Microsoft's best Windows 10 customers bear the brunt of the latest license glitch

If you paid extra for Windows 10 "Pro," Microsoft had an unpleasant surprise for you: a misconfiguration in the company's license server resulted in the oldest Win 10 Pro installs (that is, those owned by Microsoft's earliest adopting customers) being downgraded to Windows 10 Home, with users' screens plastered with watermarks chiding them for not paying for their licenses (this went over great for everyone who was standing in front of an audience giving a presentation, apparently). Read the rest

The man who created Ctrl+Alt+Del

Meet David Bradley, chief engineer of the IBM PC, who created Ctrl+Alt+Del.

"I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous," Bradley once said.

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Review: This case for my Surface Go is wicked heavy but wicked good

One of the biggest problems surrounding my use of expensive electronics is that my lifestyle isn't kind to fragile things. While we're in transit between campsites, our RV rocks, bumps and heaves. Sometimes, no matter how securely I've stowed my gear, shit happens. Shit happening cost me $600 for a new MacBook display last summer. When I'm not in the RV, the gear I use for work gets chucked in a backpack. One of my laptops was destroyed falling off the back of a motorcycle. Another got fried in Costa Rica by the heat. These experiences have driven me to become a little bit more paranoid about protecting my gear over the years. Sometimes, protecting my kit means making compromises. Slapping on a $70 UAG Metropolis case for the Microsoft Surface Go feels like one of those.

Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the Metropolis. UAG makes rock solid cases and their beefy-looking design aesthetic agrees with my sense of style. The case, available in three different colors, is primarily made from rubberized plastic. Without the Surface Go in it, the case is semi-rigid, which makes it easy to slip on to the tablet. Once it's sheathing your Surface, however, the Metropolis is pretty difficult to remove. That's gotta be worth some bonus points: I've used cases, in the past that came off all too easily when the object they were meant to be protecting got dropped.

The corners of the case boast extra padding that'll hopefully help to protect against a cracked display if I ever suffer a case of the butterfingers. Read the rest

Insider build of Windows 10 warns users not install Firefox and Chrome

Edge isn't doing so well: Chrome still rules the web roost, and Firefox is resurgent. But Microsoft can do something about that.

Companies like Google or Microsoft have used their market position in the past to push their own products. Google pushes Chrome on all of its properties when users use different browsers to connect to them, and Microsoft too displayed notifications on the Windows 10 platform to users who used other browsers that Edge was more secure or power friendly.

The intercepting of installers on Windows is a new low, however. A user who initiates the installation of a browser does so on purpose.

The popup explicitly describes itself as a warning—as if intercepting malware. 2018's Microsoft, same as 1998's Microsoft.

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Microsoft to make Skype usable again

Earlier this year, Microsoft brought sweeping changes to Skype's UI, giving it something of a SnapChat makeover. The communication app's user base, I among them, was less than impressed, to say the least. Where it was once an easy way to receive forwarded telephone calls and chat via video or audio with folks across multiple platforms, the changes made it a shit sandwich to do much of anything with. The outcry from Skype users was such that, last month, Microsoft announced that they'd continue to offer the old school version of Skype's desktop app. Now, in the name of not alienating their users, they've taken their software UI rollback one step further. They're bringing back the features that folks actually use Skype for, back to the application and making it easier to ignore the service's new SnapChat-like features.

From Ars Technica:

With this new focus on calling and messaging, the Snapchat-like statuses have been removed. The desktop interface is styled a lot closer to the legacy application, and the use of animations and gradients has been somewhat toned down. The mobile interfaces put the key calling and messaging buttons along the bottom of the screen, providing easier access to the dialer pad. The company is promising to reinstate other features from the legacy client—multiple chat windows, greater control over online status and privacy, better searching, and more. The legacy clients will still be end-of-lifed, but it seems that they'll stay around until the feature disparity is resolved

Good.

Image by Microsoft Corporation - The file was uploaded on the English Wikipedia by user AxG on September 3, 2012., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21862425 Read the rest

Microsoft gives classic Skype a stay of execution after user complaints

For years, I maintained a Skype number that’d forward to whatever phone number I happened to be using at the time. It was the only way to make myself reachable on the phone, despite my switching to a new mobile number every time I moved to a different region. It worked well enough—until last year when Microsoft redesigned the iOS version of their app to make it damn near unusable as a phone forwarding service. I hated Skype’s mobile makeover so much that I decided not to renew my annual plan with the service. If you want to find me, these days, it has to happen via Twitter or email. It seems that users of Microsoft’s desktop version of the app have all sorts of loathing for its recent redesign as well. According to The Verge, the backlash against version 8.0 of the app has been so widespread that it’s put Microsoft back on its heels.

From The Verge:

Last month, Microsoft announced it would be shutting down the desktop version of Skype 7.0, otherwise known as classic Skype, in September and transitioning users and businesses to the redesigned Skype 8.0. Following what the company describes as “customer feedback,” classic Skype will be sticking around for “some time” to “bring all the features you’ve asked for into Skype 8,” per Windows blog Thurrott. Skype 8 was first unveiled as a mobile redesign last year, inspired by trends set by Facebook and Snapchat, and it was widely disliked at the time as well.

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Microsoft's Surface Go is... go

When I'm away from home, I hate carrying my laptop. There's not enough room to use it in coach seating on an airplane and it weighs more than I care to haul around during a press junket. Typically, I pack my 9.7" iPad Pro, instead. It's great for editing photos with, but as a text generation and editing machine, has its flaws as well: Any keyboard case I use with it proves too damn small for me to reliably type on and that it won't work with a mouse or trackpad really slows my workflow down. I've been looking for something that can stradle both worlds--the portability of a lightweight tablet with the ease of use that a mouse can bring to the party--for some time now. My main work machine is a Mac, but I use Windows 10 on a regular basis, as well.

As such, I've got my fingers crossed that Microsoft's Surface Go will be the low-cost, juuuuuust good enough work machine that I've been looking for.

From The Verge:

It has a 3:2 aspect ratio display (1800 x 1200 pixel resolution), the signature built-in kickstand with unlimited positions, a front-facing camera with facial recognition login, and Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connector port for charging and connecting to a desktop dock. Microsoft has added a USB-C 3.1 port, capable of charging the tablet or outputting video and data to external devices. It has also rounded the corners a bit compared to the latest Surface Pro, but overall, it’s the same familiar magnesium design Surface users have come to expect.

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Microsoft CEO: don't worry, we're mostly helping the parts of ICE that don't involve kidnapping children

As Microsoft employees grow increasingly furious that their employer is a key technology provider to ICE, providing, among other things, facial recognition software, the company is responding, conscious of the possibility of a repeat of Google's showdown with its employees over the provision of AI for drone warfare systems. Read the rest

Microsoft employees pissed over company's connection to ICE

Back in January, Microsoft announced that they were "proud" to support ICE. Honestly, what company wouldn't be? A U.S. federal contract, no matter how large your coffers and corporate reach might be, is a good get, due both to the amount of American lucre you'll pocket and the visuals that come from being trusted by one of the most powerful countries in the world to meet their cloud computing needs.

But hey: it isn't January anymore and Microsoft in June, 2018 is looking a little bit like IBM back in the 1930s.

Under the Trump Administration's direction, ICE and other Homeland Security entities have been busy breaking up families, emotionally scarring thousands of innocent kids, and driving their anguished caretakers into cages, or worse, to suicide. That Microsoft's Azure cloud computing services are helping such villainy along, in any capacity, might be good in the short-term, for the company's bottom line, but the optics are shit. More than this, the company's association with ICE is raising the hackles of some of their their most important assets: not their shareholders or board, but their employees.

According to Gizmodo, a number of Microsoft employees, who prefer to remain anonymous in the interest of protecting their careers, have stepped forward to report that the computer technology company's relationship with ICE has led to growing dissent among the company's workforce. When Giz questioned Microsoft's PR team on the matter, the response was a bit wishy-washy:

From Gizmodo:

Microsoft condemned family separation by ICE in a statement to Gizmodo but declined to specify if specific tools within Azure Government, like Face API—facial recognition software—were in use by the agency.

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Here are 15 privacy settings you should change from defaults, from Linkedin to cellphones to smart TVs

The Washington Post rounds up 15 privacy defaults that no one in their right mind would want to leave as-is, and provides direct links to change 'em (hilariously and predictably, Verizon/Oath/Yahoo's privacy settings dashboard times out when you try to load it) -- once you're done with that, go back and follow his links to unfuck the privacy defaults for Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and #DeleteFacebook. (via Reddit) Read the rest

New XBox and Windows game controller for people with disabilities

Microsoft's new accessible game controller has a retro vibe, enormous buttons, and a range of attachments tailored to specific disabilities.

The new Xbox Adaptive Controller, which will be available later this year, can be connected to external buttons, switches, joysticks and mounts, giving gamers with a wide range of physical disabilities the ability to customize their setups. The most flexible adaptive controller made by a major gaming company, the device can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games and supports Xbox Wireless Controller features such as button remapping.

Reminds me of the original arcade Street Fighter "punchable" buttons (see the photo from Ars Technica, below). There's a certain irony here, because (in their primitive 80s form) they were unreliable and made the game too difficult, leading arcade operators to replace them with normal buttons. Because the punch-plates were pressure sensitive, though, the game required six normal buttons to play properly, kicking off the myriads-of-buttons era in which games became markedly less accessible.

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Debullshitifying Microsoft's smear campaign against the recycler it helped send to prison

Eric Lundgren is the PC recycler who is going to jail for 18 months for having a Chinese factory duplicate the obsolete Windows restore CDs Microsoft lets you download for free and authorizes recyclers to distribute. Read the rest

Microsoft sends recycler to jail for reinstalling obsolete, licensed copies of Windows on refurbished PCs

Eric Lundgren is an environmental hero, whose California business diverts literal tons of e-waste from landfills, refurbishes it, and puts it in the hands of people who can make good use of it. Read the rest

The end of Windows closes in

Five years ago, Steve Ballmer said "we can make Windows devices once again the devices to own." Last week, Microsoft announced that Windows will no longer be a standalone unit at Microsoft, ending a division dedicated to personal OS that started in 1980. Via Ben Thompson at Stratechery: Read the rest

Terrifying Steve Ballmer ad for Microsoft Windows 1.0

Knowing Microsoft's longtime sales chief Steve Ballmer, I thought I knew what to expect from this early ad starring him. But the sheer maniacal force of it means I've already had enough internet for the day, and it's not even 7 am. Read the rest

Artist makes fantastic digital paintings using Excel

Tatsuo Horiuchi, 77, creates lovely landscape paintings using the color graphing features of Excel. As William Gibson said, "The street finds its own uses for things."

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20% of Manchester police systems run Windows XP

Manchester boasts England's second-largest police-force (after London) and some of the nation's shittiest IT. Read the rest

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