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Transportation

'IT Issue' Grounded All United Airlines Flights In The US (nbcnews.com) 112

For two and a half hours -- no take-offs. An anonymous reader quotes NBC News: All of United Airlines' domestic flights were grounded Sunday night because of a computer outage, the Federal Aviation Administration said as scores of angry travelers sounded off on social media... U.S. officials told NBC News that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS, had issues with low bandwidth. No further explanation was immediately available for what United described only as "an IT issue."
An hour ago United tweeted that they'd finally lifted the stop and were "working to get flights on their way." 66 flights were cancelled just at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, the Chicago Department of Aviation told the Associated Press, and though the article doesn't identify the total number of flights affected, "Chicago-based United Airlines and United Express operate more than 4,500 flights a day to 339 airports across five continents."
Firefox

The SHA-1 End Times Have Arrived (threatpost.com) 49

"Deadlines imposed by browser makers deprecating support for the weakened SHA-1 hashing algorithm have arrived," writes Slashdot reader msm1267. "And while many websites and organizations have progressed in their migrations toward SHA-2 and other safer hashing algorithms, pain points and potential headaches still remain." Threatpost reports: Starting on Jan. 24, Mozilla's Firefox browser will be the first major browser to display a warning to its users who run into a site that doesn't support TLS certificates signed by the SHA-2 hashing algorithm... "SHA-1 deprecation in the context of the browser has been an unmitigated success. But it's just the tip of the SHA-2 migration iceberg. Most people are not seeing the whole problem," said Kevin Bocek, VP of security strategy and threat intelligence for Venafi. "SHA-1 isn't just a problem to solve by February, there are thousands more private certificates that will also need migrating"...

Experts warn the move to SHA-2 comes with a wide range of side effects; from unsupported applications, new hardware headaches tied to misconfigured equipment and cases of crippled credit card processing gear unable to communicate with backend servers. They say the entire process has been confusing and unwieldy to businesses dependent on a growing number of digital certificates used for not only their websites, but data centers, cloud services, and mobile apps... According to Venafi's research team, 35 percent of the IPv4 websites it analyzed in November are still using insecure SHA-1 certificates. However, when researchers scanned Alexa's top 1 million most popular websites for SHA-2 compliance it found only 536 sites were not compliant.
The article describes how major tech companies are handling the move to SHA-2 compliance -- including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Salesforce and Cloudflare
Security

Pwn2Own 2017 Offers Big Bounties For Linux, Browser, and Apache Exploits (eweek.com) 54

Now that TrendMicro owns TippingPoint, there'll be "more targets and more prize money" according to eWeek, and something special for Pwn2Own's 10th anniversary in March. Slashdot reader darthcamaro writes: For the first time in its ten-year history, the annual Pwn2Own hacking competition is taking direct aim at Linux. Pwn2Own in the past has typically focused mostly on web browsers, running on Windows and macOS. There is a $15,000 reward for security researchers that are able to get a local user kernel exploit on Ubuntu 16.10. The bigger prize though is a massive $200,000 award for exploiting Apache Web Server running on Ubuntu.
"We are nine weeks away," TrendMicro posted Wednesday, pointing out that they're giving out over $1 million in bounties, including the following:
  • $100,000 for escaping a virtualization hypervisor
  • $80,000 for a Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome exploit
  • $50,000 for an exploit of Adobe Reader, Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint
  • $50,000 for an Apple Safari exploit
  • $30,000 for a Firefox exploit
  • $30,000, $20,000 and $15,000 for privilege-escalating kernel vulnerabilities on Windows, macOS and Linux (respectively)
  • $200,000 for an Apache Web Server exploit

Microsoft

Microsoft To Lay Off 700 Employees Next Week, Report Says (geekwire.com) 168

According to a report by Business Insider (Warning: may be paywalled), Microsoft will cut about 700 jobs in conjunction with its quarterly earnings release next week. GeekWire reports: The latest layoffs are part of the company's previously announced plan to cut about 2,850 roles globally during its current fiscal year, according to the Business Insider report. The company declined to comment this afternoon, but we understand the report to be accurate, based on our own sources. Next week's cuts will be spread across a variety of job functions inside the company. The company's previous job cuts have come in areas including its smartphone business and global sales team. Microsoft announced its largest cuts in July 2014, eliminating 18,000 jobs, or 14 percent of the company at the time.
Windows

Microsoft Targets Chrome Users With Windows 10 Pop-up Ad (pcmag.com) 171

Google Chrome users on Windows 10 are apparently being treated to a new experience: a pop-up ad. From a PCMag report: If you have Chrome installed and the icon present on the Windows Taskbar, chances are you're going to start seeing a pop-up advert appear suggesting you install Microsoft's Personal Shopping Assistant Chrome extension. Microsoft touts it as "Your smart shopping cart across the web." Opting to install the extension results in Microsoft monitoring which products you've searched for and viewed while using Chrome, and then offering to compare those products to find the best price. There's also alerts when prices change, and the ability to track products across all your devices. Of course, Microsoft will make money if you opt to purchase any products using the Assistant.
Microsoft

Microsoft is Bringing Cortana To Android Lock Screen (mspoweruser.com) 94

Microsoft is testing out a new way to access Cortana, its digital assistant, from the Android lock screen, with just a swipe. It's a new feature that's clearly designed to replace Google's own quick access, and to convince Android users to switch to Cortana. According to MSPowerUser, Cortana on the lock screen doesn't replace existing lock screens, so you can still use a custom one or the default experience that ships with your Android device. Cortana is activated simply by swiping left or right on the floating logo. Microsoft is currently testing this new feature, and any Android users can opt-in to trial the new beta features over at the Google Play Store.
Windows

Microsoft Adds Intel's Clear Linux Open-Source OS To Azure Market (networkworld.com) 24

JG0LD quotes a report from Network World: Microsoft announced today that it has added support for the Intel-backed Clear Linux distribution in instances for its Azure public cloud platform. It's the latest in a lengthy string of Linux distributions to become available on the company's Azure cloud. BrianFagioli adds from BetaNews: In other words, users of the company's cloud platform can set up a virtual machine using this distribution in addition to existing Linux-based operating systems. "Today, we're excited to announce the availability of Clear Linux OS for Intel Architecture in Azure Marketplace. Clear Linux OS is a free, open-source Linux distribution built from the ground up for cloud and data center environments and tuned to maximize the performance and value of Intel architecture. Microsoft Azure is the first public cloud provider to offer Clear Linux, and we're really excited about what it means for Linux users in the cloud and the community at large," says Jose Miguel Parrella, Open Source Product Manager, Microsoft.
PlayStation (Games)

Report: PS4 Is Selling Twice As Well As Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 136

The latest numbers released by analysts suggest that the Sony PlayStation 4 is selling twice as many units worldwide as the Xbox One since both systems launched in late 2013. The data comes from a new SuperData report on the Nintendo Switch, which is backed up by Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad. SuperData mentions an installed base of 26 million Xbox One units and 55 million PS4 units. Ars Technica reports: Ahmad's chart suggests that Microsoft may have sold slightly more than half of the 53.4 million PS4 units that Sony recently announced it had sold through January 1. Specific numbers aside, though, it's clear Microsoft has done little to close its console sales gap with Sony over the past year -- and may have actually lost ground in that time. The last time we did our own estimate of worldwide console sales, through the end of 2015, we showed the Xbox One with about 57 percent as many systems sold as the PS4 (21.49 million vs. 37.7 million). That lines up broadly with numbers leaked by EA at the time, which suggest the Xbox One had sold about 52.9 percent as well as the PS4 (19 million vs. 35.9 million). One year later, that ratio has dipped to just above or even a bit below 50 percent, according to these reports. The relative sales performance of the Xbox One and PS4 doesn't say anything direct about the health or quality of those platforms, of course. Microsoft doesn't seem to be in any danger of abandoning the Xbox One platform any time soon and has, in fact, recently committed to upgrading it via Project Scorpio later this year. The gap between PS4 and Xbox One sales becomes important only if it becomes so big that publishers start to consider the Xbox One market as a minor afterthought that can be safely ignored for everything but niche games.
Microsoft

Microsoft Plans To Add an Ebook Store To Windows 10 (mspoweruser.com) 68

Microsoft may have plans to give Windows 10 users the ability to purchase ebooks directly from the Windows Store. According to a report on MSPowerUser, Windows 10 Creators Update will feature a new book store interface that will support the purchase and viewing of books in the Microsoft Edge browser. The report claims that this feature will be coming to both Windows 10 Mobile and other Windows 10 variants on PCs and tablets. It's worth mentioning that Microsoft made EPUB support a feature of Microsoft Edge as part of its Windows 10 Creators Update Insider test builds last year.
Windows

Windows 10 Privacy Changes Appease Watchdogs, But Still No Data 'Off-Switch' (zdnet.com) 210

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced several privacy changes in Windows 10, but it didn't give users an option to completely opt-out of data-collection feature. The announcement came at a time to coincide with a statement by the Swiss data protection and privacy regulator, the FDPIC, which last week said it would drop its threats of a lawsuit after the company "agreed to implement" a string of recommendations it made last year. The news closed the books on an investigation that began in 2015, shortly after Windows 10 was released. Though the Swiss appear satisfied, other critics are waiting for more. The French data protection watchdog, the CNIL, was equally unimpressed by Microsoft's actions, and it served the company with a notice in July to demand that it clean up its privacy settings. In an email, the CNIL said that the changes "seem to comply" with its complaint, but it's "now analyzing more in [sic] details Microsoft answers in order to know whether all the failures underlined in the formal notice do now comply with the law." ZDNet adds: Microsoft still hasn't said exactly what gets collected as part of the basic level of collection, except that the data is used to improve its software and services down the line; a reasonable ask -- but one that nonetheless lacks specifics. Microsoft said it wants users to "trust" it. And while the likelihood that the company is doing anything nefarious with users' information is frankly unlikely, the running risk is that the data could somehow be turned over to a government agency or even stolen by hackers is inescapable. That risk alone is enough for many to want to keep what's on their computer in their homes. While changing the privacy controls is a move in the right direction, it's still short of what many have called for. By ignoring the biggest privacy complaint from its consumer users -- the ability to switch off data collection altogether -- Microsoft has favored the "just enough" approach to appease the regulators. Without a way to truly opt-out, Microsoft's repeated pledge (eight times in the blog post, no less) to give its users "control" of their data comes off as a hollow soundbite.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patent Hints At Foldable Tablet Design For Surface Phone (trustedreviews.com) 26

A new patent has surfaced from Microsoft that may shed some light on the company's upcoming Surface Phone. The patent, which was first filed in October 2014 and recently made public, details a 2-in-1 foldable device with a flexible hinge that can act both as a smartphone and a tablet. TrustedReviews reports: The device in the filings can be configured into various shapes, either folded out like tablets, or folded back inwards to create a smaller phone-like handset. There's also the opportunity to place it in a tent-mode much like Lenovo's range of Yoga hybrids which can be propped up to make it easier to watch media. Microsoft has taken a universal approach to Windows 10, in that the OS is designed to work across multiple devices, so a Surface Phone that could transform into another mobile product would make a lot of sense in terms of demonstrating Windows 10s capabilities. The inventor of the product in the patent is listed as Kabir Siddiqui, the man behind Microsoft's successful patent for the Surface kickstand and Surface camera angle -- which bodes well for this latest design in the long run. Unfortunately, there's every chance we'll never see this technology in a retail-ready product from Microsoft, though some version of the foldable device could well arrive.
Microsoft

Microsoft: Windows 7 Does Not Meet the Demands of Modern Technology; Recommends Windows 10 (neowin.net) 502

In a blog post, Microsoft says that continued usage of Windows 7 increases maintenance and operating costs for businesses. Furthermore, time is needlessly wasted on combating malware attacks that could have been avoided by upgrading to Windows 10. A report on Neowin adds: Microsoft also says that many hardware manufacturers do not provide drivers for Windows 7 any longer, and many developers and companies refrain from releasing programs on the outdated operating system. Markus Nitschke, Head of Windows at Microsoft Germany, had the following to say about Windows 7: "Today, it [Windows 7] does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments. As early as in Windows XP, we saw that companies should take early steps to avoid future risks or costs. With Windows 10, we offer our customers the highest level of security and functionality at the cutting edge.
AI

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Warns Against 'Hubris' Amid AI Growth (bloomberg.com) 127

Microsoft and its competitors should eschew artificial intelligence systems that replace people instead of maximizing their time, CEO Satya Nadella said in an interview on Monday. From the report: "The fundamental need of every person is to be able to use their time more effectively, not to say, 'let us replace you'," Nadella said in an interview at the DLD conference in Munich. "This year and the next will be the key to democratizing AI. The most exciting thing to me is not just our own promise of AI as exhibited by these products, but to take that capability and put it in the hands of every developer and every organization. [...] There's a thin line between hubris and confidence," Nadella said. "Always there is risk of hubris coming back, missing trends. The only long-term indicator of success is, âhow good is your internal culture?'" "What I've learned if anything in three years as CEO is, it's not about celebrating one product," he said. "That, to me, is the sign of a company that's built to last. In tech it's even more harsh."
SuSE

Windows 10 Gets A New Linux: openSUSE (fossbytes.com) 189

An anonymous reader writes: "Running Linux binaries natively on Windows... that sounds awesome indeed," writes Hannes Kuhnemund, the senior product manager for SUSE Linux Enterprise. He's written a blog post describing how to run openSUSE Leap 42.2 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP2 on Windows 10, according to Fossbytes, which reports that currently users have two options -- openSUSE Leap 42.2 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP2. Currently it's Ubuntu that's enabled by default in the Windows Subsystem for Linux, although there's already a project on GitHub that also lets you install Arch Linux. "It's quite unfortunate that Microsoft enabled the wrong Linux (that's my personal opinion) by default within the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)," writes Kuhnemund, "and it is time to change it to the real stuff.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Security Bulletins Will End In February (computerworld.com) 39

Remember how Microsoft switched to cumulative updates? Now Computerworld points out that that's bringing another change. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Microsoft next month will stop issuing detailed security bulletins, which for nearly 20 years have provided individual users and IT professionals information about vulnerabilities and their patches... A searchable database of support documents will replace the bulletins; that database has been available, albeit in preview, since November on the portal Microsoft dubbed the "Security Updates Guide," or SUG. The documents stored in the database are specific to a vulnerability on an edition of Windows, or a version of another Microsoft product. They can be sorted and filtered by the affected software, the patch's release date, its CVE identifier, and the numerical label of the KB, or "knowledge base" support document.
Redmond Magazine reports that Microsoft still plans to continue to issue its security advisories, and to issue "out-of-band" security update releases as necessary.
Ubuntu

Windows 10 Upgrade Bug Disabled Cntrl-C In Bash (infoworld.com) 277

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: A massive set of changes to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) was rolled into Windows Insider build 15002... If this is any hint, Microsoft's goal is nothing short of making it a credible alternative to other Linux distributions... Some of the fixes also implement functionality that wasn't available before to Linux apps in WSL, such as support for kernel memory overcommit and previously omitted network stack options. Other changes enhance integration between WSL and the rest of Windows...

[O]ne major issue in build 15002 is that Ctrl-C in a Bash session no longer works. Microsoft provided an uncommon level of detail for how this bug crept in, saying it had to do with synchronization between the Windows and Bash development teams. The next Insider build should have a fix. But for people doing serious work with Linux command-line apps, not having Ctrl-C is a little like driving a car when only the front brakes work.

United States

Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage To $100,000 (arstechnica.com) 540

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President-elect Donald Trump is just a week away from taking office. From the start of his campaign, he has promised big changes to the US immigration system. For both Trump's advisers and members of Congress, the H-1B visa program, which allows many foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus. One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise. The "Protect and Grow American Jobs Act," introduced last week by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would significantly raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas. If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation. Right now, the minimum is $60,000. The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to simply replace American workers with cheaper, foreign workers. In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program. (The 10th is Microsoft.) The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off. "We need to ensure we can retain the world's best and brightest talent," said Issa in a statement about the bill. "At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers." The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from US colleges and universities. The visas are awarded by lottery each year. Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.
Microsoft

Microsoft's New Windows 10 Game Mode Will Maximize Gaming Performance (mspoweruser.com) 129

Microsoft has started officially testing a new Game Mode feature in Windows 10. From a report: Traces of the new option were found back in December, but the most recent test build of Windows 10 (15007) includes Game Mode in the Xbox app. MSPoweruser has supplied some screenshots of how you can enable the option, but Microsoft has not yet officially unveiled Game Mode for everyone to test. Microsoft's description lists the feature as a mode to let a PC make gaming the "top priority to improve your game's quality." It's still not clear exactly how Game Mode will improve gaming performance, but it's likely that Windows 10 will simply suppress system processes and other apps from taking too many CPU, GPU, and RAM resources away from the primary game being played.
Medicine

Microsoft Anti-Porn Workers Sue Over PTSD (thedailybeast.com) 305

An anonymous reader shares with us a report from The Daily Beast: When former Microsoft employees complained of the horrific pornography and murder films they had to watch for their jobs, the software giant told them to just take more smoke breaks, a new lawsuit alleges. Members of Microsoft's Online Safety Team had "God-like" status, former employees Henry Soto and Greg Blauert allege in a lawsuit filed on Dec. 30. They "could literally view any customer's communications at any time." Specifically, they were asked to screen Microsoft users' communications for child pornography and evidence of other crimes. But Big Brother didn't offer a good health care plan, the Microsoft employees allege. After years of being made to watch the "most twisted" videos on the internet, employees said they suffered severe psychological distress, while the company allegedly refused to provide a specially trained therapist or to pay for therapy. The two former employees and their families are suing for damages from what they describe as permanent psychological injuries, for which they were denied worker's compensation. "Microsoft applies industry-leading, cutting-edge technology to help detect and classify illegal images of child abuse and exploitation that are shared by users on Microsoft Services," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an email. "Once verified by a specially trained employee, the company removes the image, reports it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and bans the users who shared the images from our services. We have put in place robust wellness programs to ensure the employees who handle this material have the resources and support they need." But the former employees allege neglect at Microsoft's hands.

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