Tag: windows

Ballmer realised he was the Microsoft problem

An interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has revealed the thinking that led him to decide to go.

In an exclusive interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said the realisation that he was the problem started in a London street in spring when he thought Microsoft was likely to change faster if he wasn’t there.

To that end he wrote as many as 40 resignation letters and in June a meeting with the board made the decision to leave so.

He was already under pressure from board directors including former IBM and Symantec exec John Thompson to speed up change at the software behemoth which was lagging behind competitors on the cloud and tablet front.

In a characteristic Ballmer move, during the interview with the WSJ he leapt from his chair and screamed “Charge! Charge! Charge!”.

Ballmer (57) has large shares in Microsoft and he’s not short of a bob or three.

Microsoft's picture passwords unsafe

Microsoft has been touting picture passwords as the next top trend in security, but researchers have discovered that these are not as difficult to crack as the company thinks.

Microsoft offered a Picture Gesture Authentication (PGA) system on Windows 8 and many thought it was a wizard idea. But a paper issued to the USENIX Security Conference has proved that some setups are easier to crack than others.

The paper, penned by Arizona State University, Delaware State University and GFS Technology researchers with the catchy title “On the Security of Picture Gesture Authentication“, said that unique picture password gestures may not be so unique.

Using a picture of a person and then three taps as your gestures – with one of them on the eyes – is equivalent of making your text password “password”.

The researchers also developed an attack framework and attack models which can take out PGA.

All you have to do is work out a user’s password selection process to crack a considerable portion of collected picture passwords under different settings.

One of the problems is that most people choose to upload one of their own photos to setup their picture gesture password, instead of using one that Microsoft provides.

Obviously there is a relationship between background pictures and a user’s identity, personality or interests with 60.3 percent of them selecting areas on an image where “special objects” are located.

Eyes are the most frequently chosen point of interest, followed by nose, hand or finger, jaw and face.

While some users chose a landscape photo because it “usually doesn’t have any information about who you are,” others selected computer games posters or cartoons, and the researchers said that doesn’t necessarily protect your privacy. 

FBI makes Syrian Electronic Army a public enemy

The FBI has decided that the Syrian Electronic Army is really a criminal organisation and has listed it on its wanted posters.

It’s an unusual move because the SEA is seen not as a hacker organisation, like LulzSec, but as a division of the Syrian army. It is loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad if not directly under military control.

This means the FBI seems to be taking on another country’s military, something that you would expect the Pentagon to be more interested in doing.

Last week the SEA went too far and tinkered with the New York Times, which meant that Apple fanboys had no ready source of press releases from their favourite company.

The SEA also hit the Twitter feed of Associated Press, which led to a temporary stock market crash.

Normally acting as a paid police force for Big Content, the FBI Cyber Division unit has officially added  the pro-Assad hacker collective to its wanted list.

The FBI issued an advisory that included information about the SEA, its capabilities, and some of its more heinous attacks.

The advisory warns networks to be on the lookout for attacks, and that anyone found to be aiding the SEA will be seen as terrorists actively aiding attacks against US websites. 

Developers furious with Microsoft

Software empire in decline, Microsoft, has angered developers by insisting on delaying the launch of Windows 8.1 until mid October.

Normally the Vole would have a “release to manufacturing” build of its software several weeks before the code reaches the great unwashed.

This early availability lets developers polish their work and testing so that their apps are available when the OS launches.

However, this is the new Microsoft, which has a reputation for messing up everything. The Vole has confirmed that although Windows 8.1 has reached the RTM milestone and been passed to computer- and tablet-making OEMs, subscribers to the Microsoft Developer Network will not get the final code until the public does on 17 October.

While the RTM system has worked really well for a couple of decades, Microsoft is now saying that it’s much better to keep the unfinished code out of the hands of its partners.

After all, Apple would never let its code out before it was ready, and Microsoft is banking on copying Apple these days. Of course Apple code usually ships buggy and does not have the same amount of code available on the first day, but at least you have secrecy on your side.

Antoine Leblond, a Microsoft spokesperson, wrote in a blog that in the old days software was ready for broader customer use. “However, it’s clear that times have changed.” Apparently Microsoft does not want to repeat successful formulas any more.

Developers raged against the decision in comments on another Microsoft blog that told programmers to write and test their apps against Windows 8.1 Preview.

One developer said that if the world was inhabited by pink unicorns and pixie dust, Microsoft’s suggestion could work. But, “we live in the real world last time I looked out the window. In the real world, developers must have access to the RTM bits before [general availability]. The fact that Microsoft no longer seems to understand this truly frightens me”.

Another said it was unacceptable to code with the laggy Windows 8.1 Preview or wait for performance testing under RTM and hope everything is fixed.

“How is it Microsoft can develop their apps to work on RTM code yet independent software vendors who are supporting your platform don’t get the same benefit?” the developer asked. 

Microsoft 8.1 will be available 17 October

Microsoft’s Windows 8 update, Windows 8.1, will roll out in the UK 12PM on the 17th October as a free update for anyone already on the Windows 8 OS, and 4am 17 October in the USA.

The update will be available through the Windows Store for existing customers and will also be available at retail and new devices 18 October.

It’ll feature an updated Windows Store and cloud connectivity with the soon-to-be-renamed SkyDrive. The Preview is already available for a quick look here.

Senior marketing comms manager at Microsoft, Brandon LeBlanc, said on the Windows blog that customers will appreciate increased personalisation, IE11, some built in apps “including a few new ones” like Bing Food & Drink.

Customers may not be looking forward to Bing-powered search, which reportedly sends searches on your desktop online to Microsoft servers.

But LeBlanc would not offer any further information in the comments about upcoming apps beyond what was talked about at the Build conference, such as the native Facebook and Foursquare apps. 

Linus releases 3.11

Although there is very little value in the number, Linux’s mother superior Linus “Sweary” Torvalds has pointed out that his latest version of the software has the same number as Windows’ breakaway success.

Microsoft’s Windows 3.11 was the runaway success which gave Vole total control of the desktop.

When Torvalds has released Linux 3.11-rc5 he said he wished he were able to release final Linux 3.11 as on the exact same day 20 years ago Microsoft released Windows 3.11.

Sadly, the numerology did not work out and while releasing the final 3.11 today would be a lovely coincidence “it is not to be”, notes Torvalds in the release announcement.

Linux 3.11-rc5 is not that exciting. Things have been calming down in the open source world after the last release which was huge.

Torvalds noted that there is nothing huge that would stand out in the release except Radeon changes in the power management arena.

Linux 3.11 will be loaded with quite a lot of features when the final version is out. There will be LZ4 compression, Zswap, XFS file system improvements, Radeon dynamic power management support, new DRM display driver, Intel Haswell improvements, AVX2 Crypto optimizations, ARM improvements and 64-bit support for XEN and KVM virtualisation. But nothing which is as earth shattering as Windows 3.11 was in its day.  Clearly there is not much to numerology.

TOR advises abandoning Windows

TOR has warned its users to stay away from Windows after it was revealed that US spooks were spreading malware on the anonymising network using a Firefox zero-day vulnerability

The zero-day vulnerability allowed the FBI and other spooks to to use JavaScript code to collect crucial identifying information on computers visiting some websites using The Onion Router (TOR) network.

According to a security advisory posted by the TOR Project, the work around is switching away from Windows.

This is because the malicious Javascript that exploited the zero-day vulnerability was written to target Windows computers running Firefox 17 ESR (Extended Support Release), a version of the browser customised to view websites using TOR.

Those using Linux and OS X were unaffected. While there is nothing to stop the spooks writing a version of the code which targets Linux and OS X, it is less likely to happen.

The fake Javascript was likely planted on websites where the attacker was interested to see who visited. The script collected the hostname and MAC address of a person’s computer and sent it to a remote computer.

The exploit is targeted specifically to unmask Tor Browser Bundle users without actually installing any backdoors on their host.

The TOR Project also advised users to turn off Javascript by clicking the blue “S” by the green onion within the TOR browser.

“Disabling JavaScript will reduce your vulnerability to other attacks like this one, but disabling JavaScript will make some websites not work like you expect,” TOR wrote. “A future version of Tor Browser Bundle will have an easier interface for letting you configure your JavaScript settings.”

Mozilla has patched the hole in later versions of Firefox, but some people may still be using the older versions of the TOR Browser Bundle. 

Ex Windows chief Sinofsky banned from helping rivals

After receiving a $10 million golden geddouttahere, ousted ex-Microsoft Windows chief Steve Sinofsky has been banned from working for rivals as part of the payoff, it has been revealed.

The Guardian noticed in an SEC filing that Sinofsky, who left the company last November, is contractually unable to join top Microsoft rivals including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Oracle, EMC or VMWare before 2014. He is also banned from entering talks with IBM, Dell, Intel and Nokia with the purpose of disrupting their relationships with Microsoft.

Sinofsky, once considered a natural candidate for next Microsoft CEO, was pushed out of the company by Ballmer late last year in what was seen as Ballmer consolidating his power over the company. Steve Sinofsky spent 23 years at Microsoft and was responsible for the flagship Windows 7 and, most recently Windows 8. But there were murmurings when he left that Sinofsky was a little too aggressive, and a fan of making executive decisions without consulting the other voles.

At the time of Sinofsky’s departure, there were rumours he was trying to bring further Microsoft divisions under his control, although this was denied. Ballmer split the executive control of Windows into two positions. After the poor Windows 8 launch, squeezing Sinofsky out of Redmond wasn’t too difficult a task for Ballmer, although it surprised pundits.

It is perhaps unsurprising that volish lawyers penned such a restrictive list considering the nature of Sinofsky leaving. He was forced to agree not to approach a long list of companies about reconsidering their custom with Microsoft – including Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, HTC, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, LG, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba.

Of course, given Microsoft’s dismal attempts to turn itself into a hardware company – and the disastrous Surface tablet – many partners may not need much of a push to begin with.

As long as Sinofsky doesn’t join the board of Microsoft’s biggest  rivals before 2014, or squawk to the competition about how lousy Redmond is, he is due over $10 million to cover for 418,000 share options.

Super cheap Nokia Lumia 625 leaked

Troubled former rubber-boot maker Nokia has had details of a new phone, tipped to be the biggest on the market, leaked – and it’s going to be cheap as chips.

The Lumia 625 specifications have been leaked by Finnish website puhelinvertailu.com.

It’s rumoured to have a 4.7-inch LCD display with 800x480p resolution and pixel density of 201ppi. Layered with Corning Gorilla Glass 2 for resistance against scratches, this screen will feature the super sensitive touch technology that has been seen in other Lumia phones. It will run on Windows Phone 8 and have a 1.2GHz dual-core processor under the bonnet and 512MB RAM

The Lumia 625 is expected to have a 5MP camera with LED flash on the back, but no front unit.

There will be 8GB internal storage and microSD support of up to 64GB. Connectivity options include 2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. It will be powered by 2,000mAh battery and weigh 159gram. Going by the leaked images of the handset, it will come in green, yellow, white, black and red.

While the official price of the phone has not been leaked there are rumours that Nokia is going to have a crack at making it fairly cheap. The company has to do something to restore confidence in its range.

This will be the fourth smartphone released in as many months, after the Lumia 925, Lumia 928 and Lumia 1020.

Other handsets launched by the company during this period include feature phones like the 208, 207, Asha 501 and Asha 210. 

Microsoft misses expectations, shares slide

Software giant Microsoft posted its quarterly earnings late Thursday and the numbers were far short of what Wall Street was expecting.  

Wall Street was hoping for earnings of 75 cents per share, but in the end Microsoft reported 66 cents. It was not all bad news, as revenue rose 10 percent to hit $19.9 billion, but even that was short of the Street’s expectations, as analysts were hoping for a figure north of $20 billion.

Net income was $4.97 billion. Sales of Microsoft Office were good, but the result of weak PC sales was still evident. Windows sales were $4.4 billion, well below analysts’ expectations. It appears that both Microsoft and the analysts underestimated the extent of the PC slump.

Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said consumer PC shipments dropped 20 percent last quarter. This directly hurt Windows sales, but indirectly it also affected Office sales. One of the more disappointing parts of the report was a $900 million charge for Microsoft’s inventory of unsold Surface RT tablets.

A week ago Microsoft slashed the Surface RT price in an effort to get rid of excess inventory, but it seems it was too late. Wall Street likes blood in the water and Microsoft fell 6.3 percent in after-hours trading on Thursday. However, the stock performed rather well, with a 33 percent increase this year.

With Microsoft’s tablet strategy faltering, and no end in sight to the malaise in the PC market, the party may be over, at least for now.