Archive for the ‘microsoft’ Category

Minecraft Earth’s closed beta: This augmented reality needs more augmenting

July 16th, 2019
Minecraft Earth’s closed beta: This augmented reality needs more augmenting

Enlarge (credit: Mojang / Microsoft)

When Microsoft acquired Mojang, the maker of Minecraft, in 2014, we all feared the worst: a zillion cash-in video games. Turns out, Microsoft has been really smart about its Minecraft output in the past five years. Only one Minecraft-related game has launched since then (2015's solid Minecraft Story Mode), and 2020's Minecraft Dungeons felt ridiculously good to play at this year's E3. (Plus, Mojang has been allowed to keep polishing the original game on every console and smartphone in the world, instead of turning into an Xbox-only studio. Whew.)

Thus, it wasn't necessarily inevitable that Minecraft would get a clone to compete with every major gaming genre (no Super Steve Bros., no Minecraft Kart Racers). That got our hopes up for Minecraft Earth, Microsoft's first salvo in the "augmented reality on phones" war, which was unveiled in May of this year. It sure seemed like a clever move: take Minecraft's go-anywhere, punch-any-tree, build-anything philosophy, then dump it into the real world à la Pokemon Go.

After five days with the game's closed beta (which launched seconds ago as a closed, invite-only beta in the Seattle area), I must report that the game's early version is missing the series' magic—and Mojang is going to need to put some more pixelated blocks into place before calling this one a victory.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, microsoft, Minecraft Earth, Mojang, pokemon go | Comments (0)

Microsoft Teams is now officially bigger than Slack

July 11th, 2019
A Microsoft office (not to be confused with Microsoft Office).

Enlarge / A Microsoft office (not to be confused with Microsoft Office). (credit: Julien GONG Min / Flickr)

Microsoft Teams may have only been around for two years, but the group-chat platform is already larger than one of its main competitors. Microsoft announced that Teams has more than 13 million daily active users. The amount rises to 19 million when looking at weekly active users. That means the service is now officially bigger than Slack, an independent platform for online chatting and collaboration.

This is the most specific Microsoft has gotten yet with information about its group-chatting platform. The only other update the company gave was back in March, when it revealed that 500,000 organizations were using the service.

In addition to the audience news, Microsoft shared some upcoming features for Teams. Today, it is rolling out what it's calling "announcements," which allows important news to be highlighted in a channel. It plans to roll out channel moderation and priority notifications, which will ping a recipient every two minutes until a response is made, later this month. Finally, cross-channel posting will be coming "soon."

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Posted in microsoft, slack, Teams, Tech | Comments (0)

Microsoft Releases July 2019 Security Updates, 2 Flaws Under Active Attack

July 9th, 2019
Microsoft today released its monthly batch of software security updates for the July month to patch a total of 77 vulnerabilities, 14 are rated Critical, 62 are Important, and 1 is rated Moderate in severity. The July 2019 security updates include patches for various supported versions of Windows operating systems and other Microsoft products, including Internet Explorer, Edge, Office, Azure

Posted in download software update, microsoft, Microsoft Patch Tuesday, patch update, remote code execution, security update, Vulnerability, windows updates, windows Vulnerability | Comments (0)

Microsoft releases Windows 1.11 throwback app as a Stranger Things tie-in

July 8th, 2019
Eleven and the gang face down weird dangers yet again in the third season trailer.

Enlarge / Eleven and the gang face down weird dangers yet again in the third season trailer. (credit: YouTube/Netflix)

If you were one of the many people confused and curious about Microsoft’s apparent time-traveling social media blitz last week, wonder no more. As several astute fans guessed, the retro throwback was part of a collaboration with Netflix in support of Stranger Things, which just released its third season. The show is set in the year 1985, the same year that Microsoft released Windows 1.0.

The partnership has three elements. The first follows up on the many tweets from Microsoft’s social media crew that the original iteration of the Windows software would be launching. Microsoft has launched a PC app called Windows 1.11, which uses some of the original programs to give a rough overview of some of the new season’s plot points. Uncover clues in Paint, play an ASCII dungeon crawler, and watch clips from the show very roughly as they might have looked on a computer of that era.

In addition to the app, Microsoft is taking its Netflix tie-in off the screen. The company is hosting a series of STEM-focused summer workshops at several of its Microsoft Store locations beginning July 20. There are two options for the Camp Know Where sessions. Rule the Arcade will teach game design and coding, and participants will create a playable video game. Strange-ify Your World is based on Microsoft’s mixed reality tools, with participants inventing their own tales of friendship and teamwork in a mini-movie. The final component of the tie-in is a prize package. It includes a collectible arcade cabinet themed on Stranger Things 3, a new Xbox One X, and a year-long membership to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

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Posted in microsoft, Stranger Things, stranger things 3, Tech, windows 1.0 | Comments (0)

Report: Microsoft still planning a low-cost, streaming-focused Xbox

July 3rd, 2019

At this year's E3, Microsoft had a lot to say about its high-end Xbox One successor (code-named "Project Scarlett") and about its previously announced (and newly demoed) Project Xcloud streaming gaming service. But the company was less forthcoming about long-standing reports of low-cost, streaming-focused Microsoft hardware that would bring Xcloud games to the TV easily.

In a new video, Thurrott's Brad Sams (who has a strong track record when it comes to reporting insider information from Microsoft) says that the streaming box is "still being actively developed" inside Microsoft despite the continued public silence from the company itself. "I'm hearing this project has not been killed and is being actively worked on."

According to Sams, Microsoft's streaming hardware would "make the [streaming] gaming experience just a little bit better than if it was playing from a TV or something like that." That's because the low-end hardware would itself have a "marginal amount of compute [power]" that would allow it to handle basic gameplay elements like movement and collision detection locally, with minimal latency. "Everything else would just be streamed from Xcloud," as Sams put it.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, hardware, microsoft, streaming, XBox, xcloud | Comments (0)

Microsoft is teasing Windows 1.0 and other 1980s software

July 2nd, 2019
Windows got the '80s treatment, but we're not sure what's actually being promoted.

Enlarge / Windows got the '80s treatment, but we're not sure what's actually being promoted. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Either Microsoft is gearing up for a very odd promotional effort or somebody on the Windows team has hijacked a functioning time machine.

Yesterday, the company posted a video boasting an "all-new Windows 1.0" to its social channels. It even went so far as to completely wipe all its previous posts from the Windows Instagram account, so all you'll find is the clip of its logos over the years. The video scrolls from the simplicity of Windows 10 through the pixellated rainbow flag of Windows XP and Windows 95.

Whatever the situation is, the stunt is giving Windows' social media managers a chance to load their replies to confused tweets with throwbacks, from Back to the Future gifs to all the jargon that was once the epitome of cool.

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Posted in microsoft, Microsoft Windows, Tech, windows 1.0 | Comments (0)

Console makers seek to avoid 25% price bump driven by Trump’s trade war

June 26th, 2019
This could all be 25% more expensive if the Trump administration's latest Chinese tariff threats go through.

Enlarge / This could all be 25% more expensive if the Trump administration's latest Chinese tariff threats go through.

With the long-running trade war between the United States and China continuing to escalate, the Trump administration is now threatening to institute a 25% tariff on an additional $300 billion in goods from the country, a move that would cover almost all Chinese exports. In light of that threat, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony issued a letter today asking the administration to exempt video game consoles from any such tariff plans.

The seven-page letter, signed by the business affairs VPs of the three major console makers, argues that any tax on game console imports would "injure consumers, video game developers, retailers, and console manufacturers; put thousands of high-value, rewarding U.S. jobs at risk; and stifle innovation in our industry and beyond."

Since game consoles are sold at or slightly above the cost of manufacture, the cost of any import tariff would have to be passed directly on to "extremely price sensitive" consumers, the letter argues. "A price increase of 25% will likely put a new video game console out of reach for many American families who we expect to be in the market for a console this holiday season," the letter says.

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Posted in Business, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, Nintendo, price, ps4, Sony, Switch, tariff, tax, Trump, Xbox One | Comments (0)

Microsoft OneDrive gets a more secure Personal Vault, plus additional storage options

June 25th, 2019
The Microsoft logo displayed at Microsoft's booth at a trade show.

Enlarge / Microsoft at a trade show. (credit: Getty Images | Justin Sullivan)

Microsoft is launching a new layer of security for users of its OneDrive cloud storage service. OneDrive Personal Vault is a new section of your storage that's accessed through two-step verification, or a "strong authentication method," although Microsoft didn't define the latter term.

Microsoft notes that fingerprinting, face scans, PINs, and one-time codes by email, SMS, or an authenticator app are among the acceptable two-step verification methods. And you’ll automatically get de-authenticated after a period of inactivity—that's the key to Microsoft's special security argument here. Two-factor authentication using text or email is less secure than other options. Using the more heavy-duty face or fingerprint verification will require the appropriate hardware, such as a device with Windows Hello.

It also has options for transferring physical documents to the OneDrive mobile app. You can scan documents or take photos directly into the Personal Vault section without needing to store the file in a less secure part of your device first.

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Posted in cloud storage, microsoft, onedrive, security, Tech | Comments (0)

PSA: Upgrade 3 years of Xbox Live to Game Pass Ultimate for just $1

June 17th, 2019
Promotional image for Xbox promotion.

Enlarge (credit: Xbox)

If you've been paying attention to Xbox rumors and announcements of late, you may know that Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass have now been officially merged into a single $15 a month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription plan (which now also includes PC games, for good measure).

What you might not realize is you can upgrade up to three years of a current Xbox Live gold subscription to the new, more expensive plan for $1 as part of a launch promotion from Microsoft.

As Microsoft describes on the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate announcement page (emphasis added):

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Posted in Game Pass, game pass ultimate, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, XBox | Comments (0)

Microsoft Releases June 2019 Security Updates to Patch 88 Vulnerabilities

June 11th, 2019
After Adobe, the technology giant Microsoft today—on June 2019 Patch Tuesday—also released its monthly batch of software security updates for various supported versions of Windows operating systems and other Microsoft products. This month's security updates include patches for a total of 88 vulnerabilities, 21 are rated Critical, 66 are Important, and one is rated Moderate in severity. The

Posted in cyber security, microsoft, Microsoft Patch Tuesday, windows updates, windows Vulnerability | Comments (0)