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Microsoft Patents A User-Monitoring AI That Improves Search Results ( 68

Slashdot reader MojoKid quotes a HotHardware article about Microsoft's new patent filing for an OS "mediation component": This is Microsoft's all-seeing-eye that monitors all textual input within apps to intelligently decipher what the user is trying to accomplish. All of this information could be gathered from apps like Word, Skype, or even Notepad by the Mediator and processed. So when the user goes to, for example, the Edge web browser to further research a topic, those contextual concepts are automatically fed into a search query.

The search engine (e.g., Bing and Cortana) uses contextual rankers to adjust the ranking of the default suggested queries to produce more relevant [results]. The operating system...tracks all textual data displayed to the user by any application, and then performs clustering to determine the user intent (contextually).

The article argues this feels "creepy and big brother-esque," and while Microsoft talks of defining a "task continuum," suggests the patent's process "would in essence keep track of everything you type and interact with in the OS and stockpile it in real-time to data-dump into Bing."

Microsoft To Disable Policies In Windows 10 Pro With Anniversary Update ( 535

Reader BobSwi writes: More changes in the Windows Anniversary update, due August 2nd, are being discovered. After yesterday's news about Cortana not able to be turned off in the Windows Anniversary update, certain registry entries and group policies have been found to be updated with a note stating that they only apply to Enterprise and Education editions. Win 10 Pro users will no longer be able to turn off policies such as the Microsoft Consumer Experience, Show Windows Tips, Do not display the lock screen, and Disable all apps from the Windows Store.

NASA And The UAE Will Collaborate On A Journey To Mars ( 84

An anonymous reader quotes an article from Gizmodo: The United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced an agreement Sunday that would allow the two nations to collaborate on matters of space and aeronautics research, including the potential journey to Mars... "NASA is leading an ambitious journey to Mars that includes partnerships with the private sector and many international partners," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "I am confident this new framework agreement with the UAE Space Agency will help advance this journey."
Bolden recently wrote on his blog that "Every single nation can play a part in our journey to Mars, in our scientific journey of discovery and in the next phase of humanity's development as a spacefaring people." UAE Space Agency Chairman Dr. Khalifa Al Romaithi added today that "we believe that working alongside international partners is the best way to accelerate the development of space technologies and the space sector within the UAE." Vice notes that the UAE has had a small "presence" in outer space for about 30 years, and had been working on becoming the first Arab Islamic country to send an unmanned probe to Mars.

Google Plans To Bring Password-Free Logins To Android Apps By Year-End ( 109

An anonymous reader shares a report on TechCrunch: Google's plan to eliminate passwords in favor of systems that take into account a combination of signals -- like your typing patterns, your walking patterns, your current location, and more -- will be available to Android developers by year-end, assuming all goes well in testing this year. In an under-the-radar announcement Friday afternoon at the Google I/O developer conference, the head of Google's research unit ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) Daniel Kaufman offered a brief update regarding the status of Project Abacus, the name for a system that opts for biometrics over two-factor authentication. With Project Abacus, users would unlock devices or sign into applications based on a cumulative "Trust Score." This score would be calculated using a variety of factors, including your typing patterns, current location, speed and voice patterns, facial recognition, and other things.The Trust API will be available to developers, who can then implement that into their apps. The company says that developers will have the option to adjust the threshold required for a trust score.

Microsoft Urged to Open Source Classic Visual Basic ( 331

"On the 25th anniversary of classic Visual Basic, return it to its programmers..." reads the plea at from Sue Gee -- drawing 85 upvotes. "The new Microsoft claims to back open source, why not in this case? There is no need for Microsoft to do any more work on the code base - simply open source it and allow the community to keep it alive."

In an essay at, Gee shares a video of young Bill Gates building an app with Visual Basic in 1991, and complains that in the 25 years since Microsoft has open sourced .NET Core and the .NET Compiler Platform Roslyn, "but it has explicitly refused to open source VB6." She notes that Friday Visual Basic's program manager announced a "Visual Basic Silver Anniversary Celebratiathon," promising he's reaching out to the VB team members from the last 25 years for a behind-the-scenes retrospective, and adding "this is a party, so feel free to be interactive."

"What the post glosses over is that this history was blighted by the fork in the road that was .NET and that many Visual Basic fans are highly unsatisfied that the programming environment they cherished is lost to them..." writes Gee. "Vote for the proposal not because you want to use VB6 or that you think it is worth having -- Vote for it because a company like Microsoft should not take a language away from its users."

The Pirate Bay Now Blocked In Chrome, Firefox, And Safari ( 202

An anonymous reader writes: Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari are actively blocking direct access to The Pirate Bay. Kickass Torrents suffered such a similar incident last month, because of the intermediary confirmation screen that appeared every time users navigated away from the site.

The reason why these three browsers block access to The Pirate Bay is unknown, but it could be related to a malvertising campaign that has plagued the site for more than two weeks. Two weeks ago, the malvertising campaign intensified right when season six of Game of Thrones premiered.

Meanwhile, HBO is contacting sites asking them to remove Game of Thrones torrents, and sending thousands of copyright infringement warnings to ISPs, urging them to remind pirates that they can stream HBO content legally after purchasing a subscription to HBO.

Marketers Hunger For Data From Wearables ( 82

An anonymous reader writes:Marketers would love to access information about your daily routines and your precise location, both data sets that would be trivially easy to extract from wearable devices. Those were the two most-requested items in a new survey of marketers, according to a new article at "In the future the data procured from smartwatches might be much more valuable than what is currently available from laptop and mobile users," reports David Curry, raising the possibility that stores might someday use your past Google searches to alert you when they're selling a cheaper product.

YouTube To Roll Out 6-Second Ads That You Can't Skip ( 279

An anonymous reader writes: YouTube announced on Tuesday that it will be introducing an unskippable, 6-second bumper ads before certain videos. The video juggernaut says that these ads are largely aimed at mobile users. "We like to think of Bumper ads as little haikus of video ads -- and we're excited to see what the creative community will do with them," YouTube's Zach Lupei wrote in a blog post. The Verge reports, "The company justifies the short ads (which cannot be skipped, unlike longer spots) by pointing to research showing that 50 percent of 18 to 49-year-olds turn to mobile as their first option for consuming video -- and keep in mind a ton of that is music."

James Cameron Announces Four Sequels to 'Avatar' ( 283

An anonymous reader writes: In a surprise appearance at CinemaCon, James Cameron announced plans for "a truly massive cinematic process" -- four new sequels to his 2009 blockbuster Avatar, plus a Disney theme park. "It's going to be a true epic saga," Cameron told the audience, promising that Avatar 2 would be released in Christmas of 2018, followed by three additional sequels, for a total of five Avatar-themed movies. Cameron's original sci-fi blockbuster earned $2.8 billion, though at least one Slashdot user argued that its overall message was that technology is bad, "strange because the movie is among most technically sophisticated ever."

Slashdot Asks: It's Been a Year Since Apple Watch Release, What's Your Thought On It? 359

In an op-ed, Quartz's Mike Murphy writes that Apple Watch, the Cupertino-based company's first wearable device, hasn't been the success the company was hoping it to be. Apple unveiled the Apple Watch alongside the iPhone 6 at a media conference in September 2014. It wasn't, however, until April 2015 that the company began selling it. The Apple Watch has received a mixed response from people. While some have found the design premium-looking, almost everyone has complained about the battery life. Many have found the health-centric features of Apple Watch useful. though the lack of apps, in general, is a downer for many. Apple, which usually doesn't miss boasting sales number, remains tight-lipped on exactly how many Apple Watch units it has sold. Murphy writes: Every Apple product in the last 15 years or so has been two things: desirable and useful. They've made it easier for people to be creative, listen to a lot of music on the go, communicate with anyone in the world or find out any piece of information wherever they are. The Apple Watch looks good, but from a desirability perspective, some argue that the most interesting thing about it has been the collaborations it has had with Hermes, rather than the watch itself. Apple has always prided itself on 'thinking different', and has stood out by creating differentiating products. But different in the case of the Apple Watch right now just means "weird." Apple probably doesn't want a product where using one gets you referred to as "that guy." Do you own an Apple Watch? If not, are you planning to purchase one? Those who own it, what features do you like in the Apple Watch that you think other watches cannot offer.
Wireless Networking

MIT Demos Wi-Fi That's So High-Tech It Doesn't Need a Password ( 92

An anonymous reader shares an article on MIC: Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology want to change how we connect to Wi-Fi. To avoid the cumbersome network login process, a team has come up with a way to grant computers access to a Wi-Fi network based on their proximity to a router. Applied practically, that means you could walk into a cafe and your device would automatically connect to a network -- no annoying password necessary. The same could be true for a home network. When your friends come over, they could immediately be granted access to your Wi-Fi. The paper (PDF), sadly, doesn't offer details on the security aspect. Security researchers advise that one should be careful when connecting to a public Wi-Fi. Say you forget to turn off Wi-Fi on your device, and you walk into a cafe. Your phone will automatically establish a connection with this supposed network. If the network is compromised, plenty of devices will be exposed to attack.

Confirmed: Microsoft and Canonical Partner To Bring Ubuntu To Windows 10 ( 492

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols reports for ZDNet: According to sources at Canonical, Ubuntu Linux's parent company, and Microsoft, you'll soon be able to run Ubuntu on Windows 10. This will be more than just running the Bash shell on Windows 10. After all, thanks to programs such as Cygwin or MSYS utilities, hardcore Unix users have long been able to run the popular Bash command line interface (CLI) on Windows. With this new addition, Ubuntu users will be able to run Ubuntu simultaneously with Windows. This will not be in a virtual machine, but as an integrated part of Windows 10. [...] Microsoft and Canonical will not, however, sources say, be integrating Linux per se into Windows. Instead, Ubuntu will primarily run on a foundation of native Windows libraries. Update: 03/30 16:16 GMT by M : At its developer conference Build 2016, Microsoft on Wednesday confirmed that it is bringing native support for Bash on Windows 10. Scott Hanselman writes: This isn't Bash or Ubuntu running in a VM. This is a real native Bash Linux binary running on Windows itself. It's fast and lightweight and it's the real binaries. This is a genuine Ubuntu image on top of Windows with all the Linux tools I use like awk, sed, grep, vi, etc. It's fast and it's lightweight. The binaries are downloaded by you - using apt-get - just as on Linux, because it is Linux. You can apt-get and download other tools like Ruby, Redis, emacs, and on and on. This is brilliant for developers that use a diverse set of tools like me.

Microsoft Finally Ships $8,999 Surface Hub ( 109

An anonymous reader quotes a report from eWeek: Surface Hub, originally slated to ship last September and later missing its January 2016 release deadline, is finally being delivered to Microsoft's business customers, announced Brian Hall, general manager of Microsoft Devices Marketing, on Friday. The touch-enabled Windows 10-powered device, available in a 55-inch and a massive 84-inch model, features built-in cameras, a microphone array, Bluetooth, WiFi, motion sensors and near-field communications (NFC). It runs Skype for Business, Office and OneNote, providing an integrated collaboration experience, and at least with the 84-inch model, an expansive canvas for interactive presentations and virtual meetings. With the Surface Hub, Microsoft is making an aggressive push into the conferencing and collaboration market currently dominated by Cisco, Citrix and Polycom. "I couldn't be more proud to announce this milestone for our team, customers, and partners. We can't wait to see what people, teams and businesses will do with Surface Hub," said Hall in a March 25 announcement.

Volvo Wants You To Ditch Car Keys For Its New Smartphone App ( 293

An anonymous reader quotes an article on DailyDot: Lending your car to a friend could be as easy as sending a text. That's the future Volvo is imaging with its smartphone app that enables keyless entry for the driver -- and anyone with permission to enter. Announced earlier this year and now prominently on display at the New York International Auto Show, the app does away with key fobs and puts the key right on the user's phone. Using the device's Bluetooth capability, the app can do just about everything that a standard key could do -- from unlocking the doors to popping open the trunk to even starting the engine of the vehicle without turning the ignition. Beyond just convenience for the primary holder, the Volvo app also allows others to take the wheel without requiring a physical key. Users are able to grant digital keys to others, allowing them temporary or ongoing access to the car.

Microsoft May Help Finance Yahoo Buyout, Says Report 29

Microsoft is in talks with equity firms that are considering making bids for purchasing Yahoo. The company says that it is willing to offer a significant financing for their efforts, reports Kara Swisher, who has a commendable track record. Swisher, however, adds that Microsoft is yet to make any commitments so far to investors. From her report at Recode: Microsoft wants to ensure that if Yahoo is sold, whoever buys it will be a good partner going forward. That makes sense, since Microsoft has close search and advertising ties with Yahoo, part of a longtime partnership. Many don't realize this but, Yahoo still has a number of web properties that are churning a lot of cash. According to web traffic monitoring website SimilarWeb, Yahoo website, for instance, alone is visited about 6.7 billion times every month. That's a lot of money in the advertising world. According to a report, Yahoo also recently got serious about advertising on Tumblr, one of the most popular blogging platforms. The company is considering a deal with Facebook to allow the social juggernaut to run ads on its network. Then we have popular photo storage and sharing service Flickr and also Yahoo's investment in Chinese technology conglomerate Alibaba. Although Yahoo has lost its "charm" over the years, it is still a pretty major company. For Microsoft, which has purchased a number of startups in the past two years, putting money in Yahoo could eventually turn out to be a great deal.
The Internet

You Can Now Get Comcast TV and Internet Service Through Amazon ( 97

An anonymous reader writes from a Fortune article: Comcast has struck a big online retail partnership. The media conglomerate has begun selling its Xfinity TV, phone, and Internet services through Amazon. Comcast's service bundles are available through's recently debuted Amazon Cable Store. Comcast customers have long complained about the company's shoddy customer service. "Xfinity purchases made on Amazon are supported by a dedicated team of highly trained Comcast customer service agents who are based in Comcast's new, state-of-the-art call centers in Spokane, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona," Comcast wrote in a blog post. According to Cable Store FAQ, users will have to go through Comcast directly if they want to make any changes to their existing plan.

Apple Unveils Smaller iPhone SE, Starting At $399 ( 158

An anonymous reader writes: Apple has officially unveiled a smaller, cheaper iPhone designed to make a splash in the budget-friendly smartphone market. The new device, called the iPhone SE, looks nearly identical to the iPhone 5S but with a new rose gold color configuration. It's the internal specifications that differ significantly. The new iPhone SE will feature a NFC chip for Apple Pay, A9 processor and M9 motion co-processor, 12-megapixel camera sensor with the ability to capture 4K video, and a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Unfortunately, it does not feature Apple's new 3D touch functionality. The iPhone SE will come in two models, 16GB and 64GB, priced at $399 and $499 respectively. You can buy the new iPhone starting March 31, and it will make its way to 100 countries by May.

Windows 10 Upgrade Reportedly Starting Automatically On Windows 7 PCs ( 370

An anonymous reader writes: Many users have confirmed in the comment section of a popular reddit post that "Windows 7 computers are being reported as automatically starting the Windows 10 upgrade without permission." It's no secret that Microsoft wants users to upgrade to their new OS. Earlier in the year, Windows 10 was set as a 'recommended update' so when you install new security or bug patches, the new OS is selected by default as well. Terry Myerson, head of the OS group at Microsoft, warned users about the possibility of the OS automatically installing. "Depending upon your Windows Update settings, this may cause the upgrade process to automatically initiate on your device. Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue," he said. Whether or not the recent outcry is caused from users forgetting to deselect the Windows 10 upgrade in the update list or Microsoft updating Windows 7 PCs without users' permission, the good news is that you have 30 days to downgrade to the previous version of the OS.

Microsoft Brings SQL Server To Linux ( 314

Mark Wilson writes: The new Microsoft has place an increased importance on the cloud, and with other companies following suit, reliance on server solutions has increased. Today the company announces that it is bringing SQL Server to Linux. Both cloud and on-premises versions will be available, and the news has been welcomed by the likes of Red Hat and Canonical. Although the Linux port of SQL Server is not due to make an appearance until the middle of next year, a private preview version is being available to testers starting today. While the full launch of SQL Server for Linux is not due until the middle of 2017, SQL Server 2016 is expected to launch later this year.

New Research Shows You Can Grow Sperm In a Dish ( 158

sciencehabit writes: How the male body produces sperm has long been hidden inside its genitalia. Trying to recreate the process in a lab for humans and other mammals has led to many failures - sperm development appeared to be dependent on unique conditions in the testes. But a new technique may finally be bringing that process into the open. A team of Chinese researchers reports turning a dish of a certain type of mouse stem cell into spermlike cells, which were then used to fertilize eggs and produce healthy mouse pups. The approach could help researchers study mammalian sperm development more directly, and it could spur efforts to develop treatments for male infertility in people.

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