Software

Microsoft's Cortana turns its back on consumers as skills are stripped from Windows 10

Unloved assistant to smarten up its act in Microsoft 365. US only, naturally


Microsoft has jammed yet another knife into the consumer incarnation of its unloved electronic assistant, Cortana.

As the release of Windows 10 20H1 (or 2004) looms, the company snuck out a blog late on Friday letting the dozen or so customers still using the thing know that "consumer skills including music, connected home and third-party skills will no longer be available in the updated Cortana experience in Windows 10."

Cortana services in the Microsoft Launcher on Android will also be axed as a sad-faced engineer resets the "Days since a consumer product got killed off" counter back to zero.

Last year, a Microsoft staffer told The Register that the original concept of Cortana as a consumer tool pretty much died at the same time as the company's mobile dreams, and the gradual unpicking of Cortana from Windows 10 is testament to that. All pretence of a consumer play with the assistant has been stripped as Cortana settles down in the subscription world of Microsoft 365.

And a wonderful world it will be too. Customers will be able to either blather at their PCs (or use the keyboard) to retrieve upcoming appointments, set reminders or fiddle with settings. The emphasis, according to Microsoft, will be on "productivity."

Handy, because the consumer take on the tech – the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker – appears to be quietly being scrubbed from history, judging by the company's website. Still, the few who actually use the things should hopefully see good service from them as slightly dumber speakers – Cortana aside, they actually sounded pretty good.

As is so often the case with Microsoft, it'll be US (or rather those running in US English) customers who get to play with the Microsoft 365 integration first. The rest of us will get "answers from Bing and the ability to chat with Cortana" and the promise of "more productivity-based capabilities in the future". Lucky us.

In the meantime, please join us in a final farewell as another bit of Microsoft consumer tech heads into the dusty drawer of abandoned dreams, alongside the Band, the Kin, Media Center, Zune, Home Server, Windows Phone... ®

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The ‘substantial contributions’ Intel has promised to boost RISC-V adoption

With the benefit of maybe revitalizing the x86 giant’s foundry business

Analysis Here's something that would have seemed outlandish only a few years ago: to help fuel Intel's future growth, the x86 giant has vowed to do what it can to make the open-source RISC-V ISA worthy of widespread adoption.

In a presentation, an Intel representative shared some details of how the chipmaker plans to contribute to RISC-V as part of its bet that the instruction set architecture will fuel growth for its revitalized contract chip manufacturing business.

While Intel invested in RISC-V chip designer SiFive in 2018, the semiconductor titan's intentions with RISC-V evolved last year when it revealed that the contract manufacturing business key to its comeback, Intel Foundry Services, would be willing to make chips compatible with x86, Arm, and RISC-V ISAs. The chipmaker then announced in February it joined RISC-V International, the ISA's governing body, and launched a $1 billion innovation fund that will support chip designers, including those making RISC-V components.

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FBI warns of North Korean cyberspies posing as foreign IT workers

Looking for tech talent? Kim Jong-un's friendly freelancers, at your service

Pay close attention to that resume before offering that work contract.

The FBI, in a joint advisory with the US government Departments of State and Treasury, has warned that North Korea's cyberspies are posing as non-North-Korean IT workers to bag Western jobs to advance Kim Jong-un's nefarious pursuits.

In guidance [PDF] issued this week, the Feds warned that these techies often use fake IDs and other documents to pose as non-North-Korean nationals to gain freelance employment in North America, Europe, and east Asia. Additionally, North Korean IT workers may accept foreign contracts and then outsource those projects to non-North-Korean folks.

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Elon Musk says Twitter buy 'cannot move forward' until spam stats spat settled

A stunning surprise to no one in this Solar System

Elon Musk said his bid to acquire and privatize Twitter "cannot move forward" until the social network proves its claim that fake bot accounts make up less than five per cent of all users.

The world's richest meme lord formally launched efforts to take over Twitter last month after buying a 9.2 per cent stake in the biz. He declined an offer to join the board of directors, only to return asking if he could buy the social media platform outright at $54.20 per share. Twitter's board resisted Musk's plans at first, installing a "poison pill" to hamper a hostile takeover before accepting the deal, worth over $44 billion.

But then it appears Musk spotted something in Twitter's latest filing to America's financial watchdog, the SEC. The paperwork asserted that "fewer than five percent" of Twitter's monetizable daily active users (mDAUs) in the first quarter of 2022 were fake or spammer accounts, which Musk objected to: he felt that figure should be a lot higher. He had earlier proclaimed that ridding Twitter of spam bots was a priority for him, post-takeover.

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Pentagon opens up about its database of 400 smudges that may or may not be UFOs

'We're open to all hypotheses, we're open to any conclusions' says official

A US House of Representatives subcommittee on Tuesday heard from Pentagon officials on reports of and investigations into unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) – a category that encompasses unidentified flying objects (UFO) and saves room for optical illusions, lens flare, smudges in photos, and other possibilities like meteorological events.

The US military has researched UFOs in the past through initiatives like Project Blue Book (1947-1969), and the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) (2007-2012).

Following a New York Times report in 2017 about the shutdown of the classified $22m AATIP program, public pressure and Congressional interest led the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last June to release a preliminary report on UAP [PDF] dating back to 2004.

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AMD claims its GPUs beat Nvidia on performance per dollar

* Terms, conditions, hardware specs and software may vary – a lot

As a slowdown in PC sales brings down prices for graphics cards, AMD is hoping to win over the market's remaining buyers with a bold, new claim that its latest Radeon cards provide better performance for the dollar than Nvidia's most recent GeForce cards.

In an image tweeted Monday by AMD's top gaming executive, the chip designer claims its lineup of Radeon RX 6000 cards provide better performance per dollar than competing ones from Nvidia, with all but two of the ten cards listed offering advantages in the double-digit percentages. AMD also claims to provide better performance for the power required by each card in all but two of the cards.

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Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus

A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

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Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module

Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be hoodwinked by a relay attack, leading to the theft of the flash motor.

Discovered and demonstrated by researchers at NCC Group, the technique involves relaying the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, this hack lets a miscreant start the car and drive away, too.

Essentially, what happens is this: the paired smartphone should be physically close by the Tesla to unlock it. NCC's technique involves one gadget near the paired phone, and another gadget near the car. The phone-side gadget relays signals from the phone to the car-side gadget, which forwards them to the vehicle to unlock and start it. This shouldn't normally happen because the phone and car are so far apart. The car has a defense mechanism – based on measuring transmission latency to detect that a paired device is too far away – that ideally prevents relayed signals from working, though this can be defeated by simply cutting the latency of the relay process.

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Google assuring open-source code to secure software supply chains

Java and Python packages are the first on the list

Google has a plan — and a new product plus a partnership with developer-focused security shop Snyk — that attempts to make it easier for enterprises to secure their open source software dependencies.

The new service, announced today at the Google Cloud Security Summit, is called Assured Open Source Software. We're told it will initially focus on some Java and Python packages that Google's own developers prioritize in their workflows. 

These two programming languages have "particularly high-risk profiles," Google Cloud Cloud VP and GM Sunil Potti said in response to The Register's questions. "Remember Log4j?" Yes, quite vividly.

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Rocket Lab is taking NASA's CAPSTONE to the Moon

Mission to lunar orbit is further than any Photon satellite bus has gone before

Rocket Lab has taken delivery of NASA's CAPSTONE spacecraft at its New Zealand launch pad ahead of a mission to the Moon.

It's been quite a journey for CAPSTONE [Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment], which was originally supposed to launch from Rocket Lab's US launchpad at Wallops Island in Virginia.

The pad, Launch Complex 2, has been completed for a while now. However, delays in certifying Rocket Lab's Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS) pushed the move to Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand.

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Alibaba Cloud adds third datacenter in Germany

More Euro-presence than any other Chinese company, but still nowhere near Google or AWS

Alibaba has pulled ahead of its Chinese rivals in Europe with the opening of a third datacenter in Germany.

The company said the Frankfurt datacenter serves cloud computing products to Europe and "adheres to the highest security standards and the strict compliance regulations set out in the Cloud Computing Compliance Controls Catalog (C5) in Germany."

The addition brings Alibaba Cloud to a network of 84 availability zones in 27 regions worldwide. The company's first European cloud center arrived in Frankfurt in 2016.

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Hardening in the enterprise: SUSE releases Rancher 2.6.5 and NeuVector 5.0

Still a 'nimble idea factory' under the gaze of the Chameleon

Kubecon SUSE acquisition Rancher is growing up, with a decidedly enterprise-friendly 2.6.5 release and version 5.0 of NeuVector.

SUSE appears to be increasingly becoming the container company, and used this year's EU Kubecon event to make its first release of NeuVector since it open-sourced the container security platform earlier this year.

Dubbed a "Full Lifecycle Container Security Platform", NeuVector turning up with Rancher is further evidence of an increased folding in of security and scanning into container solutions.

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