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Microsoft Touts New Power Saving Feature In Windows 10

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is touting operating system-wide power efficiencies in a recent preview of Windows 10, claiming that the technology will reduce notebook battery consumption by 11% on laptops equipped with the newest processors.

The technology, temporarily tagged as “Power Throttling,” was enabled on all copies of Windows 10 Insider build 16176, which Microsoft released Friday. Insider is the beta program Microsoft runs for both enthusiasts and businesses. The latter rely on Insider to learn how the OS will change for the next feature upgrade, as well as for testing the upgrade prior to deploying the final code when it is shipped several months later.

“With ‘Power Throttling,’ when background work is running, Windows places the CPU in its most energy efficient operating modes — work gets done, but the minimal possible battery is spent on that work,” Bill Karagounis, director of program management for Insider, said in a post to a company blog.

The CPU throttling is triggered on an app-specific basis by a detection system Microsoft integrated with the OS, said Karagounis. Like other such technologies, Microsoft’s is meant to recognize foreground tasks — such as active apps — as well as persistent applications, like music streaming applications, then give them full access to the processor. Other apps, or even individual processes within an app, that are classified as “background,” are restricted in how they impact the CPU’s power usage. For instance, they may not be allowed to kick the processor into its higher-frequency, higher-power, higher-consumption mode.

Power Throttling works only on Intel processors with that firm’s Speed Shift, a feature of sixth-generation and later CPUs, including “Skylake” and the newer “Kaby Lake.”

Recognizing that most personal computers are laptops and that battery longevity is a major factor in productivity, Microsoft has aggressively promoted Windows 10’s power savings, notably in the boosterism behind Edge, the OS’s default browser.

The Redmond, Wash. company isn’t working in a vacuum: Other operating systems also try to eke out more battery life by scaling back CPU use. Apple’s iOS, for instance, switches to a low-power mode when an iPhone or iPad battery reaches about 20% capacity. Among other things, the iOS mode halts background app refreshing and stops automatic email fetching.

Microsoft first added Power Throttling to Windows 10 in January, saying that it had turned it on for a subset of Insider-equipped devices as an experiment and promising to provide an update in mid-February. That update never appeared, hinting that Microsoft pulled it from inclusion in the then-upcoming Creators Update, the feature upgrade released April 11.

The first opportunity most users will have to apply Power Throttling will be with 2017’s second feature upgrade. Microsoft has not revealed a release timetable, but most experts expect it to appear this fall.

Mozilla To End Firefox’s Aurora Preview Track

April 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla has announced it will discontinue one of Firefox’s preview tracks that have allowed users to test early versions of the browser before wider deployment.

Companies running Firefox, and testing the browser using the “Aurora” track, will be automatically migrated to the “Beta” channel today.

“It became clear that Aurora was not meeting our expectations as a first stabilization channel,” wrote Dave Camp, director of engineering for Firefox; Sylvestre Ledru, the browser’s release manager; and Ali Spivak, head of developer marketing, in a post to a Mozilla blog.

Mozilla has offered multiple versions of each Firefox edition since 2011, when it began offering four builds — Nightly, Aurora, Beta and Release — each of which was supposed to be more stable than the previous.

“We have more modern processes underlying our [release] train model, and believe we can deliver feature-rich, stable products without the additional 6-8-week Aurora phase,” said Camp, Ledru and Spivak.

In that “train” approach, Mozilla added a new feature to the least stable version, Developer, then when the feature was ready, moved it to the next track, Aurora. As development progressed, the feature would shift to Beta and then finally to Release.

But Mozilla acknowledged that the system had sometimes failed. “The release cycle time has required that we subvert the model regularly over the years by uplifting new features to meet market requirements,” the company admitted in an accompanying FAQ, referring to times when it has had to skip one of the tracks or shorten the time a feature spent on one.

Firefox users on the Aurora channel were to be moved to Beta today, according to the FAQ. Aurora will not be updated after tomorrow, when Firefox 53 is to ship in final, or Release, form.

With Aurora’s disappearance, Mozilla will rely on Beta for the first widespread distribution of each edition of Firefox. To make up for Aurora’s absence, each beta will be rolled out in stages, just as Release has long been, with the idea that if major problems crop up, they do so early on and thus affect only a subset of customers before the spigot is turned off.

Aurora’s elimination will not increase the frequency of Release builds issued or decrease the time between each Release version; the latter will continue to range from six to nine weeks. Nor will the already-slated dates for future versions of Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) change. That edition, designed for enterprises and other large organizations, remains stable for approximately a year. Much like Windows 10’s LTSB (Long-term Servicing Branch), ESR receives only security updates.

Ditching Aurora, however, will let Mozilla move a new feature from inception to final about six to eight weeks faster than before.

Are Macs Virus Free

April 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The myth that Macs are somehow more secure than other operating systems appears to be a myth according to a Threat Report by McAfee Labs.

Attacks on Macs have risen by 744 percent in 2016 and there are more than 460,000 malware samples on Mac machines found. Although this is not a particularly high number you have to acknowledge that this is one security company and on a single machine.

It appears that after years of leaving Macs alone, virus writers are suddenly taking an interest in knocking them over and the security by obscurity measures, along with faith-based defences are not working.

The Tame Apple Press has rushed to say that “despite the dramatic increase in macOS malware attacks, Mac owners need not be too alarmed”.

One newspaper even said that the attacks were just irritating and not like the “true malware attacks” that Windows users have to suffer.

Most of the attacks were just adware which automatically generates and displays advertising material, including banners or pop-ups, whenever a user is online, the Tame Apple Press  tried to reassure Apple fanboys.

Last summer, Mac owners were warned about a new malware dubbed Backdoor.MAC.Elanor – a nasty piece of code that infects the OS X operating system and gives hackers complete access to the files on the computer.

Courtesy-Fud

Microft Sets Retirement Date For First Windows 10 Release

April 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

True to form, Microsoft has announced May 9 as the date it will issue the final updates for the debut edition of Windows 10 that launched in 2015.

Two months ago, Microsoft had extended support for Windows 10 version 1507 — Microsoft labels feature upgrades by year and month — from March to May, but did not specify the date in the latter month.

The May 9 retirement was quietly announced on several support documents, including the “Windows lifecycle fact sheet,” which lists several kinds of deadlines for various versions of the operating system.

Another document put it plainly. “The time has now come to end servicing for version 1507,” the support document read.

Stopping support for Windows 10 editions — Microsoft released the fourth on Tuesday — is an important part of the company’s software-as-a-service model. The company has pledged to support an individual edition, such as 1507, not for 10 years, as policy required for, say, Windows 7 or 8.1, but only for 18 months or so. That mandate insured Microsoft would not need to craft security patches, fix other bugs or add new features for an increasing number of versions.

By the time Windows 10 1507 slips off the list, it will have been supported for about 21 months. Part of the reason it lasted longer than Microsoft’s stated norm was because the firm issued just one feature upgrade — v. 1607 — in 2016.

The next Windows 10 edition, v. 1511, could be purged from support as soon as early October. That’s because Microsoft has committed to simultaneously supporting just two Current Branch for Business (CBB) builds. At the release of N+2 onto CBB, the company starts a 60-day-or-so countdown. At the end of the 60 days, N drops off the support list. N+1 then becomes N and N+2 morphs into N+1.

Under that policy, N would be 1511, N+1 version 1607 (released in August 2016) and N+2 1703 (this month’s feature upgrade). Version 1703 will likely be promoted to the CBB in four months, or August; two months more would put 1511’s support demise in October.

Users running 1507 must have upgraded to 1511, 1607 or 1703 by May 10 to receive future security patches, and other fixes or enhancements. Windows 10 1507 will not suddenly fail to boot, however, or degrade, as do copies that have not been activated with a product key.

The only exceptions will be customers whose devices are running v. 1507 from the Long-term Servicing Branch (LTSB), a special release track available only to organizations using Windows 10 Enterprise.

Was Apple Really Selling Bricked Phones?

April 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Australian users have a bit of a DIY mentality – like New Zealanders they can’t see the point of paying a fortune for something that they can get a mate to fix cheaper.  Normally they would only take it in to Apple if the problem cannot be fixed with masking tape and number eight fencing wire.  Apple has a huge problem with this. It makes a fortune charging fees to have its spotty blue shirts repairing things that most uses could fix with a screwdriver and WD40.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Apple thought it would be a rather super, cool, and revolutionary thing to brick iPhones which had not been repaired by its Genii. The way users would have to return the phone to be fixed.

Australia’s consumer watchdog has sued Apple claiming that the bricking happened in a software update which had cracked screens fixed by third parties and then refused to unlock them on the grounds that customers had had the devices serviced by non-Apple repairers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission told the court that consumer guarantee rights under the Australian Consumer Law exist independently of any manufacturer’s warranty and are not extinguished simply because a consumer has goods repaired by a third party.

Of course Apple is not saying anything. We have no doubt that its acolytes really believe that they are saving the customers’ souls from the dangers of cheap repairs. Everyone knows that all the phones don’t really belong to the users but are given in a sacred trust to the user for large amounts of cash on the assumption that they will never touch without the blessing of the church.

The regulator said that between September 2014 and February 2016, Apple customers who downloaded software updates then connected their devices to their computers received a message saying the device “could not be restored and the device had stopped functioning”.

Apple engaged in “misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to consumers” about its software updates and customers’ rights to have their products repaired by the company, the commission said.

As well as fines, the ACCC said it was seeking injunctions, declarations, compliance program orders, corrective notices, and costs.

Courtesy-Fud

Samsung’s Bixby Digital Voice Assistant Being Delayed

April 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung’s highly promoted Bixby voice assistant will not be available for the Galaxy S8 smartphone on April 21, as previously announced.

The company released a statement that said Bixby will be available in the U.S. on the Galaxy S8 “later in the spring.” Samsung didn’t explain the delay.

The Bixby will join a pack of artificial intelligence assistants that includes Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant that are changing the way people interact with their devices.

Some U.S.-based reviewers and analysts had noticed that the Bixby feature wasn’t fully demonstrated when the S8 was announced March 29.

Also, some news reports said Bixby encountered voice recognition problems in English compared to its performance with the Korean language.

The shipment delay applies only to the voice feature in Bixby, while Samsung said other key features of Bixby, like Vision, Home and Reminder will be available in the global launch of Galaxy S8 on April 21.

Samsung went out of its way to promote Bixby well in advance of the Galaxy S8 launch. It was announced in a blog on March 20, nine days before the phone’s launch, by Injong Rhee, executive vice president of software and services for Samsung Electronics.

Rhee pointed out a physical button on the side of the phone that would activate Bixby, differentiating it from Alexa or  Siri and others that are activated by a spoken trigger word. Bixby would offer a “deeper experience” than some others, including support for touch commands. Also, Bixby is designed to know the current state of an app to allow users to carry out work in progress without further explanation. Rhee said the Bixby interface is “much more natural and easier to use.”

Bixby was already two years behind those digital assistants as well as Google Assistant, analysts said. “Bixby is going to be playing catch up,” said Gartner analyst Werner Goertz in March.

One analyst forgave the Bixby delay. “I commend Samsung for trying to get it right rather than just launching and hoping for the best,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

“It’s never a good idea to put out less than great software on a consumer device. So in this case, if Samsung can delay a few weeks and get a better product, it makes sense to do so. That said, voice recognition generally is not all that easy to do. It’s not just the recognition software itself, but the whole voice chain that has to be tailored. That includes everything from the microphone through the audio channel on the phone to the recognition algorithms and the user interface. If they tested and it wasn’t at their expected level of accuracy, then it’s better to get it right than to get it out fast.”

Samsung Pleased As Galaxy S8 Pre-orders Surpass S7 Launch

April 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Pre-orders for Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s flagship Galaxy S8 smartphone have surpassed those of its predecessor S7, the firm’s mobile chief said on Thursday, which suggests many consumers are undeterred by last year’s Galaxy Note 7 fires.

Strong initial demand for the S8 will be encouraging for a firm recovering from one of the worst product safety failures in tech history, which ended in the Note 7’s swift withdrawal.

The new smartphone has received favorable reviews ahead of the start of sales in South Korea, the United States and Canada on April 21. Some investors and analysts have even predicted a first-year sales record for the South Korean company.

“It’s still a bit early, but initial response to the pre-orders that have begun at various places across the world have been better than expected,” mobile chief Koh Dong-jin said at an S8 media briefing.

He said the S8 will be the safest Galaxy smartphone to date due to measures implemented to avoid the battery failures that caused some Note 7s to spontaneously combust.

Analysts said strong S8 sales are likely to help Samsung to its best-ever quarterly profit in April-June, along with a booming memory chip market that is widely expected to deliver record revenue this year for the industry as a whole.

Samsung has been working to restore investor trust as well as its reputation since the Note 7’s withdrawal in October within two months of being on the market, losing out on $5.4 billion in profit.

Senior executives told foreign media on the sidelines of the briefing that it will take time for Samsung’s brand image to recover. They also said Samsung has seen a rebound in consumer sentiment toward the firm since announcing the results of a probe into the fires and preventative measures on Jan. 23.

Can Apple Succeed Without Imagination?

April 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Imagination Technologies, the leading graphics processing unit supplier for Apple, issued a press statement on Monday saying that the fruit-themed gadget maker will no longer use the group’s intellectual property in new products manufactured 15 months to two years from now.

The development is a major hurdle for Imagination, the British chip designer that has provided PowerVR graphics processors for iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple TVs and Apple Watches since 2007. The company’s partnership with Apple accounted for roughly half of its annual revenues, in addition to the royalties it had been receiving on account of iPhone and iPad devices. Those royalties, which totaled £60.7 million ($75.8 million) for the year ending April 2016 and £65 million ($81.2 million) for 2017, are set to expire roughly 15 months to two years from now, before Q2 2019.

Apple currently holds more than an eight percent share in Imagination, and become a key investor in mid-2009 after raising its stake to 10 percent. At one point last year, Apple was in the process of holding “advanced acquisition talks” but ultimately decided against a full takeover, according to the Financial Times. Following the talks, Chinese state-owned company Tsinghua then took a three percent stake in the British company.

Last February, Imagination also announced that longtime CEO Hossein Yassaie would be stepping down as part of a major business restructuring operation. This was followed by across-the-board operating cuts by £15 million over the next year into April 2017 – including £2 million from its PowerVR product series.

In its press release on Monday, Imagination states that Apple “has not presented any evidence” to claim that it will no longer require [Imagination technologies], “without violating Imagination’s patents, intellectual property and confidential information. This evidence has been requested by Imagination but Apple has declined to provide it”.

Imagination: Alternative GPU designs will be impossible without patent infringement

In a serious call against disparagement, the British-based R&D company believes that Apple will not be able to produce any substantive GPU alternatives on its own without violating its patents, intellectual property and confidential information. But with a determination to take its mobile graphics in-house, Apple still confidently insists it has an A-series alternative underway for the next generation of product announcements scheduled for 2018.

The original iPhone featured a low-power ARM RISC CPU with assistance from a PowerVR MBX directly descended from Imagination’s Dreamcast GPU. Nine years later, the iPhone 7 came with a custom six-core PowerVR 7X6 GT7600 Plus with OpenCL 2 support and accelerated computer vision technologies.

Apple has already taken several key employees

Imagination’s rebuttals have not appeared without legitimate grievance, however. Back in October, it was revealed that at least 25 of its employees and management personnel jumped ship to Apple over the past two years. Names include notable ex-COO John Metcalfe, Senior Design Manager Dave Roberts, VP of Hardware Engineering Johnathan Redshaw, and Senior Software Engineering Manager Benjamin Bowman – who is now a GPU architect for the Cupertino company. While the list of grievances prior to today’s breakup is not against the law, it is considered a serious exodus of raw talent that is evidently justified in Imagination’s disconcerted press statement.

Following the statement, Imagination shares plunged by nearly 70 percent, leading to its insistence that it has reason to go to court with the Cupertino company if it finds enough evidence to present a case. This decade, several GPU vendors have taken SoC vendors to court, including Nvidia with Samsung and Qualcomm, and an ongoing AMD case against LG, MediaTek, Sigma and Vizio.

Apple, however, has chosen to remain silent when asked for evidence that its in-house technologies would not violate existing patents. The question is whether Apple will choose to license any needed patents – from Imagination or others – or if it is not talking because GPU development is a lot more competitive now that programs aren’t tied to a specific architecture.

As AnandTech notes, there hasn’t been a new major GPU vendor in nearly a decade aside from Qualcomm’s acquisition of ATI’s Imageon brand (now Adreno) in 2009. It will be interesting to see how this development unfolds and the precautions Apple will need to take in hiding technical details of any upcoming graphics developments. Imagination, on the other hand, now has to work much harder in making up for lost revenues and may have some related announcements over the next few weeks.

Courtesy-Fud

Are Smartphones On The Way Out?

April 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

This is not an extremely late April 1st, and we admit that it is a little early given that its replacement has not shown up yet, but we predict that it will go the way of the dodo, the Norwegian Blue, the bleeper and the Crackberry.

OK it is probably a few years off, but the technology is so persuasive that its death will be longer than the exit of a hero in a South American soap opera.

For a while now smartphone sales have slowed. Basically the structure developed by Nokia and stolen by Apple and copied everywhere has run out of places to go. There is no more innovation in smartphones any longer, despite what is claimed particularly by the Tame Apple Press. Chip speeds have increased slightly and are about as fast as they are going to get. Even if someone gets a chip to the speeds of a PC it is not going to make a hell of a lot of difference.

What is coming next is being sorted out by the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Google along with Elon Musk. Apple of course is waiting for the next biggest thing to be developed by others before it takes a risk.

So what will get rid of it? While the Tame Apple Press think it will be something more like the Amazon Echo, Sony PlayStation VR, and the SmartWatch that is mostly because that is pretty much Apple’s current agenda.

No doubt AR and VR could be the way it is going. Certainly some sort of interface which projects detailed 3D images straight into your eyes while you interact with your environment. So instead of typing this on a screen I will be typing it on a nice egonomic bit of rubber while the words are appearing before my eyes. A more portable version would put a keyboard onto any surface.

Microsoft thinks that is the way things will go and the tech will replace the smartphone, the TV, and sex, and anything else with a screen with sounds going in through a headphone.

As artificial intelligence systems like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby, and Microsoft’s Cortana get smarter, there is going to be a rise not just in talking to computers, but having them talk back.

All this makes the smartphone redundant and limited. Sure it will be a good decade before this brave new world takes off and it will be a slow slide rather than anything great, but we are seeing the change start happening now. The world is bored with smartphones and they are just not having the impact they used to.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Word Being Used To Transport Malware

April 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Cybercriminals have been exploiting an unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft Word for the past few months to compromise computers and infect them with malware.

The first report about the attacks came from antivirus vendor McAfee after the company’s researchers analyzed some suspicious Word files spotted a day earlier. It turned out that the files were exploiting a vulnerability that affects “all Microsoft Office versions, including the latest Office 2016 running on Windows 10.”

The flaw is related to the Windows Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) feature in Microsoft Office that allows documents to embed references and links to other documents or objects, the McAfee researchers said in a blog post.

When the rogue documents used in this attack are opened, they reach out to an external server and download an HTA (HTML Application) file that contains malicious VBScript code. The HTA file is disguised as an RTF (Rich Text Format) document and is automatically executed.

“The successful exploit closes the bait Word document, and pops up a fake one to show the victim,” the McAfee researchers said. “In the background, the malware has already been stealthily installed on the victim’s system.”

By searching back through its data, McAfee has tracked down attacks exploiting this vulnerability to late January.

Following McAfee’s report, security researchers from FireEye also confirmed that they’ve been aware of these attacks and exploit for several weeks and have coordinated disclosure with Microsoft.

According to FireEye, the malicious Word documents are sent as email attachments. The company hasn’t provided examples of the malicious emails, but because this is a previously undisclosed, zero-day vulnerability, the attacks are likely targeted toward a limited number of victims.

Both McAfee and FireEye noted that the exploit can bypass most memory-based mitigations included in Windows. That’s because the vulnerability is a logic bug rather than a programming error.

Microsoft is scheduled to release its monthly security updates on Tuesday, but it’s not clear if a patch for this vulnerability will be included. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the meantime, users should be wary of documents received from untrusted sources and should enable the Office Protected View mode because it can block this attack.

PC, Mobile Device Prices Expected To Rise This Year

April 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

If you plan to purchase a new PC or mobile device this year, you’ll likely spend more cash than in previous years. Prices are trending upwards, and expensive devices are in demand.

On average, the price of PCs and phones will go up by 2 percent this year, Gartner said in a research report released on Thursday. The calculations are based on U.S. dollars and average market sizes.

Breaking down those numbers, PC prices are expected to go up 1.4 percent this year, while mobile phone prices will go up 4.3 percent.

The price increases are largely due to the rising prices of components. Also, more users are upgrading to more expensive and feature-rich mobile handsets.

The days of users preferring to buy the cheapest products are gone, said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.

Buyers are less price sensitive and are instead buying devices “that suit their lifestyles,” Atwal said.

Gartner’s forecast is in line with a projection in February by Lenovo’s chief operating officer, Gianfranco Lanci, who said PC prices would go up this year due to a shortage of DRAM, SSDs, batteries and LCDs.

The cost of components like NAND flash have doubled since June, Gartner said.

The overall cost of purchasing components is going up. Moreover, millennials are willing to spend more on devices.

This year is expected to be big for smartphones. Samsung launched the Galaxy S8 smartphones, and Apple is expected to launch its 10th anniversary iPhone later this year. Premium-priced smartphones will go up by roughly 4 percent, Gartner said.

Android phones will suffer the most from the price increases. In emerging markets like China and India, Android phones are popular because of their affordability, but prices are also going up in those countries.

High-end Android smartphones offer more differentiation on features than generic low-end phones, giving a reason for buyers to spend a bit more to upgrade.

A good barometer for mobile phone pricing is the Chinese market. Global pricing of Chinese-branded smartphones will go up to RMB 2,000 (US$290) by the end of this year from RMB 1,700 (US$246) at the end of last year, analyst firm Trendforce said last month. That’s partly because NAND flash supply is tightening.

According to Gartner, smartphone shipments worldwide this year will total 1.9 billion units, up from 1.89 billion last year.

The PC market has slowed and is being driven by high-priced gaming PCs and 2-in-1s. Buyers of those PCs are willing to spend more money on their computers.

That trend is changing the types of computers shipped by PC makers, which are focused on selling higher-priced products that can deliver larger profit margins.

Low-end laptops and desktops will remain available, but PC makers like Dell and HP are slimming down those offerings. Low-cost laptops like Chromebooks typically have aging components, little storage, low-resolution webcams and limited memory.

Gartner estimates 426 million computing devices, including PCs and tablets, will ship this year, dropping from 439 million last year. PC shipments will total 265 million this year, dropping from 270 million last year. Shipment of tablet devices like the iPad will total 161 million, dropping from 169 million last year, the analyst group predicted.

Microsoft Unveils Windows Insider Program For Business

April 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Business will finally gain access to their own version of the Microsoft Windows 10 beta program this week. On Friday, Microsoft rolled out the Windows Insider Program for Business, alongside its first post-Creators Update Windows 10 beta.

The program will let business users sign up for beta updates with their Azure Active Directory credentials, rather than a personal Microsoft account. The new feature is designed to provide IT professionals with a path for giving Microsoft business-specific feedback on Windows 10 features. That, in turn, should help business users shape feature development.

Creating a business Insider Program is Microsoft’s response to IT pros’ requests for a connection with the Windows development team. Windows 10 got off to a rocky start with some systems administrators who weren’t thrilled by Microsoft’s policy of only providing cumulative updates to the operating system rather than letting administrators pick and choose which patches to apply.

In a support document, the company said this program isn’t separate from the main Insider Program, but instead a way for businesses to better engage with the existing community of people testing new versions of Windows. In addition, Microsoft believes the new program will help businesses with their internal testing of Windows updates by giving early access to future patches.

Microsoft plans to do more to engage with IT teams in the future, Windows Insider Program chief Dona Sarkar said in a blog post.

Friday’s update starts laying the groundwork for Microsoft’s next major Windows 10 update, which is expected to arrive later this year. It comes four days before the company is slated to roll out the Creators Update, which will bring a flotilla of new features and functionality, to non-beta users.

The new bits released to members of the Windows Insider Program’s Fast ring don’t add much in the way of functionality to Windows 10. For the most part, the release is focused on updates to OneCore, the appropriately named systems at the core of Windows 10.

As is the norm with many Insider releases, there is a fleet of known issues in build 16170. Users can expect to see issues including one bug that prevents Windows Defender from opening when double-clicked. Right clicking it and choosing “open” will still launch the app.

Users who want to avoid bugs can move over to the Windows Insider Program’s Slow ring, which will give users increased reliability in exchange for delayed access to new updates.

 

Amazon To Refund Parents Over Kid’s In-app Purchases

April 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Parents with children who racked up bills, sometimes huge, through in-app purchases will receive some or all of that money back. Amazon could have to refund more than $70 million to affected consumers, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC and Amazon have agreed to end their legal battle over whether the U.S. company unlawfully charged its customers for the purchases.

A year ago, a court found that Amazon had.

The company’s app store can be downloaded to Android devices and it runs on certain Kindle tablets. However, parents had complained that Amazon’s system had made it all too easy for their children to buy virtual items in the apps, without their consent.

Both the FTC and Amazon had filed appeals related to the case, but on Tuesday, they dropped them. That opens the way for the refund process to begin shortly, according to the FTC.

More than $70 million in in-app charges made from 2011 to 2016 may be eligible for refunds, the U.S. regulator said.

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, so it’s unclear how the company will reimburse its customers. Amazon had taken a 30 percent cut from the in-app purchases, according to the FTC.

In 2014, Apple and Google settled similar cases over in-app purchases with the FTC, which resulted in a combined $51 million in refunds to customers.

In Apple’s case, the company emailed and sent postcards to every customer who might have been affected. Apple eventually received 37,000 claims, and made refunds to them all.

Intel, McAfee Break-up Nearly Complete

April 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel is finally de-coupling from McAfee after seven up and down years, which included a lawsuit last year from John McAfee, after whom the company is named.

The chip maker has divested its majority holdings in McAfee to investment firm TPG for $3.1 billion.

McAfee will now again become a standalone security company, but Intel will retain a minority 49 percent stake. The chip maker will focus internal operations on hardware-level security.

For Intel, dumping majority ownership in McAfee amounts to a loss. It spent $7.68 billion to acquire McAfee in 2010, which was a head-scratcher at the time. Intel’s McAfee acquisition will stand as one of the company’s worst acquisitions.

The chip maker had the right idea when it acquired McAfee — to add layers of security to hardware and components. Intel embedded McAfee technology in firmware at the PC and server chip level, and developed security management tools.

McAfee technology was also used in hardware using real-time operating systems. However, McAfee had few ties to Intel’s core hardware strategy.

Intel was running a parallel hardware security strategy that had little to do with McAfee, which was renamed Intel Security. The chip maker was developing trusted boot systems and partnering with other companies on server security and secure payments.

The McAfee acquisition gave Intel deep insight into the security arena, said Doug Fisher, senior vice president and general manager of the Software and Services Group at Intel.

Separating the companies will put McAfee in a better position to grow in the software area, which is its core competency, Fisher said. It also leaves Intel in a better position to grow in hardware-level security at the chip and firmware levels, he added.

Intel’s focus will be on putting instructions and hooks on its silicon to protect users. It is already providing secure areas in its chips where user authentication data can be stored. For example, its SGX (Software Guard Extensions) feature can authenticate users so content providers can stream 4K video to authorized PCs. It wants to use similar features to ensure secure payments from PCs.

Security is also a big concern in IoT devices, but Intel will rely on partnerships. Intel is a member of Open Connectivity Foundation, and will work with industry partners to develop IoTivity protocols, which aim for secure connectivity between devices with multiple OSes and wireless technologies.

Intel also is expanding into self-driving cars, where security is a big consideration. Hacking into the software controls of a self-driving car could be disastrous, and Intel is putting supercomputers in vehicles that will need to be secured.

Another area of focus is the ability to securely deliver over-the-air updates to self driving cars, Fisher said.

Intel will deliver a reference architecture to harden edge devices and gateways for automobile security. There will also be automobile security standards that could protect self-driving cars from hacks, Fisher said.

VR is still in its infancy, and so are the security considerations. In virtual worlds, security could be much like it is in the real world, where certain virtual areas are cordoned off from unauthorized users. Also, Intel wants to cut the cord from VR headsets with secure wireless connections to PCs, Fisher said.

The fate of some products like True Key — which allows users to log into Windows PCs via biometric authentication — are not yet known. True Key is a competitor to Microsoft’s Windows Hello. Intel will also work with Microsoft to promote Windows Hello.

Windows 10 Users Eager For Creators Update Can Download On April 5th

April 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 users who are eagerly anticipating the next feature upgrade may download it manually starting Wednesday, April 5, nearly a week before the refresh begins reaching PCs via Windows Update.

Windows 10 Creators Update — Microsoft’s name for the first of two upgrades in 2017 — will launch on April 11, when the installation file will be staged on Windows Update and offered to a select group of users. To jump the Windows Update line, people will need to run the Upgrade Assistant, an app that will be available before April 5 on Microsoft’s website.

Microsoft debuted the Update Assistant in August 2016 as a consumer-and-business alternative to Windows Update for grabbing the Anniversary Update, the Windows 10 upgrade also known by the yymm tag of 1607.

Also on Thursday, Microsoft reiterated its roll-out plan for the Creators Update. According to John Cable, director of program management and part of the Windows servicing and delivery team, the first group to receive the feature upgrade will be owners of “newer devices, especially those we tested together with our OEM hardware partners.”

Distribution will slowly expand as Microsoft collects and evaluates incoming telemetry from upgrading devices, and if necessary, deals with issues such as incompatible drivers blocking the update. “We’ll iterate this process over a period of several months,” Cable added.

Last year’s Anniversary Update took about three months to be served to, and installed on, just under 80% of the eligible consumer and business PCs running Windows 10.

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