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Microsoft

Steam On Windows 10 Will Get 'Progressively Worse': Gears of War Developer (ndtv.com) 361

Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform, or UWP, approach isn't sitting well with many game developers. Four months after criticising UWP ecosystem for being a walled-garden, curtailing "users' freedom to install full-featured PC software, and subverting the rights of developers and publishers to maintain a direct relationship with their customers," Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games, the studio behind the Gears of War and Unreal franchises has once again lashed out at the Redmond-based company. He alleges that Microsoft plans to make Steam -- the world's largest PC gaming platform, "progressively worse and more broken." in a move to bolster people's reliance on the Windows Store. From a Gadgets 360 report: "Slowly, over the next five years, they will force-patch Windows 10 to make Steam progressively worse and more broken. They'll never completely break it, but will continue to break it until, in five years, people are so fed up that Steam is buggy that the Windows Store seem like an ideal alternative. That's exactly what they did to their previous competitors in other areas. Now they're doing it to Steam. It's only just starting to become visible. Microsoft might not be competent enough to succeed with their plan but they are certainly trying," Sweeney said. He adds the outcome of this would be forcing every app and game to be sold through the Windows Store alone. "If they can succeed in doing that then it's a small leap to forcing all apps and games to be distributed through the Windows store. Once we reach that point, the PC has become a closed platform. It won't be that one day they flip a switch that will break your Steam library -- what they're trying to do is a series of sneaky manoeuvres. They make it more and more inconvenient to use the old apps, and, simultaneously, they try to become the only source for the new ones," he claims.
Microsoft

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: the Best New Features (theverge.com) 331

A year after the release of Windows 10, Microsoft is gearing up for Anniversary Update, the first major update to the company's desktop operating system. Ahead of the public release of Anniversary Update on August 2, Microsoft provided media outlets with the Anniversary Update, and their first impressions and reviews are out. The Verge has listed the big changes Windows 10 Anniversary ships with. From the article: Windows Ink: Windows Ink is without a doubt the best part of the Anniversary Update. It's essentially a central location to find built-in or third-party apps that work with your stylus. You can use the new sticky notes to note down reminders, and they'll even transform into true reminders as Cortana understands what you write.
Microsoft Edge extensions: If you're a fan of Chrome extensions, then you'll be glad to hear that they're heading to Microsoft's Edge browser. The Anniversary Update brings support for extensions, and it's now up to third-party developers to fill the Windows Store with their add-ons.
Cortana improvements: Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana, debuted on Windows 10 last year, and the software maker is bringing it to the lock screen with the Anniversary Update. You'll be able to ask it to make a note, play music, set a reminder, and lots more without ever logging in. Cortana is also getting a little more intelligent, with the ability to schedule appointments in Outlook or options to send friends a document you were working on a week ago.
Dark theme and UI tweaks: You can switch on what I call even darker mode in settings, and it will switch built-in apps that typically use a white background over to black.
Other improvements include things like Windows 10's ability to set your time zone automatically, and opening up of Windows Hello, the biometric feature to apps and websites. Additionally, the Xbox One is getting Windows apps. The Verge adds, "It feels like a promise that was made years ago, but it's finally coming true with the Anniversary Update. As Windows 10 now powers the Xbox One, Microsoft will start rolling out an update to its console to provide support for Cortana on Xbox One and the new universal apps." Microsoft is also adding Bash, the Linux command line to Windows with the new update. It's an optional feature and users will need to enable it to use it. Users will also be able to "project to PC," a feature that will allow one to easily find a PC to project to from a phone or another PC. There's also a new Skype app, and syncing of notifications between PC and phone is getting better.
Going by the reviews, it appears Windows 10 Anniversary Update is substantially more stable, and has interesting new features. You can read the first impressions of it on ZDNet, and review on PCWorld.
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Is the Only Remaining Obstacle To PS4-Xbox Cross-Play (kotaku.com) 57

In March, Microsoft announced native support for cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10. At the time, the company also added that this support could be extended to "other console and PC networks," something which led people to wonder if truly cross-platform gaming, on any platform, was next. When asked, Sony did say that it was open to the idea. "PlayStation has been supporting cross-platform play between PC on several software titles starting with Final Fantasy 11 on PS2 and PC back in 2002. We would be happy to have the conversation with any publishers or developers who are interested in cross-platform play." But since then, it appears that Sony has had a change of heart, which has resulted in developers asking the company for an update. Kotaku reports: In recent days, the developers behind Rocket League and The Witcher 3 have both called for Sony to break down the walls separating PlayStation Network and Xbox Live and allow cross-platform multiplayer. What's changed in the last few days are developers making an open call for Sony to make good on having that conversation with publishers and developers. In an interview with IGN, Psyonix president Jeremy Dunham explained how the Rocket League developer had already taken care of the technical side of things. "We're literally at the point where all we need is the go-ahead on the Sony side," said Dunham, "and we can, in less than a business day, turn it on and have it up and working no problem. It'd literally take a few hours to propagate throughout the whole world, so really we're just waiting on the permission to do so." In another statement to IGN, CD Projekt RED CEO Marcin Iwinski supported Psyonix.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Surface Hub Is a 'Hit', Demand Outstrips Supply (petri.com) 67

Microsoft said on Thursday that it has sold over 500 units of the Surface Hubs, a number that apparently "exceeded" the company's initial forecasts. In a statement to Microsoft-centric blog Petri, the company said: "Demand for Surface Hubs is very strong and exceeded initial forecasts. To date, we've shipped to over 500 customers worldwide and that number continues to grow. We are ramping up production to meet this strong demand via our partner reseller channel as soon as possible. Customers are encouraged to speak with their sales representative if interested in ordering Surface Hubs." For a refresh, the Surface Hub is a giant all-in-one Windows 10 computer which retails at a starting price point of $8,999 for the 55-inch model, and goes all the way up to $21,999 for the 84-inch model.
Chrome

Google Gets Rid Of App Launcher In Chrome 52, Browser's Mac Client Gets Material Design (9to5mac.com) 67

Google has finally removed App Launcher that it bundles with the Chrome browser for Windows and Mac with the release of Chrome v52. The Mac client, in addition, now embraces Google's Material Design approach, and comes with new icons and flatter and transparent interface. 9to5Mac documents more changes on Chrome for Mac and Windows: Besides a new flatter, sharper, and transparent design, Material is also a "huge engineering feat," especially for Chrome OS and Windows. Chrome is "now rendered fully programmatically including iconography, effectively removing the ~1200 png assets we were maintaining before," Google noted. "It also allows us to deliver a better rendering for a wide range of PPI configuration."
Microsoft

Microsoft Responds To Allegations That Windows 10 Collects 'Excessive Personal Data' (betanews.com) 144

BetaNews's Mark Wilson writes: Yesterday France's National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) slapped a formal order on Microsoft to comply with data protection laws after it found Windows 10 was collecting "excessive data" about users. The company has been given three months to meet the demands or it will face fines. Microsoft has now responded, saying it is happy to work with the CNIL to work towards an acceptable solution. Interestingly, while not denying the allegations set against it, the company does nothing to defend the amount of data collected by Windows 10, and also fails to address the privacy concerns it raises. Microsoft does address concerns about the transfer of data between Europe and the US, saying that while the Safe Harbor agreement is no longer valid, the company still complied with it up until the adoption of Privacy Shield. It's interesting to see that Microsoft, in response to a series of complaints very clearly leveled at Windows 10, manages to mention the operating system only once. There is the promise of a statement about privacy next week, but for now we have Microsoft's response to the CNIL's order.
Microsoft

France: Windows 10 Collects 'Excessive Personal Data', Issues Microsoft With Formal Warning (betanews.com) 112

France's National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) has ordered Microsoft to "stop collecting excessive data and tracking browsing by users without consent," adding that Microsoft must comply with the French Data Protection Act within next three months. BetaNews reports: In addition to this, the chair of CNIL has notified Microsoft that it needs to take "satisfactory measures to ensure the security and confidentiality of user data." The notice comes after numerous complaints about Windows 10, and a series of investigations by French authorities which revealed a number of failings on Microsoft's part. Microsoft is accused of not only gathering excessive data about users, but also irrelevant data. The CNIL points to Windows 10's telemetry service which gathers information about the apps users have installed and how long each is used for. The complaint is that "these data are not necessary for the operation of the service."
Microsoft

Skype Finalizes Its Move To the Cloud; To Kill Older Clients -- Remains Tight Lipped About Privacy (arstechnica.com) 74

When it was first created, Skype network was built as a decentralized peer-to-peer system. PCs that had enough processing muscle and bandwidth acted as "supernodes," and coordinated connections between other machines on the network. This p2p system was generally perceived as being relatively private, a belief that has since been debunked. There were several technical challenges, which led Microsoft to move most of Skype's operations to the cloud. Ars Technica is reporting that the company has finalized the switch. From the article: Microsoft has developed a more conventional client-server network, with clients that act as pure clients and dedicated cloud servers. The company is starting to transition to this network exclusively. This transition means that old peer-to-peer Skype clients will cease to work. Clients for the new network will be available for Windows XP and up, OS X Yosemite and up, iOS 8 and up, and Android 4.03 and up. However, certain embedded clients -- in particular, those integrated into smart TVs and available for the PlayStation 3 -- are being deprecated, with no replacement. Microsoft says that since those clients are little used and since almost every user of those platforms has other Skype-capable devices available, it is no longer worth continuing to support them.The issue, as the report points out, is that Microsoft is strangely not talking about privacy and security concerns. The article adds: The Ed Snowden leaks raised substantial questions about the privacy of services such as Skype and have caused an increasing interest in platforms that offer end-to-end encryption. The ability to intercept or wiretap Skype came as a shock to many, especially given Skype's traditionally peer-to-peer infrastructure. Accordingly, we've seen similar services such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and even Facebook Messenger, start introducing end-to-end encryption. The abandonment of Skype's peer-to-peer system can only raise suspicions here.Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins, said: "The surprising thing here is not that Microsoft can intercept Skype calls (duh) but that they won't just admit it."
Windows

Windows 10 Warns Chrome and Firefox Users About Battery Drain, Recommends Switching To Edge (venturebeat.com) 374

A month after Microsoft claimed that its Edge web browser is more power efficient than Google Chrome and Firefox, the company is now warning Windows 10 users about the same. VentureBeat reports: Microsoft has turned on a new set of Windows Tips that warn Windows 10 users that Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox is draining their laptop's battery. The solution, according to the notification, is to use Microsoft Edge.In a statement to the publication, the company said: "These Windows Tips notifications were created to provide people with quick, easy information that can help them enhance their Windows 10 experience, including information that can help users extend battery life. That said, with Windows 10 you can easily choose the default browser and search engine of your choice."
Android

Slashdot Asks: Do You Install Preview Version Of An OS On Your Primary Device? 149

On Monday, Google released a new -- and also the final -- version of the Android N Developer Preview. Android Nougat, which is the latest version of Google's mobile operating system comes with a range of new features and improvements, including a notification panel redesign and additions to Doze power saving. The fifth preview, which is releasing today offers a "near-final" look at Android 7. Interestingly, Apple also released the public beta versions of iOS 10, and macOS Sierra to users earlier this month. Microsoft continues to offer preview builds of Windows 10 OS to enthusiasts.

We were wondering how many of you choose to live on beta version of an operating system on your primary devices. Does anyone here wait for the final version of an operating system to release before making the switch? Also, what does the setup of your office/work computer look like? Anyone who is still on an older version of an operating system because of reliability and compatibility concerns?
XBox (Games)

Microsoft's New Xbox One S Will Go On Sale On August 2 -- Will You Buy One? (betanews.com) 108

Microsoft announced on Monday that its new Xbox One S console will go on sale on August 2. To recall, the Xbox One S is 40 percent smaller than the original Xbox One (also the power supply packed in the console itself), and has the processing muscle to stream video in 4K Ultra HD with HDR. BetaNews reports: August 2 is the big date which also sees the release of Windows 10 Anniversary Update. The Xbox One S also features up to 2TB of storage. In all, three versions of the console are available. It's the 2TB model that's grabbing the headlines and the attention of keen gamers, and this model will launch in "limited numbers" priced at $399. The console will launch in Australia, Canada, UK and United States among several other regions. For anyone looking for a slightly cheaper option, the 1TB model will cost $349, while $299 will get you a 500GB version. If you want to add to the single Xbox Wireless Controller included as standard, this will set you back a further $59.99.Are you planning to purchase one of these?
Software

The Freeware Hall of Fame Enters Its 20th Year (freewarehof.org) 41

After our story about the ongoing development of FreeDOS, long-time Slashdot reader reybo shares another valuable resource that's been "All free, all the time since 1984": Younger FreeDOS users may not know of the Freeware Hall of Fame, a source of old DOS freeware some of which is on-line 24/7 at www.freewarehof.org . This file base of free programs was begun in 1984 to help small businesses enter the world of computers. It became an international file base distributed to BBSs around the world via floppy disc until Bobbie Sumrada in Memphis gave it a home on CHEERS, her premier BBS.

The entire history is on the FreeHOF web site. Also there are downloadable copies of PCBoard, one of the great BBS platforms of all time. Anyone can create a dial-up BBS with this to see what they were like, so long as they have a DOS partition for it. I think MS DOS is also there to download, version 5.n or 6.n. Something you won't find at this site is games. FHOF never distributed games.

"No Flash, no Java, no goddam rollovers..." reads one page, which notes that in the mid-'90s they were picked as one of the world's 25 best BBSs by Boardwatch magazine.
Operating Systems

How (And Why) FreeDOS Keeps DOS Alive (computerworld.com.au) 211

FreeDOS was originally created in response to Microsoft's announcement that after Windows 95, DOS would no longer be developed as a standalone operating system, according to a new interview about how (and why) Jim Hall keeps FreeDOS alive. For its newest version, Hall originally imagined "what 'DOS' would be like in 2015 or 2016 if Microsoft hadn't stopped working on MS-DOS in favor of Windows" -- before he decided there's just no such thing as "modern DOS". An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: No major changes are planned in the next version. "The next version of FreeDOS won't be multitasking, it won't be 32-bit, it won't run on ARM," Hall said. "FreeDOS is still intended for Intel and Intel-compatible computers. You should still be able to run FreeDOS on your old 486 or old Pentium PC to play classic DOS games, run legacy business programs, and support embedded development."
By day, Hall is the CIO for a county in Minnesota, and he's also a member of the board of directors for GNOME (and contributes to other open source projects) -- but he still remembers using DOS's built-in BASIC system to write simple computer programs. "Many of us older computer nerds probably used DOS very early, on our first home computer..." he tells ComputerWorld. Even without John Romero's new Doom level, "The popularity of DOS games and DOS shareware applications probably contributes in a big way to FreeDOS's continued success." I'd be curious how many Slashdot readers have some fond memories about downloading DOS shareware applications.
Android

Microsoft 'Patch' Blocks Linux Installs On Locked-Down Windows RT Computers (fossbytes.com) 141

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from fossBytes: Microsoft has released a security update that has patched a backdoor in Windows RT operating system [that] allowed users to install non-Redmond approved operating systems like Linux and Android on Windows RT tablets. This vulnerability in ARM-powered, locked-down Windows devices was left by Redmond programmers during the development process. Exploiting this flaw, one was able to boot operating systems of his/her choice, including Android or GNU/Linux.
The Register points out that since Windows RT is "a dead-end operating system" which Microsoft has announced they'll stop developing, "mainstream support for Surface RT tablets runs out in 2017 and Windows RT 8.1 in 2018. This is why a means to bypass its boot mechanisms is highly sought."
Android

Intel ChromeBooks Can Now Run Wine and Steam (codeweavers.com) 45

"With Google Play and Android app support hitting Chromebooks, it's now possible to run Windows applications/games on Chromebooks via CrossOver For Android," reports Phoronix. Slashdot reader grungy writes: The first Intel ChromeBooks have access to the Play Store now, and the Android version of Wine apparently runs on them... Pictures show the Steam client running, and a clip of a D3D game. Of course, the Play Store is only available on the ChromeOS developer channel so far, but that should change later this year.
CrossOver for Android also hasn't been officially released, but Thursday CodeWeavers' president blogged excitedly that "we are staring at a Leprechaun riding on the back of a Unicorn while taking a picture of a UFO. We are running CrossOver through Android on a ChromeBook running a Windows based game launched from the Steam client. THIS HAS NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE...EVER!!!"
Microsoft

Microsoft Store Offers Free Laptop If They Can't Upgrade Your PC To Windows 10 (microsoft.com) 126

Microsoft is now promising that their Microsoft Store employees "will give you a free Dell laptop if the staff can't do a same-day upgrade on your eligible PC by close of business," reports new Slashdot submitter Pritam Dash. To be eligible for the Dell Inspiron 15, the PC must meet Microsoft's upgrade requirements -- and be checked in by noon -- and in a further effort to boost adoption for their of the Windows 10 operating system, Microsoft is also announcing that "If your PC isn't compatible with Windows 10, we'll recycle it and give you $150 toward the purchase of a new PC." (This second offer is limited to PCs already running Windows 8). Both offers are valid until July 29th, "while supplies last."

Meanwhile, the U.S. army is "half a year behind the January 2017 deadline to adopt Windows 10 set by Defense Department Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen," and has hired Microsoft engineers to assess their 1.1 million devices and legacy systems.
Microsoft

Microsoft: Windows 10 Won't Hit 1 Billion Devices By Mid-2018 (zdnet.com) 104

Despite Microsoft's aggressive efforts to get everyone to upgrade to Windows 10 by mid-2018, the company says it is unlikely to meet its self-imposed deadline. In a statement to ZDNet, the company said: Windows 10 is off to the hottest start in history with over 350M monthly active devices, with record customer satisfaction and engagement. We're pleased with our progress to date, but due to the focusing of our phone hardware business, it will take longer than FY18 for us to reach our goal of 1 billion monthly active devices. In the year ahead, we are excited about usage growth coming from commercial deployments and new devices -- and increasing customer delight with Windows. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley writes: Microsoft Windows and Devices chief Terry Myerson made the original claim at Build 2015, noting that the 1 billion figure would encompass all kinds of devices that would run Windows 10 in some variant, including desktops, PCs, laptops, tablets, Windows Phones, Xbox One gaming consoles, Surface Hub conferencing systems, HoloLens augmented reality glasses and various Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Officials said at that time that the majority of those 1 billion devices would be PCs and tablets. But Windows Phones running Windows 10 Mobile also were expected to help Microsoft reach that total by mid-2018.Since April 2015, the bottom has fallen out of the Windows Phone market, with Microsoft officials conceding that Windows Phone isn't much of a focus for Microsoft in calendar 2016.
Open Source

A Smaller Version of Raspberry Pi 3 Is Coming Soon (pcworld.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: A smaller version of the popular Raspberry Pi 3 will go on sale in a few months. Raspberry Pi is developing a new version of its Compute Module, a single-board computer that plugs into specific on-board memory slots. The new Pi will be more like a mini-computer inside a computer, and it won't come with a power supply. The Compute Module will have similar circuitry to that of Raspberry Pi 3, a wildly successful computer that can be a PC replacement. But it will be smaller, with the memory, CPU, and storage embedded tightly on a board. While the Compute Module will have a 64-bit ARM processor like the Pi 3, it won't have Wi-Fi, Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi, said in an interview with IDG News Service. The Compute Module could ship as soon as this quarter, Upton said. It will be priced similar to its predecessor, the 2-year-old Compute Module, available from reseller RS Components for about $24. The older Compute Module is based on the original Raspberry Pi. Like Raspberry Pi 3, the new Compute Module will work with Linux and Microsoft's Windows 10 IoT Core, Upton said. A Compute Module Development Kit, in which the Compute Module can be slotted for testing, may also be sold. The Development Kit could have multiple connectivity and port options, much like the Raspberry Pi 3. Last month, the biggest manufacturer of the Raspberry Pi, Premier Farnell, was acquired by Swiss industrial component supplier Daetwyler Holding AG for roughly $871 million.
Encryption

Windows Malware Poses As Ransomware, Just Deletes Victims' Files (slashgear.com) 118

An anonymous reader writes: Ranscam, a ransom malware reported by Cisco's Talos Security Intelligence group, claims to have encrypted victims' files and hold them for ransom, but in actuality it has already deleted those files and is simply trying to trick its victims into paying to recover files that are no longer there anymore. SlashGear reports: "Most ransomware follow a similar tactic once they get control of a computer or mobile device. They encrypt certain files, personal documents are a favorite, and then display a message instructing the user to pay, usually with bitcoins, to receive the decryption key to save their files. Ranscam, however, is completely without honor, as much honor as you can find among thieves and scam artists. It claims to have encrypted the users' files and then makes the usual demand. However, it adds an additional threat. For each time the user clicks on the 'payment sent' button but no payment was received, it threatens it will delete a file. That, however, is a total farce. In truth, files have already been deleted, so whether the victim pays or not is moot. The perpetrators don't have any way to recover those deleted files anyway. Also, the threats it flashes users are simply static images fetched from a remote server. Users might just as well be clicking on a two-slide presentation. The good news is that reported Ranscam infections are small, according to Cisco's Talos Security Intelligence group."

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