, Microsoft Shareholders Grill CEO Satya Nadella On Device Strategy (geekwire.com) 155

At a meeting with shareholders Wednesday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was asked numerous times what the company is doing about Windows Phones, and why do they keep hearing that Microsoft is abandoning smartphone manufacturer business. The stakeholders also asked why the company is seemingly focusing more on Android and iOS rival platforms instead of its own. From a report on GeekWire: Microsoft shareholder Dana Vance, owner of a Windows Phone and a Microsoft Band, said he received an email about the Microsoft Pix app but was surprised to learn that it was available for iPhone and Android but not Windows Phone. Ditto for Microsoft Outlook. He also alluded to reports that Microsoft has put the Band on the back burner. Given this, he asked Nadella to explain the company's vision for its consumer devices. As part of his response, Nadella said Microsoft's Windows camera and mail apps will include the same features as in Microsoft's apps for other platforms. "When we control things silicon-up, that's how we will integrate those experiences," Nadella said. The company will "build devices that are unique and differentiated with our software capability on top of it -- whether it's Surface or Surface Studio or HoloLens or the phone -- and also make our software applications available on Android and iOS and other platforms. That's what I think is needed in order for Microsoft to help you as a user get the most out of our innovation." Another shareholder, who says he uses his Windows Phone "18 hours a day," said he has heard Microsoft is "stepping away from mobile." He asked, "Can you calm me down ... and tell me what your vision is for mobile?" Nadella answered, "We think about mobility broadly. In other words, we think about the mobility of the human being across all of the devices, not just the mobility of a single device. That said, we're not stepping away or back from our focus on our mobile devices," Nadella said. "What we are going to do is focus that effort on places where we have differentiation. If you take Windows Phone, where we are differentiated on Windows Phone is on manageability. It's security, it's Continuum capability -- that is, the ability to have a phone that can act like a PC. So we're going to double-down on those points of differentiation."
Security

Holding Shift + F10 During Windows 10 Updates Opens Root CLI, Bypasses BitLocker (bleepingcomputer.com) 138

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Windows security expert and infrastructure trainer Sami Laiho says that by holding SHIFT + F10 while a Windows 10 computer is installing a new OS build, an attacker can open a command-line interface with SYSTEM privileges. This CLI debugging interface also grants the attacker full access to the computer's hard drive data, despite the presence of BitLocker. The CLI debugging interface is present when updating to new Windows 10 and Windows 10 Insiders builds. The most obvious exploitation scenario is when a user leaves his computer unattended during the update procedure. A malicious insider can open the CLI debugger and perform malicious operations under a root user, despite BitLocker's presence. But there are other scenarios where Laiho's SHIFT + F10 trick can come in handy. For example when police have seized computers from users who deployed BitLocker or when someone steals your laptop. Windows 10 defaults help police/thieves in this case because these defaults forcibly update computers, even if the user hasn't logged on for weeks or months. This CLI debugging interface grants the attacker full access to the computer's hard drive, despite the presence of BitLocker. The reason is that during the Windows 10 update procedure, the OS disables BitLocker while the Windows PE (Preinstallation Environment) installs a new image of the main Windows 10 operating system. "This [update procedure] has a feature for troubleshooting that allows you to press SHIFT + F10 to get a Command Prompt," Laiho writes on his blog. "The real issue here is the Elevation of Privilege that takes a non-admin to SYSTEM (the root of Windows) even on a BitLocker (Microsoft's hard disk encryption) protected machine." Laiho informed Microsoft of the issue and the company is apparently working on a fix.
Microsoft

Microsoft Brings Collaborative Editing To PowerPoint On Desktop (venturebeat.com) 38

Microsoft today said that it has enhanced certain versions of its PowerPoint presentation-building program with real-time collaborative editing. VentureBeat adds: This feature came to Word on desktop last year. And before that it was available through Office Online. Microsoft said last year that real-time coauthoring would come to all of its desktop apps, and now Microsoft is executing on that commitment. Just like in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, this feature lets you "see what others are typing as it happens on a given slide," Microsoft Office corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer wrote in a blog post. The feature is live now in PowerPoint on Windows for people who subscribe to Office 365 and belong to the Office Insider program. In addition, it's now available to everyone in PowerPoint Mobile on Windows tablets, Koenigsbauer wrote.
Desktops (Apple)

It's Not Just You, iCloud Calendar Spam is On the Rise (techcrunch.com) 28

New submitter petersike writes: If you're using iCloud to sync your calendar across your devices, chances are you just received a bunch of spammy invites over the last few days. Many users are reporting fake events about Black Friday 'deals' coming from Chinese users. If you're looking for cheap Ray-Ban or Louis Vuitton knockoffs, you might find these invites useful. Otherwise, you might be wondering: why is this a thing? If you use your calendar for work, you already rely on calendar invites to invite other people to meetings and events. All major calendar backends support this feature -- Google Calendar, Microsoft Exchange and Apple's iCloud. And it's quite a convenient feature as you only need to enter an email address to send these invitations. You don't need to be in the same company or even in your recipient's address book. But it's also yet another inbox -- and like every inbox out there, it can get abused.
United States

This Cyber Monday Was the Biggest Online Shopping Day, Ever (zdnet.com) 56

Cyber Monday is likely to have been the biggest online shopping day in history, according to an analysis of visits to US retail websites. Online spending in the US yesterday hit a new record with $3.39bn spent online, a 10.2 percent increase year-over-year -- ahead even of Black Friday, when $3.34bn was spent. ZDNet adds:Cyber Monday is expected to generate slightly less mobile revenue than Black Friday at $1.19bn, but that's still a 48 percent increase on last year, according to the analysis by Adobe. Consumers have spent a total of $39.9bn online so far this month, it said, up 7.4 percent on last November, with 27 out of 28 days seeing online sales of over $1bn. The five best-selling toys in terms of quantity sold on Cyber Monday were Lego, Shopkins, Nerf, Barbie, and Little Live Pets. The five best-selling electronic products were Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox, Samsung 4K TVs, Apple iPads, and Amazon Fire tablets, the company said.
China

Microsoft Confirms Its Chinese-Language Chatbot Filters Certain Topics (fortune.com) 19

Microsoft's Chinese-language AI chat bot filters certain topics, the company confirmed Monday, although it did not clarify whether that included interactions deemed politically sensitive. From a report on Fortune: Last week, CNNMoney and China Digital Times reported that Xiaoice would not directly respond to questions surrounding topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese state. References to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 or "Steamed Bun Xi," a nickname of Chinese President Xi Jinping, would draw evasive answers or non sequiturs from the chat bot, according to the report. "Am I stupid? Once I answer you'd take a screengrab," read one answer to a question that contained the words "topple the Communist Party." Even the mention of Donald Trump, the American President-elect, drew an evasive response from the chat bot, according to reports. "I don't want to talk about it," Xiaoice said, reports CNN Money. In response to inquiries from Fortune, Microsoft confirmed that there was some filtering around Xiaoice's interaction. "We are committed to creating the best experience for everyone chatting with Xiaoice," a Microsoft spokesperson tells Fortune. "With this in mind, we have implemented filtering on a range of topics." The tech giant did not further elaborate to which specific topics the filtering applied.
Microsoft

Microsoft Exec Urges Linux Developers To Try Windows 10 (softpedia.com) 403

An anonymous reader shares a Softpedia article: Microsoft has finally acknowledged the potential that the open-source world in general, and Linux in particular, boasts, so the company is exploring its options to expand in this area with every occasion. Most recently, an episode posted on Channel 9 and entitled "Improvements to Bash on Windows and the Windows Console" with senior program manager Rich Turner calls for Linux developers to give up on their platforms for Windows 10. "Fire up a Windows 10 Insiders' build instance and run your code, run your tools, host your website on Apache, access your MySQL database from your Java code," he explained. Turner went on to point out that the Windows subsystem for Linux is there to provide developers with all the necessary tools to code just like they'd do it on Linux, all without losing the advantages of Windows 10. "Whatever it is that you normally do on Linux to build an application: whether it's in Go, in Erlang, in C, whatever you use, please, give it a try on Bash WSL, and importantly file bugs on us. It really makes our life a lot easier and helps us build a product that we can all use and be far more productive with, he continued. Editor's note: The original title from Softpedia was edited because it was misleading. A Microsoft employee doesn't represent the entire company (at least in this instant he wasn't speaking for the company), and at no point has he asked "all Linux developers" to "give up" on Linux.
Microsoft

Microsoft Update Servers Left All Azure RHEL Instances Hackable (theregister.co.uk) 35

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Register: Microsoft has patched flaws that attackers could exploit to compromise all Azure Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) instances. Software engineer Ian Duffy found the flaws while building a secure RHEL image for Microsoft Azure. During that process he noticed an installation script Azure uses in its preconfigured RPM Package Manager contains build host information that allows attackers to find all four Red Hat Update Appliances which expose REST APIs over HTTPS. From there Duffy found a package labeled PrepareRHUI (Red Hat Update Infrastructure) that runs on all Azure RHEL boxes, and contains the rhui-monitor.cloud build host. Duffy accessed that host and found it had broken username and password authentication. This allowed him to access a backend log collector application which returned logs and configuration files along with a SSL certificate that granted full administrative access to the four Red Hat Update Appliances. Duffy says all Azure RHEL images are configured without GPG validation checks meaning all would accept malicious package updates on their next run of yum updates.
Desktops (Apple)

The Mac App Store Is Full of Scams (howtogeek.com) 117

Over the years, Apple may have improved security, filters, and screening process of apps for its Mac's App Store, but even today things the quality of fraudulent apps continue to not only seep through its gatekeepers, but often times outnumber the good apps. How To Geek did some investigation over this and published the findings yesterday in a story titled, "Don't Be Fooled: The Mac App Store Is Full of Scams". It didn't take long for the publication to find scam apps on Apple's marquee app store for Mac computers. A search for "Microsoft Excel", for instance, returns "Office Bundle" made by a third-party. The app offers templates -- and just that -- for $30. Same is the case with any Office suite application. This might not seem as a real problem to many, but as How to Geek points out, there is one more problem: almost all these apps have icons and title names that are similar to those of Microsoft's, and Apple has had no issues with that. From the article: Let's be blunt: these customers were ripped off, and Apple pocketed $10 each (Editor's note: Apple charges 30 percent on all transactions on App Store(. And you'll only see these comments if you scroll past the two five star reviews that mention the word "app" numerous times. All of these fakes use Microsoft brands like Office, Word, and Excel in the product names. The logos aren't one-to-one copies of Microsoft's official logos, but they're almost always the correct color and letter (blue "W" for Word, green "E" for Excel, etcetera).
Microsoft

Newest Skype For Linux Enables SMS Text Messages From The Desktop (betanews.com) 174

BrianFagioli writes: Microsoft has delivered an incredible feature to Linux-based desktop operating systems by way of the latest Alpha version of its Skype client... The newly-released Skype for Linux 1.13 allows users to send SMS test messages from the operating system! True, web-based solutions such as Google Voice have long allowed the sending of text messages, but needing to use a web browser can be a chore. There is convenience and elegance in using the Skype for Linux client.
Education

Schools Funded By Gates and Zuckerberg Ordered Closed In Uganda (cnn.com) 88

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are two investors in Bridge International Academies. But in Uganda, the group's 63 schools have been "ordered to shut down in a matter of weeks, leaving the lives of thousands of pupils in limbo." An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Uganda's High Court has described the Bridge International Academies...as unsanitary and unqualified, and has ordered it to close its doors in December because it ignored Uganda's national standards and put the "life and safety" of its 12,000 young students on the line. The Director of Education Standards for the Ministry, Huzaifa Mutazindwa, told CNN that the nursery and primary schools were not licensed, the teachers weren't qualified and that there was no record of its curriculum being approved.
Bridge's Uganda director denies the allegations, says the government hasn't even granted them an audience, and "suggested that the opposition against BIA was because the campuses competed against local state-run and private schools," according to CNN. Their reporter also found two educator advocates who complained that Bridge's schools were actually a privatized, profit-making entity targeting the poor. There's strong arguments on both sides, but it's all raising a lot of questions about how technology should be used in school programs, as well as how they should be funded.
Businesses

Yesterday Saw $3.3 Billion In Online Purchases (cmo.com) 66

Friday humanity set a new record for the most money ever spent online in a single day -- and the most ever purchased on mobile devices. An anonymous reader writes: Online sales reached $3.34 billion yesterday, up 11.3% from the same day last year, according to a new report from Adobe Digital Insights. And most of that traffic came from mobile devices. In fact, yesterday became "the first day to ever generate over a billion dollars in online sales from mobile devices," according to their report. Although 64% of online sales came from desktop computers, 55% of the traffic to shopping sites still came from mobile devices -- 45% from smartphones, and 10% from tablets. (Just three years ago, only 20% of Black Friday sales came from mobile devices.)

The top-grossing products appeared to be iPads and Macbooks, Microsoft's Xbox, and Samsung and LG TVs, while the top-grossing toys were electric scooters, drones, Nerf guns and LEGO sets. The products mostly likely to be "out of stock" yesterday included the new NES Classic and the Nintendo 3DS XL Solgaleo Lunala (black edition), the Playstation VR bundle (and the PS4 "Call of Duty: Black Ops" bundle), and the Xbox One S bundle for Madden NFL 17.

The day after Black Friday is now being touted as "Small Business Saturday," a tradition started in 2010 when American Express partnered with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation (and some civic-minded groups in Boston) to encourage people to shop in their local brick-and-mortar stores. American Express reported a $1.7 billion increase in sales on Small Business Saturday in 2015, "with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more."
Education

Has The 'Hour of Code' Turned Into a Giant Corporate Infomercial? (theregister.co.uk) 88

It happens every December. During "Computer Science Education Week," schools around the world dedicate a special hour towards getting kids excited about programming. But theodp writes: With Microsoft, Apple, and Google vying for the opportunity to put their products in front of tens of millions of K-12 students, The Register's Andrew Orlowski opines that the Hour of Code is turning into a giant corporate infomercial for kids. "Parents, such as the late Steve Jobs, tend to ration their children's use of technology," notes Orlowski. "But would Jobs, who consistently praised the value of broad liberal arts, approve of an hour of [Microsoft] Minecraft? It's doubtful." Google, he adds, is keen on dishing out its VR headsets to students and, not to be undone, Apple is also muscling in with an hour of code [and offering free workshops at Apple Stores].
This year Microsoft is even introducing a special online 'Hour of Code' edition" of Minecraft, according to the article, which points out that last year 31 million schoolchildren just spent their "Hour of Code" playing Minecraft.
Advertising

Advertising Company AppNexus Bans Breitbart News Over Hate Speech (betanews.com) 434

Mark Wilson quotes a report from BetaNews: Right-wing website Breitbart -- the darling of the so-called alt-right movement (which it defines as being "younger people who are anti-globalists, very nationalist [and] terribly anti-establishment") -- has been blocked by a leading ad exchange. The site, home to Milo Yiannopoulos (also known as @Nero and banned from Twitter) will no longer be permitted to sell ad space via AppNexus. The move comes after an audit by AppNexus found that Breitbart was in violation of its policies on hate speech and incitement to violence. AppNexus's spokesperson Joshua Zeitz told the BBC: "We use a number of third-party standards to determine what is and isn't hate speech, and if we detect a pattern of speech that could incite violence or discrimination against a minority group, we determine that to be non-compliant and we simply won't serve ads against it. I'm not going to put the examples out there because I'm not going to engage in a tit-for-tat on what is compliant." Bloomberg, which was the first publication to report on the news, noted that AppNexus' investors included Microsoft, News Corp and Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP.
Microsoft

Microsoft Is Working On a New Design Language For Windows 10 Codenamed Project NEON (windowscentral.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windows Central: Microsoft has made several adjustments to its design language over the last few years, starting with Windows 8 and evolving into what we now know as "Microsoft Design Language 2" or MDL2 in Windows 10. With MDL2 being the current design language used throughout Windows 10, Microsoft has plans to begin using a much more streamlined design language with Redstone 3, codenamed Project NEON. Cassim Ketfi at Numerama.com confirms our information and has heard Project NEON called "basically Metro 2." That designation refers to the first Metro design language (nee Modern) that harkens to Windows Media Center up through Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8. Per our sources, Project NEON has been in the works for over a year internally at Microsoft. It builds upon the design language introduced with Windows 10, with its simple and clean interfaces, but adds some much-needed flair to the UI that the current design language just lacks. Details are still scarce, but we hear some of the new designs in the plans include adding more animations and transitions, with the overall goal of making the UI very fluid and "beautiful" compared to the current, almost static UI that is MDL2. One source familiar with Microsoft's plans described NEON as "Very fluid, lots of motion and nice transitions." Some more information about NEON reveals that it serves as a bridge between holographic and augmented reality (AR) and the desktop environment. It's a "UI that transports across devices" with a UX that maps to the physical world. It uses textures, 3D models, lighting and more.
Windows

Microsoft Shares Windows 10 Telemetry Data With Third Parties (betanews.com) 175

An anonymous reader shares a report: To help with the smooth running of Windows 10, and to get an idea of how users interact with the operating system, Microsoft collects telemetry data, which includes information on the device Windows 10 is running on, a list of installed apps, crash dumps, and more. Telemetry data recorded by Windows 10 is, in a nutshell, just technical information about the device the OS is on, and how Windows and any installed software is performing, but it can occasionally include personal information. If you're worried about that, the news that Microsoft is sharing telemetry data with third parties might concern you. Microsoft recently struck a deal with security firm FireEye to provide access to Windows 10 telemetry data, in exchange for having FireEye's iSIGHT Threat Intelligence technology included in its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection service. WDATP is an enterprise security product that helps enterprises detect, investigate, and respond to advanced attacks on their networks and is different from the free version of Windows Defender. The upsides of the deal are obvious for both Microsoft and FireEye, and enterprise customers will certainly benefit from the partnership. It's not known exactly what data Microsoft has made available to FireEye, but in a detailed TechNet article on its telemetry gathering the software giant originally said: "Microsoft may share business reports with OEMs and third party partners that include aggregated and anonymized telemetry information. Data-sharing decisions are made by an internal team including privacy, legal, and data management."
Microsoft

Microsoft Set To Win EU Approval for LinkedIn Buy (reuters.com) 24

Microsoft is set to gain EU approval for its $26 billion buy of professional social network LinkedIn with tweaks to concessions aimed at addressing competition concerns, three people close to the matter said on Wednesday. From a report on Reuters: Microsoft last week told the European Commission that it would still allow LinkedIn's rivals access to its software such as its Outlook program and give hardware makers the option of installing competing professional social networks on computers after the acquisition. The second plank of the concession is important because of the company's battle with the EU competition authority over the last decade and the policy of tying its products to block rivals, resulting in fines of more than 2.2 billion euros.

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