Archive for the ‘microsoft’ Category

Hands-on: First public previews of Chromium-based Edge are now out

April 8th, 2019
There's really no difference between how the Ars front page looks in Edge and Chrome.

Enlarge / There's really no difference between how the Ars front page looks in Edge and Chrome.

Microsoft's switch to using the Chromium engine to power its Edge browser was announced in December last year, and the first public preview build is out now. Canary builds, updated daily, and Dev builds, updated weekly, are available for Windows 10. Versions for other operating systems and a beta that's updated every six weeks are promised to be coming soon.

Chromium is the open source browser project run by Google. It includes the Blink rendering engine (Google's fork of Apple's WebKit), V8 JavaScript engine, Google's software-based sandboxing, and the browser user interface. Google builds on Chromium for its Chrome browser, and a number of third-party browsers, including Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave, also use Chromium.

As a result, every Chromium browser offers more or less the same performance and Web compatibility. Indeed, this is a big part of why Microsoft made the switch: the company had grown tired of updating its own EdgeHTML engine to ensure it behaved identically to Chrome and is now offering Chrome-equivalent behavior in the most direct way possible. I've been using a version 74 build (which is a little out of date at this point) for the last week, and I have yet to see any difference between Edge and Chromium Dev when it comes to displaying Web pages. In principle, a page could treat Edge differently (it reports its identity as a rather ugly "Edg/74.1.96.14"; I'm presuming the misspelling is an attempt to ensure it isn't identified as a variation of the current Edge browser), but in general there's little reason to do so.

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Posted in browsers, Chromium, development, EDGE, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, the web, Windows | Comments (0)

Game Pass “Ultimate” and Game Pass for PC rumored to be coming soon

April 5th, 2019
The arrow is pointing to a PC that's just off-frame to the right.

Enlarge / The arrow is pointing to a PC that's just off-frame to the right.

Microsoft is reportedly planning a couple of new subscription services for gamers, per Brad Sams and WalkingCat.

First up is a "Game Pass Ultimate" that combines an Xbox Live Gold subscription with a GamePass subscription. Xbox Live Gold is routinely on sale, but it typically costs around $60 when bought annually, $10/month when bought month-by-month. Game Pass is a flat $10 per month (though there's a special offer at the moment giving one month for one dollar). The Ultimate subscription is going to be $15/month, making it a break-even proposition for annual subscribers (or even a slight price increase, if you can get Gold for less than $60) but a nice discount for monthly subs.

Second, it's claimed that Microsoft will soon have a Game Pass subscription for Windows, too. Details are thin to non-existent at the moment, but with Microsoft's increasing efforts to unify Xbox and Windows gaming and plans to bring the previously Xbox-exclusive Halo: Master Chief Collection to Windows, a Game Pass for Windows would make a lot of sense.

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Posted in console gaming, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, PC gaming, subscriptions, Tech, Windows, XBox, XBox Live | Comments (0)

Email chain prompts Microsoft to investigate reports of sexual harassment ignored by HR

April 4th, 2019
Microsoft logo on a wall.

Enlarge (credit: Mike Mozart)

Women at Microsoft have been sharing reports of sexual harassment by both fellow coworkers and external partners that were often ignored by managers and human resources alike, according to a report by Quartz.

On March 20, an employee emailed other women at the company to ask for advice on moving up the chain after six years without promotion. This brought forward dozens of stories of discrimination and harassment, such as one woman being told to sit on another coworker's lap or a woman in a technical role having her contribution to a project restricted to booking meeting rooms, making dinner reservations, and taking minutes. Quartz verified the contents of the thread with employees at the company, and it has reviewed more than 90 pages of emails.

In many cases, employees say that they reported the events to their managers or to HR, only to have those complaints dismissed or overlooked—for example, written off as "just flirting" or ignored for lack of evidence.

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Posted in discrimination, diversity, human resources, microsoft, Policy, sexual harassment, Tech, Workplace equality | Comments (0)

Microsoft going to extreme lengths to ensure May update avoids mistakes of 1809

April 4th, 2019
Stylized image of glass skyscrapers under construction.

Enlarge / Windows is now perpetually under construction. (credit: David Holt / Flickr)

Microsoft really wants to avoid a repeat of the mess surrounding the release of the last Windows 10 feature update. Windows 10 version 1809, the October 2018 update, was found to have a bug that in some circumstances destroyed user data, forcing the company to suspend the update's rollout. It turned out that the bug had been reported but was overlooked, and even once that problem was resolved, that version still suffered certain other awkward bugs.

Accordingly, the company is going to take a very different tack with the next feature update to Windows 10. Codenamed 19H1 and currently still branded 1903 (denoting it was completed in March of 2019), the next update was expected to be released as the April 2019 update. But that's not the case. It's going to be the May 2019 update, because Microsoft is being a great deal more cautious about this release. Next week, a build will be pushed to the Release Preview ring, which should provide around a month of testing before its expected release date.

This alone is a major difference as compared to 1809, as that release largely skipped the release preview ring for reasons that remain unclear. But Microsoft is going much further to make this release a success.

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Posted in bugs, microsoft, reliability, Tech, updates, upgrades, Windows, Windows 10 | Comments (0)

Microsoft kills off the book store you probably didn’t know it had

April 3rd, 2019
Microsoft kills off the book store you probably didn’t know it had

Enlarge (credit: MSPoweruser)

For reasons that were never entirely clear, Microsoft released a book store for Windows 10 back in 2017. The Edge browser was given support for EPUB books, and the Microsoft Store had a book category, offering a range of free and non-free books. No longer: yesterday the company ended book sales entirely.

We can't imagine the book store was ever a major business. Combined with the decision to abandon its Edge browser and switch to Chromium, it's not altogether surprising that maintaining support for electronic books was more effort than Microsoft wanted to make.

Those scarce few of you who have bought books will have until July to read them, at which point you'll be given a full refund. All books ordered through the service are being destroyed, including free ones.

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Posted in books, DRM, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, Store, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Visual Studio 2019 goes live with C++, Python shared editing

April 2nd, 2019
OK, so Visual Studio's always gonna look like Visual Studio. But the eagle-eyed will spot a few differences. There's the menus-in-title bar at the top. There's the message "No issues found" in the status bar, showing that background code analysis has found no problems with my code. Bottom left, to the left of the "Ready" text, is the new background task status indicator that provides more information about things like scanning code to build IntelliSense information. There's a (not visible) GitHub tab in the Solution Explorer panel that's used for the new Pull Request integration. And, of course, there's the Live Share button top right.

Enlarge / OK, so Visual Studio's always gonna look like Visual Studio. But the eagle-eyed will spot a few differences. There's the menus-in-title bar at the top. There's the message "No issues found" in the status bar, showing that background code analysis has found no problems with my code. Bottom left, to the left of the "Ready" text, is the new background task status indicator that provides more information about things like scanning code to build IntelliSense information. There's a (not visible) GitHub tab in the Solution Explorer panel that's used for the new Pull Request integration. And, of course, there's the Live Share button top right.

A new version of Microsoft's integrated development environment (IDE) goes live today with the release of Visual Studio 2019 and its cousin Visual Studio 2019 for Mac.

Visual Studio is in a bit of a strange position, and it would be fair for developers to ask why this branded release even exists. Visual Studio 2017 has received nine point releases and countless patch releases since its release two years ago. Each of these releases has brought a mix of new features and bug fixes, and for Visual Studio users, the experience feels comparable to that of, say, Google Chrome, where each new version brings a steady flow of incrementally improved features and fixes.

Indeed, this iterative, incremental model is the one that Microsoft is pushing (and using) for services such as Azure DevOps and is comparable to the continuous development we see for Office 365, which is updated monthly, and the free and open source Visual Studio Code, which also has monthly iterations. With this development process in place, one wonders why we'd bother with "Visual Studio 2019" at all; let's just have "Visual Studio" and keep on updating it forever.

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Posted in C#, development, JavaScript, Mac, microsoft, Open Source, Python, Tech, typescript, visual studio | Comments (0)

Surface Book 2 line-up refreshed with new mid-range option

April 1st, 2019
The 13.5 inch Surface Book 2.

Enlarge / The 13.5 inch Surface Book 2. (credit: Microsoft)

Over the weekend, Microsoft refreshed the Surface Book 2 lineup, adding a new mid-range processor option for the 13.5-inch model (via The Verge).

At launch, the Surface Book 2 could be equipped with either a 7th generation dual-core i7-7300U processor with two cores and four threads, or an 8th generation i7-8650U with four cores and eight threads, with prices starting at $1,499 for the 7th generation part. That dual-core system now starts at $1,149 (with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage), with the $1,499 slot taken by a new i5-8350U model. This too is a four core/eight thread chip, with clock speeds of 1.7-3.6GHz and 6MB cache, in contrast to the 1.9-4.2GHz and 8MB cache of the top-end i7.

That $1,499 system is available exclusively with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. Other prices seem unaffected; the 8th generation i7 processor, which also includes a discrete Nvidia 1050 GTX GPU with 2GB dedicated memory, carries a $500 price premium over the new model today, rising to $2,999 for 16GB RAM and 1TB storage.

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Posted in hardware, Laptops, microsoft, Surface, surface book 2, Tech | Comments (0)

Unpatched Zero-Days in Microsoft Edge and IE Browsers Disclosed Publicly

March 30th, 2019
Exclusive — A security researcher today publicly disclosed details and proof-of-concept exploits for two 'unpatched' zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft's web browsers after the company allegedly failed to respond to his responsible private disclosure. Both unpatched vulnerabilities—one of which affects the latest version of Microsoft Internet Explorer and another affects the latest Edge

Posted in hacking news, Internet Explorer, microsoft, Microsoft Edge browser, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Same Origin Policy Bypass, Vulnerability, Zero-Day Vulnerability | Comments (0)

British Microsoft, Nintendo hacker given 18 month sentence

March 29th, 2019
British Microsoft, Nintendo hacker given 18 month sentence

Enlarge (credit: Rural Learning Center)

Two men were given suspended prison sentences in a London court yesterday after entering guilty pleas to hacking charges that saw both Microsoft and Nintendo breached.

Zammis Clark, now 24, broke into a Microsoft server in early 2017 and for about three weeks had access to part of Microsoft's network. He copied some 43,000 files relating to as-yet unreleased versions of Windows, accumulating substantial information about build numbers, code names, and unreleased products. He subsequently shared access to the servers with others over IRC.

One of those others appeared alongside Clark in court: Thomas Hounsell, now 26, performed numerous searches for product information over a 17-day period. Until earlier this year, Hounsell operated BuildFeed, a site tracking internal Windows build numbers and releases, even those that were not made public.

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Posted in crime, hacking, microsoft, Policy, Tech, uk, Windows | Comments (0)

Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson eradicated from splash text

March 28th, 2019
Every <em>Minecraft</em> player's worst nightmare.

Every Minecraft player's worst nightmare. (credit: Kyle Orland)

Microsoft has removed a trio of references to Markus "Notch" Persson, the original creator of Minecraft, from the game's opening menu screen. Random messages known as "splash text" are printed in yellow on this screen, and they used to include "Made by Notch!", "The Work of Notch", and "110813!" (a reference to the day Persson got married), but now all three mentions are gone. Notch is still included in the game's credits, but the change means that Minecraft players will no longer be randomly referenced.

Persson first released the blocky building game in 2009. Five years later, after the game had become a global smash hit, he sold his company Mojang to Microsoft for $2.5 billion, giving Redmond ownership of Minecraft. The references to Notch have remained a feature until their removal in this latest patch. They're reported to have been removed both from the original Java edition played on PCs and the legacy console edition used on PlayStation 4.

No official rationale has been offered for the change, but Persson has become something of a polarizing figure on Twitter. Recent tweets include such family-friendly fodder as "I'd rather be a fascist cunt than have a feminine dick," (since deleted) and endorsements of both the Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracy theories. He's also propagated the false claim that people face fines for "using the wrong pronouns" to refer to trans people. Additionally, Persson has also offered a range of racial commentary, such as "It's ok to be white", and he's said that anyone who recognizes systemic racial biases and imbalance within Western society is racist.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, microsoft, Minecraft, notch, Twitter | Comments (0)