Windows

Microsoft Finally Documents the Limitations of Windows 10 on ARM (thurrott.com) 117

For over a year we've been treated to the fantasy that Windows 10 on ARM was the same as Windows 10 on x86. But it's a bit more nuanced than that. Paul Thurrott: 64-bit apps will not work. Yes, Windows 10 on ARM can run Windows desktop applications. But it can only run 32-bit (x86) desktop applications, not 64-bit (x64) applications. (The documentation doesn't note this, but support for x64 apps is planned for a future release.)
Certain classes of apps will not run. Utilities that modify the Windows user interface -- like shell extensions, input method editors (IMEs), assistive technologies, and cloud storage apps -- will not work in Windows 10 on ARM.
It cannot use x86 drivers. While Windows 10 on ARM can run x86 Windows applications, it cannot utilize x86 drivers. Instead, it will require native ARM64 drivers instead. This means that hardware support will be much more limited than is the case with mainstream Windows 10 versions. In other words, it will likely work much like Windows 10 S does today.
No Hyper-V.
Older games and graphics apps may not work. Windows 10 on ARM supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11, and DirectX 12, but apps/games that target older versions will not work. Apps that require hardware-accelerated OpenGL will also not work.

Education

Learning To Program Is Getting Harder (slashdot.org) 395

theodp writes: While Google suggests that parents and educators are to blame for why kids can't code, Allen Downey, Professor at Olin College argues that learning to program is getting harder . Downey writes: The fundamental problem is that the barrier between using a computer and programming a computer is getting higher. When I got a Commodore 64 (in 1982, I think) this barrier was non-existent. When you turned on the computer, it loaded and ran a software development environment (SDE). In order to do anything, you had to type at least one line of code, even if all it did was another program (like Archon). Since then, three changes have made it incrementally harder for users to become programmers:
1. Computer retailers stopped installing development environments by default. As a result, anyone learning to program has to start by installing an SDE -- and that's a bigger barrier than you might expect. Many users have never installed anything, don't know how to, or might not be allowed to. Installing software is easier now than it used to be, but it is still error prone and can be frustrating. If someone just wants to learn to program, they shouldn't have to learn system administration first.
2. User interfaces shifted from command-line interfaces (CLIs) to graphical user interfaces (GUIs). GUIs are generally easier to use, but they hide information from users about what's really happening. When users really don't need to know, hiding information can be a good thing. The problem is that GUIs hide a lot of information programmers need to know. So when a user decides to become a programmer, they are suddenly confronted with all the information that's been hidden from them. If someone just wants to learn to program, they shouldn't have to learn operating system concepts first.
3. Cloud computing has taken information hiding to a whole new level. People using web applications often have only a vague idea of where their data is stored and what applications they can use to access it. Many users, especially on mobile devices, don't distinguish between operating systems, applications, web browsers, and web applications. When they upload and download data, they are often confused about where is it coming from and where it is going. When they install something, they are often confused about what is being installed where. For someone who grew up with a Commodore 64, learning to program was hard enough. For someone growing up with a cloud-connected mobile device, it is much harder.
theodp continues: So, with the Feds budgeting $200 million a year for K-12 CS at the behest of U.S. tech leaders, can't the tech giants at least put a BASIC on every phone/tablet/laptop for kids?
Security

A Hacker Has Wiped a Spyware Company's Servers -- Again (vice.com) 63

Last year, a vigilante hacker broke into the servers of a company that sells spyware to everyday consumers and wiped their servers, deleting photos captured from monitored devices. A year later, the hacker has done it again. Motherboard: Thursday, the hacker said he started wiping some cloud servers that belong to Retina-X Studios, a Florida-based company that sells spyware products targeted at parents and employers, but that are also used by people to spy on their partners without their consent. Retina-X was one of two companies that were breached last year in a series of hacks that exposed the fact that many otherwise ordinary people surreptitiously install spyware on their partners' and children's phones in order to spy on them. This software has been called "stalkerware" by some.
AI

AI is Being Used To Raise Better Pigs in China (qz.com) 48

Alibaba's Cloud Unit has signed an agreement on with the Tequ Group, a Chinese food-and-agriculture conglomerate that raises about 10 million pigs each year, to deploy facial and voice recognition on Tequ's pig farms. From a report: According to an Alibaba representative, the company will offer software to Tequ that it will deploy on its farms with its own hardware. Using image recognition, the software will identify each pig based on a mark placed on its body. This corresponds with a file for each pig kept in a database, which records and tracks characteristics such as the pig's breed type, age, and weight. The software can monitor changes in the level of a pig's physical activity to assess its level of fitness. In addition, it can monitor the sounds on the farm -- picking up a pig's cough, for example, to assess whether or not the pig is sick and at risk of spreading a disease. The software will also draw from its data to assess which pigs are most capable of giving birth to healthy offspring. Tequ's CIO stressed that taking care of pigs is no easy task for large pig farms. "If you have 10 million pigs, relying on manpower is already not enough," he said, according to a report by local publication Tianxia Wangshang, adding that it's impossible to manually count each pig given how many are born every day.
IOS

Apple's Software 'Problem' and 'Fixing' It (learningbyshipping.com) 95

According to media reports, Apple is planning to postpone some new features for iOS and macOS this year to focus on improving reliability, stability and performance of the existing versions. Steven Sinofsky, a former President of the Windows Division, shared his insights into the significance of this development: Several important points are conflated in the broad discussion about Apple and software: Quality, pace of change, features "versus" quality, and innovation. Scanning the landscape, it is important to recognize that in total the work Apple has been doing across hardware, software, services, and even AI/ML, in total -- is breathtaking and unprecedented in scope, scale, and quality. Few companies have done so much for so long with such a high level of consistency. This all goes back to the bet on the NeXT code base and move to Intel for Mac OS plus the iPod, which began the journey to where we are today.

[...] What is lost in all of this recent discussion is the nuance between features, schedule, and quality. It is like having a discussion with a financial advisor over income, risk, and growth. You don't just show up and say you want all three and get a "sure." On the other hand, this is precisely what Apple did so reliably over 20 years. But behind the scenes there is a constant discussion over balancing these three legs of the tripod. You have to have all of them but you "can't" but you have to. This is why they get paid big $.

[...] A massive project like an OS (+h/w +cloud) is like a large investment portfolio and some things will work (in market) and others won't, some things are designed to return right away, some are safe bets, some are long term investments. And some mistakes... Customers don't care about any of that and that's ok. They just look for what they care about. Each evaluates through their own lens. Apple's brilliance is in focusing mostly on two audiences -- Send-users and developers -- tending to de-emphasize the whole "techie" crowd, even IT. When you look at a feature like FaceID and trace it backwards all the way to keychain -- see how much long term thought can go into a feature and how much good work can go unnoticed (or even "fail") for years before surfacing as a big advantage. That's a long term POV AND focus. This approach is rather unique compared to other tech companies that tend to develop new things almost independent of everything else. So new things show up and look bolted on the side of what already exists. (Sure Apple can do that to, but not usually). All the while while things are being built the team is just a dev team and trying to come up with a reliable schedule and fix bug. This is just software development.

AI

Amazon Is Designing Custom AI Chips For Alexa (theverge.com) 70

According to a report (paywalled) from The Information, Amazon is designing a custom artificial intelligence chip that would power future Echo devices and improve the quality and response time of its Alexa voice assistant. "The move closely followers rivals Apple and Google, both of which have already developed and deployed custom AI hardware at various scales," reports The Verge. From the report: While Amazon is unlikely to physically produce the chips, given its lack of both fabrication experience and a manufacturing presence in China, the news does pose a risk to the businesses of companies like Nvidia and Intel. Both companies have shifted large portions of their chipmaking expertise to AI and the future of the burgeoning field, and both make money by designing and manufacturing chips for companies like Apple, Amazon, and others. Amazon, which seeks to stay competitive in the smart home hardware market and in the realm of consumer-facing AI products, has nearly 450 people with chip expertise on staff, reports The Information, thanks to key hires and acquisitions the e-commerce giant has made in the last few years. The plan is for Amazon to develop its own AI chips so Alexa-powered products in its ever-expanding Echo line can do more on-device processing, instead of having to communicate with the cloud, a process that increases response rate times.
China

Police In China Are Scanning Travelers With Facial Recognition Glasses (engadget.com) 87

Baron_Yam shares a report from Engadget: Police in China are now sporting glasses equipped with facial recognition devices and they're using them to scan train riders and plane passengers for individuals who may be trying to avoid law enforcement or are using fake IDs. So far, police have caught seven people connected to major criminal cases and 26 who were using false IDs while traveling, according to People's Daily. The Wall Street Journal reports that Beijing-based LLVision Technology Co. developed the devices. The company produces wearable video cameras as well and while it sells those to anyone, it's vetting buyers for its facial recognition devices. And, for now, it isn't selling them to consumers. LLVision says that in tests, the system was able to pick out individuals from a database of 10,000 people and it could do so in 100 milliseconds. However, CEO Wu Fei told the Wall Street Journal that in the real world, accuracy would probably drop due to "environmental noise." Additionally, aside from being portable, another difference between these devices and typical facial recognition systems is that the database used for comparing images is contained in a hand-held device rather than the cloud."
Virtualization

Crowdfunding Campaign Seeks a Fully Open Source Alternative to Citrix XenServer (kickstarter.com) 66

"Free/libre and 100% community backed version of XenServer," promises a new Kickstarter page, adding that "Our first prototype (and proof of concept) is already functional." Currently, XenServer is a turnkey virtualization platform, distributed as a distribution (based on CentOS). It comes with a feature rich toolstack, called XAPI. The vast majority of XenServer code is Open Source.

But since XenServer 7.3, Citrix removed a lot of features from it. The goal of XCP-ng is to make a fully community backed version of XenServer, without any feature restrictions. We also aim to create a real ecosystem, not depending on one company only. Simple equation: the more we are, the healthier is the environment.

The campaign reached its fundraising goal within a few hours, reports long-time Slashdot reader NoOnesMessiah, and within three days they'd already raised four times the needed amount and began unlocking their stretch goals.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Which Tech Company Do You Respect Most? 311

dryriver writes: On Slashdot, we often discuss the missteps and non consumer-friendly behavior of various tech companies. This company forced people into a subscription payment model. That tech company doesn't respect people's privacy. Yet another tech company failed to fix a dangerous exploit quickly, protect people's cloud data properly, or innovate and improve where innovation and improvement was badly needed.

Here's a question to the contrary: Of all the tech companies you know well and follow -- small, medium, or large -- which are the ones that you respect the most, and why? Which are the companies that still -- or newly -- create great tech in a landscape dotted with profiteers? Also, what is your personal criteria for judging whether a tech company is "good," "neutral," or "bad?"
Data Storage

Backblaze Hard Drive Stats for 2017 (backblaze.com) 93

BackBlaze is back with its hard drive reliability report. From the blog post: Beginning in April 2013, Backblaze has recorded and saved daily hard drive statistics from the drives in our data centers. Each entry consists of the date, manufacturer, model, serial number, status (operational or failed), and all of the SMART attributes reported by that drive. As of the end of 2017, there are about 88 million entries totaling 23 GB of data. At the end of 2017 we had 93,240 spinning hard drives. Of that number, there were 1,935 boot drives and 91,305 data drives. This post looks at the hard drive statistics of the data drives we monitor. We'll review the stats for Q4 2017, all of 2017, and the lifetime statistics for all of the drives Backblaze has used in our cloud storage data centers since we started keeping track.
Cloud

Microsoft's Cloud Bet Continues To Pay Off In Latest Earnings (theverge.com) 63

In its 2018 financial results, Microsoft reported revenue of $28.9 billion and net income of $7.5 billion. "Revenue has jumped 12 percent year-over-year during the holiday quarter, and the trend of Microsoft's success with the cloud has continued," reports The Verge. "This time around, Azure revenue has increased by a massive 98 percent." From the report: Overall server and cloud services revenue grew 18 percent year-over-year, alongside the massive 98 percent jump in Azure revenue. It's clear Microsoft's future growth and revenue opportunities are with the cloud, so it's no surprise to see the company continually investing there to be competitive with Amazon. Microsoft's Office 365 subscription bet for consumers is also paying off. 29.2 million people are now using Office 365 on the consumer side, with revenue increasing 12 percent year-over-year for Office consumer and cloud. On the commercial side, Office revenue is also up at a 10 percent increase since the same period last year.
Businesses

Dell is Considering a Sale To VMware in What May Be Tech's Biggest Deal Ever (cnbc.com) 94

CNBC reports: Dell Technologies could emerge as a public company through a reverse-merger with VMware, the $60 billion cloud computing company it already controls, according to people familiar with the matter. The reverse merger, whereby VMware would actually buy the larger Dell, would then allow Dell to be traded publicly without going through a formal listing. It would also likely be the biggest deal in tech industry history, giving investors who backed Dell's move to go private in 2013 a way to monetize their deal, while helping Dell pay down some of its approximately $50 billion debt.
Networking

Is It Time For Zero-Trust Corporate Networks? (csoonline.com) 150

An anonymous reader quotes CSO: "The strategy around Zero Trust boils down to don't trust anyone. We're talking about, 'Let's cut off all access until the network knows who you are. Don't allow access to IP addresses, machines, etc. until you know who that user is and whether they're authorized,'" says Charlie Gero, CTO of Enterprise and Advanced Projects Group at Akamai Technologies in Cambridge, Mass... The Zero Trust model of information security basically kicks to the curb the old castle-and-moat mentality that had organizations focused on defending their perimeters while assuming everything already inside didn't pose a threat and therefore was cleared for access. Security and technology experts say the castle-and-moat approach isn't working. They point to the fact that some of the most egregious data breaches happened because hackers, once they gained access inside corporate firewalls, were able move through internal systems without much resistance...

Experts say that today's enterprise IT departments require a new way of thinking because, for the most part, the castle itself no longer exists in isolation as it once did. Companies don't have corporate data centers serving a contained network of systems but instead today typically have some applications on-premises and some in the cloud with users -- employees, partners, customers -- accessing applications from a range of devices from multiple locations and even potentially from around the globe... The Zero Trust approach relies on various existing technologies and governance processes to accomplish its mission of securing the enterprise IT environment. It calls for enterprises to leverage micro-segmentation and granular perimeter enforcement based on users, their locations and other data to determine whether to trust a user, machine or application seeking access to a particular part of the enterprise... Zero Trust draws on technologies such as multifactor authentication, Identity and Access Management (IAM), orchestration, analytics, encryption, scoring and file system permissions. Zero Trust also calls for governance policies such as giving users the least amount of access they need to accomplish a specific task.

"Most organizational IT experts have been trained, unfortunately, to implicitly trust their environments," says the chief product officer at an IAM/PIM solutions supplier.

"Everybody has been [taught] to think that the firewall is keeping the bad guys out. People need to adjust their mindset and understand that the bad actors are already in their environment."
Facebook

Facebook Should Be 'Regulated Like Cigarette Industry', Salesforce CEO Says (theguardian.com) 91

Facebook should be regulated like a cigarette company, because of the addictive and harmful properties of social media, according to Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff. From a report: Social networks would be regulated "exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry," Benioff told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "Here's a product -- cigarettes -- they're addictive, they're not good for you, maybe there's all kinds of different forces trying to get you to do certain things. There's a lot of parallels. I think that, for sure, technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and that product designers are working to make those products more addictive, and we need to rein that back as much as possible," he added. Benioff, who founded B2B cloud computing company Salesforce in 1999, and is now worth more than $4bn, suggested that regulation of some form was inevitable for the technology industry. "We're the same as any other industry," he said. "Financial services, consumer product goods, food -- in technology, the government's going to have to be involved. There is some regulation but there probably will have to be more."
Google

Google X Is Launching a Cybersecurity Company Called Chronicle (techcrunch.com) 31

Google's parent company Alphabet today announced the launch of Chronicle, a new cybersecurity company that aims to give companies a better chance at detecting and fighting off hackers. "Chronicle is graduating out of Alphabet's X moonshot group and is now a standalone company under the Alphabet umbrella, just like Google," TechCrunch reports. From the report: Stephen Gillett, who joined X from Google Ventures and was previously the COO of Symantec, will be the new company's CEO. To get started, Chronicle will offer two services: a security intelligence and analytics platform for enterprises, and VirusTotal, the online malware and virus scanner that Google acquired in 2012. Gillett writes that the general idea behind Chronicle is to eliminate a company's security blind spots and allow businesses to get a better picture of their security posture. "We want to 10x the speed and impact of security teams' work by making it much easier, faster and more cost-effective for them to capture and analyze security signals that have previously been too difficult and expensive to find," writes Gillett. "We are building our intelligence and analytics platform to solve this problem."

What exactly this new platform will look like remains to be seen, though. Gillett notes that it will run on Alphabet's infrastructure and use machine learning and advanced search capabilities to help businesses analyze their security data. Chronicle also says that it will offer its services in the cloud so that they can "grow with an organization's needs and don't add yet another piece of security software to implement and manage."

Google

Longtime Google Engineer Quits; Says Company Can No Longer Innovate, Is Mired in Politics, and Has Become Absolutely Competitor-Focused (medium.com) 392

Steve Yegge, a longtime Google engineer who gained popularity after his rant on Google+ went viral, wrote another rant on Wednesday, in which he announced he has left Google. His rationale behind leaving Google, in his own words: The main reason I left Google is that they can no longer innovate. They've pretty much lost that ability. I believe there are several contributing factors, of which I'll list four here. First, they're conservative: They are so focused on protecting what they've got, that they fear risk-taking and real innovation. Gatekeeping and risk aversion at Google are the norm rather the exception. Second, they are mired in politics, which is sort of inevitable with a large enough organization; the only real alternative is a dictatorship, which has its own downsides. Third, Google is arrogant. It has taken me years to understand that a company full of humble individuals can still be an arrogant company. Google has the arrogance of the "we", not the "I". Fourth, last, and probably worst of all, Google has become 100% competitor-focused rather than customer focused. They've made a weak attempt to pivot from this, with their new internal slogan "Focus on the user and all else will follow." But unfortunately it's just lip service.

You can look at Google's entire portfolio of launches over the past decade, and trace nearly all of them to copying a competitor: Google+ (Facebook), Google Cloud (AWS), Google Home (Amazon Echo), Allo (WhatsApp), Android Instant Apps (Facebook, WeChat), Google Assistant (Apple/Siri), and on and on and on. They are stuck in me-too mode and have been for years. They simply don't have innovation in their DNA any more. And it's because their eyes are fixed on their competitors, not their customers.

Software

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your View On Forced Subscription-Only Software? 660

dryriver writes: All used to be well in the world of Digital Content Creation (DCC) until two very major DCC software makers -- Adobe and Autodesk -- decided to force a monthly subscription model on pretty much every software package they make to please Wall Street investors. Important 2D and 3D DCC software like Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, InDesign, 3DMax, Maya, and Mudbox is now only available to "rent" from these companies. You simply cannot buy a perpetual license or boxed copy for this software at all anymore, and what makes matters worse is that if you stop paying your subscription, the software locks itself down, leaving you unable to open even old files you created with the software for later review. Also annoying is that subscription software constantly performs "license validity" checks over the internet (subscription software cannot be run offline for any great length of time, or on an air-gapped PC) and the software is increasingly tied into various cloud services these companies have set up. The DCC companies want you to save your -- potentially confidential -- project files on their servers, not on your own hard disk.

There are millions of DCC professionals around the world who'd love to be able to buy a normal, perpetual, offline-use capable license for these software tools. That is no longer possible. Adobe and Autodesk no longer provide that. What is your view on this "forced subscription" model? What would happen if all the major commercial software developers forced this model on everyone simultaneously? What if the whole idea of being able to "purchase" a perpetual license for ANY commercial software went away completely, and it was subscription only from that point on?
Cloud

UK Hospitals Can Now Store Confidential Patient Records In the Public Cloud (zdnet.com) 81

The National Health Service (NHS) has given hospitals the go-ahead to store sensitive patient records in the cloud. "NHS Digital said the advantages of using cloud services include cost savings associated with not having to buy and maintain hardware and software, and availability of backup and fast system recovery," reports ZDNet. "'Together these features cut the risk of health information not being available due to local hardware failure,' said the report." From ZDNet: Rob Shaw, deputy chief executive at NHS Digital, said: "It is for individual organizations to decide if they wish to use cloud and data offshoring but there are a huge range of benefits in doing so, such as greater data security protection and reduced running costs when implemented effectively." The UK government introduced a 'cloud first' policy for public sector IT in 2013, and NHS Choices and NHS England's Code4Health initiative are already successfully using the cloud. NHS Digital's guidance said that the NHS and social care providers may use cloud computing services for NHS data, although data must only be hosted within the European Economic Area, a country deemed adequate by the European Commission, or in the U.S. where covered by Privacy Shield.
Intel

Intel Urges OEMs and End Users To Stop Deploying Spectre Patch As It May 'Introduce Higher Than Expected Reboots' (intel.com) 155

Intel executive vice president Neil Shenoy said on Monday that the chip-maker has identified the source of some of the recent problems, so it is now recommended that users skip the available patches. From the blog post: We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior.
Microsoft

Microsoft Fights Search Warrants for Overseas Emails in the Supreme Court (microsoft.com) 68

Microsoft's Chief Legal Officer writes about "the landmark Microsoft case that will decide whether the U.S. government can use a search warrant to force a company to seize a customer's private emails stored in Ireland and import them to the United States." On Thursday, 289 different groups and individuals from 37 countries signed 23 different legal briefs supporting Microsoft's position that Congress never gave law enforcement the power to ignore treaties and breach Ireland's sovereignty in this way. How could it? The government relies on a law that was enacted in 1986, before anyone conceived of cloud computing... When the U.S. government requires a tech company to execute a warrant for emails stored overseas, the provider must search a foreign datacenter and make a copy abroad, and then import that copy to the United States. This creates a complex issue with huge international consequences. It shouldn't be resolved by taking the law to a place it was never intended to go...

The U.S. Department of Justice's attempt to seize foreign customers' emails from other countries ignores borders, treaties and international law, as well as the laws those countries have in place to protect the privacy of their own citizens... It's also a path that will lead to the doorsteps of American homes by putting the privacy of U.S. citizens' emails at risk. If the U.S. government obtains the power to search and seize foreign citizens' private communications physically stored in other countries, it will invite other governments to do the same thing. If we ignore other countries' laws, how can we demand that they respect our laws?

Amicus briefs supporting Microsoft have been filed in the U.S. Supreme Court by Ireland, France, and the European Commission and European privacy regulators. Microsoft even notes that on this issue, "Fox News agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union."

Slashdot Top Deals