Windows

Microsoft .NET Core 2.0 For Linux Released; Redhat Will Bundle Microsoft's .NET (zdnet.com) 56

Billly Gates writes: Microsoft recently released Visual Studio 15.3 for Windows and Visual Studio 7.1 for Mac with .NET core 2.0. In addition to porting Microsoft Code and SQL Server to Linux, they have ported .NET. Redhat will bundle .NET in their software offerings instead of relying on Mono. .NET core is Microsoft's open-source .NET platform which is not based off Mono and available for Linux, Mac, and Windows here.
PlayStation (Games)

The Asterisk on Madden's Annual Release Legacy (polygon.com) 16

Madden '96 for PlayStation never shipped, yet it changed the history of football video games -- and sports games in general -- for decades in its wake. Polygon has the behind-the-scene story. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt: The story starts back in 1992, when EA Canada (formerly Distinctive Software) began working on Super Nintendo versions of the NFL series. Over its first two entries -- John Madden Football and John Madden Football '93 -- the studio struggled to match the quality of Blue Sky Productions' Sega Genesis work. EA Canada's developers faced a coding challenge: The slower processor speed of Nintendo's 16-bit console limited what they could do. The games hovered around 15-20 frames of animation per second, making the games feel sluggish despite looking nice in stills. As the studio moved on to its third try, Madden NFL '94, it seemed like the performance issues would continue. Enter Visual Concepts, then a 6-year-old upstart known for parody fighting game ClayFighter and platformer Lester the Unlikely. The team had been working on isometric helicopter sim Desert Strike for EA, and had been getting a lot out of the SNES hardware.
Businesses

Apple Puts Brakes on Self-driving Car Project, Report Says (theguardian.com) 67

Apple is following the road taken by Waymo, the autonomous vehicle subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet, and downshifting on its still-unannounced self-driving car project, according to a report in the New York Times. From a report: The company has been working on its automotive technology under the internal code name "Project Titan" since at least 2014, and once intended to build its own vehicle from start to finish, creating a true "Apple Car." Now it's put the car-building side of the project on hold, perhaps indefinitely, as it instead focuses on creating and perfecting the software and hardware necessary to get a self-driving car on the streets. Apple is now planning on working with other car-makers to get its self-driving tech into the garages and driveways of customers, according to the paper. One upcoming example of that collaboration: an autonomous shuttle service that will ferry employees back and forth between the company's Silicon Valley offices in Palo Alto and Cupertino. That project, which will use conventional cars with self-driving kit bolted on, is known as "Pail", standing for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, the street address of the company's main campus. The name highlights the delays in the project, since Apple's main campus is already in the process of being moved to Apple Park, an enormous ring-shaped office down the road.
The Internet

Wal-Mart To Enter Voice-Shopping Market Via Google Platform (reuters.com) 27

Wal-Mart Stores is teaming up with Google to enter the nascent voice-shopping market, currently dominated by Amazon.com, adding another front to Wal-Mart's battle with the online megastore. From a report: Google, which makes the Android software used to run most of the world's smartphones, will offer hundreds of thousands of Walmart items on its voice-controlled Google Assistant platform from late September, Walmart's head of e-commerce, Marc Lore, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. Lore, who joined the world's largest retailer after it bought his e-commerce company Jet.com, said Wal-Mart would offer a wider selection than any retailer on the platform. Amazon, whose voice-controlled aide Alexa allows users to shop from the retailer, has the lion's share of the U.S. voice-controlled device industry, with its Echo devices accounting for 72.2 percent of the market in 2016, far ahead of the Google Home gadget's 22 percent, according to research firm eMarketer.
Firefox

Mozilla Testing an Opt-Out System For Firefox Telemetry Collection (bleepingcomputer.com) 198

An anonymous reader writes: "Mozilla engineers are discussing plans to change the way Firefox collects usage data (telemetry), and the organization is currently preparing to test an opt-out clause so they could collect more data relevant to the browser's usage," reports Bleeping Computer. "In a Google Groups discussion that's been taking place since Monday, Mozilla engineers cite the lack of usable data the Foundation is currently receiving via its data collection program. The problem is that Firefox collects data from a very small fraction of its userbase, and this data may not be representative of the browser's real usage." Mozilla would like to fix this by flipping everyone's telemetry setting to enabled and adding an opt-out clause. Engineers also plan to embed Google's RAPPAR project [1, 2] for anonymous data collection.
Crime

Iowa Computer Programmer Gets 25 Years For Lottery Scam (desmoinesregister.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Des Moines Register: Eddie Tipton, the Iowa brainpower behind a case of multi-state lottery fraud, will spend up to 25 years in prison for rigging "random" drawing jackpots. It's unknown how many years Tipton will actually spend in prison. He could be paroled within three or four years, his attorneys noted. Tipton, 54, was a longtime computer programmer in the Iowa offices of the Multi-State Lottery Association who installed software that allowed him to pick winning numbers in some of the nation's most popular lottery drawings. His scam began to unravel following unsuccessful attempts to anonymously collect a $16.5 million Hot Lotto ticket that was purchased at a Des Moines convenience store in 2010. "I certainly regret," Tipton said. "It's difficult even saying that. With all the people I know behind me that I hurt and I regret it. I'm sorry."
Transportation

Austria, Carmakers Agree To Update Software of 600,000 Diesel Cars (reuters.com) 11

An anonymous reader shares a report: Austria's Transport Minister Joerg Leichtfried said on Tuesday he had agreed with carmakers to update the software of 600,000 diesel cars to reduce pollution following a similar deal struck in Germany after a large-scale emissions scandal. Leichtfried said the deal also included extra payments to buyers of more environmentally friendly cars. He said that for potential buyers of electric cars all available financial help could add up to around 10,000 euros ($11,750) per vehicle. The exact amount of incentives, which will come in addition to existing government sweeteners for e-car buyers, will be decided and paid by the carmakers depending on the model of the vehicle exchanged for an old car, the spokesman of Austrian car importers association Guenther Kerle said.
Bitcoin

Estonia Proposes Estcoin, a Government Backed Cryptocurrency, Issued Via an Initial Coin Offering After e-Residency Success (cityam.com) 51

Estonia is living up to its digital reputation and setting tongues wagging with its latest idea: its very own digital currency issued via an initial coin offering (ICO). From a report: The buzz word of the moment in the heady world of cyptocurrencies, ICOs, are being used to raise cash via a digital token that's issued to investors. What investors get back in return depends what the company offers, much like crowdfunding, but can be some sort of stake in the company or merely being able to use the blockchain-based software it's building. But what's on offer in a potential ICO of a nation state? That's exactly what Estonia wants to work out. The head of its innovative e-residency programme has said the country is considering what the issuance of "estcoin", the country's very own digital currency, would look like. In a blog post, Kaspar Korjus said: "Estcoins could be managed by the Republic of Estonia, but accessed by anyone in the world through its e-Residency programme and launched through an Initial Coin Offering (ICO)."
The Internet

Code42 Says Crashplan Backup Service Will Discontinue All Personal Backup Plans (crashplan.com) 132

Reader amxcoder writes: Code42, the company behind the popular Crashplan online backup service has announced that will be discontinuing all of its personal and family backup plan offerings to focus on business backup service plans only. In the letter sent to existing personal plan customers, it says that next year will be the cutoff date for personal plans and all existing personal plan holders will have to upgrade their subscriptions to more expensive business plans or leave for another provider after current subscription runs out. Crashplan personal and family services were one of the best (and most affordable) options available for online backup, providing features that other rivals do not, including backup options for cloud, external local drives, and to other friends/family member's drives (trusted offsite). Looking at Carbonite services (who Code42 is recommending existing personal subscribers switch to), does not offer many of the options and features in their backup software, including multiple backup sets, unlimited deleted file retention, the trusted offsite options and any type of 'family subscription' offerings. Here is a statement from the Code42 CEO Joe Payne.
Privacy

Sonos Says Users Must Accept New Privacy Policy Or Devices May Cease To Function (zdnet.com) 321

An anonymous reader writes: Sonos has confirmed that existing customers will not be given an option to opt out of its new privacy policy, leaving customers with sound systems that may eventually "cease to function". It comes as the home sound system maker prepares to begin collecting audio settings, error data, and other account data before the launch of its smart speaker integration in the near future. A spokesperson for the home sound system maker told ZDNet that, "if a customer chooses not to acknowledge the privacy statement, the customer will not be able to update the software on their Sonos system, and over time the functionality of the product will decrease. The customer can choose to acknowledge the policy, or can accept that over time their product may cease to function."
Transportation

Driverless Cars Need a Lot More Than Software, Ford CTO Says (axios.com) 163

In an interview, Ken Washington, Ford's Chief Technical Officer, shared company's views on how autonomy will change car design. From an article: The biggest influence will be how the cars are bought, sold and used: "You would design those vehicles differently depending on what business model (is being used). We're working through that business model question right now," he said. The biggest misconceptions about autonomous capabilities is that it's only about software: "People are imagining that the act of doing software for autonomy is all you need to do and then you can just bolt it to the car," he said. "I don't think it's possible to describe what an autonomous vehicle is going to look like," he added.
Android

postmarketOS Pursues A Linux-Based, LTS OS For Android Phones (liliputing.com) 109

An anonymous reader quotes Liliputing: Buy an iPhone and you might get 4-5 years of official software updates. Android phones typically get 1-3 years of updates... if they get any updates at all. But there are ways to breathe new life into some older Android phones. If you can unlock the bootloader, you may be able to install a custom ROM like LineageOS and get unofficial software updates for a few more years. The folks behind postmarketOS want to go even further: they're developing a Linux-based alternative to Android with the goal of providing up to 10 years of support for old smartphones...

Right now postmarketOS is a touch-friendly operating system based on Alpine Linux that runs on a handful of devices including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Google Nexus 4, 5, and 7 (2012), and several other Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Sony smartphones. There are also ports for some non-Android phones such as the Nokia N900 and work-in-progress builds for the BlackBerry Bolt Touch 9900 and Jolla Phone. Note that when I say the operating system runs on those devices, I basically mean it boots. Some phones only have network access via a USB cable, for instance. None of the devices can actually be used to make phone calls. But here's the cool thing: the developers are hoping to create a single kernel that works with all supported devices, which means that postmarketOS would work a lot like a desktop operating system, allowing you to install the same OS on any smartphone with the proper hardware.

One postmarketOS developer complains that Android's architecture "is based on forking (one might as well say copy-pasting) the entire code-base for each and every device and Android version. And then working on that independent, basically instantly incompatible version. Especially adding device-specific drivers plays an important role... Here is the solution: Bend an existing Linux distribution to run on smartphones. Apply all necessary changes as small patches and upstream them, where it makes sense."
Music

What Happened To Winamp? (arstechnica.com) 329

Winamp was released more than 20 years ago, and last week marked the 15th anniversary of the release of Winamp3. An anonymous Slashdot reader tries to explain what finally happened to Winamp: AOL planned to discontinue Winamp in November of 2013, but instead sold it to the Belgian online radio service Radionomy. The last update on Winamp's Twitter account was September of 2015, though it announced that they were looking for a new senior C++ developer. Then in December of 2015 Vivendi Group became that company's majority shareholder, stirring hopes that the company might one day launch a revamped version of the classic mp3 player from 1997.

So did they? Radionomy's Winamp page is still showing download links -- though they now lead instead to a forum post which says "code licensed to the previous owner" is being removed or replaced. But that post has been updated five times -- as recently as last October -- with "info about the next Winamp release," each linking to a thread on Winamp's forums which offer tantalizing glimpses into a still-ongoing development process. And last October a Winamp dev posted on Twitter that "a Winamp 5.8 public beta release could be imminent," while the web page at Winamp.com still says "There's more coming soon," with a background image of a llama.

"There's no reason that Winamp couldn't be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition," their first general manager told Ars Technica in 2012. (Winamp's developers had been earning $100,000 a month just from $10 shareware checks before AOL acquired the company in 1999 for $100 million.) In May TechRadar wrote that Winamp "is still a great media player...but it now relies on third-party extensions to add features found as standard in more modern players."

I still remember all the visualizations and custom skins -- but does this bring back any memories for anyone else? Leave your thoughts in the comments. And what mp3-playing software are you using today?
Government

Microsoft Avoids Washington State Taxes, Gives Nevada Schoolkid A Surface Laptop (seattletimes.com) 72

theodp writes: The Official Microsoft Blog hopes a letter from a Nevada middle schooler advising Microsoft President Brad Smith to "keep up the good work running that company" will "inspire you like it did us." Penned as part of a math teacher's assignment to write letters to the businesses that they like, Microsoft says the letter prompted Smith to visit the Nevada school to meet 7th-grader Sky Yi in person as part of the company's effort to draw attention to the importance of math and encourage students and teachers who are passionate about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. In an accompanying video of the surprise meeting, Smith presents Yi with a new Surface Laptop that comes with Windows 10 S, a version of the OS that has been streamlined with schools in mind. "Not bad for a little letter," the Microsoft exec says.

Speaking of Microsoft, Nevada, and education, Bing Maps coincidentally shows the school Smith visited is just a 43-minute drive from the software giant's Reno-based Americas Operations Center. According to the Seattle Times, routing sales through the Reno software-licensing office helps Microsoft minimize its tax bills (NV doesn't tax business income) to the detriment, some say, of Washington State public schools.

Microsoft's state and local taxes will drop to just $30 million for the last year (from an average of $214 milion over the previous 14 years) according to the Seattle Times. "A Microsoft spokesman said the decline in 2017 was caused by the company's deferring taxes on some income to future years and the winding down of the company's smartphone business."
Android

Android O Is Officially Launching August 21 (techcrunch.com) 85

Android O is set to arrive on August 21, with a livestreamed unveiling event timed for 2:40 PM ET in NYC -- which is roughly when the maximum solar eclipse is set to occur for New York. TechCrunch reports: Android O will get a full reveal at that time, which seems like kind of a weird time to do it since a lot of people will be watching the NASA eclipse livestream that Google is also promoting, or staring at the sky (with the caveat, hopefully, that they have procured proper glasses for safe viewing). Google says that Android O will have some "super (sweet) new powers," most of which we know all about thanks to pre-release builds and the Android O teaser Google provided at its annual I/O developer event this past May. WE know, for instance, that the notification panel has been changed significantly, and there's new optimization software to improve battery life on all devices. While Android O's name has yet to be confirmed, the official consumer name is speculated to be "Oreo." Prolific leaker Evan Blass posted a picture of an Oreo to Twitter on Friday following the announcement of the reveal date and event.
Android

The Verge's Essential Phone Review: An Arcane Artifact From an Unrealized Future (theverge.com) 55

An anonymous reader shares Dieter Bohn's review of the Essential Phone: Even though it was announced less than three months ago at the Code Conference, there's already enough mythology surrounding the Essential Phone to fill a book. It comes from a brand-new billion-dollar startup led by the person who helped create Android itself, Andy Rubin. That origin binds it up with the history of all smartphones in a way that doesn't usually apply to your run-of-the-mill device. The phone was also delayed a bit, a sign that this tiny company hasn't yet quite figured out how to punch above its weight class -- which it's certainly trying to do. Although it runs standard Android, it's meant to act as a vanguard for Essential's new ecosystem of smart home devices and services connected by the mysterious Ambient OS. Even if we trust that Rubin's futuristic vision for a connected home will come to pass, it's not going to happen overnight. Instead, all we really have right now is that future's harbinger, a well-designed Android phone that I've been testing for the past week. Available unlocked or at Sprint, the $699 Essential Phone is an ambitious device. It has a unique way to connect modular accessories, starting with a 360-degree camera. It has a bold take on how to make a big, edge-to-edge screen paired with top-flight materials such as ceramic and titanium. And it has a dual camera system that is meant to compete with other flagship devices without adding any thickness to the phone. That would be a lot for even a massive company like Samsung or Apple to try to do with a single phone. For a tiny company like Essential, the question is simply this: is it trying to do too much? In conclusion, Bohn writes: "The Essential Phone is doing so much right: elegant design, big screen, long battery life, and clean software. And on top of all that, it has ambitions to do even more with those modules. If you asked Android users what they wanted in the abstract, I suspect a great many of them would describe this exact device. But while the camera is pretty good, it doesn't live up to the high bar the rest of the phone market has set. Sometimes artifacts are better to behold than they are to use."
Privacy

Info on 1.8M Chicago Voters Was Publicly Accessible, But Now Removed From Cloud Service (chicagotribune.com) 27

A file containing the names, addresses, dates of birth and other information about Chicago's 1.8 million registered voters was published online and publicly accessible for an unknown period of time, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said this week. From a report: The acknowledgment came days after a data security researcher alerted officials to the existence of the unsecured files. The researcher found the files while conducting a search of items uploaded to Amazon Web Services, a cloud system that allows users to rent storage space and share files with certain people or the general public. The files had been uploaded by Election Systems & Software, a contractor that helps maintain Chicago's electronic poll books. Election Systems said in a statement that the files "did not include any ballot information or vote totals and were not in any way connected to Chicago's voting or tabulation systems." The company said it had "promptly secured" the files on Saturday evening and had launched "a full investigation, with the assistance of a third-party firm, to perform thorough forensic analyses of the AWS server." State and local officials were notified of the existence of the files Saturday by cybersecurity expert Chris Vickery, who works at the Mountain View, Calif. firm UpGuard.
Security

Secret Chips in Replacement Parts Can Completely Hijack Your Phone's Security (arstechnica.com) 62

Dan Goodin, writing for ArsTechnica: People with cracked touch screens or similar smartphone maladies have a new headache to consider: the possibility the replacement parts installed by repair shops contain secret hardware that completely hijacks the security of the device. The concern arises from research that shows how replacement screens -- one put into a Huawei Nexus 6P and the other into an LG G Pad 7.0 -- can be used to surreptitiously log keyboard input and patterns, install malicious apps, and take pictures and e-mail them to the attacker. The booby-trapped screens also exploited operating system vulnerabilities that bypassed key security protections built into the phones. The malicious parts cost less than $10 and could easily be mass-produced. Most chilling of all, to most people, the booby-trapped parts could be indistinguishable from legitimate ones, a trait that could leave many service technicians unaware of the maliciousness. There would be no sign of tampering unless someone with a background in hardware disassembled the repaired phone and inspected it. The research, in a paper presented this week (PDF) at the 2017 Usenix Workshop on Offensive Technologies, highlights an often overlooked disparity in smartphone security. The software drivers included in both the iOS and Android operating systems are closely guarded by the device manufacturers, and therefore exist within a "trust boundary."
Google

Google Researchers Made An Algorithm To Delete Watermarks From Photos (venturebeat.com) 63

"Researchers at Google have found a vulnerability in the way watermarks are used by stock imagery sites like Adobe Stock that makes it possible to remove the opaque stamp used to protect copyright," writes Khari Johnson via VentureBeat. "The consistent nature in which the watermarks are placed on photos can be exploited using an algorithm trained to recognize and automatically remove watermarks." From the report: Changing the position or opacity of a watermark do not impact the algorithm's ability to remove watermarks from images with copyright protection. Randomization, the researchers say, is required to keep images from being stolen. In results presented at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference last month, subtle modifications to each watermark can make it harder to remove watermarks. With these warped watermarks, attempts to get rid of watermarks with an algorithm or photo editing software leaves noticeable marks, rendering an image useless. "As often done with vulnerabilities discovered in operating systems, applications or protocols, we want to disclose this vulnerability and propose solutions in order to help the photography and stock image communities adapt and better protect its copyrighted content and creations," research scientists Tali Dekel and Michael Rubenstein wrote in a blog post today. "From our experiments much of the world's stock imagery is currently susceptible to this circumvention." You can learn more about the different types of randomization that can be done to combat watermark removal and see more example images in Google's blog post. The full report and research is available via the project's GitHub page.
Operating Systems

PlayStation 4 Update 5.0 Officially Revealed (gamespot.com) 33

After the PlayStation 4's 5.0 update was leaked last week, Sony decided to officially reveal what's coming in the update. GameSpot highlights the new features in their report: Some of the enhancements center around streaming using the PS4's built-in broadcasting capabilities. PS4 Pro users will be able to stream in 1080p and 60 FPS, provided their connection is strong enough, and PSVR users will be able to see new messages and comments coming through while broadcasting. PSVR is also adding 5.1ch and 7.1ch virtual surround sound support. Next up, the PS4's Friends List is being updated with greater management tools, such as the ability to set up separate lists of friends. You'll be able to create a list of all the people you play Destiny with and send them all an invite, for example. This feature replaces the old Favorite Groups tab. In another move to help reduce the amount of time spent in menus, the Quick Menu is being updated to have more options. For example, you'll be able to check on download progress and see new party invites. You can also leave a party from within that menu and see your current Spotify playlist. Notifications are also being improved when watching films and TV, as you can now disable message and other notification pop-ups while watching media. You can also change how much of a message is displayed, as well as its color, when playing or watching any form of content.

Finally, Parental Control features are being overhauled in favor of what Sony calls "Family on PSN." This replaces the old Master/Sub account system; instead, one user is deemed the Family Manager, and they can set up other accounts and appoint them as a Parent/Guardian, Adult, or Child. Parents or Guardians can restrict Child accounts in their "use of online features and communication with other players, set restrictions for games, restrict the use of the internet browser, and set spending limits for PlayStation Store." Note that Sony says the first time any North American user tries to set up an Adult account, they will be charged $0.50 "to verify that you are an adult."

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