Microsoft

LinkedIn Users Will Soon Know What Jobs Pay Before Applying for Them (adweek.com) 40

LinkedIn just introduced a way to help its members avoid going through the interview process for jobs with salaries that do not meet their expectations. From a report: The professional network announced the rollout of Salary Insights, which will add estimated or expected salary ranges to open roles, getting the numbers either through salary ranges provided by employers or estimated ranges from data submitted by members. The feature will launch "in the coming weeks." Salary Insights marks the next step after LinkedIn Salary, which the professional network launched in November 2016 to provide its users with information on salaries, bonuses and equity data for specific job titles, as well as factors that impact those salaries, including experience, industry, company size, location and education level.
Education

Learning To Program Is Getting Harder (slashdot.org) 241

theodp writes: While Google suggests that parents and educators are to blame for why kids can't code, Allen Downey, Professor at Olin College argues that learning to program is getting harder . Downey writes: The fundamental problem is that the barrier between using a computer and programming a computer is getting higher. When I got a Commodore 64 (in 1982, I think) this barrier was non-existent. When you turned on the computer, it loaded and ran a software development environment (SDE). In order to do anything, you had to type at least one line of code, even if all it did was another program (like Archon). Since then, three changes have made it incrementally harder for users to become programmers:
1. Computer retailers stopped installing development environments by default. As a result, anyone learning to program has to start by installing an SDE -- and that's a bigger barrier than you might expect. Many users have never installed anything, don't know how to, or might not be allowed to. Installing software is easier now than it used to be, but it is still error prone and can be frustrating. If someone just wants to learn to program, they shouldn't have to learn system administration first.
2. User interfaces shifted from command-line interfaces (CLIs) to graphical user interfaces (GUIs). GUIs are generally easier to use, but they hide information from users about what's really happening. When users really don't need to know, hiding information can be a good thing. The problem is that GUIs hide a lot of information programmers need to know. So when a user decides to become a programmer, they are suddenly confronted with all the information that's been hidden from them. If someone just wants to learn to program, they shouldn't have to learn operating system concepts first.
3. Cloud computing has taken information hiding to a whole new level. People using web applications often have only a vague idea of where their data is stored and what applications they can use to access it. Many users, especially on mobile devices, don't distinguish between operating systems, applications, web browsers, and web applications. When they upload and download data, they are often confused about where is it coming from and where it is going. When they install something, they are often confused about what is being installed where. For someone who grew up with a Commodore 64, learning to program was hard enough. For someone growing up with a cloud-connected mobile device, it is much harder.
theodp continues: So, with the Feds budgeting $200 million a year for K-12 CS at the behest of U.S. tech leaders, can't the tech giants at least put a BASIC on every phone/tablet/laptop for kids?
DRM

Pirates Crack Microsoft's UWP Protection, Five Layers of DRM Defeated (torrentfreak.com) 85

A piracy scene group has managed to get past the five layers of DRM in Microsoft's Unified Windows Platform UWP -- which enables software developers to create applications that can run across many devices. From a report: This week it became clear that the UWP system, previously believed to be uncrackable, had fallen to pirates. After being released on October 31, 2017, the somewhat underwhelming Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection became the first victim at the hands of popular scene group, CODEX. "This is the first scene release of a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) game. Therefore we would like to point out that it will of course only work on Windows 10. This particular game requires Windows 10 version 1607 or newer," the group said in its release notes. CODEX says it's important that the game isn't allowed to communicate with the Internet so the group advises users to block the game's executable in their firewall.
Security

Google Exposes How Malicious Sites Can Exploit Microsoft Edge (zdnet.com) 50

Google's Project Zero team has published details of an unfixed bypass for an important exploit-mitigation technique in Edge. From a report: The mitigation, Arbitrary Code Guard (ACG), arrived in the Windows 10 Creators Update to help thwart web attacks that attempt to load malicious code into memory. The defense ensures that only properly signed code can be mapped into memory. However, as Microsoft explains, Just-in-Time (JIT) compilers used in modern web browsers create a problem for ACG. JIT compilers transform JavaScript into native code, some of which is unsigned and runs in a content process.

To ensure JIT compilers work with ACG enabled, Microsoft put Edge's JIT compiling in a separate process that runs in its own isolated sandbox. Microsoft said this move was "a non-trivial engineering task." "The JIT process is responsible for compiling JavaScript to native code and mapping it into the requesting content process. In this way, the content process itself is never allowed to directly map or modify its own JIT code pages," Microsoft says. Google's Project Zero found an issue is created by the way the JIT process writes executable data into the content process.

AI

Microsoft Launches LinkedIn-Powered Resume Assistant For Office 365 Subscribers 23

Microsoft and LinkedIn have launched their Resume Assistant, a Word-integrated tool that aims to help you write your resume by suggesting work experience descriptions pulled from similar LinkedIn profiles and requirements from real job postings. "The feature is available to Microsoft Office 365 subscribers, but one does not need a LinkedIn account to use it," reports Quartz. From the report: What's more, when you're done, Resume Assistant promises to "surface relevant job opportunities for you directly within Microsoft Word." The tool is the newest product to come out of Microsoft's takeover of LinkedIn, the high price of which raised more questions than it answered. Industry analysts speculated that Microsoft might have more up its sleeve than just trying to snag more users -- offering companies an entire hiring, learning, and training package, perhaps.
Crime

Electronics-Recycling Innovator Faces Prison For Extending Computers' Lives 277

schwit1 shares a report from Los Angeles Times: Prosecutors said 33-year-old [Eric Lundgren, an electronic-waste recycling innovator] ripped off Microsoft by manufacturing 28,000 counterfeit discs with the company's Windows operating system on them. He was convicted of conspiracy and copyright infringement, which brought a 15-month prison sentence and a $50,000 fine. In a rare move though, a federal appeals court has granted an emergency stay of the sentence, giving Lundgren another chance to make his argument that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Lundgren does not deny that he made the discs or that he hoped to sell them. But he says this was no profit-making scheme. By his account, he just wanted to make it easier to extend the usefulness of secondhand computers -- keeping more of them out of the trash.

The case centers on "restore discs," which can be used only on computers that already have the licensed Windows software and can be downloaded free from the computer's manufacturer, in this case Dell. The discs are routinely provided to buyers of new computers to enable them to reinstall their operating systems if the computers' hardware fails or must be wiped clean. But they often are lost by the time used computers find their way to a refurbisher. Lundgren said he thought electronics companies wanted the reuse of computers to be difficult so that people would buy new ones. He thought that producing and selling restore discs to computer refurbishers -- saving them the hassle of downloading the software and burning new discs -- would encourage more secondhand sales. In his view, the new owners were entitled to the software, and this just made it easier. The government, and Microsoft, did not see it that way. Federal prosecutors in Florida obtained a 21-count indictment against Lundgren and his business partner, and Microsoft filed a letter seeking $420,000 in restitution for lost sales. Lundgren claims that the assistant U.S. attorney on the case told him, "Microsoft wants your head on a platter and I'm going to give it to them."
Microsoft

Windows 10 Compatibility Issues Forcing US Air Force To Scrap a Significant Number of Computers (betanews.com) 146

The US Department of Defense has decreed that the Air Force must complete its migration to Windows 10 by March 31 2018. From a report: Failure to do so will result in any systems not running Microsoft's latest operating system being denied access to the Air Force Network. However, because Windows 10 is not compatible with many of the Air Force's existing systems, a significant number of computers will need to be replaced in order to hit the deadline.
Microsoft

Hey Microsoft, Stop Installing Apps On My PC Without Asking (howtogeek.com) 502

Chris Hoffman, writing for How To Geek: I'm getting sick of Windows 10's auto-installing apps. Apps like Facebook are now showing up out of nowhere, and even displaying notifications begging for me to use them. I didn't install the Facebook app, I didn't give it permission to show notifications, and I've never even used it. So why is it bugging me? Windows 10 has always been a little annoying about these apps, but it wasn't always this bad. Microsoft went from "we pinned a few tiles, but the apps aren't installed until you click them" to "the apps are now automatically installed on your PC" to "the automatically installed apps are now sending you notifications." It's ridiculous.
Windows

Windows 10 Is Adding an Ultimate Performance Mode For Pros (engadget.com) 150

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: When you're creating 3D models or otherwise running intensive tasks, you want to wring every ounce of performance out of your PC as possible. It's a good thing, then, that Microsoft has released a Windows 10 preview build in the Fast ring that includes a new Ultimate Performance mode if you're running Pro for Workstations. As the name implies, this is a step up for people for whom even the High Performance mode isn't enough -- it throws power management out the window to eliminate "micro-latencies" and boost raw speed. You can set it yourself, but PC makers will have the option of shipping systems with the feature turned on. Ultimate Performance isn't currently available for laptops or tablets, but Microsoft suggests that could change.
Businesses

Bill Gates: Tech Companies Inviting Government Intervention (axios.com) 150

In an interview with Axios on Tuesday, Bill Gates warned Apple and other tech giants that they risk the kind of nightmarish government intervention that once plagued his Microsoft if they act arrogantly. Axios reports: The big picture: "The companies need to be careful that they're not ... advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we've come to count on." Asked if he sees instances of that now, Gates replied: "Oh, absolutely." Why it matters: With the Big Tech companies feeling they're suddenly drawing unfair scrutiny, this is Microsoft's co-founder saying they're bringing some of the problems on themselves, by resisting legitimate oversight.
Microsoft

Microsoft: We're Developing Blockchain ID System Starting With Our Authenticator App (zdnet.com) 57

Microsoft has revealed its plans to use blockchain distributed-ledger technologies to securely store and manage digital identities, starting with an experiment using the Microsoft Authenticator app. From a report: Microsoft reckons the technology holds promise as a superior alternative to people granting consent to dozens of apps and services and having their identity data spread across multiple providers. It highlights that with the existing model people don't have control over their identity data and are left exposed to data breaches and identity theft. Instead, people could store, control and access their identity in an encrypted digital hub, Microsoft explained. To achieve this goal, Microsoft has for the past year been incubating ideas for using blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies to create new types of decentralized digital identities.
Bug

Skype Can't Fix a Nasty Security Bug Without a Massive Code Rewrite (zdnet.com) 151

ZDNet reports of a security flaw in Skype's updater process that "can allow an attacker to gain system-level privileges to a vulnerable computer." If the bug is exploited, it "can escalate a local unprivileged user to the full 'system' level rights -- granting them access to every corner of the operating system." What's worse is that Microsoft, which owns Skype, won't fix the flaw because it would require the updater to go through "a large code revision." Instead, Microsoft is putting all its resources on building an altogether new client. From the report: Security researcher Stefan Kanthak found that the Skype update installer could be exploited with a DLL hijacking technique, which allows an attacker to trick an application into drawing malicious code instead of the correct library. An attacker can download a malicious DLL into a user-accessible temporary folder and rename it to an existing DLL that can be modified by an unprivileged user, like UXTheme.dll. The bug works because the malicious DLL is found first when the app searches for the DLL it needs. Once installed, Skype uses its own built-in updater to keep the software up to date. When that updater runs, it uses another executable file to run the update, which is vulnerable to the hijacking. The attack reads on the clunky side, but Kanthak told ZDNet in an email that the attack could be easily weaponized. He explained, providing two command line examples, how a script or malware could remotely transfer a malicious DLL into that temporary folder.
Businesses

51 Percent of Financial Services Companies Believe Existing Tech is Holding Them Back (betanews.com) 141

An anonymous reader shares a report: Legacy technology can be a major obstacle to digital transformation projects and, according to a new survey of financial services technology decision makers carried out for business consultancy Janeiro Digital, almost 51 percent say existing technology is holding back innovation. Three of the biggest roadblocks are seen as lack of support for change (34 percent), legacy technology and infrastructure (31.6 percent) and a lack of in-house technical skill (29.5 percent). As a consequence 23 percent of respondents believe their company is behind in digital transformation compared to others in the industry. Only 47 percent are currently implementing new technologies, with 12.6 percent wanting to do so but not having started. That leaves 40 percent not innovating which could see them lose out in a world where consumers want better, faster financial products.
AI

AIs Have Replaced Aliens As Our Greatest World Destroying Fear (qz.com) 227

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Quartz: As we've turned our gaze away from the stars and toward our screens, our anxiety about humanity's ultimate fate has shifted along with it. No longer are we afraid of aliens taking our freedom: It's the technology we're building on our own turf we should be worried about. The advent of artificial intelligence is increasingly bringing about the kinds of disturbing scenarios the old alien blockbusters warned us about. In 2016, Microsoft's first attempt at a functioning AI bot, Tay, became a Hitler-loving mess an hour after it launched. Tesla CEO Elon Musk urged the United Nations to ban the use of AI in weapons before it becomes "the third revolution in warfare." And in China, AI surveillance cameras are being rolled out by the government to track 1.3 billion people at a level Big Brother could only dream of. As AI's presence in film and TV has evolved, space creatures blowing us up now seems almost quaint compared to the frightening uncertainties of an computer-centric world. Will Smith went from saving Earth from alien destruction to saving it from robot servants run amok. More recently, Ex Machina, Chappie, and Transcendence have all explored the complexities that arise when the lines between human and robot blur.

However, sentient machines aren't a new anxiety. It arguably all started with Ridley Scott's 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner. It's a stunning depiction of a sprawling, smog-choked future, filled with bounty hunters muttering "enhance" at grainy pictures on computer screens. ("Alexa, enlarge image.") The neo-noir epic popularized the concept of intelligent machines being virtually indistinguishable from humans and asked the audience where our humanity ends and theirs begin. Even alien sci-fi now acknowledges that we've got worse things to worry about than extra-terrestrials: ourselves.

Intel

Intel Replaces its Buggy Fix for Skylake PCs (zdnet.com) 57

Intel has released new microcode to address the stability and reboot issues on systems after installing its initial mitigations for Variant 2 of the Meltdown and Spectre attacks. From a report: The stability issues caused by Intel's microcode updates resulted in Lenovo, HP, and Dell halting their deployment of BIOS updates last month as Intel worked to resolve the problems. Intel initially said unexpected reboots were only seen on Broadwell and Haswell chips, but later admitted newer Skylake architecture chips were also affected. Microsoft also said it had also seen Intel's updates cause data loss or corruption in some cases.
Bitcoin

Attackers Drain CPU Power From Water Utility Plant In Cryptojacking Attack (eweek.com) 76

darthcamaro writes: Apparently YouTube isn't the only site that is draining CPU power with unauthorized cryptocurrency miners. A water utility provider in Europe is literally being drained of its CPU power via an cryptojacking attack that was undetected for three weeks. eWeek reports: "At this point, Radiflow's (the security firm that discovered the cryptocurrency mining malware) investigation indicates that the cryptocurrency mining malware was likely downloaded from a malicious advertising site. As such, the theory that Radiflow CTO Yehonatan Kfir has is that an operator at the water utility was able to open a web browser and clicked on an advertising link that led the mining code being installed on the system. The actual system that first got infected is what is known as a Human Machine Interface (HMI) to the SCADA network and it was running the Microsoft Windows XP operating system. Radiflow's CEO, Ilan Barda, noted that many SCADA environments still have Windows XP systems deployed as operators tend to be very slow to update their operating systems." Radiflow doesn't know how much Monero (XMR) cryptocurrency was mined by the malware, but a recent report from Cisco's Talos research group revealed that some of the top un-authorized cryptocurrency campaigns generate over a million dollars per year. The average system would generate nearly $200,000 per year.
Software

Windows 10 Will Soon Get Progressive Web Apps To Boost the Microsoft Store (techradar.com) 152

The next major update to Windows 10 will bring Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to the Microsoft Store. PWAs are websites (or web apps) which are implemented as native apps, and delivered just like a normal app through Windows 10's store. According to TechRadar, "The big advantages are that no platform-specific code is required, allowing devs to make apps that run across different platforms, and that PWAs are hosted on the developer's server, so can be updated directly from there (without having to push updates to the app store)." The other benefit for Microsoft is that they will be getting a bunch of new apps in Windows 10's store. From the report: As Microsoft explains in a blog post, these new web apps are built on a raft of nifty technologies -- including Service Worker, Fetch networking, Push notifications and more -- all of which will be enabled when EdgeHTML 17 (the next version of the rendering engine that powers the Edge browser) goes live in Windows 10 in the next big update. PWAs can be grabbed from the Microsoft Store as an AppX file, and will run in their own sandboxed container, without needing the browser to be open at all. As far as the user is concerned, they'll be just like any other app downloaded from the store. Microsoft says it is already experimenting with crawling and indexing PWAs from the web to pick out the quality offerings, which it will draft into the Microsoft Store. The firm has already combed through some 1.5 million web apps to pick out a small selection of PWAs for initial testing. As well as discovering apps via web crawling, developers will also be able to submit their offerings directly to Microsoft for approval.
Businesses

Apple Music Was Always Going To Win (gizmodo.com) 161

Apple Music is about to overtake Spotify as the most popular streaming music service in the United States, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend. Gizmodo: [...] Here's where the inevitability comes into play. Because all Apple devices come preloaded with Apple Music, countless consumers start using Apple Music without knowing any better. It's effectively become the streaming music analogue of Microsoft pushing people to surf the web with Internet Explorer. The big difference is that people eventually have to pay for Apple Music, which is the same price as Spotify. As many suspected when it launched three years ago, Apple Music was bound to succeed simply because Apple is big enough and rich enough to will it so. Think about it this way: Spotify gained traction quickly after its 2011 launch, largely because music enthusiasts had seen its streaming model succeed globally and wanted to try this neat new thing. After all, there wasn't anything quite like it at the time, and Americans love to feel innovative.

But eventually, Spotify would cease to feel special and new. As the years passed, practically every major tech company launched its own music streaming service. And then, in 2015, Apple unveiled Apple Music in 2015 -- which was really just a rebranded version of Beats Music. Because Apple could preload the service on iPhones, Watches, and Macs, the company could effectively tap into a new revenue stream without actually inventing anything.

Businesses

New Digital Technology Can, in Some Circumstances, Make Businesses Less Productive (bloomberg.com) 73

In a poll of 20,000 European workers released Monday, Microsoft, which became one of the world's most profitable companies by marketing office productivity software, acknowledges new digital technology can, in some circumstances, make businesses less productive. From a report: Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft joins a growing number of prominent Silicon Valley companies and entrepreneurs that are starting to question the social benefits of the technology they once championed. Facebook warned in December that its social network might, in some cases, cause psychological harm. Microsoft identifies a number of possible reasons for this negative impact, including: workers who are too distracted by a constant influx of e-mails, Slack messages, Trello notifications, texts, Tweets -- not to mention viral cat videos -- to concentrate for sustained periods; workers who aren't properly trained to use the new technology effectively; tech that isn't adequately supported by the business, forcing workers to lose time because "the computers are down;" and workers who suffer burnout because, with mobile devices and at-home-working, they feel tethered to the job around-the-clock.
Microsoft

Why Windows Vista Ended Up Being a Mess (usejournal.com) 224

alaskana98 shares an article called "What Really Happened with Vista: An Insider's Retrospective." Ben Fathi, formerly a manager of various teams at Microsoft responsible for storage, file systems, high availability/clustering, file level network protocols, distributed file systems, and related technologies and later security, writes: Imagine supporting that same OS for a dozen years or more for a population of billions of customers, millions of companies, thousands of partners, hundreds of scenarios, and dozens of form factors -- and you'll begin to have an inkling of the support and compatibility nightmare. In hindsight, Linux has been more successful in this respect. The open source community and approach to software development is undoubtedly part of the solution. The modular and pluggable architecture of Unix/Linux is also a big architectural improvement in this respect. An organization, sooner or later, ships its org chart as its product; the Windows organization was no different. Open source doesn't have that problem...

I personally spent many years explaining to antivirus vendors why we would no longer allow them to "patch" kernel instructions and data structures in memory, why this was a security risk, and why they needed to use approved APIs going forward, that we would no longer support their legacy apps with deep hooks in the Windows kernel -- the same ones that hackers were using to attack consumer systems. Our "friends", the antivirus vendors, turned around and sued us, claiming we were blocking their livelihood and abusing our monopoly power! With friends like that, who needs enemies?

I like how the essay ends. "Was it an incredibly complex product with an amazingly huge ecosystem (the largest in the world at that time)? Yup, that it was. Could we have done better? Yup, you bet... Hindsight is 20/20."

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