Android Security Report Published by Google

Compared to Apple and their almost uncrackable iOS, security on Android has always seemed poor. Despite the constant security patches, it seems like Google’s mobile OS is fraught with security flaws with new flaws like Stagefright appearing and reappearing with troubling frequency. Google don’t agree with this image, however, and their second annual Android security report seems to back up their stance that Android is, in fact, quite secure.

The majority of the issues identified with their security came from apps not loaded through the Google Play Store. Between 2014 and 2015, attempts to load malware through the Play Store dropped drastically with only 0.15 percent of users being infected with rogue code from the app platform. When you compare this to the 0.5 percent of all Android users that have been hit with malicious code, it shows an increase in attempts to attack Android devices without going through the Play Store.

Lead engineer of Android Security, Adrian Ludwig, released a few snippets of data to illustrate the lengths Google go to in order to keep Android secure.

  • Google checks six billion installed apps daily for malware (Potentially Harmful Apps in Google’s parlance).
  • A total of 400 million devices per day are scanned for network-based and on-device threats.

Android’s security is only set to improve too, with the monthly security updates able to respond to new threats quickly after they emerge. Google are also pushing for device manufacturers to keep up to date with the monthly updates that are automatically rolled out to their Nexus devices.

The full 2015 security report is 48 pages long and can be found on Google’s website.

Visual Studio Will Now Include Xamarin

Microsoft recently brought out Xamarin, software based on letting people create programs using C# and .NET operating systems which can then be ported to both iOS and Android. This meant that using the Microsoft based languages you could develop software for a variety of phones. It’s now been revealed that if you are interested in using the software, all you will need is Visual Studio.

With this announcement you can enjoy Xamarin for free as part of Visual studio, and not just any Visual studio but every single version of the development software. With Visual studio offering a free community edition you could soon find the development tools available as part of the free suite of tools, with no restrictions either.

With the original releases of Xamarin featuring a restriction on the free version of the software, limiting just how large the software you created could be before requiring a paid license. Enterprise-orientated features of Xamarin will be restricted to Visual Studio Enterprise subscription users.

If you were looking at using it for OS X or iOS development you’ll need to have access to an OS X machine. In another step for Microsoft, the Xamarin SDK will be made open source and released on Github for all to see and use, including the Xamarin Forms library for creating quick and easy user interfaces.

Microsoft Windows 10 Hits 270 Million Active Users

Happily for Microsoft, Windows 10 adoption is chugging along quite nicely. In fact, according to Microsoft, Windows 10 has achieved the fastest adoption yet, beating out Windows 7 and 8. Since the last update at the end of 2015, Windows 10 has added an additional 70 million users, bumping the total to 270 million, quite impressive overall. However, the numbers have slowed after the new OS hit 75 million in the first month and 110 million by the second.

The biggest reason Windows 10 has seen such growth is due to the free nature of the OS. Microsoft has allowed users to upgrade for free from Windows 7 and 8.1, driving a lot of the adoption. Microsoft has also pushed hard to get users to upgrade, with controversial methods like forced upgrades, misleading options and even slipping Windows 10 ads into security updates. The unique count of users rather than installed devices is also a difference in how Microsoft is counting installs, with the graphic above being void of labeled axis.

Even with some good numbers to share, Microsoft may be starting to get worried as the June deadline for free upgrades nears. For those users who hold back, they may never move on till Windows 7 and 8.1 finally leave support at the end of the decade. Hopefully, Microsoft will get the message and stop forcing upgrades on those who don’t want them.

Oracle Asks For $9.3 Billion in Copyright Trial Against Google

Google is known for many things, from the search engine that started it all to the chrome web browser that so many uses these days. One of the things Google is known for is the Android mobile operating system, something that could Oracle want a piece of in a copyright trial against Google.

The copyright claim refers to several infringements that Google made as part of 37 java API’s that were used in the creation of the Android operating system. In total, the damages Oracle are seeking come to $9.3 billion, an absolutely staggering figure that seems to dwarf even what Google made in the last quarter ($4.9 billion).

Previously the largest copyright verdict stood at $1.3 billion in a case that Oracle won against SAP in 2010. The value of $9.3 billion was figured out by using “a weighted average analysis of what Google pays to others for the contribution of their non-Android mobile platforms in connection with generating search advertising revenue”.

When it comes to code and copyright the law is a little indecisive. Some say that code can be copyrighted and protected under law, some say it can’t be. This case should set an interesting precedent, with it being the largest intellectual property verdict in history.

Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM) 6.0 Review

Introduction


It has been about six months since Synology launched the Beta program for the new DiskStation Manager (DSM) 6.0 and we’re so very close to an official release. Today I’m taking a closer look at just this new operating system and will show you the new improvements and features.

This review is a little special for me as my NAS reviews normally focus a lot more on the hardware side of things as well as the performance. It isn’t that I don’t show the user interface and features, but there isn’t room to dive as deep into the system as there is today where I’m focusing on the operating system and apps alone.

There are a lot of new great enhancements in DSM 6.0 and one of the best is one that you’ll barely notice as a normal user because it’s going on behind the curtains. The new OS has been upgraded to a 64-bit architecture on compatible models. This will not only allow for a better overall performance by utilizing the modern CPUs a lot better, it also supports over 4GB memory allocation for one single process to deploy large scale applications.

Synology also took some of the previous built-in features and modularized them into packages instead. This ensures better system maintenance and update flexibility. The Modularization in DSM 6.0 includes Storage Analyzer, Hyper Backup, PHP, Web Station and Text Editor, Log Center with basic built-in functions in DSM and extensive functions via package download, WebDAV, and Snapshot Replication.

DSM 6.0 brings a lot of enhancements for both home users and enterprises alike. The High Availability Manager server is now able to handle split-brain errors a lot better and it doesn’t require a full data replication anymore to get back up and running. This can save you from valuable downtime and thereby profit loss. It also comes with improved upgrade efficiency and cluster binding, and best of all, it also supports Docker DSM

Backup and replication got new features too and some things got moved around to accommodate the new add-on packages. Any existing setups will automatically be moved to the new locations upon upgrading, so that’s not something you need to worry about. CSP support got added to the security features in order to prevent XSS attacks while TLS and SSL profiles can be adjusted according to your browser capability and settings. Another nifty new security feature is that you can add and manage you most frequently used devices as trusted devices that don’t need a verification code every time you log in.

There are several new and pretty awesome features in DSM 6.0 beta, where on of them is the Docker DSM. Businesses can create a multi-tenant environment with flexible resource control and secure isolation. All Docker DSMs run independently from each other and provide additional features such as live migration. Synology’s multi-version backup provides snapshot and replication to one or more remote sites, up to every 5 minutes, and block-level incremental backup and cross-version deduplication is also included. You’re well covered here.

The SSD cache feature allows you to use up to 12 SSDs now, but that amount is naturally for the big enterprise models and the home-use NAS don’t come that kind of drive-bay amount. When SSD cache is enabled on a volume with advanced iSCSI LUNs, the performance can be improved up to 30%. You can now use different SSD models to create an SSD cache.

This is truly an upgrade that worth the shift from 5.x to 6.0 with the amount of features added, and I’ve only mentioned some of them up until now. The search feature won’t just search file and directory names now, it can also search the files actual content as well as meta tags to find just the thing you’re looking for. You can use 802.1X network authentication for wired networks and organize your firewall rules into different profiles.

There’s also a new Spreadsheet feature with co-editing, historical versions, tag, and file sharing link as part of Note Station. Offline editing, one-click email clipping, and instant table-chart conversion is also part of the deal. Apple Watch users can now enjoy the Note Station even more as it is now compatible with the Watch. Owners of an Apple Watch can now check notes directly on their wrist, or create new notes via voice input.

MailPlus server comes with active-active architecture, load balancing, and content filters and allows you to have a great mail solution running right from your own location. The clients are browser- and mobile-based and feature physical mailbox, virtual labels, auto-filter, and sticker.

Cloud Station Server and Cloud Sync now provide users with flexible synchronization of files within specified subfolders in addition to shared folders. Small file syncing has now become over 8 times faster than before which is great as those small files often come in big groups. Synology also revamped the Video station for this new version. It now supports offline transcoding, on-screen buttons, and Windows 10. DS Audio got Apple Watch support now too, to allow users to select songs, playlists, and broadcasts directly.

WhatsApp to End Support For Older Operating Systems

WhatsApp is a cross-platform messaging client which allows users to exchange text messages, images, video content, location details and audio files. As of February 2016, WhatsApp has a user base of up to one billion which makes it the most popular messaging application in the world! Back in February 2014, Facebook acquired the company for an estimated $19.3 billion and clearly sees the application growing at an impressive rate. Recently, Facebook made an announcement regarding its new focus on the latest mobile operating systems to provide a better user experience. The statement reads:

“When we started WhatsApp in 2009, people’s use of mobile devices looked very different from today,”. 

“The Apple App Store was only a few months old. About 70 percent of smartphones sold at the time had operating systems offered by BlackBerry and Nokia. Mobile operating systems offered by Google, Apple and Microsoft – which account for 99.5 percent of sales today – were on less than 25 percent of mobile devices sold at the time. As we look ahead to our next seven years, we want to focus our efforts on the mobile platforms the vast majority of people use.

“While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future,”

“This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp.”

By the end of 2016, WhatsApp will no longer be supported on:

  • Blackberry, including Blackberry 10
  • Nokia S40
  • Nokia Symbian S60
  • Android 2.1 and Android 2.2
  • Windows Phone 7

This makes sense because Blackberry’s current smart phone position is very weak, and they are trying to encourage handset sales via the Android operating system. On another note, when WhatsApp was first introduced, around 70 percent of smartphones utilized operating systems by Blackberry and Nokia. In today’s market, iOS and Android account for 99.5 percent of sales. This demonstrates the dramatic shift, and struggles faced by anyone trying to gain a foothold in the smart phone sector.

Windows 10 Now a Recommended Update

Microsoft is everything but subtle about their want for people to move to windows 10. With the security support for Windows 8 ending, users were left with two supported operating systems. Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 were left facing against one another, and now it seems Windows 10 may have thrown the first punch, becoming a recommended update as of February 1st.

Windows 10 was already seen as a plague by some users, with it automatically downloading onto their systems (sometimes without their knowledge), on the off-chance that a user may choose to upgrade. While some users have rejected the operating system on the basis of its information tracking and some just for its greenness (by this I mean the lack of support it seems to provide for its various flaws).

As of February 1st, 2016 though Windows 10 was made a recommended update, instead of the previous status of optional. This means that the update may be installed automatically, even without user consent on some systems.

While a bold move from Microsoft it was anything but unannounced, leaving many to wonder what the fuss is all about? Many users choose to let windows install the recommended updates because they believe that they would be best chosen to support and secure their system. An update as large as a new operating system, even if you a prompted, is less of a recommended update and more of a full refresh, with users of Windows 7 having to get used to a whole new selection of features and design choices that they would have missed upgrading from Windows 8 or 8.1.

Are you a Windows 10 user? If not, do you plan to upgrade? Give us your opinions on Windows 10 in the comments.

UK Nuclear Submarines Use Windows XP

Technology changes all the time, and operating systems are no different. From the era of DOS and punch cards to modern day touch screens and augmented reality, you can find every generation making their mark in a new way. With Windows 8 no longer receiving updates people are recommended to update to either 8.1 or Windows 10 to avoid security risks. The problem being, Nuclear Submarines use Windows XP still.

With the argument raging regarding if the UK still requires nuclear submarines, the large cost of which is a key part of the argument, cutting a few pounds here and there can only be good right? In a recent decision, the Royal Navy installed a variant of Windows XP (Windows for Submarines) onto their Vanguard-Class Submarines.

While operating in isolation and with so many years of updates and security investigations on the operating system, the Ministry of Defence is confident that the system will “remain safe and secure”. This comes amongst a series of wargames and exercises designed to help test and train people from across the world, all while concerns about submarines long term “stealth abilities” are being questioned due to the addition of swarms of drones and new systems being developed to counter them.

Networks are most at risk due to their access from external sources, and while cutting down on these is a great first step you will always be at risk. Using outdated software is risky, no matter how much support has been put into it but with more and more research and development being made into these systems you can be certain that anything they find will quickly be fixed.

Windows 8 To Stop Receiving Security Updates

Microsoft recently cut off support for their popular operating system, Windows 7. In light of this, you would think their later operating systems would have a little longer left on the clock? Not if you are one of the users who stuck with Windows 8.

The follow-up and slightly controversial operating system which was only released three years ago. Typically windows support an operating system for 10 years, but Windows 8 received more than a few bad reviews covering everything from their new Metro start menu to the difficulty users had with software even when run in compatibility mode. Windows 8 will stop receiving the all important security updates as of January 12th.

The reason for the cut short updates? Windows 8.1, the solution that Microsoft provided to the problems many faced. Originally cited as a “service pack” and released nearly a year after Windows 8 made its debut, the “service pack” in question rounded off a lot of criticisms people had with Windows 8, offering more customizability and fixing a lot of the technical difficulties that people faced.

While originally released as a free update for Windows 8, there is still roughly 3% of desktop users who use the operating system as of December 2015. While this may be scary, Windows XP stopped receiving security updates in April 2014 and still accounts for roughly 11%, we don’t know however how many of these systems are used by companies, a fact that would be even scarier given what data they could have about you on their system.

If you’re still using Windows 8 it may be worth looking at an upgrade, if not to Windows 8.1 then maybe check out Windows 10, an operating system that people can upgrade to for free from Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 until summer.

Revive an Old PC With the Android-Based Remix OS

Last year, Jide launched the Remix Mini, the world’s first Android PC, and now the company is launching its Remix operating system, a forked version of Android Lollipop, for free later this month. Remix OS works on any x86 PC that supports USB legacy booting, so if you’ve an old computer begging for a new lease of life, this Android OS might be just the ticket.

“In emerging markets where computer hardware is inaccessible for many, Remix OS aims to make personal computing more accessible than ever before,” Jide says. “Individuals will no longer need to rely on personal desktops or laptops to create, store, and manage data, they will merely need to be within walking distance of a device–in their village, in libraries, in internet cafes, or in community centers.”

Remix OS includes mouse and keyboard support, including shortcut key-mapping, and the desktop interface features a traditional taskbar, start menu, system tray, and file manager. Through Google Play, Remix OS supports over 1.5 million Android apps.

To boot Remix OS, you will need a USB 3.0 drive that supports FAT32, has a minimum capacity of 8GB, and a recommended write speed of 20MB/s.

Remix OS will be available for free download from the Jide website on Tuesday (12th January).

Microsoft Calls Sticking With Windows 7 a Security “Risk”

At the end of December, NetMarketShare reported that Windows 7 is the most popular operating system in the world, taking a huge 55% of the market share, compared to Windows 10’s meagre 9.9%, despite being installed over 200 million times since its release in July 2015. Microsoft has been pushing Windows 7 and 8.1 users to take advantage of its free upgrade scheme to graduate to the Windows 10, and its latest tactic seems to be to cast doubt on the security of Windows 7 in an effort to scare that 55% into migrating to the new operating system.

During the latest Windows Weekly podcast (via Forbes), Microsoft’s Marketing Chief Chris Capossela claimed that Windows 7 users should know that they use the old OS “at [their] own risk, at [their] own peril.”

“We do worry when people are running an operating system that’s 10 years old that the next printer they buy isn’t going to work well, or they buy a new game, they buy Fallout 4, a very popular game, and it doesn’t work on a bunch of older machines,” Capossela told hosts Leo Laporte, Mary Jo Foley, and Paul Thurrott. “And so, as we are pushing our ISV [Independent Software Vendor] and hardware partners to build great new stuff that takes advantage of Windows 10 that obviously makes the old stuff really bad and not to mention viruses and security problems.”

Capossela added that it is “so incredibly important to try to end the fragmentation of the Windows install base” in order to get users to a “safer place”.

I am one of many PC users who upgraded my copy of Windows 7 to Windows 10 before rolling back to my old operating system. I did so safe in the knowledge that Windows 7 is just as secure as 10 – Microsoft will maintain official support for the operating system until 2020, and any security update it develops for 10 will be applied to 7 – and the only compatibility issues I ever encountered were during my one month using Windows 10.

Capossela then intimated that Microsoft could adopt a more aggressive strategy to force Windows 7 and 8.1 users to upgrade, saying, “We think every machine that is capable of running Windows 10 we should be doing everything we possibly can to get people to move to Windows 10…We are going to try to find that right balance, but we just know there’s a lot of people out there who constantly kick the can down the street without a little bit more of a, frankly, a push.”

“And so,” he continued, “there’s no doubt with a base as big as ours, it is hard to move anyone to a new model without angering some people. We don’t want to anger anybody, but we do feel a responsibility to get people to a much better place, and Windows 10 is a much better place than Windows 7. We will always give you a way out, but we’re trying to find the right threat balance.”

 

Windows 10 Redstone to Bring Back Desktop Gadgets

Windows Vista was heavily criticized for being a bloated operating system which utilized far too many system resources. Whether this was down to poor programming, or embedded services remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Vista has a terrible reputation and a low point in Microsoft’s history. Some of you might remember, the gadgets bar which contained a whole host of intriguing add-on including weather reports and system diagnostics. While these additions looked pretty, they impacted on performance and increased RAM utilization. However, that’s not to say the gadgets bar was a rubbish idea and Microsoft allowed the end-user to enable this functionality in Windows 7.

On the other hand, this feature was disabled in Windows 10, probably due to Microsoft’s Store and integrating applications into the Start Menu. The Windows ethos has always revolved around choice, and I’m pretty sure there’s many users out there who like to see widgets/gadgets on their desktop. That’s why I’m confused by their omission in Windows 10. Despite this, Microsoft appears to be listening to user-feedback, and preparing a huge update called Redstone. We don’t know exactly what this update will entail, but early indications show the resurgence of desktop gadgets. Instead of being locked to one corner, it seems the gadgets menu is more compact. Theoretically, it’s designed to quickly access essential tools or check system parameters. Clearly, Microsoft is planning a substantial update and it will be interesting to see what Redstone brings to the table.

New Windows 10 Update Re-Enables Data Collection Disabled by Third-Party Software

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Microsoft’s November update for Windows 10 has re-enabled all data collection features that may have been disabled by the user via third-party software. Many Windows 10 users, while enjoying the new operating system, are not best pleased at Mircosoft’s draconian approach to metadata collection, and so have been using third-party software such as DisableWinTracking or DoNotSpy10.

Members of the r/PCMasterRace subreddit, however, have reported that since the Windows 10 November Update, which effectively reinstalls the operating system on a computer, those who had previously disabled tracking features have had their changes reset to their defaults.

While some are accusing Microsoft of using the update to deliberately turn the data tracking settings of Windows 10 back on, it makes sense that what effectively amounts to a fresh Windows install would return some settings to their default.

“The November (Fall) Update literally reinstalls the entire operating system, which is why program defaults and a lot more end up reverting and disabled things may come back. I honestly hope they improve this upgrade system for the next big update because this has seriously caused a lot of people some trouble,” posted Puremin0rez.

Anyone using third-party software to disable Windows 10’s tracking features should check to see if their settings have been changed following the November update and adjust accordingly.

New Windows 10 Feature Delays Updates For Up to a Year

The latest update to Windows 10, version 1511 (or build 10586, but effectively ‘Service Pack 1’), has introduced a plethora of changes, from performance enhancements, refinements to Cortana, and an updated Microsoft Edge internet browser, but the most intriguing new function it has brought has gone unadvertised. With version 1511, Windows 10 users can now defer upgrades for up to a year using the Windows Update for Business service.

Windows Update for Business, or WUB, is a set of controls now available in Windows 10 Pro, and is designed to alleviate the problems incurred by businesses that are forced to install updates and upgrades when they are unprepared to do so. While designed for businesses, there’s nothing stopping regular Windows 10 user from using the system to manage their own Windows Update service.

To use WUB to defer Windows 10 updates, follow these instructions:

  1. Type gpedit.msc into the Windows searchbar. Click on the “Microsoft Common Console Document” result;
  2. The Local Group Policy Editor will now be open. Find the field “Computer Configuration,” expand the “Administrative Templates” folder, then the “Windows Components” folder, and finally “Windows Update”. Click on “Defer Upgrades and Updates” in the settings list;
  3. Here, you can select to enable deferring of updates. Two fields, one for updates and another for upgrades, will allow you to pick anywhere between 1 and 8 months to defer, in addition to the 4 months you can already defer via the Windows Update advanced settings “Defer upgrades” tickbox. Click ‘Apply’.

Windows 3.1 System Shuts Down Paris Airport

Last Saturday, the Orly airport in Paris was forced to ground all flights due to a computer glitch and not just any glitch, but one caused by a system running Windows 3.1 – Yes, the early 1990s operation system.

This glitch was brought to light by French satirical weekly, Le Canard Enchaîné, which reported that the error that cause the shutdown was traced back to a system called DECOR. DECOR is used to communicate Runway Visual Range to pilots during takeoff and landings, which during adverse weather conditions such as the fog at the time, is almost invaluable. Unfortunately, this critical system runs on the once popular Windows operating system from 1992.

The use of a 20-year-old system to run a critical system is just the tip of the iceberg, which was revealed by Alexandre Fiacre, the secretary general of France’s UNSA-IESSA air traffic controller union. “The tools used by Aéroports de Paris controllers run on four different operating systems, that are all between 10 and 20 years old,” he said “Some of ADP’s machines run on UNIX [an operating system favored by universities and start-ups in the ’80s], but also Windows XP”. Frighteningly, ADP is the company responsible for running two of France’s busiest airports: Orly and Charles de Gaulle.

His further statements only serve to make me think flying to France may not be the safest prospect, stating that the dated systems are ill maintained, a lack of staff qualified to maintain them and that they are forced to resort to scouring eBay for the parts they need to keep the systems running. And even the promises made by France’s transport minister that the systems would be replaced by 2017 are doubted by Fiacre, believing 2019 would be the earliest it could be done.

I for one, worry about the safety and security of systems that are used in critical systems, when they continue to be run on poorly maintained, dated systems. I might even be thinking twice about using air travel…

An Inside Glimpse at Computing in North Korea

After eschewing Windows due to its American origins, North Korea has been using the Red Star operating system for over a decade. Not only is Red Star created by the North Korean state, it is the only OS that is permitted for use within the country, and only supports the native language. The most recent iteration of the software, Red Star 3, is a Linux distro designed to mimic Apple’s OS X, believed to be a favourite of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

A former Google employee, Will Scott, managed to obtain a copy of Red Star 3 from a local KCC retailer during a visit to Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, giving us in the West our first glimpse at computing within North Korea.

Red Star 3’s start-up screen:

The installation process asks the user to select your city and time zone. Seoul, capital of South Korea, is conspicuously absent:

The log-in screen:

The resemblance of Red Star 3’s desktop to that of the Mac’s OS X is uncanny:

Red Star’s proprietary word processor:

And its e-mail client:

Documents can be accessed via the File Manager, again taking its cue from OS X’s Finder:

The browser is a modified Firefox, called “Maenara”:

The desktop can be modified, with a number of wallpapers included:

This one in particular, 다박솔초소의 설경, or “snow at the baksol outpost”, seems to say much about the North Korean state’s preoccupation with military might:

Microsoft Preparing Large Windows 10 Update in November

Windows 10 will be receiving a substantial update in November according to a trusted source known to industry veteran Paul Thurrott. The revised version of Windows 10, known as “Threshold 2” includes a number of new features and user-interface tweaks. For example, Cortana’s language library will be expanded and Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool contains a raft of changes. Additionally, there will be enhancements to make Microsoft Edge’s user experience more friendly. Although, extensions for Microsoft’s browser are not arriving until next year.

While individually the changes aren’t noteworthy, the combined effects makes for a rather significant update. Please note, the update won’t require any kind of activation and delivered through the standard Windows 10 update procedure. It’s interesting to see how Windows 10 evolves over the next couple of years and the response to user feedback. Overall, Windows 10 has been well-received but some users are quite skeptical about Microsoft’s data gathering activities. Nevertheless, Windows 10 and DirectX 12 illustrate the bright future for Microsoft’s last official operating system.

I’m pleased to see a regular update schedule, and Windows insiders can provide feedback on the latest Beta builds. This transparent software delivery model is refreshing and helps to shape Windows 10 into a popular, and highly respected operating system.

Have you made the switch to Windows 10 yet?

Microsoft Responds to Advert Claims in Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows Insider members recently noticed an unusual suggestions bar embedded into the Start Menu. This appeared in the latest testing build and offered information about third-party applications. Some critics and users quickly reported these suggestions as adverts which is open to interpretation. According to Microsoft, the suggestions are simply designed to customize your user-experience:

“We will continue to offer Windows Ads in Apps on Windows 10. Beyond that, we do not currently have plans for advertising in Windows 10.

“Lock and Start content is programmed by Microsoft to help customers learn and discover new features and apps to enhance their Windows 10 experience; app publishers are not paying to be featured.”

While the suggestions tab isn’t overly intrusive, some might feel its a hidden way to embed adverts into the Start Menu. Additionally, Microsoft shouldn’t integrate loads of visual tabs or the user-interface will become a complete mess. Currently, the suggestions tab is incredibly small, and doesn’t detract from the core experience. In theory, Microsoft could insert adverts into the operating system as the majority of upgrades have been via the free promotion. However, this would be extremely foolish and I’m sure their strategic team is aware of this.

Do you think the promotions tab constitutes an advert?

Image courtesy of BetaNews.

Thank you The Inquirer for providing us with this information. 

KDE Turns 19 Today!

Today marks the 19th birthday of the Kool Desktop Enviroment (KDE) which added a more stylish visual interface to various Linux distributions. Back in 1996, the creator, Matthias Ettrich said:

“Unix popularity grows thanks to the free variants, mostly Linux. But still a consistent, nice looking free desktop-environment is missing. There are several nice either free or low-priced applications available so that Linux/X11 would almost fit everybody needs if we could offer a real GUI.”

I have fond memories tinkering with KDE 3 and actually preferred it to Gnome at the time. However, most of my time is spent on Windows machines and Ubuntu’s Unity GUI. Thankfully, the KDE project is still ongoing and continues to receive updates. Although, Ettrich’s vision probably hasn’t culminated in the way he hoped as KDE’s usage is very niche. Even Linux itself has struggled to compete with the likes Windows and OS X. However, the advent of SteamOS could entice people to move especially if the Vulkan API brings significant gains compared to DirectX 11.

Linux has always been a viable alternative, but it’s incredibly difficult to make people change from what they are familiar with. Whatever the case, KDE has been an integral part of my technological upbringing so happy birthday!

Thank you Softpedia for providing us with this information.

Windows 10 Build 10565 Improves Edge, UI, Context Menus, and Icons

Microsoft has released its newest build of Windows 10 (10565) bringing with it a plethora of new features, including improvements to its new Edge browser and Cortana personal assistant, new icons and title bars, and a revised context menu.

Here is the full changelist released by Microsoft:

Skype messaging, calling and video experience: As we’ve announced previously, Skype messaging, calling and video capabilities will come integrated into Windows 10 through the Messaging, Phone and Skype video universal Windows apps. These Windows applications enable quick and easy, free calling and messaging to other Skype users across phones, over 3G/4G and Wi-Fi tablets and to PCs Wi-Fi. With this build, you can preview the integrated capabilities on your PC while an upcoming Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview build will have these integrated capabilities for you to preview soon on mobile devices. Try things like Quick Reply from Action Center where incoming notifications will come in with the option to reply inline without opening the application. This is an early preview and you can expect some bugs, and more features to come as we deliver monthly updates.

Tab Preview in Microsoft Edge: In Microsoft Edge, you can now hover over your open tabs and get a preview of what’s on those websites. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Syncing Favorites and Reading list items in Microsoft Edge: In this build, you’ll see a first look at the new syncing feature in Microsoft Edge that lets you sync your Favorites and Reading list items. We are still working on refining it, but definitely check it out and let us know what you think.

Cortana improvements: Cortana is able to intelligently understand your inked notes – setting reminders based on locations, times and numbers that she can understand from your digital annotations.

We are also rolling out new features in Cortana to help you keep track of your leisure time, including movie and event reminders. Cortana will keep track of your bookings for movies and ticketed events through your email confirmations. Two hours prior to the event start time, you’ll get helpful information to be sure you know where to go and get there on time, including an option to book and track an Uber ride directly from Cortana.

More vibrant title bars: Thanks to feedback from Windows Insiders, with this build you can now enjoy your title bars with a full color intensity that matches the rest of your theme. Title bars will now appear darker. You can adjust the color by going to Settings > Personalization > Colors. Colored title bars will appear only if “Show color on Start, Taskbar, Action Center, and Title bars” is enabled.

Improved context menus on Start:You will notice we have made some adjustments and improvements to the context menus on Start including new icons for tile adjustments.

New icons:We know Windows Insiders love new icons – this build has another batch of new icons for devices (check out Device Manager). Registry Editor finally gets a new icon!

Device activation improvements: We have received a lot of feedback from Insiders on making it easier to activate Windows 10 on devices that take advantage of the free upgrade offer to genuine Windows by using existing Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 product keys. If you install this build of the Windows 10 Insider Preview on a PC and it doesn’t automatically activate, you can enter the product key from Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 used to activate the prior Windows version on the same device to activate Windows 10 by going to Settings > Update & security > Activation and selecting Change Product Key. If you do a clean install of Windows 10 by booting off the media, you can also enter the product key from prior Windows versions on qualifying devices during setup. Refer to the Insider Hub for more information on these activation improvements including requirements.

Managing your default printer: We are introducing a new mode that makes your default printer the last printer you used. This change helps ensure the best printer is preselected in inbox print dialogs. You can manage this behavior in Settings > Devices > Printer & Scanners to change this to the previous way Windows handled default printers. The ability to set a default printer by network location has been removed.

Here are some things we have fixed:

  • You should no longer see a warning message in the Settings app > Update & Security > Windows Update regarding changed ring settings for preview builds unless you actually change your ring settings.
  • Background audio playback works again when apps like Groove are minimized.
  • We fixed the issue where clicking on the system icons in the notification area quickly results in Windows Shell blocking the launch of fly-outs like Audio, Networking, etc.
  • After Build 10525, we heard a lot of feedback that some context menus were too big for mouse. We’ve made adjustments to many of the context menus to make them smaller for using them with a mouse.
  • You can now pin contacts to the Start menu from the People app.
  • Certain apps won’t appear twice anymore when pinned to the taskbar.
  • Hiding desktop icons via context menu on the desktop now works.
  • Windows Store apps should now be updating automatically.

Known issues:

  • The search box does not work if you are in a locale where Cortana is not available. We are currently investigating workarounds.
  • The Xbox app for Windows 10 will consume gigabytes of memory on your PC if you have any Win32 games (non -Windows Store games) installed on your PC that have been identified as games or added by you in the Xbox app. Closing the Xbox app will release your PC’s memory.
  • WebM and VP9 have been temporarily removed from the flight builds. We continue to develop a VP9 implementation that we intend to ship in Windows. Expect VP9 to return soon in a future release.
  • Small form-factor devices, like the Dell Venue 8 Pro, that boot with rotation or virtual mode screen size set larger than the physical screen size will experience a bluescreen on upgrade and will roll back to the previous build.

 

Thank you Windows Blog for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Windows 10 Hits 110 Million Mark by Second Month

Earlier in the month, we got word that Windows 10 had surpassed the 100 million install mark. While that was an unofficial source, we now getting word directly from Microsoft that their new operating system managed to hit 110 million installs in the first 2 months. By this point of the month, Windows 10 is sure to have already surpassed that point, with well over 110 million installs.

Windows 10 managed to hit 75 million installs in the first month which was much better than what previous Microsoft OS’s have managed to do. Despite a drop in the adoption rate, Windows 10 still managed a quite respectable 35 million in the second month, putting it above what Windows 7 managed, if only barely. Compared to Windows 8, Windows 10 has managed to nearly double the number in 2 months.

For Microsoft, the free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users look to be paying off. With update rates trailing off though, Microsoft’s lofty goal of a billion Windows 10 devices in 3 years still seems a fair bit away. Even with all of the privacy concerns and other bugs, Windows 10 is still looking really strong. With DX12 and the promise of further fixes to both bugs and maybe even privacy, Microsoft will be sure to attract more users to upgrade eventually.

Microsoft Addresses Windows 10 Privacy Concerns by Pretending They Don’t Exist

Since the release of Windows 10 at the end of July this year, there’s been much frenzied concern – some hysterical, some justified – regarding the operating system’s approach to user privacy, but Microsoft has refused to directly comment on the issues, until now. Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, has this week paid lip service to user concerns over privacy in Windows 10, but has done so, bizarrely, by not mentioning them.

In the post, Myerson opens by assuring that all that data its collecting from you is encrypted which makes it fine – failing to acknowledge that the act of collecting user data itself is one of the prevailing issues Windows 10 owners are concerned about – and facilitates Microsoft’s desire to provide a “delightful” Windows experience. See, it’s for our own good, not for their benefit:

“We aspire to deliver a delightful and personalized Windows experience to you, which benefits from knowing some things about you to customize your experience, such as knowing whether you are a Seattle Seahawks fan or Real Madrid fan, in order to give you updates on game scores or recommend apps you might enjoy– or remembering the common words you type in text messaging conversations to provide you convenient text completion suggestions.”

Myerson follows up with a cheap, “Hey, at least we’re not Google!” jab:

“Unlike some other platforms, no matter what privacy options you choose, neither Windows 10 nor any other Microsoft software scans the content of your email or other communications, or your files, in order to deliver targeted advertising to you.”

The blog post is little more than an echo chamber – setting its own agenda, then responding to it – and does little to address the genuine concerns of Windows 10 users. In fact, that it doesn’t reveal exactly how it uses the data it collects is conspicuous by its absence.

Thank you TechDirt for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Windows Central.

New Windows Update Disables Safedisc DRM

Microsoft made a lot of people mad last month when it disabled support for Safedisc and certain versions of Securom DRMs in Windows 10, which made hundreds of older PC games unplayable, short of downloading no-CD cracks. Rather than fix the problem, Microsoft is extending it to the older version of its operating systems. A new security update for Windows Vista (Service Pack 2), Windows 7 (Service Pack 1), and Windows 8/8.1 – 3086255 – has removed Safedisc support.

The description for 3086255 claims that it “addresses a defense-in-depth update for the secdrv.sys driver, a third-party driver,” acknowledging “The update turns off the service for the secdrv.sys driver. This may affect the ability to run some older games.”

Microsoft does provide a two workarounds for users to activate Safedisc games again, but warns that the “workaround may make a computer or a network more vulnerable to attack by malicious users or by malicious software”.

Run cmd.exe and type in ‘sc start secdrv’ to start the driver service. The driver can be turned off again by entering ‘sc stop secdrv’ into the command prompt.

Safedisc can also be turned on permanently via a registry edit:

  1. Click the Start/Windows icon button, type ‘run’ into the search bar, enter ‘regedit’ into that window, and click ‘OK’;
  2. Find the following registry subkey: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\secdrv;
  3. Right-click on the file, and select ‘Modify’;
  4. Enter a number into the value data box – 4 to disable, 3 for manual, and 2 for automatic – and click OK.

Thank you Rock, Paper, Shotgun for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Smart Things.

Microsoft Builds Its Own Linux Distro

In a move unheard of under its previous regime, Microsoft has revealed that it has built its own Linux distribution and is utilising it in its Azure data centres. Since CEO Satya Nadella took the reins at Microsoft, the company has opened itself up to new ideas and solutions, but its implementation of Linux, with the operating system being its biggest rival to Windows on PCs, is still a surprise.

Microsoft has used Linux to build what it dubs Azure Cloud Switch (ACS), which the company calls “a cross-platform modular operating system for data center networking built on Linux” and “our foray into building our own software for running network devices like switches.”

In a post on the Microsoft Azure website, Principal Architect for Azure Networking Kamala Subramaniam wrote, “At Microsoft, we believe there are many excellent switch hardware platforms available on the market, with healthy competition between many vendors driving innovation, speed increases, and cost reductions.”

“However,” she adds, “what the cloud and enterprise networks find challenging is integrating the radically different software running on each different type of switch into a cloud-wide network management platform. Ideally, we would like all the benefits of the features we have implemented and the bugs we have fixed to stay with us, even as we ride the tide of newer switch hardware innovation.”

For using the best software for the job, rather than fudging it with Windows out of brand stubbornness, Microsoft should be applauded. It certainly is a very different outfit from the one run by former CEO Steve Ballmer.

Thank you The Register for providing us with this information.

How to Stop Windows 7 and 8 From Spying on You

By now, the internet is saturated with articles advising Windows 10 users how to stop the new operating system from tracking and collecting their data, with many existing Windows 7 and 8.1 users breathing a sigh of relief that they rejected their free Windows 10 update. What many are unaware of, though, is that Microsoft has updated its user agreement to introduced exactly the same spying tools into the previous two Windows iterations.

The following four Windows Updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are responsible for turning your operating system into a user data collection conduit:

KB3068708 This update introduces the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to existing devices. By applying this service, you can add benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights.

KB3022345 (replaced by KB3068708) This update introduces the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to in-market devices. By applying this service, you can add benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet been upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights.

KB3075249 This update adds telemetry points to the User Account Control (UAC) feature to collect information on elevations that come from low integrity levels.

KB3080149 This package updates the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to existing devices. This service provides benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights.

If you are a Windows 7 or 8.1 user that handles their Windows Updates manually, simply right-click on the offending updates in the list (Control Panel > Windows Update > Select updates to install) and click ‘Hide’. Don’t panic if the updates have already been installed, though, as you can still uninstall them. Navigate to Control Panel > Programs and Features > Installed Updates, find the relevant items under the Microsoft Windows sublist, right-click, and select Uninstall.

Alternatively, you can use an elevated command prompt to execute the following commands:

  • wusa /uninstall /kb:3068708 /quiet /norestart
  • wusa /uninstall /kb:3022345 /quiet /norestart
  • wusa /uninstall /kb:3075249 /quiet /norestart
  • wusa /uninstall /kb:3080149 /quiet /norestart

Thank you BGR for providing us with this information.

Windows 10 is Spying on Kids and Not Everyone is Happy About it

Windows 10 spies on its users. This is no secret. But did you know that it specifically spies on kids and sends weekly reports of children’s computer history and internet browsing details to parents in a weekly report? It’s one of the best-kept secrets contained within Microsoft’s new operating system, and that lack of disclosure alone is potentially damaging to vulnerable adolescents. In an ideal world, these weekly reports could be seen as a healthy precaution to monitor kids’ visits to potentially inappropriate sites. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We inhabit a planet in which bigots, bullies, and abusers punish children for being themselves.

Revealing the internet habits of a child to the wrong kind of parent could put that child at risk. That’s the argument put forward by members of the LGBTQ community, who are worried that confused kids looking for answers regarding their sexuality could have their support systems stripped away from them, and could be victimised if their search histories are revealed to unsympathetic parents.

The feature that sends reports on children’s computer history to parents was revealed anecdotally following reports from adult users surprised to see an itemised list of their kids’ browsing and activity.

Kirk sent the following e-mail to BoingBoing, expressing his surprise and concern over the Windows 10 spying feature:

“This weekend we upgraded my 14-year-old son’s laptop from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Today I got a creepy-ass email from Microsoft titled ‘Weekly activity report for [my kid]’, including which websites he’s visited, how many hours per day he’s used it, and how many minutes he used each of his favorite apps.

I don’t want this. I have no desire to spy on my boy. I fixed it by going into my Microsoft account’s website, hitting the “Family” section, then turning off “Email weekly reports to me” and “Activity reporting”.

OK, I admit that the timing might be coincidental but that would be one hell of a coincidence. I’ve never seen anything like this until we upgraded to Windows 10, and then I got the spy report the following business day.

A message to young readers: if you have Windows 10 now, your parents might be getting the same kind of report I did. Don’t assume your own computer has your back.”

Though Windows 8.1 has a similar feature, it is opt-in. It would be interesting to hear from Microsoft regarding its reasoning for changing permissions for Windows 10’s child monitoring feature to opt-out.

Thank you WCCF Tech for providing us with this information.

Windows 10 Already Installed on More Than 75 Million Devices

Windows 10’s launch has been nothing short of extraordinary and recorded over 14 million installs within a 24 hour period. The latest data from Yusuf Mehdi, the Corporate Vice-President of Windows is extremely exciting and indicates over 75 million devices are running Windows 10. This remarkable feat was achieved in a mere 4 weeks, and illustrates how popular the transition to Windows 10 has been. In comparison, Windows 8 took 7 months to reach 60 million installs. However, there are still concerns about Microsoft’s privacy policy in regards to snooping which could have reduced the potential uptake.

Nevertheless, 2.68 million devices per day are being updated to Windows 10 across 192 countries. Yusuf divulged a number of other intriguing statistics which help explain the scale of Windows 10 success. For example, more than 90,000 unique PCs or tablets have upgraded to Windows 10 including devices manufactured in 2007.  In terms of games, 10 million achievements have been unlocked and over 122 years of gameplay streamed from Xbox One to Windows 10 powered devices. On another note, Cortana has told over half a million jokes to amuse Windows 10 users. Also, the Windows Store has received 6 times more app downloads per device than Windows 8.

Microsoft’s free upgrade incentive has really helped push Windows 10 on such a wide scale. Hopefully, if they can reassure customers about their data usage plans, then the numbers could increase at a faster rate. Whatever the case, Windows 10 is a resounding success and Microsoft should be proud of this achievement.

Have you upgraded to Windows 10 yet?