Microsoft is known for their software, with Windows 10 being offered as a free upgrade, with everyone from offices to the Pentagon. Windows 10 isn’t the only software Microsoft hopes people will pick up. Windows 10 mobile was destined to be great but recent sales and rumours could see the mobile phones ending. One of the issues for Windows 10 mobiles bad sales was the small number of apps you can find. Now it sounds like one of the last hopes for the mobile OS could also be gone.
The project has now been terminated, with Microsoft Directory Kevin Gallo writing that they had received “a lot of feedback that having two Bridge technologies to bring code from mobile operating systems to Windows was unnecessary”. This doesn’t mean they’ve given up hope for mobile operating system, with plans to bring iOS based app to the app store and Android through their purchase of the company Xamarin. Xamarin is known for their ability to write software once and deploy to all major mobile operating systems, Windows phone included.
International intelligence agencies, such as the US National Security Agency (NSA), may have developed the ability to peel back the layers of The Onion Router network some time ago, but hackers and activists are determined to preserve their anonymity, developing a new Tor client that even the NSA can’t crack. The Astoria client should pose government spies their biggest challenge yet.
Astoria allows users to mask their identities by passing traffic between an encrypted middle relay and exit relay circuit, routed through 6,000 network nodes. With other Tor clients, anonymity can be compromised though “timing attacks”; gaining control over the entry and exit relays, with 58% of Tor circuits vulnerable to such attacks. Astoria reduces that number of vulnerabilities from 58% to 5.8%.
Included within the Astoria client is an algorithm designed to predict and counter relay attacks, patching vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. The client is thus able to always create the most secure circuit while balancing performance. Though “timing attacks” – commonly used by the NSA and GCHQ to crack Tor anonymity – can never be protected against entirely due the way Tor is constructed, Astoria makes it as difficult as possible for them to succeed.
“In addition to providing high-levels of security against such attacks, Astoria also has performance that is within a reasonable distance from the current Tor client,” Astoria’s developers write. “Unlike other AS-aware Tor clients, Astoria also considers how circuits should be built in the worst case—i.e., when there are no safe relays that are available. Further, Astoria is a good network citizen and works to ensure that the all circuits created by it are load-balanced across the volunteer driven Tor network.”
Astoria is not yet available for download, only being revealed in a research paper by its developers, but it is expected to be released soon.
Microsoft has long been suffering from a deficit of Windows Phone applications. In a major move at Build 2015, Redmond announced two separate projects to target Android and iOS applications and allow them to run on or be ported to Windows.
Targetting iOS applications, Project Islandwood is aimed at easier porting and integration of Objective C. Using this middleware, Project Islandwood is able to provide the APIs that the iOS applications expect. This allows apps to be easily ported with minimal work and recompiling. One of the notable examples is King and their popular game Candy Crush Saga which only had be tweaked a bit to run on Windows. Since the app is now compiled for Windows, it can run on anything from Windows Phone/Mobile to full on Windows 10.
On the Android side of things, there is Project Astoria. Astoria exists as a runtime layer between Windows and the application, allowing any old APK to run without modifications or being recompiled. This runtime layer is limited to Windows Mobile/Phone only however so desktop Windows 10 users are out of luck. Applications relying on Google Mobile services which are closed source APIs will are not work without modification.
Microsoft has been taking their app deficiency seriously as both Windows Phone and Windows RT have suffered from low numbers. Whether or not easy porting and a more unified customer base can attract developers remains to be seen.