Microsoft Says Windows 10 Spring Creators Update Will Install in 30 Minutes ( 141

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft has announced that the upcoming Windows 10 major feature upgrade -- dubbed the Spring Creators Update -- will take around 30 minutes to install, unlike previous variants that took between one and two hours to complete. This boost in installation time is attributed to work engineers have done on the "Feature Update" process -- the name Microsoft uses to refer to its bi-annual major OS updates. Microsoft says that this Feature Update process actually consists of two separate phases -- the "online" and "offline" stages. During the "online" phase, the user's computer downloads the necessary update files and executes various operations in the OS' background without affecting the device's battery life or system performance.
Operating Systems

Linux Mint 19 'Tara' Cinnamon Will Be Faster ( 58

Mint developers say they feel the app-launching time on the Linux distro seemed slow when using the Cinnamon desktop environment. So, they are working on fixing it. BetaNews reports: Windows build time was four times slower with Cinnamon compared to Metacity, while recovery time was nearly four times slower too. So yes, app-launching on Cinnamon -- as of today -- is slow comparatively. The big benefit to pinpointing a problem, however, is that it is the first step in solving it. And so, Linux Mint 19 Cinnamon will be faster as a result. "We developed a little script and a method to measure how long it took to flood the desktop environment with the creation of 200 windows. We could then measure the time reported by the script to build these 200 windows, and the time it actually took the desktop environment to recover from it and have these windows placed/mapped correctly and ready to be interacted with. Both measures were significantly higher in Cinnamon than in other desktops," says The Linux Mint Team.

Microsoft Brings Native HEIF Support to Windows 10 ( 145

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft is bringing support for the new HEIF image format to Windows 10. First popularized by Apple with iOS 11, HEIF is a new image format that uses less storage space while preserving image quality. The new image format is used by default on Apple's iPhone X and other devices running iOS 11. While Microsoft's online services like OneDrive already supported HEIF since the release of iOS 11, Windows 10 didn't natively support the new format as of yet. But with the upcoming Redstone 4 update -- possibly called the Spring Creators Update -- the Microsoft Photos app in Windows 10 will support HEIF by default. Further reading: CNET.

Ghana's Windows Blackboard Teacher And His Students Have a Rewarding Outcome ( 81

Quartz: A lot has changed in the life of Richard Appiah Akoto in the fortnight since he posted photos of himself on Facebook drawing a Microsoft Word processing window on a blackboard with multi-colored chalk, to teach his students about computers -- which the school did not have. The photos went viral on social media and media stories like Quartz's went all around the world. Akoto, 33, is the information and communication technology (ICT) teacher at Betenase M/A Junior High School in the town of Sekyedomase, about two and half hours drive north of Ghana's second city, Kumasi. The school had no computers even though since 2011, 14 and 15-year-olds in Ghana are expected to write and pass a national exam (without which students cannot progress to high school) with ICT being one of the subjects.

The story of the school and Twitter pressure from prominent players in the African tech space drew a promise from Microsoft to "equip [Akoto] with a device from one of our partners, and access to our MCE program & free professional development resources on." To fulfill this promise, the technology giant flew Akoto to Singapore this week where he is participating in the annual Microsoft Education Exchange.


Are Google and Facebook Surveilling Their Own Employees? ( 106

The Guardian just ran an article titled " 'They'll squash you like a bug': how Silicon Valley keeps a lid on leakers," which begins with the story of an employee confronted by Facebook's secretive "rat-catching" team: They had records of a screenshot he'd taken, links he had clicked or hovered over, and they strongly indicated they had accessed chats between him and the journalist, dating back to before he joined the company. "It's horrifying how much they know," he told the Guardian, on the condition of anonymity... "You get on their bad side and all of a sudden you are face to face with Mark Zuckerberg's secret police"... One European Facebook content moderator signed a contract, seen by the Guardian, which granted the company the right to monitor and record his social media activities, including his personal Facebook account, as well as emails, phone calls and internet use. He also agreed to random personal searches of his belongings including bags, briefcases and car while on company premises. Refusal to allow such searches would be treated as gross misconduct...

Some employees switch their phones off or hide them out of fear that their location is being tracked. One current Facebook employee who recently spoke to Wired asked the reporter to turn off his phone so the company would have a harder time tracking if it had been near the phones of anyone from Facebook. Two security researchers confirmed that this would be technically simple for Facebook to do if both people had the Facebook app on their phone and location services switched on. Even if location services aren't switched on, Facebook can infer someone's location from wifi access points.

The article cites a 2012 report that Microsoft read a French blogger's Hotmail account to identify a former employee who had leaked trade secrets. And it also reports that tech companies hire external agencies to surveil their employees. "One such firm, Pinkerton, counts Google and Facebook among its clients." Though Facebook and Google both deny this, "Among other services, Pinkerton offers to send investigators to coffee shops or restaurants near a company's campus to eavesdrop on employees' conversations...

Al Gidari, consulting director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, says that these tools "are common, widespread, intrusive and legal."
The Courts

Man Fined For Implanting NFC Train Ticket In Hand ( 106

Unhappy Windows User writes: An Australian man, when checked by a ticket inspector, claimed his smart travel card was implanted in his hand. He took the case to court and lost; the fine and legal fees add up to AU$1220 (USD $950). The man, who self-identifies as a biohacker and is a member of the Science Party, accepts the ruling but states that it won't discourage him from further biohacking. He claimed he was ahead of the law. The prosecution argued that, by cutting the chip out of the card, the ticket was invalidated. It is not clear from the article whether the NFC chip was working correctly and could be read by the inspector, or not. Further reading: BuzzFeed News

Microsoft Wants To Force Windows 10 Mail Users To Use Edge For Email Links ( 172

Microsoft has revealed today that "we will begin testing a change where links clicked on within the Windows Mail app will open in Microsoft Edge." What this means is that if you have Chrome or Firefox set as your default browser in Windows 10, Microsoft will simply ignore that and force you into Edge when you click a link within the Mail app. The Verge reports: "As always, we look forward to feedback from our WIP community," says Microsoft's Dona Sarkar in a blog post today. I'm sure Microsoft will receive a lot of feedback over this unnecessary change, and we can only hope the company doesn't ignore it.

Yet Again, Google Tricked Into Serving Scam Amazon Ads ( 49

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: For hours on Thursday, the top Google search result for "Amazon" was pointed to a scam site. The bad ad appeared at the very top of the search result for anyone searching for the internet retail giant -- even above the legitimate search result for Anyone who clicked on the ad was sent to a page that tried to trick the user into calling a number for fear that their computer was infected with malware -- and not sent to as they would have hoped.

The page presents itself as an official Apple or Windows support page, depending on the type of computer you're visiting the page from. An analysis of the webpage's code showed that anyone trying to dismiss the popup box on the page would likely trigger the browser expanding to full-screen, giving the appearance of ransomware. A one-off event would be forgivable. But this isn't the first time this has happened. It's at least the second time in two years that Google has served up a malicious ad under Amazon's name.


Microsoft Removes Antivirus Registry Key Check for Windows 10 Users ( 38

Microsoft has backtracked on a decision it took back in January when it conditioned that computers without a special registry key would not receive any more security updates. From a report: That particular "requirement" was introduced as part of the Meltdown and Spectre patching process. At the time, Microsoft said that antivirus vendors would have to add a key to the Windows Registry to signal that they are compatible with Microsoft's original Meltdown and Spectre patches. This was a big issue at the time because Microsoft detected during testing that some antivirus vendors would inject code into parts of the kernel that the company was trying to patch against Meltdown and Spectre flaws.

Firefox 59, 'By Far the Biggest Update Since Firefox 1.0', Arrives With Faster Page Loads and Improved Private Browsing ( 104

An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report: Mozilla today launched Firefox 59 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The release builds on Firefox Quantum, which the company calls "by far the biggest update since Firefox 1.0 in 2004." Version 59 brings faster page load times, private browsing mode that strips path information, and Android Assist. In related news, Mozilla is giving Amazon Fire TV owners a new design later this week that lets them save their preferred websites by pinning them to the Firefox home screen. Enterprise users also have something to look forward to: On Wednesday, Firefox Quantum for Enterprise is entering the beta phase. Firefox 59 for the desktop is available for download now on, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. As always, the Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play.

Microsoft Admits It Updated Some Windows 10 Computers To Newest Build Despite Users Telling It Not To Do That ( 137

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: The admission came in a knowledge base article updated last week. Not all users of older Windows versions were forcibly updated, but only those whose machines were running Windows 10 v1703 (Creators Update). This is the version where Microsoft added special controls to the Windows Update setting section that allow users to pause OS updates in case they have driver or other hardware issues with the latest OS version. But according to reports, a Microsoft snafu ignored these settings and forcibly updated some users to Windows 10 v1709 (Fall Creators Update).

Downloads of Popular Apps Were Silently Swapped For Spyware in Turkey: Citizen Lab ( 29

Matthew Braga, reporting for CBC: Since last fall, Turkish internet users attempting to download one of a handful of popular apps may have been the unwitting targets of a wide-reaching computer surveillance campaign. And in Egypt, users across the country have, seemingly at random, had their browsing activity mysteriously redirected to online money-making schemes. Internet filtering equipment sold by technology company Sandvine -- founded in Waterloo, Ont. -- is believed to have played a significant part in both.

That's according to new research from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, which has examined misuse of similar equipment from other companies in the past. The researchers say it's likely that Sandvine devices are not only being used to block the websites of news, political and human rights organizations, but are also surreptitiously redirecting users toward spyware and unwanted ads. Using network-filtering devices to sneak spyware onto targets' computers "has long been the stuff of legends" according to the report -- a practice previously documented in leaked NSA documents and spyware company brochures, the researchers say, but never before publicly observed.
Citizen Lab notes that targeted users in Turkey and Syria who attempted to download Windows applications from official vendor websites including Avast Antivirus, CCleaner, Opera, and 7-Zip were silently redirected to malicious versions by way of injected HTTP redirects. It adds: This redirection was possible because official websites for these programs, even though they might have supported HTTPS, directed users to non-HTTPS downloads by default. Additionally, targeted users in Turkey and Syria who downloaded a wide range of applications from CBS Interactive's (a platform featured by CNET to download software) were instead redirected to versions containing spyware. does not appear to support HTTPS despite purporting to offer "secure download" links.

Windows 10's Next Update Will Be Called 'Spring Creators Update' ( 92

The Verge reports: Microsoft is planning to reuse its "Creators Update" naming for a third Windows 10 update. The software giant has strangely not yet officially named its next Windows 10 update, due next month, but it has been testing a future update that appears to reveal the spring update name. "Windows 10 Spring Creators Update" has been spotted in the latest test builds of the Redstone 5 update expected to be released later this fall. Microsoft first launched Windows 10 Creators Update last spring, followed by the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update in the fall. The new Windows 10 Spring Creators Update naming was originally spotted in Microsoft blog posts last year, but this is the first time it has appeared in the operating system itself.

Windows 10 Is Finally Adding Tabs To File Explorer ( 161

Microsoft has released insider preview build 17618 that includes tabs in File Explorer as part of its Sets feature. Bleeping Computer reports: Windows 10 Sets is an upcoming feature where you can group documents and apps into one tabbed window that are related to the particular task at hand. This feature was released for testing to a small controlled group of insiders in Insider Preview Build 17063 and was subsequently removed after the test. With build 17618, Sets are back and with it come tabs in File Explorer. You can now open different folders in the same File Explorer window with each one having their own tabs. This way one File Explorer window can have a tab for the pictures folder, a tab for the documents folder, and a tab for your documents, which you can easily switch between. If you look closely, though, the Sets feature does more than just allow you to have different tabs for different folders, but also allows you to add applications as a tab in File Explorer. According to Microsoft, in addition to File Explorer, Notepad, Command Prompt, and Powershell are also getting tabbed support.

Next Big Windows Update Will Bring Hardware-Accelerated AI ( 87

Mary Jo Foley, writing for ZDNet: Every tech vendor these days is quick to slap the AI label on products and services. Up until today, I thought Microsoft had done an admirable job in refraining from doing this with Windows. But the shark has been jumped as of March 7, the company's latest Windows Developer Day. Cue the eye rolls. Microsoft is telling developers that the next release of Windows 10, which we are still calling by its codename, "Redstone 4," will enable developers to "use AI to deliver more powerful and engaging experiences." Microsoft execs say there's now an AI platform in Windows 10 that enables developers to use "pre-trained machine learning in their apps on Windows 10 devices."

Researchers Bypassed Windows Password Locks With Cortana Voice Commands ( 90

Two independent Israeli researchers found a way for an attacker to bypass the lock protection on Windows machines and install malware by using voice commands directed at Cortana, the multi-language, voice-commanded virtual assistant that comes embedded in Windows 10 desktop and mobile operating systems. From a report: Tal Be'ery and Amichai Shulman found that the always-listening Cortana agent responds to some voice commands even when computers are asleep and locked, allowing someone with physical access to plug a USB with a network adapter into the computer, then verbally instruct Cortana to launch the computer's browser and go to a web address that does not use https -- that is, a web address that does not encrypt traffic between a user's machine and the website. The attacker's malicious network adapter then intercepts the web session to send the computer to a malicious site instead, where malware downloads to the machine, all while the computer owner believes his or her machine is protected.

Ask Slashdot: Should We Worry Microsoft Will 'Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish' Linux? ( 431

BrianFagioli writes: While there is no proof that anything nefarious is afoot, it does feel like maybe the Windows-maker is hijacking the Linux movement a bit by serving distros in its store. I hope there is no "embrace, extend, and extinguish" shenanigans going on.

Just yesterday, we reported that Kali Linux was in the Microsoft Store for Windows 10. That was big news, but it was not particularly significant in the grand scheme, as Kali is not very well known. Today, there is some undeniably huge news -- Debian is joining SUSE, Ubuntu, and Kali in the Microsoft Store. Should the Linux community be worried?

My concern lately is that Microsoft could eventually try to make the concept of running a Linux distro natively a thing of the past. Whether or not that is the company's intention is unknown. The Windows maker gives no reason to suspect evil plans, other than past negative comments about Linux and open source. For instance, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once called Linux "cancer" -- seriously.


Microsoft Confirms Windows 10 'S Mode' ( 90

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft head honcho Joe Belfiore confirmed today that Windows 10 S won't be a separate Windows version anymore and that Microsoft will ship an "S Mode" with Windows 10 starting 2019. "Next year 10S will be a "mode" of existing versions, not a distinct version," Belfiore said today on Twitter.

Chrome 65 Arrives With Material Design Extensions Page, New Developer Features ( 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today launched Chrome 65 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Additions in this release include Material Design changes and new developer features. You can update to the latest version now using the browser's built-in silent updater or download it directly from Chrome 65 comes with a few visual changes. The most obvious is related to Google's Material Design mantra. The extensions page has been completely revamped to follow it. Next up, Chrome 65 replaces the Email Page Location link in Chrome for Mac's File menu with a Share submenu. As you might expect, Mac users can use this submenu to share the URL of a current tab via installed macOS Share Extensions. Speaking of Macs, Chrome 65 is also the last release for OS X 10.9 users. Chrome 66 will require OS X 10.10 or later. Moving on to developer features, Chrome 65 includes the CSS Paint API, which allows developers to programmatically generate an image, and the Server Timing API, which allows web servers to provide performance timing information via HTTP headers.

'Repeatable Sanitization' is a Feature of PCs Now ( 90

HP has announced a trio of slightly-odd products intended for use in hospitals. From a report: The new HP EliteOne 800 G4 23.8 Healthcare Edition All-in-One PC and HP EliteBook 840 G5 Healthcare Edition Notebook are computers intended for use in the healthcare industry. The EliteBook will ship with software called "Easy Clean" that disables the keyboard, touchscreen and keypad "to facilitate cleaning with germicidal wipes while the device is still on." HP said it's scoured the market and thinks it is the only vendor on the planet with a laptop capable of handling "up to 10,000 wipes with germicidal towelettes over a 3-year period." The All-in-One boasts no antibacterial features, but does have both RFID and biometric authentication, handy features in an environment where PCs can't be left unlocked to preserve privacy. That requirement means PCs are logged on to many more times a day than the average machine, making the presence of Windows Hello facial recognition more than a gimmick. Oddly, both come with the disclaimer that they're "not intended for use in diagnosis, cure, treatment or prevention of disease or other medical conditions."

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