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China

Chinese Government Probes Microsoft For Breaches of Monopoly Law 62

Posted by timothy
from the no-one-votes-libertarian-in-china dept.
DroidJason1 writes The Chinese government is investigating Microsoft for possible breaches of anti-monopoly laws, following a series of surprise visits to Redmond's offices in cities across China on Monday. These surprise visits were part of China's ongoing investigation [warning: WSJ paywall], and were based on security complaints about Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office productivity suite. Results from an earlier inspection apparently were not enough to clear Microsoft of suspicion of anti-competitive behavior. Microsoft's alleged anti-monopoly behavior is a criminal matter, so if found guilty, the software giant could face steep fines as well as other sanctions.
Technology

Student Uses Oculus Rift and Kinect To Create Body Swap Illusion 60

Posted by timothy
from the why-are-you-hitting-yourself dept.
kkleiner writes Using an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, Microsoft Kinect, a camera, and a handful of electrical stimulators, a London student's virtual reality system is showing users what it's like to swap bodies. Looking down, they see someone else's arms and legs; looking out, it's someone else's point of view; and when they move their limbs, the body they see does the same (those electrical stimulators mildly shock muscles to force a friend to mirror the user's movements). It's an imperfect system, but a fascinating example of the power of virtual reality. What else might we use VR systems for? Perhaps they'll prove useful in training or therapeutic situations? Or what about with robots, which would be easier to inhabit and control than another human? The virtual body swap may never fully catch on, but generally, virtual reality will likely prove useful for more than just gaming and entertainment.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Nokia Plans Come Into Better Focus 149

Posted by timothy
from the ringtones-baby-the-future-is-ringtones dept.
Forbes has an update on what sort of future Nokia faces, as Microsoft reveals a strategy for making sense of the acquisition: [Microsoft EVP of devices Stephen] Elop laid out a framework for cost cuts in a memo to employees on July 17. Devices would focus on high and low cost Windows smartphones, suggesting a phasing out of feature phones and Android smartphones. Two business units, smart devices and mobile phones, would become one, thereby cutting overlap and overhead. Microsoft would reduce engineering in Beijing and San Diego and unwind engineering in Oulu, Finland. It would exit manufacturing in Komarom, Hungary; shift to lower cost areas like Manaus, Brazil and Reynosa, Mexico; and reduce manufacturing in Beijing and Dongguan, China. Also, CEO Satya Nadella gave hints about how Microsoft will make money on Nokia during Tuesday' conference call. Devices, he said, "go beyond" hardware and are about productivity. "I can take my Office Lens App, use the camera on the phone, take a picture of anything, and have it automatically OCR recognized and into OneNote in searchable fashion. There is a lot we can do with phones by broadly thinking about productivity." In other words, the sale of a smartphone is a means to other sales.
Censorship

On Forgetting the Facts: Questions From the EU For Google, Other Search Engines 183

Posted by timothy
from the here's-a-description-of-the-thing-you-want-undescribed dept.
The Wall Street Journal lists 26 questions that Google and other search providers have been asked (in a meeting in Brussels earlier this week) to answer for EU regulators, to pin down what the search engine companies have done to comply with European demands to implement a "right to be forgotten." Some questions were asked directly of representatives of Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, while the regulators want answers to the others in short order. From the article: Regulators touched on some hot-button issues in six oral questions and another 26 written ones, with answers due by next Thursday. They asked Google to describe the “legal basis” of its decision to notify publishers when it approves right-to-be-forgotten requests, something that has led to requesters’ being publicly identified in some cases. They also asked search engines to explain where they take down the results, after complaints from some regulators that Google does not filter results on google.com. That means that anyone in Europe can switch from, say, google.co.uk to Google.com to see any removed links. Among the questions: "2. Do you filter out some requests based on the location, nationality, or place of residence of the data subject? If so, what is the legal basis for excluding such requests?" and "16. Does your company refuse requests when the data subject was the author of the information he/she posted himself/herself on the web? If so, what is the basis for refusing such requests?"
Education

AP Computer Science Test Takers Up 8,000; Pass Rate Down 6.8% 119

Posted by timothy
from the everything-that-rises dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Code.org reports that preliminary data on students who took the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Exam in 2014 show an increase of 8,276 students over 2013 and represent what the College Board called "the first real indication of progress in AP CS enrollment for women and underserved minorities in years." Girls made up 20% of the 39,393 total test takers, compared to 18.7% of the 31,117 test takers in 2013. Black or African American students saw their share increase by 0.19%, from 3.56% to 3.75% (low, but good enough to crush Twitter). Code.org credits the increased enrollment to its celebrity-studded CS promo film starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg ("I even made a personal bet (reflected in my contractual commitment to Code.org donors) that our video could help improve the seemingly immovable diversity numbers in computer science," Code.org founder Hadi Partovi notes). However, some of the increase is likely attributable to the other efforts of Code.org's donors. Microsoft ramped up its TEALS AP CS program in 2013-2014, and — more significantly — Google helped boost AP CS study not only through its CS4HS program, but also by funding the College Board's AP STEM Access program, which offered $5 million to schools and teachers to encourage minority and female students to enroll in AP STEM courses. This summer, explains the College Board, "All AP STEM teachers in the participating schools (not just the new AP STEM teachers), who increase diversity in their class, receive a [$100] DonorsChoose.org gift card for each student in the course who receives a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP Exam." The bad news for AP CS teachers anticipating Google "Excellence Funding" bounties (for increasing course enrollment and completion "by at least five underrepresented students") is that AP CS pass rates decreased to 60.8% in 2014 (from 67.6% in 2013), according to Total Registration. Using these figures and a back-of-the-envelope calculation, while enrollment saw a 26.6% increase over last year, the total number of students passing increased by 13.9%."
EU

Switching From Microsoft Office To LibreOffice Saves Toulouse 1 Million Euros 292

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-napoleans dept.
jrepin sends this EU report: The French city of Toulouse saved 1 million euro by migrating all its desktops from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice. This project was rooted in a global digital policy which positions free software as a driver of local economic development and employment. Former IT policy-maker Erwane Monthubert said, "Software licenses for productivity suites cost Toulouse 1.8 million euro every three years. Migration cost us about 800,000 euro, due partly to some developments. One million euro has actually been saved in the first three years. It is a compelling proof in the actual context of local public finance. ... France has a high value in free software at the international level. Every decision-maker should know this."
Encryption

New SSL Server Rules Go Into Effect Nov. 1 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the encrypt-your-calendars dept.
alphadogg writes: Public certificate authorities (CAs) are warning that as of Nov. 1 they will reject requests for internal SSL server certificates that don't conform to new internal domain naming and IP address conventions designed to safeguard networks. The concern is that SSL server digital certificates issued by CAs at present for internal corporate e-mail servers, Web servers and databases are not unique and can potentially be used in man-in-the-middle attacks involving the setup of rogue servers inside the targeted network, say representatives for the Certification Authority/Browser Forum (CA/B Forum), the industry group that sets security and operational guidelines for digital certificates. Members include the overwhelming bulk of public CAs around the globe, plus browser makers such as Microsoft and Apple. The problem today is that network managers often give their servers names like 'Server1' and allocate internal IP addresses so that SSL certificates issued for them through the public CAs are not necessarily globally unique, notes Trend Micro's Chris Bailey.
Microsoft

Microsoft's CEO Says He Wants to Unify Windows 322

Posted by samzenpus
from the by-your-powers-combined dept.
Deathspawner writes A lot of people have never been able to understand the logic behind Microsoft's Windows RT, with many urging the company to kill it off so that it can focus on more important products, like the mainline Windows. Well, this is probably not going to come as a huge surprise, especially in light of mass layoffs announced last week, but Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said that his company will be working to combine all Windows versions into a unified release by next year.
Data Storage

Intel Launches Self-Encrypting SSD 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the masochistic-storage-devices dept.
MojoKid writes: Intel just launched their new SSD 2500 Pro series solid state drive, the follow-up to last year's SSD 1500 Pro series, which targets corporate and small-business clients. The drive shares much of its DNA with some of Intel's consumer-class drives, but the Pro series cranks things up a few notches with support for advanced security and management features, low power states, and an extended management toolset. In terms of performance, the Intel SSD 2500 Pro isn't class-leading in light of many enthusiast-class drives but it's no slouch either. Intel differentiates the 2500 Pro series by adding support for vPro remote-management and hardware-based self-encryption. The 2500 Pro series supports TCG (Trusted Computing Group) Opal 2.0 features and is Microsoft eDrive capable as well. Intel also offers an administration tool for easy management of the drive. With the Intel administration tool, users can reset the PSID (physical presence security ID), though the contents of the drive will be wiped. Sequential reads are rated at up to 540MB/s, sequential writes at up to 480MB/s, with 45K – 80K random read / write IOps.
Microsoft

Microsoft FY2014 Q4 Earnings: Revenues Up, Profits Down Slightly 66

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the still-enough-to-fill-money-pool dept.
Microsoft has released their latest earnings report, and it's not as bleak as last week's news might have you suspect. Quoting Forbes: Microsoft reported $23.38 billion of revenue for the fourth quarter, up 17.5% from the same period last year. Net income, however, came in at $4.6 billion, down from last year and behind Wall Street analysts' consensus estimate, both about $5 billion. At 55 cents earnings per share were down 4 cents and a nickel short of the Street’s call. For the full year, revenue clocked in at $86.8 billion an 11.5% increase from a year earlier. Net income was $22.1 billion and earnings per share were $2.63. They took a hit from finalizing the acquisition of Nokia's handset division (not unexpected). The cloud services side of the business appears to be growing, while traditional software sales have stagnated. The layoffs will cost Microsoft between $1.1 and $1.6 billion over the first half of next year.
Software

UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the won-the-battle,-working-on-the-war dept.
Andy Updegrove writes: "The U.K. Cabinet Office accomplished today what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts set out (unsuccessfully) to achieve ten years ago: it formally required compliance with the Open Document Format (ODF) by software to be purchased in the future across all government bodies. Compliance with any of the existing versions of OOXML, the competing document format championed by Microsoft, is neither required nor relevant. The announcement was made today by The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude. Henceforth, ODF compliance will be required for documents intended to be shared or subject to collaboration. PDF/A or HTML compliance will be required for viewable government documents. The decision follows a long process that invited, and received, very extensive public input – over 500 comments in all."
Bug

Researchers Test Developer Biometrics To Predict Buggy Code 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the subject-was-asleep-when-this-code-was-checked-in dept.
rjmarvin writes: Microsoft Research is testing a new method for predicting errors and bugs while developers write code: biometrics. By measuring a developer's eye movements, physical and mental characteristics as they code, the researchers tracked alertness and stress levels to predict the difficulty of a given task with respect to the coder's abilities. In a paper entitled "Using Psycho-Physiological Measures to Assess Task Difficulty in Software Development," the researchers summarized how they strapped an eye tracker, an electrodermal sensor and an EEG sensor to 15 developers as they programmed for various tasks. Biometrics predicted task difficulty for a new developer 64.99% of the time. For a subsequent tasks with the same developer, the researchers found biometrics to be 84.38% accurate. They suggest using the information to mark places in code that developers find particularly difficult, and then reviewing or refactoring those sections later.
Microsoft

No RIF'd Employees Need Apply For Microsoft External Staff Jobs For 6 Months 282

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the no-workers-rights-for-you dept.
theodp (442580) writes So, what does Microsoft do for an encore after laying off 18,000 employees with a hilariously bad memo? Issue another bad memo — Changes to Microsoft Network and Building Access for External Staff — "to introduce a new policy [retroactive to July 1] that will better protect our Microsoft IP and confidential information." How so? "The policy change affects [only] US-based external staff (including Agency Temporaries, Vendors and Business Guests)," Microsoft adds, "and limits their access to Microsoft buildings and the Microsoft corporate network to a period of 18 months, with a required six-month break before access may be granted again." Suppose Microsoft feels that's where the NSA went wrong with Edward Snowden? And if any soon-to-be-terminated Microsoft employees hope to latch on to a job with a Microsoft external vendor to keep their income flowing, they best think again. "Any Microsoft employee who separated from Microsoft on or after July 1, 2014," the kick-em-while-they're-down memo explains, "will be required to take a minimum 6-month break from access between the day the employee separates from Microsoft and the date when the former employee may begin an assignment as an External Staff performing services for Microsoft." Likely not just to prevent leaks, but also to prevent any contractors from being reclassified as employees.
Programming

US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers 529

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the good-for-nothing-lazy-programmers dept.
dcblogs (1096431) writes On the floor of U.S. Senate Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions delivered a scalding and sarcastic attack on the use of highly skilled foreign workers by U.S. corporations that was heavily aimed at Microsoft, a chief supporter of the practice. Sessions' speech began as a rebuttal to a recent New York Times op-ed column by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson ... But the senator's attack on "three of our greatest masters of the universe," and "super billionaires," was clearly primed by Microsoft's announcement, also on Thursday, that it was laying off 18,000 employees. "What did we see in the newspaper today?" said Sessions, "News from Microsoft. Was it that they are having to raise wages to try to get enough good, quality engineers to do the work? Are they expanding or are they hiring? No, that is not what the news was, unfortunately. Not at all."
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need? 272

Posted by Soulskill
from the might-be-time-to-reevaluate-the-Clippy-department dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday, word came down that Microsoft was starting to lay off some 18,000 workers. As of June 5th, Microsoft reported a total employee headcount of 127,005, so they're cutting about 15% of their jobs. That's actually a pretty huge percentage, even taking into account the redundancies created by the Nokia acquisition. Obviously, there's an upper limit to how much of your workforce you can let go at one time, so I'm willing to bet Microsoft's management thinks thousands more people aren't worth keeping around. How many employees does Microsoft realistically need? The company is famous for its huge teams that don't work together well, and excessive middle management. But they also have a huge number of software projects, and some of the projects, like Windows and Office, need big teams to develop. How would we go about estimating the total workforce Microsoft needs? (Other headcounts for reference: Apple: 80,000, Amazon: 124,600, IBM: 431,212, Red Hat: 5,000+, Facebook: 6,800, Google: 52,000, Intel: 104,900.)
Businesses

Lenovo Halts Sales of Small-Screen Windows 8.1 Tablets Due To "Lack of Interest" 125

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-not-want dept.
DroidJason1 writes Microsoft has attempted to compete in the small-screen tablet market with Windows 8.1 and Windows RT, but it looks like the growing adoption of small-screen Android tablets are just too much for Lenovo to handle. Lenovo has slammed the brakes on sales of small screen Windows tablets in the United States, citing a lack of interest from consumers. In fact, Lenovo has stopped selling the 8-inch ThinkPad 8 and the 8-inch Miix 2. Fortunately, these small-screen Windows tablets have seen some success in Brazil, China, and Japan, so Lenovo will focus on efforts there. Microsoft also recently scrapped plans for the rumored Surface Mini.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Missed Opportunities: Memo From 1997 161

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the hyper-cube-os dept.
New submitter gthuang88 (3752041) writes In the 1990s, Microsoft was in position to own the software and devices market. Here is Nathan Myhrvold's previously unpublished 1997 memo on expanding Microsoft Research to tackle problems in software testing, operating systems, artificial intelligence, and applications. Those fields would become crucial in the company's competition with Google, Apple, Amazon, and Oracle. But research didn't do enough to make the company broaden its businesses. While Microsoft Research was originally founded to ensure the company's future, the organization only mapped out some possible futures. And now Microsoft is undergoing the biggest restructuring in its history. At least F# and LINQ saw the light of day.
EU

Bing Implements Right To Be Forgotten 64

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the hide-your-shame dept.
mpicpp (3454017) writes with news that Bing has joined Google in removing search results upon request by EU citizens. From the article: The company has asked European residents, who want Microsoft to block search results that show on Bing in response to searches of their names, to fill out a four-part online form. Besides the name and country of residence of the person and the details of the pages to be blocked, the form also asks if the person is a public figure or has or expects a role that involves trust, leadership or safety. ... The information provided will help the company "consider the balance" between the applicant's individual privacy interest and the public interest in protecting free expression and the free availability of information, in line with European law, Microsoft said. You can always visit a non-EU version of Bing to receive uncensored results.
Businesses

Microsoft CEO To Slash 18,000 Jobs, 12,500 From Nokia To Go 383

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the burning-the-platform dept.
DW100 (2227906) writes "Satya Nadella has taken an axe to Microsoft's 127,000-strong workforce by announcing a whopping 18,000 job cuts, including 12,500 from the recently integrated Nokia division. At least 13,000 jobs will go within the next six months." It's official, Ballmer's layoff record has been smashed. From the email sent to employees: "The first step to building the right organization for our ambitions is to realign our workforce. With this in mind, we will begin to reduce the size of our overall workforce by up to 18,000 jobs in the next year. Of that total, our work toward synergies and strategic alignment on Nokia Devices and Services is expected to account for about 12,500 jobs, comprising both professional and factory workers. We are moving now to start reducing the first 13,000 positions, and the vast majority of employees whose jobs will be eliminated will be notified over the next six months."
Security

Selectively Reusing Bad Passwords Is Not a Bad Idea, Researchers Say 280

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the brain-full-try-again-later dept.
An anonymous reader tipped us to news that Microsoft researchers have determined that reuse of the same password for low security services is safer than generating a unique password for each service. Quoting El Reg: Redmond researchers Dinei Florencio and Cormac Herley, together with Paul C. van Oorschot of Carleton University, Canada ... argue that password reuse on low risk websites is necessary in order for users to be able to remember unique and high entropy codes chosen for important sites. Users should therefore slap the same simple passwords across free websites that don't hold important information and save the tough and unique ones for banking websites and other repositories of high-value information. "The rapid decline of [password complexity as recall difficulty] increases suggests that, far from being unallowable, password re-use is a necessary and sensible tool in managing a portfolio," the trio wrote. "Re-use appears unavoidable if [complexity] must remain above some minimum and effort below some maximum." Not only do they recommend reusing passwords, but reusing bad passwords for low risks sites to minimize recall difficulty.

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