“Most of the developers behind apps that are found to violate our policies have good intentions and agree to make the necessary changes when notified,” said Todd Brix, general manager for the Windows Store, in a blog post yesterday. “Others have been less receptive, causing us to remove more than 1,500 apps as part of this review so far.”
The Windows Store is the official source of Windows 8′s (and 8.1′s) “Modern,” née “Metro” apps, the touch-based programs designed for tablets and touch-enabled notebooks.
Earlier this year, Brix’s team changed Windows Store apps’ certification — the process under which apps are admitted to the market — to require newly-submitted programs be clearly named, properly categorized and appropriately identified with an icon. Those modifications were made, said Brix, to “better ensure that apps are named and described in a way that doesn’t misrepresent their purpose.”
The same requirements have now been extended to apps already in the store.
The timing of Brix’s blog and Microsoft’s efforts to cleanse the Windows Store was no coincidence: More than a week ago, How-To Geek described its probe of the store in a piece titled ”The Windows Store is a Cesspool of Scams — Why Doesn’t Microsoft Care?”
In the story, How-To Geek pointed out worthless apps, some as expensive as $8.99, that did little more than point users to links for downloading Apple’s iTunes (free), Mozilla’s Firefox (also free) and VideoLAN’s VLC Player (yes, free). The publication also found fake — and paid — versions of Adobe’s Flash Player, Google’s Picasa, King’s Candy Crush Saga and Mojang’s Minecraft.
How-To Geek blamed Microsoft for the scam-app pollution. “Here’s one of the most shocking parts of this. People from Microsoft are actually examining each of these scammy apps, checking their content, and approving them,” the site said, pointing out pertinent parts of Microsoft’s certification process.
The apps How-To Geek fingered have been removed from the Windows Store, presumably as part the 1,500 Brix claimed had been bounced out.
How-To Geek’s story was widely cited by other websites, blogs and publications last week, reigniting charges that the Windows Store was packed with junk.
A quick look at MetroStore Scanner, which tracks each day’s new and updated apps, showed that Brix and his team have their work cut out for them. On Tuesday, according to MetroStore Scanner, 12 copies of the free KMPlayer, a media player owned by a Korean TV streaming company, were published to the Windows Store. However, the dozen KMPlayer copies — all using the transparently copycat name of “KM* 5.1 Player” but each with a different icon — were priced at either $0.99 or $1.99.
The real KMPlayer is currently at version 3.9.
MetroStore Scanner’s tally of the number of apps in the Windows Store was approximately 172,000 as of late Wednesday, meaning that the apps removed so far represented less than 1% of the total in the e-mart.
VMware has released its Workplace Suite — a combined platform to deploy and manage applications and desktops from the cloud to laptops, smartphones, tablets, or whatever. The suite comes as part of a partnership with Google and NVIDIA, VMware has been showing the world the ability for VMware Workplace Suite to stream even graphics-intensive Windows applications to Google Chromebooks.
VMware is billing this as an initiative to bring data and applications closer to the places users actually want to access them. VMware CTO Ben Fathi said that the new VMware Workplace Suite takes advantage of three existing VMware products: Tools for application, device, and content management as well as secure cloud file storage that comes from the January acquisition of enterprise mobile management company AirWatch. It also has bits of VMware Horizon for desktop-as-a-service; and the acquisition CloudVolumes for app delivery.
VMware claims it can deliver a consistent experience across platforms with a single sign-on for end-users across as many apps as IT wants to administrate. VMware is pushing the hybrid cloud model hard, and is talking about deployment across a company’s internal data centre and the vCloud Air platform.
The net benefit of a hybrid deployment would be to keep your VMware Workplace Suite closer to any on-premises data silos like SharePoint or SAP while still getting cloud scalability. The target of the software would be the health industry, where a doctor may have to move between offices and hospitals without access to their same application.
Google and Nvidia takes advantage of a Chromebook’s internal Nvidia GPU and the grid graphics cloud. VMware also showed off something called Project Meteor, which the company claims is an industry first, “next generation” solution for delivering a full virtual desktop-as-a-service to any HTML5 browser. This will mean you can have the same desktop across multiple devices.
JP Research has issued a report on GPU sales and reached the conclusion that the days of the add-on graphics card are fading.
According to JPR’s report, sales of add-on graphics cards declined 17.5 per cent quarter-over-quarter and 17.6 per cent year-over-year. In comparison, last year’s quarter-over-quarter rate for the same period was 5.5 per cent. Nvidia took the biggest kicking in terms of decreases, seeing a decline of 21 per cent. AMD had a fall of 10.7 per cent.
Some of the decline can be put down to improvements to CPU-GPU integration and both Intel and AMD have been doing better at this in the last two years. But enthusiast gamers are facing the problem that their old cards are good enough for the majority of today’s games.
So far there has not been much of a move to 4K gaming, which could improve GPU sales, but the 4K monitor is still a long way from being cheap enough. The cheapest models retail for about €500/$600, but unfurtonately they are crippled by high response time and low refresh rates.
At the moment many games developers are building for consoles and then porting over to the PC, which means that graphics cards are hardly breaking out in a sweat trying to run them.
The operating system, which Xinhua did not name, will be initially offered on desktop PCs, with the plan to later extend it to smartphones. The news service cited a report in the People’s Post and Telecommunications News, a trade paper run by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the agency responsible for, among other things, the regulation and development of China’s software industry.
“We hope to launch a Chinese-made desktop operating system by October supporting app stores,” Ni Guangnan of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the trade paper, according to a translation by Reuters on Sunday.
Ni leads an official operating system development alliance established in March by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
According to the People’s Post and Telecommunications News, Ni cited the end of Windows XP support and the ban on Windows 8 on government computers as giving domestic OS developers an opening.
Earlier this year, China officials banned the use of Windows 8 on government computers, a move triggered by the end of Windows XP’s support in April. Before that, authorities had blasted Microsoft for halting security updates to the 13-year-old OS.
Historically, China has been a stronghold of Windows XP, in large part because of massive piracy of Microsoft’s software.
China has long been at odds with foreign technology firms, particularly Microsoft and Google — but also at times with Apple — over their impact and influence in the country. But that animus increased significantly last month when government antitrust regulators raided several Microsoft offices, seizing computers and documents in a first step of an investigation. The probe had been prompted by complaints lodged since July 2013 about how Windows and Microsoft Office are bundled, about Windows-Office compatibility and about other unnamed concerns.
The People’s Post and Telecommunications News‘ story (Chinese language version) cited by Xinhua ran on Thursday, and provided more detail about the domestic OS plans.
Ni spelled out a timeline that could replace foreign operating systems on the desktop in one to two years, then in three to five years expand to mobile devices. Private industry, Ni added, may co-fund development of the home-grown OS.
“Creating an environment that allows us to compete with Google, Apple and Microsoft, that is our key to success,” Ni said.
China has worked on a its own OS before: In 2000, Red Flag Linux, which was funded in part by the government’s Ministry of Information, was released. Later that year, Red Flag was mandated as the replacement for Windows 2000 on all government PCs. Tensions at the time between China’s government and Microsoft were at the root of that order.
Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo are selling laptops priced less than $250 that run on Windows 8.1 With Bing, a royalty-free version of the company’s flagship operating system. Windows 8.1 With Bing is the same as Windows 8.1, but it has Bing as the default search engine in Internet Explorer.
Microsoft is using Windows 8.1 With Bing, which was unveiled in May, to spread Windows to more low-cost PCs and tablets. It’s also an attempt to take on Google’s free Chrome OS, which is used in Chromebooks, the inexpensive and lightweight laptops that are growing in popularity among the Web-based computing audience.
The first PCs featuring Windows 8.1 With Bing were shown at Computex in June. The cheapest is a Lenovo desktop model that costs $225. Laptops start at $249. Microsoft has promised that laptop prices will fall to $199 with HP’s Stream 14 model, which has not been unveiled – though information about it has leaked out.
Some Acer Chromebooks sell for less than $200, but HP, Dell and Lenovo are selling Windows laptops that are priced lower than their Chromebooks. The laptops have basic processors and specifications, much like comparable Chromebooks.
The Windows laptops have common features such as 1366-x-768-pixel resolution screens, hard drive storage and HDMI ports. The processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are good for basic computing and casual gaming, but the laptops do have some deficiencies.
HP is shipping the 15z, a 15.6-in. nontouch laptop, and the Pavilion 10z, which has a 10.1-in. touchscreen. Both are priced at $249.99 and run on low-end AMD processors. Features include Wi-Fi, up to 500GB of hard-drive storage and a maximum of 4GB of memory. The laptops have poor battery life, with the 15z offering 4 hours and 15 minutes, and the Pavilion 10z offering 4 hours.
Lenovo’s G40, which has a 14-in. screen, and the G50-30, which has a 15.6-in. screen, are priced at $249. The laptops have 320GB hard drives, 2GB of memory and Intel’s Celeron 2830 processor, which is based on the Bay Trail architecture.
Dell’s $249.99 Inspiron 15 Non-Touch laptop has no USB 3.0 port but is instead equipped with two USB 2.0 ports. PC makers often sacrifice some hardware features in inexpensive laptops. The Inspiron also has the Celeron 2830 CPU, 500GB of storage and 4GB of DDR3 memory.
The least expensive PC featuring Windows 8.1 With Bing is Lenovo’s Q190 mini-desktop, which is selling for $224.99, compared to $285.99 for the Windows 8.1-only version. The desktops have Intel’s Celeron 1017U processor, which is based on the older Ivy Bridge microarchitecture.
The desktop is priced much lower than the $490 IdeaCentre Q190, which shipped with a Core i3 processor and Windows 8 last year.
ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, citing unnamed sources, said that Microsoft will deliver a “technical preview” of Threshold late in September or early in October. Previously, Foley had reported that Microsoft would offer a preview of some kind this fall.
Threshold may be officially named “Windows 9″ by Microsoft — the company has said nothing about either the code name or labeled the next iteration of its desktop and tablet OS — although there are arguments for dumping a numerical title because of the possible association with Windows 8, which has widely been pegged as a failure.
“Technical Preview” is a moniker that Microsoft has used in the past for its Office suite. For both Office 2013 and Office 2010, Microsoft used the term to describe an invitation-only sneak peek. Both application suites were later released as public betas prior to their official launch.
Windows, however, has used a different nomenclature. For 2012′s Windows 8, Microsoft called the early looks ”Developer Preview,”"Consumer Preview” and “Release Preview,” all open to everyone. The first was analogous to an alpha, the second to a beta, and the third to a done-but-not-approved release candidate.
Windows 7, however, had used the more traditional “Beta” to describe the first public preview in early 2009. The previous fall, when Microsoft unveiled Windows 7, the firm had seeded an invite-only “pre-alpha” version, also dubbed a Developer Preview, of the OS to programmers and some influential bloggers.
Within hours, the Windows 7 Developer Preview leaked to file-sharing websites. Microsoft may have changed its practices for Windows 8, letting anyone download the first preview, because of the inevitably of leaks.
In an update to her blog of earlier today, Foley added that the “Technical Preview” nameplate notwithstanding, Microsoft would allow anyone to download Threshold/Windows 9 when it becomes available in the next few weeks.
If Microsoft does ship a preview soon and sets its sights on a second-quarter 2015 final release, it will have significantly accelerated the tempo from past practice. With Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft offered its first previews 12 and 13 months, respectively, and the public beta 8 or 9 months, before launching the operating system.
Eight or nine months from September would be May or June 2015; that, however, assumes that the Technical Preview is of beta quality. The name itself hints at something less.
Microsoft appears eager to put Windows 8 behind it. It has stopped beating the drum about the OS and recently announced that it would not issue any additional major updates. Instead, the firm said last week, it will include improvements or new features in small packets using the same Windows Update mechanism that regularly serves security patches.
The new cards should start shipping in September. Nvidia has not released any pricing info so far.
Maxwell goes Quadro
The first new card is the Quadro K420, a Kepler-based card with 192 CUDA cores clocked at 780MHz. It features 1GB of DDR3 memory on a 128-bit bus, clocked at 1.8GHz. The card has a TDP of 41W and it churns out 0.3TFLOPs.
The Quadro K620 is a Maxwell design. It has 384 cores clocked at 1GHz, backed by 2GB of DDR3 clocked at 1.8GHz. The TDP stands at just 45W, but the card delivers 0.8TFLOPs, proving once again that Maxwell offers vastly superior efficiency.
The Quadro K2200 is a bit more serious. This mid-range professional solution packs 640 CUDA cores running at up to 1GHz. It uses 5GHz GDDR5 memory on a 128-bit bus and there’s a lot more of it – 4GB to be precise. The TDP is 68W and the card can pump out 1.3TFLOPs (single precision).
Kepler still powers 100W+ Quadro cards
The Quadro K5200 and K4200 are Kepler cards with a beefier 256-bit memory bus. The Quadro K4200 comes equipped with 1344 CUDA cores clocked at 780MHz. It has 4GB of GDDR5 clocked at 5.4GHz effective. The TDP stands at 105W and the card 2.1TFLOPs.
The K5200 packs 2304 CUDA cores and it can deliver 3.1TFLOPs. It has 8GB of GDDR5 clocked 6GHz effective. However, the GPU clock is somewhat lower at 650MHz. Its TDP is 150W.
It looks like an interesting alternative to the mighty Quadro K6000, which is a $5,000 card with 2880 CUDA cores, or a “full GK110″ implementation as some buffs prefer to call it.
Of course, Nvidia is not the only player in this segment. In fact AMD has made great strides in professional graphics and it is going strong. AMD also used Siggraph to announce four professional cards.
The company, which specializes in security for cloud based data, joins Crossideas that IBM bought at the end of last month. The move is part of an expansion of IBM’s enterprise security services, which will see products from the two firms merged into IBM’s portfolio.
The combined business will include Lighthouse Gateway as well as IBM’s own IAM service to create a suite of identity focused security software. IBM GM of Security Services Kris Lovejoy said, “Business models are rapidly evolving as employees conduct more of their work offsite. Protecting this data and who has access to it has become a challenge, costing our clients time and money.
“With this acquisition, IBM provides a unique identity and access management offering that combines proven software and analytics technology with expert managed services that make it easy for businesses to tackle the complexities of security in this new digital world.”
IBM, which already monitors 15 billion security events per day, according to its figures, has not disclosed financial information regarding the deal.
Lighthouse Security Group’s parent company Lighthouse Computer Services will continue to run as a separate and independent company, working in partnership with IBM. IBM continues to transform its business direction to a cloud heavy future, with the sale of its x86 server division to Lenovo, which has been approved by Chinese authorities.
Absolute Computrace, which is embedded in the BIOS, of a large chunk of PCs could be a security nightmare according to research from Kaspersky labs. The software allows companies to track and secure all of their PCs from a single cloud-based console, but Kaspersky claims that it runs without user-consent, persistently activates itself at system boot, and can be exploited to perform various attacks and to take complete control of an affected machine.
Vitaly Kamluk and Sergey Belov along with Annibal Sacco of Core Security demonstrated the flaw at the Black Hat 2014 conference. Kamluk said that the software is extremely flexible. It’s a tiny piece of code which is a part of the BIOS. As far as it is a piece of the BIOS, it is not very easy to update the software as often. So they made it was extensible.
“It can do nearly anything. It can run every type of code. You can do to the system whatever you want. Considering that the software is running on these local system privileges, you have full access to the machine. You can wipe the machine, you can monitor it, you can look through the webcam, you can actually copy any files, you can start new processes. You can do absolutely anything”.
What is alarming is that after Kaspersky warned about the problem Computrace is still exploitable and once it has been activated it’s very persistent and difficult to turn off. It also doesn’t enforce encryption when it communicates and doesn’t verify the identity of servers from which it receives commands, so could expose users to attacks.
It is also not clear what is activating Computrace? Kaspersky believe it may be down to manufacturers’ testing of new machines to check for Computrace compatibility.
Security researcher Dan Rosenberg has told a Black Hat conference how it is possible to permanently unlock the bootloader on Android phones – provided they use a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip.
Rosenberg said that the flaw is in ARM’s TrustZone technology, which runs a trusted operating system and another for normal apps. This is supposed to improve device security, but in Qualcomm’s implementation, they cocked it up. It means that if a hacker gets access to the trusted operation part of the chip, it can run whatever application he or she likes.
This affects all known Android devices with a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC, including the Nexus 5, the HTC One, and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, as well as the Moto X. The Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 have already been patched.
Bill Gates has unloaded another 20 million shares of Microsoft, the technology giant he co-founded, driving his portfolio under the 300-million mark for the first time, according to regulatory filings.
Over a five-day span from July 24 to July 30, Gates sold the shares at prices ranging from $43.45 to $44.54, turning the holdings into $882 million in cash. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published the sales documents between July 28 and July 31.
Gates, former CEO and chairman, has been selling approximately 80 million shares annually — usually 20 million each quarter — for the last decade in a long-standing plan to fund the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has pledged to give away the bulk of his wealth.
At the end of his latest sales stretch, Gates owned 298 million shares worth $12.9 billion at Monday’s closing price. If Gates continues his sales pace, he will empty his portfolio by September 2018.
Gates ceded the title of largest Microsoft shareholder in April, when his holdings dipped under the 333 million owned by ex-CEO Steve Ballmer. Ballmer, who has promised to pay $2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team, has about $14.4 billion in Microsoft stock.
Both men remain on the company’s board.
Since Gates vacated his role as chairman in February to become an advisor to new CEO Satya Nadella, Gates has been almost entirely in the background at Microsoft. He has remained in the news, however, most recently in a report from China that he will help start a philanthropic education program in that country.
According to Forbes, Gates is the second-richest person on the planet, with an estimated wealth of $79.5 billion.
BlackBerry Ltd announced its popular messaging system BBM, or BlackBerry Messenger, would now be open to those using the Windows phone platform, a move that potentially makes the messaging service more appealing to its enterprise clients.
BlackBerry, which is seeking to reinvent itself as a more software and services driven company as its smartphone market share has dwindled, has been lately touting new BBM features in a bid to make it a more viable messaging tool for clients such as corporations and government agencies that are on the lookout for a secure messaging service.
The company, last year, opened the service to phones powered by Google Inc’s wildly popular Android operating system and Apple’s iOS platform. The rollout to the Windows phone platform means the service is now available on all major smartphone platforms, making it a more viable option for those clients that are considering using it as a communication tool.
BBM was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with those of WhatsApp and other rivals, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the program to users on other platforms.
While the messaging service still has over 85 million active users, BlackBerry in a bid to boost its relevance and cater to the needs of its core enterprise audience is now marketing it as a secure communications tool for government agencies and regulated sectors, such as financial services.
Last month, BlackBerry began to roll out BBM Protected, a secure messaging service tailored specifically to the needs of companies in regulated sectors.
The move is part of a broader push that has also seen BlackBerry widen its device management capabilities to include devices that are powered by the Android, iOS, and Windows platforms.
It shipped smartphone 34.3 million units, boosted by sales of flagship phones the Ascend Mate 2 and the Ascend P7, it said on Tuesday. In the second quarter alone it shipped 20.6 million units, an 85% year-over-year increase.
Much of that growth is coming from emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, where its smartphone shipments are doubling or even tripling compared to the previous year, the company added.
Other Chinese vendors are also reporting booming smartphone sales, but Huawei ships a higher proportion of its production to foreign markets, said Melissa Chau, an analyst with research firm IDC.
“It has the most number of shipments outside of China, roughly 40%,” she estimated. “If you look at Lenovo, ZTE, or Xiaomi, they are nowhere near that.”
In this year’s second quarter, Huawei will hold on to its ranking as the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor, behind leader Samsung Electronics and second place Apple, Chau added.
In foreign markets, Huawei is driving growth by selling low-end models, while flagship products such as the Ascend P7 find most of their buyers in mainland China, Chau said.
Huawei has ambitions to rival Apple and Samsung in the smartphone arena, so is spending more on marketing and raising brand awareness. But its market share in this year’s first quarter was only 4.7%, still far away from second place Apple, which had a 15.2% share.
“They are making some progress, but they are still not anywhere near being a super top-tier player,” Chau said. Android smartphones are also becoming commoditized, which risks dampening Huawei’s attempts to stand out from the rest of the competition, she added.
A bill that allows consumers to unlock their mobile phones for use on other carriers passed its last hurdle in Congress last week, opening the way for it to become law once it is signed by President Barack Obama.
Senate Bill 517 overturns a January 2013 decision by the Library of Congress that ruled the unlocking of phones by consumers fell afoul of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It had previously been permitted under an exception to the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, which are generally aimed at cracking of digital rights management technology.
Cellphones and smartphones are typically supplied to consumers with a software lock that restricts their use to a single wireless carrier. Removing that lock — the process of “unlocking” the phone — means it can be used on the networks of competing carriers. In the U.S., this is most often done with handsets that work on the AT&T or T-Mobile networks, which share a common technology, but is also popular with consumers who want to take their phones overseas and use foreign networks rather than roaming services.
The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act has made fast progress through Congress. It was passed by the Senate on July 16, just a week after it was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and on Friday by unanimous vote in the House of Representatives. It now waits to be signed into law.
In addition to making the unlocking process legal under copyright law, the bill also directs the librarian of Congress to determine whether other portable devices with wireless capability, such as tablets, should be eligible for unlocking.
“It took 19 months of activism and advocacy, but we’re finally very close to consumers regaining the right to unlock the phones they’ve legally bought,” said Sina Khanifar, who organized an online petition that kicked off the push to have the Library of Congress decision overturned. The petition attracted more than 114,000 signatures on the White House’s “We The People” site.
“I’m looking forward to seeing this bill finally become law — it’s been a long road against powerful, entrenched interests — but it’s great to see citizen advocacy work,” he said in a statement.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) has seen a 100 percent explosion of reported security vulnerabilities in just six months, according to security firm Bromium labs.
Bromium has studied the security vulnerability market intensely and found that in the last six months Microsoft released more security patches than it had during the entire last decade. Internet Explorer also leads in publicly reported exploits.
“Internet Explorer took the cap for historic high number of security patches in over a decade, and that feat was accomplished in the first six months of 2014,” it said. “As timelines to the next version of the latest Internet Explorer shrink, times to the next security patches have also shrunk.”
It is not all bad news for Microsoft, though, and the report said that Adobe Flash is the most targeted in-browser software product, adding that this often gives attackers new vectors into IE.
“End users remain a primary concern for information security professionals because they are the most targeted and most susceptible to attacks,” said Bromium chief security architect Rahul Kashyap.
“Web browsers have always been a favorite avenue of attack, but we are now seeing that hackers are not only getting better at attacking Internet Explorer, they are doing it more frequently.”
There’s good news for Oracle, however. While its Java platform was “the notorious king” of malware and zero-day attacks in 2013, there have been no reported zero-day exploits targeting Java so far in 2014.
Bromium Labs’ report (PDF) is called “Endpoint Exploitation Trends H1 2014″ and is available now.