All posts in “Windows”

Microsoft releases Windows XP patch for WannaCrypt ransomware

Image: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Still stubbornly running an ancient version of Windows, despite the security threats? You’re in luck, this time.

The ransomware attack known as WannaCrypt that sent organizations and individual users around the world scrambling for security cover has been addressed by Microsoft, the company behind the most widely used operating system on the planet, with a new software update.  And, to the relief of many holding onto old versions of Windows, the update plays nice with some old school systems, too. 

Late Friday, the company posted an official notice on its site regarding the update as well as general guidance regarding the WannaCrypt attack. The update covers users on Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 (the attack didn’t target Windows 10, according to Microsoft). Additionally, Microsoft advises users to “use vigilance when opening documents from untrusted or unknown sources.” 

The patch goes all the way back to Windows XP, a version of Windows Microsoft stopped supporting several years ago.

This update is particularly noteworthy because the patch goes all the way back to Windows XP, a version of Windows Microsoft stopped supporting several years ago. Regarding that unusual move, Microsoft’s blog post states, “This decision was made based on an assessment of this situation, with the principle of protecting our customer ecosystem overall, firmly in mind.” 

“Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt,” a spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Mashable. “In March, we provided a security update which provides additional protections against this potential attack. Those who are running our free antivirus software or have Windows Update enabled, are protected.”

The new update is available here and those looking for more detailed information regarding WannaCrypt ransomware and how it may impact Windows can find it listed on the Microsoft security blog. 

The rapid response from Microsoft indicates just how worrisome the ransomware attack has been for businesses around the world including vital organizations where computers are central to daily work such as hospitals and utility companies.

On Saturday, a report from Reuters indicated that the impact of the ransomware has been greatly reduced in recent hours due to the work of an unnamed UK-based researcher who worked to limit its spread. 

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The next version of Windows embraces iOS and Android like never before

Image: lili sams/mashable

The Windows 10 Creators Update may have only started rolling out, but Microsoft just gave us our first look at what’s next for Windows.

During the second day of its Build developer conference on Thursday, Microsoft unveiled the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which will launch later this year.

Though the update doesn’t bring many dramatic changes to Windows, Microsoft is adding a suite of new productivity tools that allow users to move between their PC and their iPhone or Android. 

A feature called Timeline allows you to “jump back in time to find what you were working on” at some point in the past. Functionally, Timeline is something of an extension of Windows’ Task View, only now you’re able to see “a visual timeline that displays what you were doing when, you can easily hop back into files, apps and sites as if you never left.” 

Image: Microsoft

This also applies to Timeline-supported Microsoft apps running on your smartphone. So you could “look back” at, say, a Microsoft Word document you only opened on your iPhone.

Next up, a (very creatively named) feature called Pick Up Where You Left Off, which lets you start a task on your Windows PC, say editing a Word document, and pick it up on your phone exactly where you left off. A bit like Apple’s Handoff, the feature uses Cortana (so yes, you’ll need the Cortana app installed) to enable the switching.

Image: Microsoft

Finally, Microsoft introduced Clipboard, which lets you copy and paste between your Windows PC and your smartphone, even if it’s an Android or iPhone. That may sound impossible but there’s one caveat: On iOS and Android the feature is powered by SwiftKey (that’s the keyboard app Microsoft acquired for $250 million last year), so you’ll need to have that app installed in order to use the feature.

Image: mashable/lance ulanoff

While Microsoft embraced a cross-platform strategy ever since Satya Nadella took over as CEO more than three years ago, these updates are some of the most significant strides yet the company has made moves toward embracing iOS and Android. It’s also something of a tacit acknowledgment that the vast majority of smartphone users are simply not using Windows on their mobile device (for the second year in a row, Microsoft had almost nothing to say about Windows 10 mobile onstage at Build). 

The Fall Creators Update also marks the debut of a new design language for Windows called Fluent Design (this is the official name for Project Neon). Rather than a dramatic shift, though, Fluent Design is all about helping enable similar experiences across many different types of devices, Microsoft says.

“Fluent Design will deliver intuitive, harmonious, responsive and inclusive cross-device experiences and interactions,” Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, wrote in a blog post. “For developers, Fluent Design is built to help you create more expressive and engaging apps that work across a wide range of device and input diversity.”

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How to watch the Microsoft Build keynotes

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Image: lili sams / mashable

Microsoft will soon kick off the beginning of developer conference season with its event: Build. In addition to annual updates on the performance of Windows, Office and the Surface devices, Microsoft is expected to comment on a new Windows design language, codenamed “Project Neon” and share updates to the company’s AI research

The keynotes will feature CEO Satya Nadella, EVP Scott Guthrie, EVP Harry Shum and EVP Terry Myerson across two events on Wednesday and Thursday.

The keynotes will kick off at 8 a.m. PT Wednesday and 8:30am PT Thursday when the company’s execs will take the stage at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Here’s how to follow along: 

You can watch Microsoft’s official livestream here.

  • Mashable‘s Lance Ulanoff and Karissa Bell will be sharing updates live before, after and during the event.

  • You can follow them on our Twitter account @MashableTech and our Facebook Pages at Mashable and Mashable Tech.

We’re also expecting to hear more about Hololens, Bing bots and Cortana and hopefully some fun surprise hardware announcements. Stay tuned!

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With the Surface Laptop, Microsoft leads the PC industry back into the light

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Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop isn’t the $300 education system we were expecting, but then that’s not Microsoft’s role in the PC industry.

It’s the hero of this story.

A decade or more of darkness. Average products. Poor builds. The computer as a commodity. Once dominant computer manufacturers couldn’t figure out how to make eye-catching products that weren’t more form than function. 

This was, in part, Microsoft’s own fault. It built the Windows operating system and basically handed it to OEMs with a “Do with this what you will.” Obviously, there’s always been collaboration between Microsoft and hardware partners, but the OEMs always led the way on system design and, I guess, Microsoft always hoped for something better.

In the meantime, Apple’s Steve Jobs and then CEO Tim Cook tried to usher the world into the Post-PC era, even as that company built and sold its own personal computers.

The PC industry and, quite honestly, the PC, felt dead.

As we know, hardware revival came from an unlikely source.

Microsoft took its partners and really the entire Windows PC industry by the hand and showed them the way. A computer could be beautiful and functional. Design elements could serve capabilities. And what started with the Surface computer five years ago, a computer that straddled the line between tablet and ultra-portable, has culminated in this, the Surface Laptop, Microsoft’s first true clamshell computer, which Microsoft unveiled on Tuesday in New York City (along with the education-friendly Windows 10 S).

Like all the Surface computers that have come before it – Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Studio – the $999 Surface Laptop seeks to redefine a category with brash and unusual design choices, like a 3.6 mm-thin touch screen and a fabric-covered keyboard, that combine to make the portable more, not less, functional. My only quibble is that the wedge design makes the screen can’t fold all the way over onto the system’s back, which would, obviously, make it a convertible.

And to understand why today, a day in which Microsoft did not wow the world with a sub-$300 education laptop, is still a win for Microsoft, you need to know what Microsoft is doing in the PC space in the first place.

Form and Function

Microsoft’s plan with the Surface brand is not to, so to speak, flood the zone, covering every possible permutation of the venerable PC. Its all-in-one Surface Studio only arrived last year and it’s literally taken them years to build a non-convertible version of a laptop.

It’s also not building systems purely as a technology showcase. Yes, the Surface Book’s dynamic fulcrum hinge was unusual, but it was designed to help balance a system that split the battery and, in some cases, the discrete graphics and core CPU (and other components) into two slabs.

What Microsoft’s Surface design choices prove is that Microsoft focuses as much attention on industrial design as Apple does on each generation of the iPhone. Part of this is to show consumers and partners what’s possible, but most of it is to inspire current and future Windows customers. 

Microsoft has never had an issue with operating system name recognition. Everyone knows, if not loves or likes, Windows. Microsoft has never had a recognizable hardware brand — until Surface.

A fabric-covered keyboard is a better idea than you think it is.

A fabric-covered keyboard is a better idea than you think it is.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Surface is now as well known as Dell, Acer and Asus. But like the Apple brand, it carries a certain cachet. One that Microsoft won’t trade to fill a “value” niche, even if it’s trying to attract education buyers. Doing so would only harm the brand and its design leadership position.

Much of this became clear to me as I peppered the Surface Laptop design team with questions about the keyboard and mostly screw-free design. 

Easily the mostly startling aspect of the Surface Laptop is the keyboard. It’s a one-of-a-kind melding of aluminum, plastic and nylon.

As good as it looked, I couldn’t help but think that Microsoft has unnecessarily carpeted a computer.

“Why fabric?” I asked Microsoft Senior Designer Rachael Bell.

“First, why not?” said Bell, adding that a fabric-like material on keyboards has long been part of the Surface identity. While similar to Surface Touch Keyboard fabric, this material is different. I’d call it “feltier” but Bell told me it’s a non-woven, pressed nylon with a special polyurethane covering for durability, including water and chemical resistance.

Bell also reminded me that it’s “soft and beautiful to interact with,” and I had to admit that it felt good to the touch and comfortable when my palms rested on the spaces adjacent to the spacious touch pad.

That's a clean edge.

That’s a clean edge.

Image: lili sams/mashable

However, she added, there’s utility and value here, too. A fabric covering allows Microsoft to hide the speaker under the keyboard. Yes, there are precision holes cut in the fabric for the speaker grill, but you really can’t see them. If the keyboard cover were plastic, you’d see the holes.

Still, I worried about how the covering would hold up to wear and tear. What if it peeled off?

Mechanical engineer Mohammad Haq explained that Microsoft developed a lamination process, using heat, pressure and a specially formulated adhesive, to bind the fabric to the chassis.

As I held the Surface Laptop in my hands, I examined that bond, looking for a lip, a place where some middle-school kid could gain purchase and peel the fabric right off. I couldn’t find one. 

That perfect cut comes by way of an optical laser. The fabric cover starts out larger than the keyboard and then the laser trims away the excess leaving what looked like a one, clean edge.

During the Surface Laptop unveiling Microsoft Corporate VP Panos Panay said “When you hold the Surface Laptop, you will find no reference to how these parts came together.”

It’s true. I couldn’t see a screw anywhere. How did Microsoft do it? What’s holding this laptop together?

Where are the screws?

Where are the screws?

Image: lili sams/mashable

“There’s a considerable amount of adhesive, including heat activated pressure sensitive and liquid dispense (or hot melt),” said Haq. 

The only place you’d find screws are in the three-element hinge and on the motherboard.

All this attention to detail comes together in a laptop that I could literally open and close with a fingertip.

It’s not a $200 or $300 laptop and that’s by design. Microsoft has poured an insane amount of detail and expertise into crafting its perfect ideal of a traditional laptop. It’s a product consumers will probably want and partners can learn from. 

Ultimately, Microsoft will leave it to OEMs to build systems at the prices and variety consumers, especially education customers, demand, while it focuses attention on lust-worthy devices that remind people that Windows can live in cool hardware, too.

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The Microsoft ‘CloudBook’ could be Chromebooks’ worst nightmare

The Microsoft Surface Book. Microsoft is rumored to be planning an inexpensive, cloud-based PC called a "CloudBook."
The Microsoft Surface Book. Microsoft is rumored to be planning an inexpensive, cloud-based PC called a “CloudBook.”

Image: Jhila Farzaneh/Mashable

Over the past couple of years, Microsoft has made a real name for itself in the high end. The Surface Pro and Surface Book are powerful-yet-portable PCs that have found real momentum in the market. And last fall the company made a convincing play for creators with its impressive—and expensive—Surface Studio all-in-one PC.

Now Microsoft appears to aiming at the other end of the market. It’s rumored that the company will be debuting a new kind of PC at its education-focused event on May 2: an inexpensive computer designed to primarily run apps from the cloud, a device that will finally directly respond the rapid rise of Chromebooks.

It’s called a CloudBook, according to reports, and it’ll run a new variant of Windows 10 called Windows Cloud. The main thing separating Windows Cloud from regular Windows? Machines running it will only be able to run apps downloaded from the Windows Store.

If this is starting to sound familiar, you’re not crazy. That restriction is very similar to what separated the old Surface tablets, the Surface RT and Surface 2, from regular Windows machines. But that was because they ran Windows RT, the now-defunct version of Windows designed for ARM-based devices (as opposed to Intel/AMD x86 machines). Today, Windows RT is long dead, and older, Win32-based apps are even available in the Windows Store.

The Surface 2 was the last Windows RT device from Microsoft

The Surface 2 was the last Windows RT device from Microsoft

Image: Christina Ascani/Mashable

All that said, two qualifiers: Although Windows RT is gone, Windows 10 can still run on ARM devices—all Windows mobile phones have ARM chips and run it. So, theoretically, Microsoft could debut a Windows PC with an ARM chip whenever it wants. And that brings us to the second qualifier: Even though the Windows Store now offers some Win32 apps, that doesn’t necessarily mean the CouldBook will run them.

At least one report says it will run Win32 apps, though, so a more likely scenario is this: The CloudBook will indeed have an Intel chip, but Windows Cloud will have a setting where you can restrict apps to Windows Store only, which will be the default. After all, if the whole idea is to take on Chromebooks, the OS will need to offer robust management tools.

A build of Windows Cloud appears to have leaked out back in February, and those who tried it out say it’s essentially Windows 10 with some modified settings and warnings to steer the user toward lighter, cloud-based apps. That should be a relief to users, though it may not bode well for cost. If these machines need a full, or close to full Windows license, they might end up being a notch more expensive than Chromebooks, which start at about $200.

Windows once tried going down the route of cheap machines barely worthy of the label “PC,” and the world rejected the result: the netbook. Times have changed, though: The cloud is now king, and Chromebooks have proven the viability of the model, which will go a long way toward convincing OEMs to get on board. In 2017, it should be possible to create a cheap Windows machine that performs well at a few cloud-based tasks (browsing, email and Office apps, mainly).

The main challenge Microsoft will have with such a machine would be managing expectations. People tend to expect a certain amount of versatility from any PC under the Windows umbrella. Even if Windows Cloud and the CloudBook give Chromebooks a run for their money, it could face an even tougher comparison: Windows 10 itself.

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