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Microsoft Announces Ultra-Thin, Pixel-Dense Surface Studio Touchscreen PC ( 186

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft's first Surface-branded desktop PC now exists, and it is called the Surface Studio. The PC features a 28" display with 13.5 million pixels, which means the display is roughly 63 percent denser than a "4K" screen at 3840x2160 resolution. That screen is also an astonishing 12.5mm thick. The specs we know so far: an integrated 270W PSU, 2TB "rapid" hard drive (meaning, hopefully, an SSD portion in a "hybrid" configuration, but that is not yet confirmed), 32GB RAM, a quad-core Skylake CPU, and a Windows Hello-compatible front-facing camera. In his demonstration of the device, Panos Panay, Microsoft's head of Windows hardware, held up a piece of paper to demonstrate "true scale" resolution density, so that holding that paper up to the screen would offer like-for-like comparability. He also showed off live color gamut switching, which visual designers will clearly appreciate.Update: 10/26 17:59 GMT: FastCompany has an in-depth story on Surface Studio and how it was conceived.

Microsoft Unveils Windows 10 Creators Update, Coming in Early 2017 ( 87

Microsoft today announced Creators Update for Windows 10. The company said Creators Update will release with a slew of new features at no charge in early 2017. From a report on Fortune: The Windows 10 Creators Update lets users on mobile devices take three-dimensional photos by scanning an object as they walk around it. It also allows for 3D graphics in Microsoft's popular PowerPoint presentation software, and a new "Paint 3D" application lets people edit photos and other designs in three dimensions. Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president for the Windows and devices group, said the update was tailored for gamers who are increasingly interested in augmented and virtual reality experiences. "Windows 10 will be your platform for gaming glory," he said at a product launch event in New York.

Microsoft Announces Paint 3D, the Biggest Update Ever To the Classic App ( 87

Microsoft is releasing a revamped and modernized Paint app for Windows 10 that let people draw and convert things in 3D. The company announced the app at its keynote today where it stressed the future of making things in 3D. The Verge adds:Users can take photos and easy turn portions of the photo into 3D objects. Along with the app, users can also share work in a new community online that comes with a focus on Minecraft. People can directly export from the game and 3D print whatever they make. The new version of the Paint app was put online earlier this month and available for anyone to download. The app is a Universal Windows app that comes with pen and touch-friendly features, as well as support for 3D objects. The new app stays true to the original Paint app in that it's a basic editing and creating app but with some added 3D effects.

Benchmark Battle October 2016: Chrome Vs. Firefox Vs. Edge ( 134

Krystalo quotes a report from VentureBeat: It's been more than a year since our last browser benchmark battle, and the competition remains fierce. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge have all gained a variety of new features and improvements over the past year. It's time to see if any of them have managed to pull ahead of the pack. It appears that Edge has made the biggest gains since last year. That said, browser performance is improving at a very rapid pace, and it shouldn't be your only consideration when picking your preferred app for consuming Internet content. You can click on individual tests below to see the details:

SunSpider: Edge wins!
Octane: Edge wins!
Kraken: Chrome wins!
JetStream: Edge wins!
Oort Online: Firefox wins!
Peacekeeper: Firefox wins!
WebXPRT: Edge wins!
HTML5Test: Chrome wins!

You can also read all about the setup used for the benchmark tests here. VentureBeat used a custom desktop PC, featuring an Intel Core i5 4440 processor (6M Cache, 3.10 GHz), 8GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, a 500GB SATA hard drive (7200 RPM), an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics card, and a 24-inch widescreen LED monitor (1920 x 1080).

Snapchat, Skype Put Users' 'Human Rights at Risk', Amnesty Int'l Reports ( 46

Shanika Gunaratna, writing for CBS News: Snapchat and Skype are falling short in protecting users' privacy -- a failure that puts users' "human rights at risk," according to a report by the organization Amnesty International. Snapchat and Skype received dismal grades in a new set of rankings released by Amnesty that specifically evaluate how popular messaging apps use encryption to protect users' private communications. In the report, Amnesty is trying to elevate encryption as a human rights necessity, due to concerns that activists, opposition politicians and journalists in some countries could be put in grave danger if their communications on popular messaging apps were compromised. "Activists around the world rely on encryption to protect themselves from spying by authorities, and it is unacceptable for technology companies to expose them to danger by failing to adequately respond to the human rights risks," Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of Amnesty's technology and human rights team, said in a statement. "The future of privacy and free speech online depends to a very large extent on whether tech companies provide services that protect our communications, or serve them up on a plate for prying eyes."Microsoft's Skype received 40 out of 100. WhatsApp fared at 73, and Apple scored 67 out of 100 for its iMessage and FaceTime apps. BlackBerry, Snapchat, and China's Tencent did 30 out of 100.

Satya Nadella: 'We Clearly Missed the Mobile Phone' ( 243

At the Wall Street Journal's WSJD Live conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella admitted that Microsoft has largely failed in making a dent in the mobile hardware business. Nadella, who took over the command of Microsoft from Steve Ballmer in February 2014, however added that the company is now focused on doing well in new categories and also building new categories. He said:We clearly missed the mobile phone, there's no question. Our goal now is to make sure we grow new categories. We have devices which are phones today but the place where we are focused on, given where the market is, is what is the unique thing that our phone can do. We have a phone that in fact can replace your PC, the same way we have a tablet that can replace your laptop. Those are the categories that we want to go create. If anything, the lesson learned for us, was thinking of PC as the hub for all things for all time to come. It was perhaps one for the bigger mistakes we made.

Rowhammer Attack Can Now Root Android Devices ( 100

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: Researchers have discovered a method to use the Rowhammer RAM attack for rooting Android devices. For their research paper, called Drammer: Deterministic Rowhammer Attacks on Mobile Platforms, researchers tested and found multiple smartphone models to be vulnerable to their attack. The list includes LG Nexus (4, 5, 5X), LG G4, Motorola Moto G (2013 and 2014), One Plus One, HTC Desire 510, Lenovo K3 Note, Xiaomi Mi 4i, and Samsung Galaxy (S4, S5, and S6) devices. Researchers estimate that millions of Android users might be vulnerable. The research team says the Drammer attack has far more wide-reaching implications than just Android, being able to exploit any device running on ARM chips. In the past, researchers have tested the Rowhammer attack against DDR3 and DDR4 memory cards, weaponized it via JavaScript, took over PCs via Microsoft Edge, and hijacked Linux virtual machines. There's an app to test if your phone is vulnerable to this attack. "Rowhammer is an unintended side effect in dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) that causes memory cells to leak their charges and interact electrically between themselves, possibly altering the contents of nearby memory rows that were not addressed in the original memory access," according to Wikipedia. "This circumvention of the isolation between DRAM memory cells results from the high cell density in modern DRAM, and can be triggered by specially crafted memory access patterns that rapidly activate the same memory rows numerous times."

Microsoft Raises UK Cloud, Software Prices 22% After Brexit-Fuelled Pound Drop ( 214

Reader Mickeycaskill writes: Microsoft is to substantially increase its prices for software and cloud services prices offered in British pounds in order to accommodate the sharp drop in the currency against the US dollar in recent weeks. Beginning in January 2017 on-premises enterprise software prices will go up by 13 percent and most enterprise cloud prices will increase by 22 percent, bringing them into line with euro prices. Microsoft said it isn't planning to change its prices for consumer software and cloud services. The value of the pound has fallen by about 18 percent since the EU referendum on 23 June.
The Media

More NFL Players Attack Microsoft's $400M Surface Deal With The NFL ( 236

An anonymous reader writes; "These tablets always malfunction," complained one NFL offensive lineman in January, foreshadowing a growing backlash to Microsoft's $400 million deal with the NFL to use Surface tablets. Friday the coach of the San Francisco 49ers and their controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick both complained they've also experienced problems, with Kaepernick saying the screen freezes "every once in a while and they have to reboot it."

Friday Microsoft called their tablet "the center of the debate on the role of technology in the NFL," saying they deeply respect NFL teams "and the IT pro's who work tirelessly behind the scenes to help them succeed." It included quotes from NFL quarterbacks -- for example, "Every second counts and having Microsoft Surface technology on sidelines allows players and coaches to analyze what our opponents are trying to do in almost real time." But Yahoo Finance wrote that "The quotes read like they were written by the Microsoft public relations team," arguing that Microsoft's NFL deal "has been a disaster... The tablets failed to work during a crucial AFC Championship game last January -- again for the New England Patriots... sports media interpreted that the malfunction benefited the Broncos on the field, giving the team an unfair advantage -- the very last thing Microsoft's tablets, meant to aid coaches in their play calling, should be doing."

The NFL issued a statement calling Microsoft "an integral, strategic partner of the NFL," adding "Within our complex environment, many factors can affect the performance of a particular technology either related to or outside of our partner's solutions."

Rust Implements An IDE Protocol From Red Hat's Collaboration With Microsoft and Codenvy ( 48

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Developers of Mozilla's Rust language, devised for fast and safe system-level programming, have unveiled the first release of the Rust Language Service, a project that provides IDEs and editors with live, contextual information about Rust code. RLS is one of the first implementations of the Language Server Protocol, co-developed by Microsoft, Codenvy, and Red Hat to standardize communications between IDEs and language runtimes.

It's another sign of Rust's effort to be an A-list language across the board -- not only by providing better solutions to common programming problems, but also cultivating first-class, cutting-edge tooling support from beyond its ecosystem...

The Rust Language Service is "pre-alpha", and the whole Language Service Protocol is only currently supported by two IDEs -- Eclipse and Microsoft's Visual Studio Code. Earlier InfoWorld described it as "a JSON-based data exchange protocol for providing language services consistently across different code editors and IDEs," and one of the Rust developers has already developed a sample RLS client for Visual Studio Code.

Macs End Up Costing 3 Times Less Than Windows PCs Because of Fewer Tech Support Expense, Says IBM's IT Guy ( 524

An anonymous reader shares a report on Yahoo (edited): Last year, Fletcher Previn became a cult figure of sorts in the world of enterprise IT. As IBM's VP of Workplace as a Service, Previn is the guy responsible for turning IBM (the company that invented the PC) into an Apple Mac house. Previn gave a great presentation at last year's Jamf tech conference where he said Macs were less expensive to support than Windows. Only 5% of IBM's Mac employees needed help desk support versus 40% of PC users. At that time, some 30,000 IBM employees were using Macs. Today 90,000 of them are, he said. And IBM ultimately plans to distribute 150,000 to 200,000 Macs to workers, meaning about half of IBM's approximately 370,000 employees will have Macs. Previn's team is responsible for all the company's PCs, not just the Macs. All told IBM's IT department supports about 604,000 laptops between employees and its 100,000+ contractors. Most of them are Windows machines -- 442,000 -- while 90,000 are Macs and 72,000 are Linux PCs. IBM is adding about 1,300 Macs a week, Previn said.
Social Networks

Steve Ballmer Says Microsoft Tried To Buy Facebook For $24 Billion ( 67

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told CNBC on Friday that his company tried to buy Facebook when it was "itsy-bitsy" for $24 billion. BusinessInsider adds: Facebook fielded a lot of offers in its early days. When CNBC on Friday asked Ballmer how much Microsoft offered back then, he said, "Oh I think $24 billion when the company was itsy-bitsy and he said no. And I respect that." Zuckerberg clearly made the right choice. He currently has a net worth of $57 billion and Facebook's market cap is $374 billion.

Microsoft Shares Hit All-Time High As Company Strengthens Its Cloud Grip ( 43

Marco della Cava, reporting for USA Today: Microsoft shares surged 5% in early trading Friday, and passed a high set in 1999, helped by enthusiasm for progress in its cloud business. The stock was at up at $60.11, breezing past the $58.72 mark set in December 1999. Friday's rally follows Microsoft's latest quarterly report, out late Thursday, that beat analyst expectations for adjusted sales and profit and showcased a doubling of growth in its Azure cloud business, while reflecting continued strain from consumers' pivot away from PCs and traditional software purchases.Microsoft reported its Q1 2017 earnings yesterday, noting a revenue of $20.5 billion, which was higher than Wall Street's expectations. Company's Intellgent Cloud revenue was up 8 percent, whereas Azure revenue observed 116 percent growth year-on-year.

Donald Trump Running Insecure Email Servers ( 440

Donald Trump has slammed Hillary Clinton for using private email servers numerous times, but it turns out his inboxes aren't that secure either. From a report on The Register: Security researcher Kevin Beaumont discovered the Trump organization uses a hopelessly outdated and insecure internet setup. Servers on the Trump Organization's domain,, are using outdated software, run Windows Server 2003 and the built-in Internet Information Server 6 web server. Microsoft cut off support for this technology in July 2015, leaving the systems unpatched for the last 15 months. In addition, Beaumont said he'd found that emails from the Trump Organization failed to support two-factor authentication. That's particularly bad because the Trump Organization's web-based email access page relies on an outdated March 2015 build of Microsoft Exchange 2007, he says. "Windows Server 2003, IIS 6 and Exchange 2003 went end of life years ago. There are no security fixes. They don't have basics down," the UK-based researcher concludes. Beaumont's findings are based simply on inspecting publicly available information rather than actively scanning for vulnerabilities or attempting to gain access to insecure systems, a point lost on Trump supporters who have reported him to the Feds.

LinkedIn Promises To Bring Order and Meaning To Your Useless Endorsements ( 48

Oliver Staley, reporting for Quartz: LinkedIn's endorsement feature has never felt like the most trustworthy of sources. Rather than a panel of star witnesses who can honestly vouch for you, it more often seems like a random assortment of friends, acquaintances, and opportunists hoping for an endorsement in return. LinkedIn has recognized the problem and is trying to address it by creating a hierarchy of endorsers. Instead of all your endorsements having equal weight, the site will highlight people who might actually have some claim on knowing you, such as former colleagues and classmates, or who have credibility in the field. The goal is to make the feature more like the real world, where you ask for recommendations from people you trust or are in a position to know, says Hari Srinivasan, head of the LinkedIn team developing the feature. "If you want to find a good designer, you ask other good designers," he said.

Why Your Devices Are Probably Eroding Your Productivity ( 99

University of California, San Francisco neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and California State University, Dominguez Hills professor emeritus Larry Rosen explain in their book "The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World" why people have trouble multitasking, and specifically why one's productivity output is lowered when keeping up with emails, for example. Lesley McClurg writes via KQED Science: When you engage in one task at a time, the prefrontal cortex works in harmony with other parts of the brain, but when you toss in another task it forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently. The process of splitting our attention usually leads to mistakes. In other words, each time our eyes glance away from our computer monitor to sneak a peak at a text message, the brain takes in new information, which reduces our primary focus. We think the mind can juggle two or three activities successfully at once, but Gazzaley says we woefully overestimate our ability to multitask. In regard to answering emails, McClurg writes: Gazzaley stresses that our tendency to respond immediately to emails and texts hinders high-level thinking. If you're working on a project and you stop to answer an email, the research shows, it will take you nearly a half-hour to get back on task. "When a focused stream of thought is interrupted it needs to be reset," explains Gazzaley. "You can't just press a button and switch back to it. You have to re-engage those thought processes, and recreate all the elements of what you were engaged in. That takes time, and frequently one interruption leads to another." In other words, repetitively switching tasks lowers performance and productivity because your brain can only fully and efficiently focus on one thing at a time. Plus, mounting evidence shows that multitasking could impair the brain's cognitive abilities. Stanford researchers studied the minds of people who regularly engage in several digital communication streams at once. They found that high-tech jugglers struggle to pay attention, recall information, or complete one task at a time. And the habit of multitasking could lower your score on an IQ test, according to researchers at the University of London. The saving grace is that we don't need to ditch technology as "there's a time and place for multitasking," according to Gazzaley. "If you're in the midst of a mundane task that just has to get done, it's probably not detrimental to have your phone nearby or a bunch of tabs open. The distractions may reduce boredom and help you stay engaged. But if you're finishing a business plan, or a high-level writing project, then it's a good idea to set yourself up to stay focused."

'Cultlike' Devotion: Apple Once Refused To Join Open Compute Project, So Their Entire Networking Team Quit ( 238

mattydread23 writes: Great story about the Open Compute Project from Business Insider's Julie Bort here, including this fun tidbit: "'OCP has a cultlike following,' one person with knowledge of the situation told Business Insider. 'The whole industry, internet companies, vendors, and enterprises are monitoring OCP.' OCP aims to do for computer hardware what the Linux operating system did for software: make it 'open source' so anyone can take the designs for free and modify them, with contract manufacturers standing by to build them. In its six years, OCP has grown into a global entity, with board members from Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Intel, and Microsoft. In fact, there's a well-known story among OCP insiders that demonstrates this cultlike phenom. It involves Apple's networking team. This team was responsible for building a network at Apple that was so reliable, it never goes down. Not rarely -- never. Building a 100% reliable network to meet Apple's exacting standards was no easy task. So, instead of going it alone under Apple's secrecy, the Apple networking team wanted to participate in the revolution, contributing and receiving help. But when the Apple team asked to join OCP, Apple said 'no.' 'The whole team quit the same week,' this person told us."

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick on Microsoft Surface: 'I Just Can't Take It Anymore' ( 187

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is not happy with the Surface tablet provided to him via a deal between Microsoft and the NFL. Not only has he physically thrown the tablets at things, but he has verbally expressed his negative opinions of them. TechCrunch reports: When asked about the Patriots' headsets malfunctioning during last weeks game, Belichick instead took the time to let everyone know he's "done with the tablets." While he didn't go into too much detail on the tablets, Belichick essentially said that Microsoft's surface tablets are too "undependable," and there "isn't enough consistency in their performance." In terms of the rest of the sideline technology like headsets, Belichick is essentially fed up with the fact that everything always malfunctions and is impossible to fix during games. So why is the sideline technology so hard to get right? The tablets (as well as the headphones and all other sideline technology) are owned and maintained by the NFL. That means it gets delivered to teams literally hours before the game and taken away when it ends. This makes it hard for teams to test for issues before a game and to troubleshoot when something goes wrong. Belichick's full rant can be read here, which reads in part: "As you probably noticed, I'm done with the tablets. They're just too undependable for me. I'm going to stick with (paper) pictures, which several of our other coaches do, as well, because there just isn't enough consistency in the performance of the tablets. I just can't take it anymore..."

Microsoft Claims Its Speech Transcription AI is Now Better Than Human Professionals ( 98

Microsoft announced today a system that can transcribe the content of a phone call with "the same or fewer errors" than real actual human professionals trained in transcription -- even when the human transcript is double-checked by a second human for accuracy. As you can imagine, this is a huge milestone for speech recognition. From a Quartz report:The team doesn't attribute this achievement to any breakthrough in algorithm or data, but the careful tuning of existing AI architectures. To test how their algorithm stacked up against humans, first researchers had to get a baseline. Microsoft hired a third-party service to tackle a piece of audio for which they had a confirmed 100 percent accurate transcription. The service worked in two stages: one person types up the audio, and then a second person listens to the audio and corrects any errors on the transcript. Based on the correct transcript for the standardized tests, the professionals had 5.9 percent and 11.3 percent error rates. After learning from 2,000 hours of human speech, Microsoft's system went after the same audio file -- and scored 5.9 percent and 11.1 percent error rates. That minute difference ends up being about a dozen fewer errors. Microsoft's next challenge is making this level of speech recognition work in noisier environments, like in a car or at a party. This implementation is crucial for Microsoft, and goes well beyond just transcription.

Windows is the Most Open Platform There is, Says Satya Nadella ( 286

On Tuesday in a conversation with Gartner analysts, Satya Nadella talked about the future of AI, the cloud, Windows, and what his company plans to do with LinkedIn. But the most notable remark from Nadella was when he said this, "Windows is the most open platform there is." ZDNet adds: It came in the context of Nadella talking about Microsoft's mission to unite the three big constituencies in the technology world. "That's the approach we've always taken," said Nadella, "bringing users, IT, and developers together... When you bring them together, that's where the magic happens." He reminded the audience of several thousand technology leaders that Microsoft began by making tools, then it made apps, and now it makes platforms. Or, it buys them.

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