Archive for the ‘microsoft’ Category

Edge-on-Chromium approaches; build leaks, extensions page already live

March 25th, 2019

The Edge Insider extension.

The Edge Insider extension. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's first public release of a Chromium-based version of its Edge browser is fast approaching. Microsoft has published an early version of its extension market for the new browser, and the Windows Store includes a new extension for Edge-on-Chromium. On top of all this, a build of the browser has leaked.

The new build confirms much of what we've seen before: the browser is a minimally changed rebranded version of Chrome, replacing integration with Google's accounts with integration with Microsoft's accounts. This integration is still at an early stage; bookmarks can be synced between systems, but history, passwords, open tabs, autocomplete information, and open tabs don't yet sync.

Google has multiple release channels for Chrome; beyond the Stable channel, there's a Beta channel previewing the next release, the Dev channel previewing the release after that, and the Canary channel, which provides nightly builds. Microsoft's new extension for Edge Insider appears to offer easy switching between channels, announcements, known issues, and asking users for focused testing on particular areas.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in browsers, chrome, Chromium, EDGE, google, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, Web, Windows | Comments (0)

Clippy briefly resurrected as Teams add-on, brutally taken down by brand police

March 22nd, 2019
Clippy briefly resurrected as Teams add-on, brutally taken down by brand police

Enlarge (credit: theaelix)

On Microsoft's official Office GitHub repository (which contains, alas, not the source code to Office itself but lots of developer content for software that extends Office), the widely loved (?) Clippy made a brief appearance with the publication of a Clippy sticker pack for Microsoft Teams. Teams users could import the stickers and use them to add pictures of a talking paperclip to their conversations.

The synergy between the two seems obvious. With its various machine learning-powered services and its bot development framework, Microsoft finally has the technology to make Clippy the assistant we always wanted him to be: a Clippy that can be asked natural language questions, that we can actually speak to and that can talk back to us, that can recognize us by sight and greet us as we sit down to the working day. Teams, an interface that's conversational and text heavy, is the perfect venue for a new Clippy compliant with all the buzzwords of the late twenty-teens. Twenteens? Whatever.

Clippy is, after all, far more expressive than Cortana. While Clippy and Cortana share a tendency to reshape their basic form to meet the needs of the task at hand—Clippy can distort itself into a question mark or an envelope or whatever, and Cortana can deviate from her usual circular form—Clippy has a killer advantage in that it has eyes, and more particularly, eyebrows, enabling a range of emotions such as incredulity and contemptuous pity that Cortana can only dream of.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in clippy, cloud, Fun, machine learning, microsoft, paperclip, Teams, Tech | Comments (0)

Windows Virtual Desktop now in public preview

March 21st, 2019
A VT100 remote terminal, which is basically the same thing as Windows Remote Desktop.

Enlarge / A VT100 remote terminal, which is basically the same thing as Windows Remote Desktop. (credit: Wolfgang Stief)

Initially announced last September, Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service has now entered public preview.

The service brings together single-user Windows 7 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and multi-user Windows 10 and Windows Server remote desktop services (RDS) and is hosted on any of Azure's virtual machine tiers. Microsoft is pricing WVD aggressively by charging only for the virtual machine costs; the license requirements for the Windows 7- and Windows 10-based services will be fulfilled by Microsoft 365 F1/E3/E, Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5, and Windows VDA subscriptions. The Windows Server-based services are similarly fulfilled by existing RDS client access licenses. This means that for many Microsoft customers, there will be no additional licensing cost for provisioning desktop computing in the cloud. The virtual machine costs can be further reduced by using Reserved Instances that commit to purchasing certain amounts of VM time in return for lower pricing.

As another big sweetener, Windows 7 users will receive all three years of Extended Security Updates (ESU) at no extra cost; this is in contrast to on-premises deployments that will cost either $25/$50/$100 for the three years of ESU availability or $50/$100/$200, depending on the precise Windows license being used.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in desktop, microsoft, productivity, RDS, Remote Desktop, Tech, vdi, virtual desktop, Windows | Comments (0)

Microsoft ships antivirus for macOS as Windows Defender becomes Microsoft Defender

March 21st, 2019

Microsoft is bringing its Windows Defender anti-malware application to macOS—and more platforms in the future—as it expands the reach of its Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) platform. To reflect the new cross-platform nature, the suite is also being renamed to Microsoft Defender ATP, with the individual clients being labelled "for Mac" or "for Windows."

Microsoft Defender ATP for Mac will initially focus on traditional signature-based malware scanning.

Microsoft Defender ATP for Mac will initially focus on traditional signature-based malware scanning.

macOS malware is still something of a rarity, but it's not completely unheard of. Ransomware for the platform was found in 2016, and in-the-wild outbreaks of other malicious software continue to be found. Apple has integrated some malware protection into macOS, but we've heard from developers on the platform that Mac users aren't always very good at keeping their systems on the latest point release. This situation is particularly acute in corporate environments; while Windows has a range of tools to ensure that systems are kept up-to-date and alert administrators if they fall behind, a similar ecosystem hasn't been developed for macOS.

One would hope that Defender for Mac will also trap Windows malware to prevent Mac users from spreading malware to their Windows colleagues.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in apple, cloud, Defender, MacOS, malware, microsoft, security, Tech | Comments (0)

Windows 10 version 1903 heads for the finish line

March 20th, 2019
Who doesn't love some new Windows?

Enlarge / Who doesn't love some new Windows? (credit: Peter Bright / Flickr)

It's clear that Microsoft is in the very final stages of development of Windows 10 version 1903, the April 2019 Update. The fast distribution ring has seen two builds arrive this week after two last week, bringing with them no new features but a slowly whittled-down bug list following the development pattern we've seen in previous updates. In the past, the company has tried to release Windows 10 feature upgrades on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of each month, meaning there's just under three weeks left to go.

A little alarmingly, a couple of long-standing issues with the release still appear to be unresolved. A green-screen-of-death error caused when games with BattlEye anti-cheat software are used has been a feature of the 1903 previews for many months, and Microsoft is still listing it as unresolved. The scope and impact of this bug was so significant that the slow distribution ring didn't receive a preview of 1903 for much of its development process; Microsoft felt that it was too likely to affect too many people to be usable. This is eminently plausible, as BattlEye is used by PUBG and Fortnite, among other games. The company finally relented in February, pushing out a new build on the slow ring but blacklisting any systems with the offending third-party software.

The bug was first listed as a known issue with build 18298, released on December 10 last year. Microsoft says it's working with BattlEye to resolve the problem, but there has been no visible progress so far. BattlEye boasts of using a kernel-mode component as part of its anti-cheat software. Running in the kernel means that it's harder for cheat software to hide from or otherwise interfere with what BattlEye does, but with this comes the temptation to mess with operating system data structures and functions that aren't documented, which then leads to system crashes when the operating system is updated.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in development, insider program, microsoft, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

“Energizing Times”: Microsoft to “go big” at E3 in response to Google Stadia

March 20th, 2019
Sea of Thieves streaming to a smartphone with an attached Xbox One controller.

Enlarge / This controller attachment was shown in Microsoft's Xcloud promo video, and Bluetooth wireless controller support is also planned. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft announced its Xcloud game-streaming service last August, with the ambition of streaming console-quality games to gamers wherever they are—on their tablets, smartphones, PCs or even consoles. Yesterday, Google joined the streaming gaming fray with its announcement of Google Stadia, one-upping Redmond by offering the assembled press limited hands-on access to Stadia games.

Google promises that Stadia will be "coming 2019," potentially stealing a march on Xcloud, which is due only to enter public trials this year. But in an internal email sent to rally the troops, Phil Spencer, Microsoft's gaming chief, seemed unsurprised and apparently unconcerned.

Spencer wrote that Google "went big" with its Stadia announcement, but Microsoft will have its chance to do that, too: he promised that the company will "go big" with its E3 presentation and raft of announcements. He also said that Google's launch endorsed Microsoft's decision to launch its streaming service and said that Microsoft offered all the key elements Google identified—"Content, Community, and Cloud"—but that ultimately, "it's all about execution."

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in console, Gaming & Culture, google, microsoft, stadia, streaming, xcloud | Comments (0)

Guidemaster: The best Windows ultrabooks you can buy right now

March 20th, 2019
Guidemaster: The best Windows ultrabooks you can buy right now

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Buyers looking for premium Windows laptops today have plenty of choices; every few months sees some splashy launch of a new high-end PC. Ultrabooks have become the standard design for most premium Windows laptops, and they represent the best of what companies like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft have to offer in terms of design, power, and innovation.

If you're looking for a thin-and-light laptop that's still powerful enough to handle work and play with ease—and doesn't run macOS—a Windows ultrabook is what you want. But not all ultrabooks are created equal. That's why Ars has tested some of the most popular Windows laptops to see which are worthy for consideration as your next high-end notebook.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

Read 54 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in convertibles, dell, Features, Gadgetology, guidemaster, HP, Laptops, Lenovo, microsoft, Tech, ultrabooks, Windows | Comments (0)

Google, Microsoft work together for a year to figure out new type of Windows flaw

March 18th, 2019
Google, Microsoft work together for a year to figure out new type of Windows flaw

Enlarge (credit: Marco Verch / Flickr)

One of the more notable features of Google Project Zero's (GPZ) security research has been its 90-day disclosure policy. In general, vendors are given 90 days to address issues found by GPZ, after which the flaws will be publicly disclosed. But sometimes understanding a flaw and developing fixes for it takes longer than 90 days—sometimes, much longer, such as when a new class of vulnerability is found. That's what happened last year with the Spectre and Meltdown processor issues, and it has happened again with a new Windows issue.

Google researcher James Forshaw first grasped that there might be a problem a couple of years ago when he was investigating the exploitability of another Windows issue published three years ago. In so doing, he discovered the complicated way in which Windows performs permissions checks when opening files or other secured objects. A closer look at the involved parts showed that there were all the basic elements to create a significant elevation of privilege attack, enabling any user program to open any file on the system, regardless of whether the user should have permission to do so. The big question was, could these elements be assembled in just the right way to cause a problem, or would good fortune render the issue merely theoretical?

The basic rule is simple enough: when a request to open a file is being made from user mode, the system should check that the user running the application that's trying to open the file has permission to access the file. The system does this by examining the file's access control list (ACL) and comparing it to the user's user ID and group memberships. However, if the request is being made from kernel mode, the permissions checks should be skipped. That's because the kernel in general needs free and unfettered access to every file.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in bug, Flaw, google, Google Project Zero, microsoft, security, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

It looks like Windows 10 Home can now defer updates for 35 days

March 13th, 2019
A painfully adorable guinea pig sits amidst green grass.

Enlarge / Not every Windows 10 user appreciates being a guinea pig for Windows updates. (credit: Andy Miccone / Flickr)

The next Windows 10 feature update, version 1903, looks like it's going to give Windows 10 Home users a little more flexibility about when they install updates. All versions of Windows 10 allow for updates to be deferred, waiting a number of days after each update is released before attempting to install it.

Currently in Windows 10 version 1809, Windows 10 Home users are limited to a delay of just seven days. In the latest preview build of Windows 10, however, this has been raised to 35 days (via Reddit). This means that users nervous about being the first to use each new update can wait a little over a month before installing it.

While most Windows updates are problem-free for most people, issues do crop up from time to time. Generally, these are resolved within a week or two of the initial release, with Microsoft either reissuing fixed versions of the patches or sometimes blacklisting particular hardware or software combinations that have proven problematic. The 35-day delay is almost invariably going to be sufficient to let people wait for these bugs to be shaken out.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in microsoft, Tech, updates, Windows, Windows 10, Windows Update | Comments (0)

Microsoft brings (some of) DirectX 12 to Windows 7 to boost WoW multithreading

March 13th, 2019
Microsoft brings (some of) DirectX 12 to Windows 7 to boost WoW multithreading

Enlarge (credit: Blizzard)

Even though there are just a few months left before Windows 7 stops receiving security updates, Microsoft has rather surprisingly ported a chunk of DirectX 12 to the decade-old operating system.

The latest patch for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, version 8.1.5, includes the user-mode components of the Direct3D 12 (D3D12) runtime, modified to run on Windows 7. Blizzard found that there was a "substantial framerate improvement" from updating WoW to use D3D12, thanks to D3D12's improved support for distributing the work of building graphical scenes across multiple threads. For complex environments with lots of on-screen objects, this multithreading can provide a healthy performance boost.

Microsoft insists that Windows 10 remains the best place to run D3D12 applications. This is probably true, as the company has continued to update the driver model and D3D stack to reduce the amount of "stuff" between high-performance graphical applications and the underlying hardware, increase the range of operations that can be performed in multiple threads, improve the programmability of GPUs (especially for computation tasks), and enable new hardware features such as the accelerated raytracing in Nvidia's latest hardware. However, it's also been clear that none of these changes are absolutely essential to having most parts of D3D12 on Windows 7. After all, the Vulkan API, successor to OpenGL, is available on Windows 7, using Windows 7 video drivers, and it offers many of the same multithreading benefits as D3D12.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Blizzard, direct3d, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, Tech, World of Warcraft | Comments (0)