Topic microsoft

Windows 7 & 8 machines to get monthly "rollups", no choice in patches

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in microsoft on (#1QYT5)
It looks like the end of the road for Win 7 & 8 users may be at hand. Microsoft’s Senior Product Marketing Manager Nathan Mercer just announced that, “From October 2016 onwards, Windows will release a single Monthly Rollup that addresses both security issues and reliability issues in a single update. The Monthly Rollup will be published to Windows Update (WU), WSUS, SCCM, and the Microsoft Update Catalog. Each month’s rollup will supersede the previous month’s rollup, so there will always be only one update required for your Windows PCs to get current."

In other words, individual patches will no longer be available after October 2016, and Windows 7 and Windows 8 users will now only have two choices: stop updating completely and leave your computers vulnerable to security holes, or accept everything single thing Microsoft sends you whether you want it or not. Will this include forced installs of Win 10 on existing Win 7/8 PCs? Only time will tell.

A user's guide to the Win10 Privacy Policy

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in microsoft on (#JNF0)
Windows 10 might be a welcome respite from recent, unloved versions of Microsoft's flagship operating system, but it's now well-known that Win10 captures an unusually large amount of user data and sends it back to Microsoft. That might have passed muster 20 years ago (happy birthday, Windows 95!) but customers these days are increasingly aware and concerned over their personal data and what becomes of it.

Enter the Verge, with a User's guide to the Windows 10 End User License Agreement (EULA), which combs through the document and tries to make sense of the implications for users. Problem is, even if you take a Microsoft-friendly approach to the analysis, the language obviously gives Microsoft lots of leeway to interpret key provisions as it sees fit.

Had your daily dose of irony yet? Then be aware the Verge has some privacy issues of its own. In fact, it's now known that the Verge sells your user data to upwards of twenty other companies. Better to browser this one with Lynx or with every script-blocker you own set to "maximum."

Microsoft releases sneak preview of Sharepoint 2016

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in microsoft on (#JNE8)
story imageWork in just about any big office and you have almost certainly been subjected to a semi-built corporate Sharepoint site your boss or the HR department hopes you will use rather than circulating important documents via email. And if you are like most tech-savvy folks, you have found it bafflingly difficult to use.

Microsoft hopes to correct that well-deserved reputation, and is launching a preview of Sharepoint Server 2016 to raise expectations about the new product.
Microsoft says its made “deep investment in HTML5” to give you “capabilities that enable device-specific targeting of content. This helps ensure that users have access to the information they need, regardless of the screen they choose to access it on.” And your users get a consistent experience whatever device they choose to wield, including on touch-enabled devices.

A new “cloud hybrid search” will permit users wielding “SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 to retrieve unified search results through a combined search index in Office 365.”

The index for that search resides in Office 365, one of many features billed as letting you take advantage of hybrid cloud. The idea is that your on-premises SharePoint can pop the index, or other data, into Microsoft's cloud so you get the on-prem performance you want without having to bulk out yours servers. But of course you do get into PAYG territory with the cloud.
That certainly qualifies as what the Register calls "Buzzword Compliant" but maybe there's true improvement there, too. Search for the expression "Sharepoint sucks" today and you'll get 209,000 hits including this one. Stick around and see if next year Microsoft turns the corner and makes Sharepoint something people find useful and effective.

Windows 10 can detect and disable pirated games and modified peripherals

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Anonymous Coward
in microsoft on (#J6FP)
In the wake of a stolen Xbox being tracked down via wireless controllers, Microsoft has updated the Windows 10 terms and conditions such that they “may automatically check your version of the software and download software update or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorised hardware peripheral devices.”

The wording “unauthorised hardware peripheral devices” is a little hazy. Does this mean Microsoft can now block uncertified PC or illegally-modified Xbox One and Xbox 360 controllers? Furthermore, Microsoft’s agreement doesn’t state if it will also disable other counterfeit software, such as cracked versions of Office or Adobe Photoshop, or if it only cares about pirated Microsoft games.

The services agreement was clearly written originally for Xbox and Xbox Live, and when writtten was probably only intended to ever apply to them. However, because Microsoft has simply taken an existing services agreement and applied it to core Windows 10 services like Cortana means that, intentionally or accidentally, it could be applied to Windows 10. We think it's unlikely that Microsoft actually intends to go after pirated games on the PC, but until Microsoft clarifies things, this remains a grey area.

Windows 10 changes users’ default browser to Microsoft Edge

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in microsoft on (#G568)
Over at Microsoft, they have a new browser called Edge that is part of Windows 10, and they’d really like everyone to use it. Edge replaces Internet Explorer, which has fallen from a peak of about 95% usage share during 2003 to as low as 13% today. The new version of Windows steamrolls over a user’s preferred application settings and makes Microsoft’s Edge browser the default. "[T]he design of the whole upgrade experience and the default settings APIs have been changed to make this less obvious and more difficult,” Mozilla CEO Beard explains in an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Windows 10 is a free upgrade for current home users of Windows 7 or 8, which means that it’s sure to become popular.

Mozilla is not fond of this change. They have put together an education campaign to show users how to get Mozilla’s Firefox back as their default browser after they’ve already upgraded: it’s less than a minute long, but it has become a more complex multi-step process not everyone will be able to figure out. Microsoft hasn’t responded to Mozilla’s queries about the situation or why Windows installation overrides the user’s current preferences.

Microsoft admits failure in Nokia acquisition

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in microsoft on (#EXQ5)
story imageWhen Microsoft announced its deal to acquire Nokia’s mobile phone business, Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive at the time, boasted that the deal was a “bold step into the future.” But on Wednesday, Microsoft’s current chief executive, Satya Nadella, sought to leave that deal in the past. He announced a broad rethinking of the company’s phone strategy, a change that includes cutting up to 7,800 jobs, mostly from the phone business, and writing off nearly all of the value of its Nokia acquisition. The move is a clear acknowledgment that the deal was a multibillion-dollar strategic blunder by Mr. Ballmer, who had envisioned it as a way to make Microsoft more competitive in the mobile market.

While Microsoft will not stop making smartphones, Mr. Nadella said on Wednesday that it would no longer focus on the growth of that business. Microsoft has continued to lose market share in smartphones since acquiring Nokia’s handset business. The company has failed to turn the Windows Phone operating system, which runs on its handsets, into a vibrant alternative to the two leading mobile platforms, iOS from Apple and Android from Google.

This has been “a big blow” for Finland's economy. The "death curve" of their electronics industry as Nokia faltered and fell to just 2-3 per cent of the global smartphone market, along with falling global demand for paper products and EU sanctions on neighboring Russia, have entrenched the Scandinavian country in a three-year recession. Meanwhile, Nokia has confirmed rumors that it intends to reenter the smartphone market. Nokia certainly won’t be recouping the massive investment required to start manufacturing smartphones again, instead they would design the products and earn the royalties, but everything else would be up to whomever they partner with.

Microsoft remotely disables leaker’s Xbox One console

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in microsoft on (#94ZX)
It turns out that Microsoft not only has the power to ban you from Xbox Live permanently, but it can also temporarily make your Xbox One totally unusable, as the beta testers behind the Gears of War Remastered leak have found out. If you didn’t think Microsoft had this power, you’re not alone.

This week, videos showing off the latest internal build of Microsoft’s unannounced Gears of War remake were leaked on to the web. These videos originated from testers working for VMC, a third-party agency hired by Microsoft. Obviously neither company was particularly happy when the leaks hit the web. The leakers were quickly found and have been banned from VMC’s beta testing program. Additionally, Microsoft has taken matters in to its own hands, removing access to their consoles entirely. Microsoft permanently disabled their Xbox LIVE accounts (as well as other suspected accounts present on their Xbox One kits) and temporarily blocked all of their Xbox One privileges – meaning that for a period of time which Microsoft decides on depending on the severity of the offense, their Xbox One is entirely unusable.

Microsoft may one day open source Windows

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Anonymous Coward
in microsoft on (#727B)
Mark Russinovich, a Microsoft technical fellow and senior engineer, and well-known for his Sysinternals/Winternals products, dropped a bombshell in front of several hundred people during a panel discussion at the ChefCon DevOps conference in the United States. Russinovich told the crowd it was "definitely possible" that Microsoft could, in the future, choose to open up the Windows source code. "It's a new Microsoft," he said. "Every conversation you can imagine about what should we do with our software -- open versus not-open versus services -- has happened," he said. Almost 20 percent of the the company's Azure cloud computing virtual machines run Linux already.

The prospect is not as surprising as it might once have been. Last November, the company announced plans to open source the full server-side .NET core stack and bring the open-sourced .NET core to Linux and Mac OS X – with everything happening in plain view on code repository GitHub. The company now has more than 1000 software repositories on GitHub, but until now Windows, a US$4 billion per-quarter cash cow, has looked untouchable.

Lenovo apologizes for pre-loaded insecure adware "Superfish"

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in microsoft on (#3GD2)
Lenovo, the world’s largest PC manufacturer, has apologized for security flaws in the malware they pre-install on consumer laptops, and attempted to issue instructions on how to fix a flaw that fatally compromised user security. The company was forced to issue a second set of instructions after security experts said that following its first set would do nothing to patch up the security holes the adware created. But even the second set is “incomplete”, according to researchers, and leaves users of the popular Firefox browser vulnerable.

Sadly, while apologizing for the security hole the software opens up, they are standing by their pre-installed malware, saying "this tool was to help enhance our users’ shopping experience". The software bombarded affected users with pop-up adverts and injected more ads into Google searches. Security experts say it also left a gaping security hole on every computer, in the form of a self-signed root certificate. That certificate was used by the software to inject adverts even into encrypted websites, but its presence has the side-effect of making affected Lenovo computers trivially easy to hack with a “man in the middle” (MITM) attack, in which a hacker uses the certificate to pretend to be a trusted website, such as a bank or e-commerce site. The “man in the middle” can then steal information passed over the internet, even while the user believes they are safely browsing with encryption turned on. Filippo Valsorda, who created the Badfish tool for determining if a computer is affected by the software, has offered instructions for how to remove it from that browser as well.

Escape from Microsoft Word

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in microsoft on (#2TKJ)
Edward Mendelson over at the NYT writes:
Auden’s contrast between mediocrity that gets things right and genius that is always wrong is useful in thinking about many fields other than politics. Take, for example, the instruments used for writing. The word processor that most of the world uses every day, Microsoft Word, is a work of genius that’s almost always wrong as an instrument for writing prose. Almost-forgotten WordPerfect—once the most popular word-processing program, still used in a few law offices and government agencies, and here and there by some writers who remain loyal to it—is a mediocrity that’s almost always right.
Good look at the quirks of the modern office's favorite bit of software from a more philosophical point of view. It starts with a quote from Plato, for starters.
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