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America Online

David Auerbach Explains the Inside Baseball of MSN Messenger vs. AIM 83

Posted by timothy
from the doesn't-seem-that-long-ago dept.
In N+1 magazine, David Auerbach explains what it was like in the "Chat Wars" of the late '90s, when he was the youngest person on the team developing Microsoft's brand-new messaging app, in the face of America Online's AIM, the 900-pound gorilla in the room. Auerbach explains how he used a network analyzer to fake out AOL's servers into letting Microsoft's client connect to AIM as well. "AOL could only block Messenger if they could figure out that the user was using Messenger and not AIM. As long as Messenger sent exactly the same protocol messages to the AOL servers, AOL wouldn’t be able to detect that Messenger was an impostor. So I took the AIM client and checked for differences in what it was sending, then changed our client to mimic it once again. They’d switch it up again; they knew their client, and they knew what it was coded to do and what obscure messages it would respond to in what ways. Every day it’d be something new. At one point they threw in a new protocol wrinkle but cleverly excepted users logging on from Microsoft headquarters, so that while all other Messenger users were getting an error message, we were sitting at Microsoft and not getting it. After an hour or two of scratching our heads, we figured it out." Eventually, though, AOL introduced x86 assembly code into the login protocol, and that not only stymied the MSM team, but led to some interesting warfare of its own. Auerbach's story sheds a lot of light on both good and bad aspects of corporate culture at the start of the 21st century, at Microsoft as well as other companies.
AMD

AMD Not Trying To Get Its Chips Into Low-Cost Tablets 87

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-interested dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "While Intel is going after low-end Android tablets in a big way chipmaking x86 rival AMD is taking a more judicious approach, looking to focus on the high end. 'This idea of contra revenue is foreign to us,' said AMD's CEO, referring to Intel's strategy of selling chips at a loss to boost market share. But will Intel's vast resources keep AMD in its niche?"
Data Storage

Microsoft Plans $1 Billion Server Farm In Iowa 86

Posted by timothy
from the plenty-of-ethanol-to-go-around dept.
1sockchuck (826398) writes "Microsoft will invest $1.1 billion to build a massive new server farm in Iowa, not far from an existing data center in West Des Moines. The 1.2 million square foot campus will be one of the biggest in the history of the data center industry. It further enhances Iowa's status as the data center capital of the Midwest, with Google and Facebook also operating huge server farms in the state."
Bug

Bug Bounties Don't Help If Bugs Never Run Out 235

Posted by Soulskill
from the trying-to-bail-the-ocean dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: "I was an early advocate of companies offering cash prizes to researchers who found security holes in their products, so that the vulnerabilities can be fixed before the bad guys exploited them. I still believe that prize programs can make a product safer under certain conditions. But I had naively overlooked that under an alternate set of assumptions, you might find that not only do cash prizes not make the product any safer, but that nothing makes the product any safer — you might as well not bother fixing certain security holes at all, whether they were found through a prize program or not." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
Open Source

Apache OpenOffice Reaches 100 Million Downloads. Now What? 285

Posted by timothy
from the hundreds-of-millions-served dept.
We're thankfully long past the days when an emailed Word document was useless without a copy of Microsoft Word, and that's in large part thanks to the success of the OpenOffice family of word processors. "Family," because the OpenOffice name has been attached to several branches of a codebase that's gone through some serious evolution over the years, starting from its roots in closed-source StarOffice, acquired and open-sourced by Sun to become OpenOffice.org. The same software has led (via some hamfisted moves by Oracle after its acquisition of Sun) to the also-excellent LibreOffice. OpenOffice.org's direct descendant is Apache OpenOffice, and an anonymous reader writes with this excellent news from that project: "The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), the all-volunteer developers, stewards, and incubators of more than 170 Open Source projects and initiatives, announced today that Apache OpenOffice has been downloaded 100 million times. Over 100 million downloads, over 750 extensions, over 2,800 templates. But what does the community at Apache need to do to get the next 100 million?" If you want to play along, you can get the latest version of OpenOffice from SourceForge (Slashdot's corporate cousin). I wonder how many government offices -- the U.S. Federal government has long been Microsoft's biggest customer -- couldn't get along just fine with an open source word processor, even considering all the proprietary-format documents they're stuck with for now.
Cellphones

Industry-Wide Smartphone "Kill Switch" Closer To Reality 139

Posted by samzenpus
from the blow-it-up dept.
mpicpp (3454017) writes "The 'kill switch,' a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015, according to a pledge backed by most of the mobile world's major players. Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, along with the five biggest cellular carriers in the United States, are among those that have signed on to a voluntary program announced Tuesday by the industry's largest trade group. All smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the technology, according to the program from CTIA. Advocates say the feature would deter thieves from taking mobile devices by rendering phones useless while allowing people to protect personal information if their phone is lost or stolen. Its proponents include law enforcement officials concerned about the rising problem of smartphone theft."
Handhelds

Intel Pushes Into Tablet Market, Pushes Away From Microsoft 110

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the wither-wintel dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "The Wintel cartel appears to be well and truly dead, as Intel chases after ARM with grim determination into the rapidly growing world of Android tablets. 'Our mix of OSes reflects pretty much what you see in the marketplace,' the company's CEO said, a nice way of saying they see more potential growth from white-box Chinese tablet makers than from Microsoft Surface. Intel managed to ship 5 million tablet chips in the first quarter of the year, although plunging PC sales meant that company profit overall was still down."
Microsoft

Microsoft Brings Office Online To Chrome OS; Ars Reviews Windows Phone 8.1 69

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the worst-frenemies dept.
SmartAboutThings (1951032) writes "While we are still waiting for the official Windows 8.1 touch-enabled apps to get launched on the Windows Store, Microsoft went and decided that it's time to finally bring the Office online apps to the Chrome Web Store, instead. Thus, Microsoft is making the Web versions of its Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote apps available to users through the Chrome Web Store and also improving all of them with new features, along with several bug fixes and performance improvements." More on the Microsoft front: an anonymous reader wrote in with a link to Ars Technica's review of the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 release: "It is a major platform update even if it is just a .1 release. Updates include the debut of Cortana, using the same kernel as Windows 8.1 and the Xbox One, a notebook reminder app, inner circle friend management, IE 11, Nokia's camera app by default, lock screen and background customizations, a much improved email client with calendar support, more general Windows 8.1 API inclusion for better portability, and a notification center. Ars rated it more of a Windows Phone 9 release than .1 update."
Businesses

How Amazon Keeps Cutting AWS Prices: Cheapskate Culture 146

Posted by timothy
from the mining-the-couch-for-change dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Amazon Web Services has cut its prices on 40-plus consecutive occasions, at times leading the charge, at other times countering similar moves by Microsoft and Google. This article at CRN includes some interesting behind-the-scenes trivia about how Amazon keeps costs down, including some interesting speculation — for example, that perhaps the reason Amazon's Glacier storage is so cheap is that maybe it might be based at least partly on tape, not disk (Amazon would not comment). The article also explains that the company will only pay for its employees to fly Economy, and that includes its senior executives. If they feel the need to upgrade to Business or First Class, they must do so from their own pocket. And instead of buying hardware from an OEM vendor, AWS sources its own components – everything from processors to disk drives to memory and network cards — and uses contract manufacturing to put together its machines."
Windows

Microsoft Confirms It Is Dropping Windows 8.1 Support 575

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the little-orphan-windows dept.
snydeq (1272828) writes "Microsoft TechNet blog makes clear that Windows 8.1 will not be patched, and that users must get Windows 8.1 Update if they want security patches, InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard reports. 'In what is surely the most customer-antagonistic move of the new Windows regime, Steve Thomas at Microsoft posted a TechNet article on Saturday stating categorically that Microsoft will no longer issue security patches for Windows 8.1, starting in May,' Leonhard writes. 'Never mind that Windows 8.1 customers are still having multiple problems with errors when trying to install the Update. At this point, there are 300 posts on the Microsoft Answers forum thread 'Windows 8.1 Update 1 Failing to Install with errors 0x80070020, 80073712 and 800F081F.' The Answers forum is peppered with similar complaints and a wide range of errors, from 800F0092 to 80070003, for which there are no solutions from Microsoft. Never mind that Microsoft itself yanked Windows 8.1 Update from the corporate WSUS update server chute almost a week ago and still hasn't offered a replacement.'"
Businesses

Apple's Spotty Record of Giving Back To the Tech Industry 267

Posted by samzenpus
from the giving-back dept.
chicksdaddy (814965) writes "Given Apple's status as the world's most valuable company and its enormous cash hoard, the refusal to offer even meager support to open source and industry groups is puzzling. From the article: 'Apple bundles software from the Apache Software Foundation with its OS X operating system, but does not financially support the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) in any way. That is in contrast to Google and Microsoft, Apple's two chief competitors, which are both Platinum sponsors of ASF — signifying a contribution of $100,000 annually to the Foundation. Sponsorships range as low as $5,000 a year (Bronze), said Sally Khudairi, ASF's Director of Marketing and Public Relations. The ASF is vendor-neutral and all code contributions to the Foundation are done on an individual basis. Apple employees are frequent, individual contributors to Apache. However, their employer is not, Khudairi noted. The company has been a sponsor of ApacheCon, a for-profit conference that runs separately from the Foundation — but not in the last 10 years. "We were told they didn't have the budget," she said of efforts to get Apple's support for ApacheCon in 2004, a year in which the company reported net income of $276 million on revenue of $8.28 billion.'"
XBox (Games)

Titanfall Dev Claims Xbox One Doesn't Need DX12 To Improve Performance 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the ask-carmack-for-some-tips dept.
MojoKid writes: "One of the hot topics in the wake of Titanfall's launch has been whether or not DirectX 12 would make a difference to the game's sometimes jerky framerate and lower-than-expected 792p resolution. According to Titanfall developer Jon Shirling, the new Microsoft API isn't needed to improve the game's performance, and updates coming down the pipe should improve Xbox One play in the near future. This confirms what many expected since DX12 was announced — the API may offer performance improvements in certain scenarios, but DX12 isn't a panacea for the Xbox One's lackluster performance compared to the PS4. It's an API that appears to mostly address scenarios where the CPU isn't able to keep the GPU fed due to draw call bottlenecks."
Windows

IRS Misses XP Deadline, Pays Microsoft Millions For Patches 322

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-tax-dollars-at-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes "When Microsoft terminated official support for Windows XP on April 8th, many organizations had taken the six years of warnings to heart and migrated to another operating system. But not the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Only 52,000 of their 110,000 Windows-powered computers have been upgraded to Windows 7. They'll now be forced to pay Microsoft for Custom Support. How much? Using Microsoft's standard rate of $200 per PC, it'll be $11.6 million for one year. That leaves $18.4 million of their $30 million budget to finish the upgrades themselves, which works out to $317 per computer."
Microsoft

The New 'One Microsoft' Is Finally Poised For the Future 270

Posted by Soulskill
from the future!-future!-future! dept.
redletterdave writes: "The stodgy old enterprise company whose former CEO once called open source Linux a 'cancer' is gone. So is its notorious tendency to keep developers and consumers within its walled gardens. The 'One Microsoft' goal that looked like more gaseous corporate rhetoric upon its debut last summer now is instead much closer to actual reality. No longer are there different kernels for Windows 8, Windows Phone or Windows RT it's now all just One Windows. As goes the Windows kernel, so goes the entire company. Microsoft finally appears to have aimed all its guns outside the company rather than at internal rivals. Now it needs to rebuild its empire upon this new reality."
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How To Start With Linux In the Workplace? 451

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-like-mint-works-for-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Recently my boss has asked me about the advantages of Linux as a desktop operating system and if it would be a good idea to install it instead of upgrading to Windows 7 or 8. About ten boxes here are still running Windows XP and would be too old to upgrade to any newer version of Windows. He knows that i am using Linux at work on quite outdated hardware (would have gotten a new PC but never requested new hardware — Linux Mint x64 runs quite well on it) and i always managed to get my stuff done with it. I explained to him that there are no licensing issues with Linux, there is no anti-virus software to deal with and that Linux is generally a bit more efficient on old hardware than operating systems from Microsoft. The boss seems interested." But that's not quite the end; read on for this reader's question.
Crime

Stung By File-Encrypting Malware, Researchers Fight Back 84

Posted by timothy
from the picked-the-wrong-guys dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "When Jose Vildoza's father became the victim of ransomware, he launched his own investigation. Diving into CryptoDefense's code, he found its developers had made a crucial mistake: CryptoDefense used Microsoft's Data Protection API (application programming interface), a tool in the Windows operating system to encrypt a user's data, which stored a copy of the encryption keys on the affected computer. Vildoza and researcher Fabian Wosar of the Austrian security company Emsisoft collaborated on a utility called the Emsisoft Decrypter that could recover the encrypted keys. In mid-March Vildoza had launched a blog chronicling his investigation, purposely not revealing the mistake CryptoDefense's authors had made. But Symantec then published a blog post on March 31 detailing the error."
Microsoft

China Approves Microsoft-Nokia Deal, Gets Patent Concessions In Return 26

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
itwbennett writes: "On Tuesday, China's Ministry of Commerce gave conditional regulatory approval to Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's Devices & Services business. The $7.2 billion deal means that Microsoft could very soon produce its own smartphones using the Windows Phone operating system. In return, China is requiring Microsoft and Nokia to make promises on fair patent use, fearing that the proposed acquisition between the two companies could spell trouble for the nation's Android device makers."
Windows

Windows 8.1 Update Released, With Improvements For Non-Touch Hardware 294

Posted by timothy
from the don't-touch-me-there-or-there-or-there dept.
DroidJason1 (3589319) writes "Microsoft has released the highly anticipated Windows 8.1 Update, adding numerous improvements for non-touch consumers based on feedback. It is also a required update for Windows 8.1, otherwise consumers will no get any future security updates after May 2014. Most of the changes in the update are designed to appease non-touch users, with options to show apps on the desktop taskbar, the ability to see show the taskbar above apps, and a new title bar at the top of apps with options to minimize, close, or snap apps."
Windows

Meet the Diehards Who Refuse To Move On From Windows XP 641

Posted by timothy
from the come-the-revolution dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Nearly every longtime Windows user looks back on Windows XP with a certain fondness, but the party's over according to Microsoft. 'It's time to move on,' says Tom Murphy, Microsoft's director of communications for Windows. 'XP was designed for a different era.' But Ian Paul writes in PC World that many people around the world refuse to give up on XP. But why? What's so great about an operating system that was invented before the age of Dropbox and Facebook, an OS that's almost as old as the original Google search engine? Bob Appel, a retiree based in Toronto, says he uses 12 PCs in a personal Dropbox-like network—10 of which are running XP. 'I use a third-party firewall, a free virus checker, and run Housecall periodically,' says Appel. 'My Firefox browser uses Keyscrambler, HTTPS Anywhere, Ghostery, and Disconnect. I also have a VPN account (PIA) when traveling. For suspicious email attachments, I deploy private proprietary bioware (me!) to analyze before opening. All the "experts" say I am crazy. Thing is, I stopped the security updates in XP years ago after a bad update trashed my system, and yet I have never been infected, although online for hours each day. So, crazy though I be, I am sticking with XP.'" (Read more, below.)
GUI

Apple: Dumb As a Patent Trolling Fox On iPhone Prior Art? 408

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the catching-up-with-the-80s dept.
theodp (442580) writes "GeekWire reports that a Microsoft researcher's 1991 video could torpedo Apple's key 'slide to unlock' patent, one of 5 patents that the iPhone maker cited in its demand for $40 per Samsung phone. Confronted with what appears to be damning video evidence of prior art that pre-dates its 'invention' by more than a decade, Apple has reportedly argued that the sliding on/off switch demoed by Catherine Plaisant is materially different than the slide to unlock switch that its 7 inventors came up with. Apple's patent has already been deemed invalid in Europe because of similar functionality present in the Swedish Neonode N1M." The toggle widgets demoed in the video (attached below) support sliding across the toggle to make it more difficult to swap state (preventing accidental toggling). The video itself is worth a watch — it's interesting to see modern UIs adopting some of the idioms that testing in the early 90s showed were awful (e.g. Gtk+ 3's state toggles).

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