Category: Software

Russians revolt against Windows

russian-villagersGerman Klimenko, Putin’s new Internet and technology Tsar has started a new campaign which is looking to  increase taxes that will affect American tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple.

Companies would have to pay up to 18 percent more in taxes, if his campaign is accepted by the Russian government.

The big idea is to take money away from the evil US imperial corporates and funnel it to the evil Russian oligarchs instead.

Klimenko wants to replace Windows on all government PCs with a Linux-based operating system developed by Russians. Klimenko also stated that there are already 22,000 municipal authorities ready to replace Windows with their own operating system.

Part of the problem is that Microsoft has insisted that Windows 10 must collect more data than the NSA and Russia is a little worried that all that data will be handed over to US spooks at some point.

“It’s like a wife seeing her husband with another woman – he can swear an oath afterward, but the trust is lost,” Klimenko said with the voice of experience.

Windows is still the dominant operating system on Russian people’s computers, as 93 percent of desktop computers in the country still runs Microsoft’s operating system.


Google plots the death of Flash

flash-gordonSearch engine outfit Google has just announced a so-called “timeline” for banishing Flash from its advertising network and  going totally HTML5.

According to a spokesGoogle the Google Display Network and DoubleClick Digital Marketing are now going 100 percent HTML5.

From June 30, 2016, Google will no longer accept new Flash display ads from advertisers. On January 2, 2017, even old Flash ads will be blocked from appearing, making Google’s ad network mostly Flash-free.

Video ads will remain in Flash however, although there are not many of those.

Google has been trying to get advertisers off of Flash for some time, providing tools and best practices for switching. Now it apparently feels good enough about the switch to force it on the world.

Even Adobe has had enough of Flash. It killed Flash Professional—its Flash authoring tool—in December, and today announced Adobe Animate, which outputs projects in HTML5.

Software portal sued over bad review

fef78e0cc21705723179c3a85d917f2bBleeping Computer has been sued by Enigma Software Group after posting a bad review of their core product SpyHunter in 2014.

Enigma Software claims the review was false, disparaging, and defamatory. A court case is going to be interesting the review provides links to support each claim. What Enigma seems to be hoping is that the jury will be influenced by the fact that Bleeping Computer participates in a number of affiliate programs, including run by its sworn rival Malwarebytes.

The lawsuit says, “Bleeping has a direct financial interest in driving traffic and sales to Malwarebytes and driving traffic and sales away from ESG.”

“Bleeping not only has unlawfully benefited from its spear campaign to the detriment of ESG, it has damaged the reputation of ESG by refusing to take down its false and misleading statements which have been reposted numerous times on the other anti-spyware related forums and websites.”

Bleeping Computer use affiliate links for a number of vendors, not just Malwarebytes. Then there is the small matter that Enigma Software and SpyHunter has a poor reputation because of its spam and er questionable detection rates.

One of the more common complaints about SpyHunter and Enigma Software is that the product is promoted as free, when it really isn’t.

Its free version offers a scanner but if you want the malware removed you have to pay for the full version.

In a statement on Bleeping Computer, owner Lawrence Abrams, says the Enigma Software lawsuit is a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit.

“Enigma Software has a history of filing lawsuits to censor and bully people into removing reviews or opinions about their products… If BleepingComputer does not get the help we need and we lose this battle, it will only embolden Enigma Software to try to silence other bloggers, IT technicians, or computer security enthusiasts.”

Bleeping Computer has started a fund to gather donations for their legal costs, one of the first donations made came from Malwarebytes, which sent $5,000 shortly after the campaign started which though helpful financially probably is not that useful tactically.

Kids are mostly alright

the-who-the-kids-are-alrightSince the 1990s there has been an outcry about the rise of violent computer games which were supposed to corrupt children and turn them into psychopaths. Now studies have shown that the violent games did not make a blind bit of difference.

A group of researchers, led by biological psychologist and video game violence skeptic Peter Etchells, has published an analysis suggesting that players of violent games might face a very small increase in risk for behavioural problems.

The area is tricky because it is possible that people with behavioural problems would seek out violent media rather than have it caused by violent games. Then if you focus on the violence, rather than things like the fact that they are challenging, competitive, fast-paced, these could also cause the problem.

Etchells and his team used a study which was based on games from the ’90s.

The data used in this analysis came from people participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which had started with more than 14,000 pregnant women in 1991 and 1992. Around 2,400 of the children in the study had answered a questionnaire on their gaming habits when they were eight or nine years old, and around 5,000 had completed an interview called the Development and Well-Being Assessment (“DAWBA”) at the age of fifteen. Approximately 1,800 children fell into both categories.

The researchers focused on two outcomes of the DAWBA: risk for depression, and risk for “conduct disorder.”

Then, they tried to eliminate or control for as many confounding factors as possible. They looked for children who had been rated as high-risk for conduct disorder by their parents when they were seven years old and removed them from the study. The researchers included family history of mental health, maternal education and socio-economic status, religiosity, family structure, gender, bullying victimhood, IQ, and social and emotional problems in their model as well.

Children who had reported playing shoot-em-up games at the age of eight or nine had a slightly increased chance of conduct disorder. The effect was weak, though; just on the border of statistical significance.

The weakness is that ’90s games are not the same sort of thing. However the research suggests that the problem is small potatoes.

“Some have claimed that the magnitude of this effect is larger than the effect of exposure to smoke at work on lung cancer rates. Our findings do not support such claims.”

Trouble at Github

beardieThere is trouble in weirdy beardy land as the $2 billion startup GitHub is suffering from a brain drain because its top beardies don’t like their king.

Business Insider has been attempting to get the inside trouser measurement of the drama. So far 10 executives have cleaned out their desks and taken their action figures and amine posters home.

The problem appears to be that the King Beardy Cofounder CEO Chris Wanstrath (pictured), with support from the board, is radically changing the company’s culture.

In the old days there was a flat structure based purely on meritocracy and now Wanstrath has bought in supervisors and middle managers. He has abandoned the remote-employee culture and forced senior managers to report to the office.

Some longer-term employees feel like there’s a “culture of fear” where people who don’t support all the changes are being ousted.

Kakul Srivastava, vice president of programme management said that Github was getting bigger and it needed to build a new kind of Enterprise Company where the playbooks of old won’t always work.

riVnhnsiSrivastava (left) is a former Yahoo and Flickr exec and is part of Wanstrath’s management team. She joined GitHub in July to revamp its products and she also does not even have a beard.

Wanstrath became CEO in 2014 after GitHub was embroiled in a sexual-harassment scandal by a female employee who quit. GitHub’s own internal investigation determined that no sexual harassment took place, but said there were other leadership issues going on.

Now he is trying to overhaul Github, with full support from the venture capitalists who backed the company.

Developers spend kickstarter funds on strippers and booze

shutterstock_275329850A game project had to be cancelled after the developers spent all the kickstarter money on strippers and booze – they apparently wasted the rest.

According to PC Worldlead programmer Eric Tereshinski resigned from the Ant Simulator  project after finding out his business partners “were secretly stealing company money”.

More specifically, “They had secretly spent the overwhelming majority of both our Kickstarter money and the Ant Simulator investment money on liquor, restaurants, bars, and… strippers,” says Tereshinski.

“My ex-business partners directly said to me, ‘If you release Ant Simulator without us, I will sue you.’ Resigning and cancelling Ant Simulator is really the only option available to me right now.”

Tereshinski signed an LLC with two of his long-time friends.  He said: “They went over the contract line by line with me and I reviewed the whole thing twice. I just didn’t realize they had protected themselves, screwed me (like the fact that they listed themselves as consultants, so they aren’t legally obligated to work on anything, but still have the rights to spend money etc.), and I had no idea what their plan was until it was too late.”

Tereshinski could  sue but the most likely outcome is “that things end up more or less the same as they are now” with only the lawyers richer. So he’s walking away.

Backers can apparently expect an email about refunds soon.

Apple wrestles with Safari crashing feature

Alex Scheffler's Flip Flap SafariThe software genii at the fruity cargo Apple are in hot water after it turns out the browser they came up with crashes easier than a drunken emu.

The Tame Apple Press has done its best to put a lid on the whole matter, but the problem is a little difficult to hide. The problem is worldwide and means that searching from the address bar in both iOS and OS X is causing the browser to crash.

Even the Verge which spun yesterday’s terrible results for Apple ans “the best ever” has confirmed the problem on one of the many iOS devices and OS X machines it has in the office.

The problems are related to a feature on Safari which tells you what you should be looking at as you start typing.  You can fix the problem by disabling this feature but it does mean that you will not have the benefit of having Apple to tell you what to do. This will mean that countless fanboys will be in the difficult position of having to think, rather than think different.

The Verge claims that not everyone is affected, but actually everyone is. It is just that they might have the search suggestions cached locally or they can reach Apple’s servers thanks to their DNS cache. TApple is not saying anything of course.  But it is just the latest in a number of embarrassing programming errors on some of its products.

A couple of months ago Mac users were forced to reinstall software from the App Store following a security glitch. An expired security certificate used by Apple to verify apps forced a number of Mac users to reinstall certain pieces of software after the company attempted to move from the older SHA-1 standard, to the newer, more secure, SHA-2. Some apps in the App Store did not support the SHA-2 standard, resulting in the forced reinstall.

Microsoft will not support Skylake in Windows 7 and 8

Windows 10Software Giant Microsoft has come up with a cunning plan to get those people who want to run Intel’s Skylake to upgrade to Windows 10.  It says that it is only supporting the new CPU for another 18 months.

Vole has announced that it will cease official support for devices running Intel’s 6th generation Skylake on Windows versions from 7, all the way to 8.1. It all seems to us to be part of a cunning plan to get users to upgrade to Windows 10.

Chipzilla probably does not mind because if they upgrade they are more likely to buy Intel chips, although if they have just splashed out on Skylake chips they are not going to want a new one for a while

Microsoft’s Terry Myerson said said that Windows 7 was designed nearly 10 years ago before any x86/x64 SOCs existed.

“For Windows 7 to run on any modern silicon, device drivers and firmware need to emulate Windows 7’s expectations for interrupt processing, bus support, and power states- which is challenging for WiFi, graphics, security, and more,” he claimed.

“As partners make customizations to legacy device drivers, services, and firmware settings, customers are likely to see regressions with Windows 7 ongoing servicing.”

Myerson said that Windows 10 works rather well with Skylake chips, though it’s mostly geared towards mobile and laptops, flaunting battery life savings and graphical performance increases.

To be fair the chances of someone running an Intel Skylake chip and using Windows 7,8, or 8.1 are slim but it is possible that corporate PCs/notebooks are only supported on Windows 7 because that is what the company runs.

Microsoft said it will publish a list of devices running Skylake and Windows 7/8/8.1 that will be exempted from this rule and will instead remain supported through July 2017.

What we do not really understand is why Microsoft is so obessed with getting people to upgrade. With its nagware and other strategies it is really hacking people off and does not seem to care.

Open sauce has zero-day bugs too

maxresdefaultA zero-day vulnerability in the FFmpeg open-source multimedia framework, which is used by shedloads of Linux kernel-based operating systems and software applications and Mac OS X and Windows platforms has been spotted.

The vulnerability was discovered on January 12, 2016, by Russian programmer Maxim Andreev. Anyone who has the necessary skills to hack a computer to read local files on a remote machine and send them over the network using a specially crafted video file.

The hole is limited to reading local files and sending them over the network, not to remote code execution, but it’s rather embarrassing. The FFmpeg developers are aware of the issue, and they are trying to patch it. If you are worried about it you can disable HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) while building the package while the sort out a fix. The FFmpeg team are expected to release a patch or a new version of the software later today.

The attack does not even require the user to open the dodgy file. KDE Dolphin thumbnail generation is enough to start the hack. Desktop search indexers, ffprobe or any operations that involve ffmpeg reading are affected.

Graphene could create a computer brain

mybrainhurtsFlakes of graphene might be the the key to building computer chips that can processes information similar to human brain does – not your brain of course, or mine, but a better class of brain .

The technology is centred on neuromorphic chips which are made up of networks of transistors that interact the way human neurons do. This means that they can process analog input, such as visual information, quicker and more accurately than traditional chips.

Bhavin Shastri, a postdoctoral fellow in electrical engineering at Princeton University said that one way of building such transistors is to construct them of lasers that rely on an encoding approach called “spiking.”

Depending on the input, the laser can provide a brief spike in its output of photons or not respond at all. Instead of using the on or off state of the transistor to represent the 1s and 0s of digital data, these neural transistors rely on the time intervals between spikes.

Shastri said: “We’re essentially using time as a way of encoding information. Computation is based on the spatial and temporal positions of the pulses. This is sort of the fundamental way neurons communicate with other neurons.”

Shastris work with Lawrence Chen, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at McGill University, is trying to get the laser to spike at picosecond time scales which are one trillionth of a second.

They managed to do this by putting a tiny piece of graphene inside a semiconductor laser. The graphene acts as a “saturable absorber,” soaking up photons and then emitting them in a quick burst.

Graphene is a good saturable absorber because it can take up and release a lot of photons extremely fast, and it works at any wavelength.It also stands up very well to all the energy produced inside a laser.