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Windows

Microsoft Targets Chrome Users With Windows 10 Pop-up Ad (pcmag.com) 128

Google Chrome users on Windows 10 are apparently being treated to a new experience: a pop-up ad. From a PCMag report: If you have Chrome installed and the icon present on the Windows Taskbar, chances are you're going to start seeing a pop-up advert appear suggesting you install Microsoft's Personal Shopping Assistant Chrome extension. Microsoft touts it as "Your smart shopping cart across the web." Opting to install the extension results in Microsoft monitoring which products you've searched for and viewed while using Chrome, and then offering to compare those products to find the best price. There's also alerts when prices change, and the ability to track products across all your devices. Of course, Microsoft will make money if you opt to purchase any products using the Assistant.
Movies

Star Trek Discovery Gets Delayed Again As Spock's Father Is Cast (hollywoodreporter.com) 147

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery has been delayed again as the series continues casting. The revival for the streaming platform has cast James Frain as Spock's father, producer CBS Television Studios announced Wednesday, as sources confirm that the show's planned May debut has been pushed. "Production on Star Trek: Discovery begins next week. We love the cast, the scripts and are excited about the world the producers have created," reps for CBS All Access said in a statement. "This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it's best for the show. We've said from the beginning it's more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn't beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows." Frain will play Sarek, the famed father of Spock who was first introduced in the original Star Trek and who has made several appearances throughout the franchise's many incarnations over the past five decades. The CBS All Access show features the franchise's Enterprise, now known as the U.S.S. Discovery. The drama will introduce new characters seeking new worlds and civilizations while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966. Star Trek: Discovery was originally scheduled to debut in January and was pushed back to May, with The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight now set to be the first scripted offering on CBS All Access, the network's VOD platform. This marks the second delay for the series, which saw former showrunner Bryan Fuller step down to focus on his Starz drama American Gods.
Desktops (Apple)

Malwarebytes Discovers 'First Mac Malware of 2017' (securityweek.com) 60

wiredmikey writes: Security researchers have a uncovered a Mac OS based espionage malware they have named "Quimitchin." The malware is what they consider to be "the first Mac malware of 2017," which appears to be a classic espionage tool. While it has some old code and appears to have existed undetected for some time, it works. It was discovered when an IT admin noticed unusual traffic coming from a particular Mac, and has been seen infecting Macs at biomedical facilities. From SecurityWeek.com: "Quimitchin comprises just two files: a .plist file that simply keeps the .client running at all times, and the .client file containing the payload. The latter is a 'minified and obfuscated' perl script that is more novel in design. It combines three components, Thomas Reed, director of Mac offerings at Malwarebytes and author of the blog post told SecurityWeek: 'a Mac binary, another perl script and a Java class tacked on at the end in the __DATA__ section of the main perl script. The script extracts these, writes them to /tmp/ and executes them.' Its primary purpose seems to be screen captures and webcam access, making it a classic espionage tool. Somewhat surprisingly the code uses antique system calls. 'These are some truly ancient functions, as far as the tech world is concerned, dating back to pre-OS X days,' he wrote in the blog post. 'In addition, the binary also includes the open source libjpeg code, which was last updated in 1998.' The script also contains Linux shell commands. Running the malware on a Linux machine, Malwarebytes 'found that -- with the exception of the Mach-O binary -- everything ran just fine.' It is possible that there is a specific Linux variant of the malware in existence -- but the researchers have not been able to find one. It did find two Windows executable files, courtesy of VirusTotal, that communicated with the same CC server. One of them even used the same libjpeg library, which hasn't been updated since 1998, as that used by Quimitchin."
Microsoft

Microsoft Plans To Add an Ebook Store To Windows 10 (mspoweruser.com) 68

Microsoft may have plans to give Windows 10 users the ability to purchase ebooks directly from the Windows Store. According to a report on MSPowerUser, Windows 10 Creators Update will feature a new book store interface that will support the purchase and viewing of books in the Microsoft Edge browser. The report claims that this feature will be coming to both Windows 10 Mobile and other Windows 10 variants on PCs and tablets. It's worth mentioning that Microsoft made EPUB support a feature of Microsoft Edge as part of its Windows 10 Creators Update Insider test builds last year.
Windows

Windows 10 Privacy Changes Appease Watchdogs, But Still No Data 'Off-Switch' (zdnet.com) 210

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced several privacy changes in Windows 10, but it didn't give users an option to completely opt-out of data-collection feature. The announcement came at a time to coincide with a statement by the Swiss data protection and privacy regulator, the FDPIC, which last week said it would drop its threats of a lawsuit after the company "agreed to implement" a string of recommendations it made last year. The news closed the books on an investigation that began in 2015, shortly after Windows 10 was released. Though the Swiss appear satisfied, other critics are waiting for more. The French data protection watchdog, the CNIL, was equally unimpressed by Microsoft's actions, and it served the company with a notice in July to demand that it clean up its privacy settings. In an email, the CNIL said that the changes "seem to comply" with its complaint, but it's "now analyzing more in [sic] details Microsoft answers in order to know whether all the failures underlined in the formal notice do now comply with the law." ZDNet adds: Microsoft still hasn't said exactly what gets collected as part of the basic level of collection, except that the data is used to improve its software and services down the line; a reasonable ask -- but one that nonetheless lacks specifics. Microsoft said it wants users to "trust" it. And while the likelihood that the company is doing anything nefarious with users' information is frankly unlikely, the running risk is that the data could somehow be turned over to a government agency or even stolen by hackers is inescapable. That risk alone is enough for many to want to keep what's on their computer in their homes. While changing the privacy controls is a move in the right direction, it's still short of what many have called for. By ignoring the biggest privacy complaint from its consumer users -- the ability to switch off data collection altogether -- Microsoft has favored the "just enough" approach to appease the regulators. Without a way to truly opt-out, Microsoft's repeated pledge (eight times in the blog post, no less) to give its users "control" of their data comes off as a hollow soundbite.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patent Hints At Foldable Tablet Design For Surface Phone (trustedreviews.com) 26

A new patent has surfaced from Microsoft that may shed some light on the company's upcoming Surface Phone. The patent, which was first filed in October 2014 and recently made public, details a 2-in-1 foldable device with a flexible hinge that can act both as a smartphone and a tablet. TrustedReviews reports: The device in the filings can be configured into various shapes, either folded out like tablets, or folded back inwards to create a smaller phone-like handset. There's also the opportunity to place it in a tent-mode much like Lenovo's range of Yoga hybrids which can be propped up to make it easier to watch media. Microsoft has taken a universal approach to Windows 10, in that the OS is designed to work across multiple devices, so a Surface Phone that could transform into another mobile product would make a lot of sense in terms of demonstrating Windows 10s capabilities. The inventor of the product in the patent is listed as Kabir Siddiqui, the man behind Microsoft's successful patent for the Surface kickstand and Surface camera angle -- which bodes well for this latest design in the long run. Unfortunately, there's every chance we'll never see this technology in a retail-ready product from Microsoft, though some version of the foldable device could well arrive.
Microsoft

Microsoft: Windows 7 Does Not Meet the Demands of Modern Technology; Recommends Windows 10 (neowin.net) 500

In a blog post, Microsoft says that continued usage of Windows 7 increases maintenance and operating costs for businesses. Furthermore, time is needlessly wasted on combating malware attacks that could have been avoided by upgrading to Windows 10. A report on Neowin adds: Microsoft also says that many hardware manufacturers do not provide drivers for Windows 7 any longer, and many developers and companies refrain from releasing programs on the outdated operating system. Markus Nitschke, Head of Windows at Microsoft Germany, had the following to say about Windows 7: "Today, it [Windows 7] does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments. As early as in Windows XP, we saw that companies should take early steps to avoid future risks or costs. With Windows 10, we offer our customers the highest level of security and functionality at the cutting edge.
SuSE

Windows 10 Gets A New Linux: openSUSE (fossbytes.com) 189

An anonymous reader writes: "Running Linux binaries natively on Windows... that sounds awesome indeed," writes Hannes Kuhnemund, the senior product manager for SUSE Linux Enterprise. He's written a blog post describing how to run openSUSE Leap 42.2 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP2 on Windows 10, according to Fossbytes, which reports that currently users have two options -- openSUSE Leap 42.2 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP2. Currently it's Ubuntu that's enabled by default in the Windows Subsystem for Linux, although there's already a project on GitHub that also lets you install Arch Linux. "It's quite unfortunate that Microsoft enabled the wrong Linux (that's my personal opinion) by default within the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)," writes Kuhnemund, "and it is time to change it to the real stuff.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Security Bulletins Will End In February (computerworld.com) 39

Remember how Microsoft switched to cumulative updates? Now Computerworld points out that that's bringing another change. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Microsoft next month will stop issuing detailed security bulletins, which for nearly 20 years have provided individual users and IT professionals information about vulnerabilities and their patches... A searchable database of support documents will replace the bulletins; that database has been available, albeit in preview, since November on the portal Microsoft dubbed the "Security Updates Guide," or SUG. The documents stored in the database are specific to a vulnerability on an edition of Windows, or a version of another Microsoft product. They can be sorted and filtered by the affected software, the patch's release date, its CVE identifier, and the numerical label of the KB, or "knowledge base" support document.
Redmond Magazine reports that Microsoft still plans to continue to issue its security advisories, and to issue "out-of-band" security update releases as necessary.
Ubuntu

Windows 10 Upgrade Bug Disabled Cntrl-C In Bash (infoworld.com) 277

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: A massive set of changes to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) was rolled into Windows Insider build 15002... If this is any hint, Microsoft's goal is nothing short of making it a credible alternative to other Linux distributions... Some of the fixes also implement functionality that wasn't available before to Linux apps in WSL, such as support for kernel memory overcommit and previously omitted network stack options. Other changes enhance integration between WSL and the rest of Windows...

[O]ne major issue in build 15002 is that Ctrl-C in a Bash session no longer works. Microsoft provided an uncommon level of detail for how this bug crept in, saying it had to do with synchronization between the Windows and Bash development teams. The next Insider build should have a fix. But for people doing serious work with Linux command-line apps, not having Ctrl-C is a little like driving a car when only the front brakes work.

Chrome

Chrome is Getting the Ability To Play FLAC (theverge.com) 77

Audiophiles are getting a new way to listen to one of the top formats for lossless music. From a report: Google has begun adding FLAC support to Chrome, and it should be rolling out to the masses very soon. FLAC support is already live in Chrome's beta build and it's live in the current version of Chrome OS, too. If you have local FLAC files or come across one on the web, the added support allows Chrome to open it up in a completely bare-bones music player that takes over the entire tab. It's not exactly elegant, but it works. And it means that Mac users with Chrome installed will have an easy way to play back FLAC files should they come across one. While there are plenty of apps that can handle FLAC -- VLC being a popular one -- no native macOS app is capable of it. Windows 10, on the other hand, includes native support.
Microsoft

Microsoft's New Windows 10 Game Mode Will Maximize Gaming Performance (mspoweruser.com) 129

Microsoft has started officially testing a new Game Mode feature in Windows 10. From a report: Traces of the new option were found back in December, but the most recent test build of Windows 10 (15007) includes Game Mode in the Xbox app. MSPoweruser has supplied some screenshots of how you can enable the option, but Microsoft has not yet officially unveiled Game Mode for everyone to test. Microsoft's description lists the feature as a mode to let a PC make gaming the "top priority to improve your game's quality." It's still not clear exactly how Game Mode will improve gaming performance, but it's likely that Windows 10 will simply suppress system processes and other apps from taking too many CPU, GPU, and RAM resources away from the primary game being played.
Opera

Opera Neon Turns Your Web Browser Into a Mini Desktop (engadget.com) 78

Opera today announced it's launching a new browser called Opera Neon. From a report on Engadget:It's a separate "concept" browser that shows where software could go. It's much more visual, with an uncluttered look, tabs and shortcuts as bubbles and a side control bar that largely gets out of your way. However, the real fun starts when you want to juggle multiple sites -- this is more of an intelligent desktop than your usual web client. If you want to have two pages running side by side, it's relatively easy: you drag one of your open tabs to the top of the window, creating a split view much like what you see in Windows or the multi-window modes on mobile devices. Also, Neon acknowledges that your browser can frequently double as a media player. You can listen to tunes in the background, or pop out a video in order to switch websites while you watch. These aren't completely novel concepts all by themselves, but it's rare to see all of them in a browser at the same time.
Chrome

Latest Adobe Acrobat Reader Update Silently Installs Chrome Extension (bleepingcomputer.com) 144

An anonymous reader writes: The latest Adobe Acrobat Reader security update (15.023.20053), besides delivering security updates, also secretly installs the Adobe Acrobat extension in the user's Chrome browser. There is no mention of this "special package" on Acrobat's changelog, and surprise-surprise, the extension comes with anonymous data collection turned on by default. Bleeping Computer reports: "This extension allows users to save any web page they're on as a PDF file and share it or download it to disk. The extension is also Windows-only, meaning Mac and Linux Chrome users will not receive it. The extension requests the following permissions: Read and change all your data on the websites you visit; Manage your downloads; Communicate with cooperating native applications. According to Adobe, extension users 'share information with Adobe about how [they] use the application. The information is anonymous and will help us improve product quality and features,' Adobe also says. 'Since no personally identifiable information is collected, the anonymous data will not be meaningful to anyone outside of Adobe.'"
Security

Windows 10 Will Soon Lock Your PC When You Step Away From It (theverge.com) 172

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Microsoft is working on a new Windows 10 feature that will automatically lock and secure a PC when the operating system detects someone has moved away from the machine. The feature is labelled as Dynamic Lock in recent test builds of Windows 10, and Windows Central reports that Microsoft refers to this as "Windows Goodbye" internally. Microsoft currently uses special Windows Hello cameras to let Windows 10 users log into a PC with just their face. Big corporations teach employees to use the winkey+L combination to lock machines when they're idle, but this new feature will make it an automatic process. It's not clear exactly how Microsoft will detect inactivity, but it's possible the company could use Windows Hello-compatible machines or detect idle activity and lock the machine accordingly. Windows can already be configured to do this after a set time period, but it appears Microsoft is streamlining this feature into a simple setting for anyone to enable. Microsoft is planning to deliver Dynamic Lock as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update, expected to arrive in April.
Earth

An Asteroid Passed By Earth At About Half the Distance Between Our Planet and Moon (smithsonianmag.com) 158

On Monday at 7:47 A.M. EST, an asteroid thought to be between 36 and 111 feet wide passed roughly 120,000 miles from Earth -- and astronomers didn't spot it until Saturday. Smithsonian reports: According to astronomer Eric Edelman at the Slooh Observatory, 2017 AG13 is an Aten asteroid, or a space rock with an orbital distance from the sun similar to that of Earth. AG13 also has a particularly elliptical orbit, which means that as it circles the sun it also crosses through the orbits of both Venus and Earth. Lucky for us, 2017 AG13 wasn't a planet killer; according to Wall, the asteroid was in the size range of the space rock that exploded in Earth's atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February, 2013. According to Deborah Byrd at EarthSky, that meteor exploded 12 miles in the atmosphere, releasing 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. Not only did it break windows in six cities, it also sent 1,500 people to the hospital. That meteor also came out of the blue, and researchers are still trying to figure out its orbit and track down its origins. While 2017 AG13 would have caused minor damage if it hit Earth, the close call highlights the dangers of asteroids.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Enhance User Privacy Controls In Upcoming Windows 10 Update (hothardware.com) 183

MojoKid writes: When Microsoft first launched Windows 10, it was generally well-received but also came saddled with a number of privacy concerns. It has taken quite a while for Microsoft to respond to these concerns in a meaningful way, but the company is finally proving that it's taking things seriously by detailing some enhanced privacy features coming to a future Windows 10 build. Microsoft is launching what it calls a (web-based) privacy dashboard, which lets you configure anything and everything about information that might be sent to back to the mothership. You can turn all tracking off, or pick and choose, if certain criteria don't concern you too much, like location or health activity, for example. Also, for fresh installs, you'll be given more specific privacy options so that you can feel confident from the get-go about the information you're sending Redmond's way. If you do decide to send any information Microsoft's way, the company promises that it won't use your information for the sake of targeted advertising.
Patents

Apple Patent Paves Way For iPhone With Full-Face Display, HUD Windows (appleinsider.com) 75

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent detailing technology that allows for ear speakers, cameras and even a heads-up display to hide behind an edge-to-edge screen, a design rumored to debut in a next-generation iPhone later this year. Awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 9,543,364 for "Electronic devices having displays with openings" describes a method by which various components can be mounted behind perforations in a device screen that are so small as to be imperceptible to the human eye. This arrangement would allow engineers to design a smartphone or tablet with a true edge-to-edge, or "full face," display. With smartphones becoming increasingly more compact, there has been a push to move essential components behind the active -- or light-emitting -- area of incorporated displays. Apple in its patent suggests mounting sensors and other equipment behind a series of openings, or through-holes, in the active portion of an OLED or similar panel. These openings might be left empty or, if desired, filled with glass, polymers, radio-transparent ceramic or other suitable material. Positioning sensor inputs directly in line with said openings facilitates the gathering of light, radio waves and acoustic signals. Microphones, cameras, antennas, light sensors and other equipment would therefore have unimpeded access beyond the display layer. The design also accommodates larger structures like iPhone's home button. According to the document, openings are formed between pixels, suggesting a self-illuminating display technology like OLED is preferred over traditional LCD structures that require backlight and filter layers. Hole groupings can be arranged in various shapes depending on the application, and might be larger or smaller than the underlying component. If implemented into a future iPhone, the window-based HUD could be Apple's first foray into augmented reality. Apple leaves the mechanics unmentioned, but the system could theoretically go beyond AR and into mixed reality applications.
Microsoft

Windows 10 Will Soon Let You Opt-Out of Automatic Driver Updates (pcworld.com) 156

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: Microsoft is giving users some more control over Windows 10 updates, with a new beta build of its operating system released Monday. The build allows folks with the Windows 10 Professional, Education, and Enterprise versions to defer new updates for up to 35 days. In addition, the company will allow those users to decide whether or not they want to include driver updates when they want to update Windows. It's a move that helps respond to one of the key criticisms of Windows 10: that Microsoft's regime of forced, cumulative updates has caused problems for users with some configurations. This way, users can steer clear of updates they don't want to install yet and dodge problematic driver updates. The newly-minted update changes are just one part of the improvements added to Windows 10 with the build released Monday. Microsoft is also working on making the initial Windows 10 setup more accessible using Cortana. The company's virtual assistant can ask users questions at setup -- when they speak languages that it can understand -- and use those answers to configure devices. A small number of beta users will also begin to see a battery life experiment pop up on their devices. Microsoft is also giving users an easier way to connect to a virtual private network. Once Windows 10 has a user's VPN settings loaded, it's possible to activate the connection with the tap of a button without opening up VPN settings.
Operating Systems

Apple Could Finally Sell More Devices Than Microsoft In 2017 (computerworld.com) 97

Gartner predicts Apple will ship more iOS and macOS devices in 2017 than Windows-powered devices "for the first time this century," and then increase their lead over the next two years. An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld: Gartner predicted that iOS + macOS, unlike Windows, will recover in 2017. Apple's OSes will climb 8% to 268 million this year, add 3% in 2018 to reach 276 million, then increase another 3% in 2019, with that year's device shipment forecast at 285 million. Windows will dip this year, then stagnate for the following two years... The gap between Microsoft and Apple -- 12 million last year, with Microsoft atop -- will widen to 27 million by 2019, advantage Apple.

"The global devices market is stagnating," said Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal in a statement Wednesday. Mobile phone shipments are growing only in emerging markets in the Asia and Pacific markets, Atwal added, and noted that "The PC market is just reaching the bottom of its decline." The PC industry's troubles have affected Microsoft most of all; Windows is almost entirely dependent on PC shipments, which have been stuck in a protracted slump. Future shipments were further hit when Microsoft walked away from the smartphone business last year.

The article also points out that even in 2016, Windows devices came in second, and "accounted for approximately 11.2% of the total devices, which overwhelmingly ran Google's Android."

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