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Microsoft Releases Updates for Older Windows 10 Builds

While not much happened during June's Microsoft Patch Day, the company is now pushing out updates for earlier builds of Windows 10, namely for the Anniversary Update (1607), Creators Update (1703), Fall Creators Update 1709). There is no updates for the latest Windows 10 April 2018 Update (1803).
The change logs are below. You will receive those updates via Windows Update.

343 Industries Announces Halo Infinite, (Eventually) Coming to XBOX and Windows 10 PCs

343 Industries and Microsoft, at its E3 press conference, opened up hostilities with a reveal trailer for the next installment in the Halo series. Presented as Halo Infinite, the new Halo game will mark the first time a mainline Halo experience is launched in both the XBOX platform and Windows PCs, and thus marks a new era, with even greater market penetration, for the critic and user-acclaimed series.

The reveal trailer is more of a technical showcase rather than a full-blown reveal trailer for the game; the idea was to showcase the new Slipspace Engine. This new engine marks the second one to have ever been used in the mainline Halo series (not counting the Saber engine used in the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary by Saber Interactive, or the engines used for Halo Wars). The Halo series has been using virtually the same game engine since the series' inception with Halo: Combat Evolved back in 2001 (heavily modified each year, of course). The new Slipspace Engine is a chance to build new tools which will apparently lead to an open-world setting - that's what some publications are expecting. Honestly, I would expect something more akin to hub locations in a galaxy-spanning conflict, in an approach similar to Destiny and Destiny 2, with quasi-open world settings at each one. Side-quests are likely to be introduced, likely in a way similar to what Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare delivered (but hoepfully beatter and more meaningful in their introduction). For now, this is all speculation, though, so take it with a bucketload of salt.

Microsoft to Acquire GitHub for $7.5 Billion

Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced it has reached an agreement to acquire GitHub, the world's leading software development platform where more than 28 million developers learn, share and collaborate to create the future. Together, the two companies will empower developers to achieve more at every stage of the development lifecycle, accelerate enterprise use of GitHub, and bring Microsoft's developer tools and services to new audiences.

"Microsoft is a developer-first company, and by joining forces with GitHub we strengthen our commitment to developer freedom, openness and innovation," said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. "We recognize the community responsibility we take on with this agreement and will do our best work to empower every developer to build, innovate and solve the world's most pressing challenges."

Microsoft Acquires GitHub?

In a move that could significantly shake up the software industry, reports are emerging that Microsoft may have acquired GitHub, and that an announcement to that effect could be made on Monday (4th June). A 2015 valuation of GitHub put it at USD $2 billion, but it's not clear at what price Redmond struck this deal. GitHub had been struggling for the past few quarters and hadn't appointed a full-time CEO since the departure of Chris Wanstrath in August 2017.

This deal could have sweeping ramifications on the software industry because proprietary software companies use GitHub for private repositories of software source-code, so their developer teams spread across the globe could collaborate (they now have to content with Microsoft owning GitHub); and for ideologically-charged free software (and OSS) developers to continue to run their projects on GitHub. Microsoft has been a top contributor on GitHub, with over 1,000 employees pushing code to public and non-public projects on the platform.

Matrox G200 - Celebrating 20 Years of Graphics Excellence

Matrox Graphics Inc. is pleased to announce the 20-year anniversary of its Matrox G200 graphics chip. The milestone celebrates two decades of dedicated, active software development and support for multiple technology nodes across countless Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Developed for 2D, 3D, and video acceleration, the G200 powered a number of industry-first, graphics and multi-monitor-based product lines that delivered unprecedented image quality across one or more displays. Today, G200 is and remains the trusted and preeminent integrated graphics solution of choice for the majority of baseboard management controllers used in servers worldwide.

On the New Subscription Age, EA Acquires Game Streaming Service Gamefly

Seems like almost every industry is looking towards transitioning to a subscription model for its goods and services. Netflix may be the most iconic one such company, having acquired millions of subscribers that allow it to have a relatively stable, monthly influx of liquidity (yes, we can also count World of Warcraft on such a scenario). However, many other industries have taken to the same approach (think lootcrates, all kinds of crates, subscription services for online features, etc).

That said, few industries can take the same amount of data from their subscribers such as these media-consumption based ones, where an Internet connection is required, and user data - be it views or, the most interesting metric, engagement rates - are king in determining exactly what the user base expects and craves more of. Netflix's algorithms and view history have been responsible for the selection of its future investments. The base idea for the movie Bright, for example, was developed based on a mash-up of genres Netflix's algorithms indicated as the more captivating to the user base - and Netflix's sci-fi portfolio, for instance, has recently grown towards becoming the single biggest investment from the company, as users seem to gobble-up such content (I'm dully guilty as charged for that one sin as well, I have to admit).

Microsoft's Hit Surface Hub is Getting a Second-Gen Product in 2019

Microsoft has listed a second-generation approach to their original Surface Hub, the innovative conference room computer built for collaborative work scenarios that was met with considerable success. That success, of course, stems from the integration of a whiteboard/computing solution, that brings interactivity and computing to usually less... techy collaborations.

According to Microsoft, the idea behind the Surface Hub 2 is simple: "A new culture of work is emerging. One where unlocking the power of the team has never been more important. I see it with our team daily. People coming together, creating together. Making products stronger through collaboration, whether they're in the same room or separated by thousands of miles." And Microsoft may have put in some of the improvements to do just that.

AMD Introduces Broad AMD Ryzen PRO Mobile & Desktop APU Systems for Enterprise

AMD today announced unprecedented adoption of its AMD Ryzen PRO processors - including new notebooks and desktops powered by Ryzen PRO processors with built-in Radeon Vega graphics now available from the world's three largest enterprise PC OEMs. AMD Ryzen PRO APUs for premium commercial desktop and notebooks provide commercial PC buyers with new levels of choice and innovation and enable Dell, HP, and Lenovo to create a range of business systems, from sleek enterprise notebooks to powerful commercial desktops. Combined, these systems make up the broadest portfolio of AMD processor-based enterprise PCs in the company's history.

A Very Real Intelligence Race: The White House Hosts 38 Tech Companies on AI

The White House today is hosting executives from 38 companies for a grueling, embattled day of trying to move through the as of yet murky waters of AI development. The meeting, which includes representatives from Microsoft, Intel, Google, Amazon, Pfizer, and Ford, among others, aims to gather thoughts and ideas on how to supercharge AI development in a sustainable, safe, and cost-effective way.

Fields such as agriculture, healthcare and transportation are being spearheaded as areas of interest (military applications, obviously, are being discussed elsewhere). The Washington Post quotes Michael Kratsios, deputy chief technology officer at the White House, as saying in a recent interview that "Whether you're a farmer in Iowa, an energy producer in Texas, a drug manufacturer in Boston, you are going to be using these techniques to drive your business going forward."

More Humane AI: Microsoft Launches "AI for Accessibility" Initiative

Microsoft at its Build conference today announced one of the better use cases for AI yet: to empower those with disabilities. Dubbed the AI for Accessibility Initiative, this Microsoft program will see $25 million dollars being deployed across five years to further research and development to specifically target challenges faced by people with disabilities in three key areas: human connection, employment and modern life. The $25 million budget will be used by Microsoft as seed grants for developers, universities, institutions and other Microsoft partners, with the Redmond-based Microsoft pledging to also further invest - and scale up - development for key promising ideas that are birthed from this project. The AI bit comes from its implementation in inclusive design scenarios, scaling it up through platforms, services, and different solutions.

Further, Microsoft will help partners include accessibility solutions on their products, which could allow for a base model for accessibility technologies on families of products. Microsoft President Brad Smith said there are about a billion people around the world with some kind of disability, either temporary or permanent, and it's for these people, and those that will come after, that Microsoft is committing to this investment.

FTC Gives Manufacturers 30 Days to Remove Warranty Void Stickers

Remember that time where the FTC announced they were cracking down on illegal, predatory warranty conditions? You know, such as those "warranty void if removed" stickers that don't really have any legal base towards their implementation - and eventual refusal of an actual warranty claim? Well, the gong has now sounded, and it will reverberate some 30 times: the amount of days the FTC has given companies to cease and desist on putting those stickers in newly shipped products.

Microsoft Rolls Out Windows 10 April 2018 Update (build 1803)

Microsoft began rolling out Windows 10 April 2018 Update. This isn't an ordinary "patch Tuesday" update, but a major update akin to "Fall Creators Update," which updates the build of the operating system to 1803. With it, Microsoft is introducing four major features to Windows 10 - Timeline, Focus Assist, Dictation, and a new and improved Edge web-browser. Timeline is essentially a time-linked file manager that organizes your files (and versions of them), e-mails, web-browser favorites, and search results, by time, so you can go back up to 30 days in time to find your stuff.

Focus Assist is a feature that lets you keep your focus on work (or productive tasks), and prevents you from being sucked into endless scrolling through social-media or other trivial activity, when you're supposed to be working. You set it to turn on in specific times of the day and days of the week, or even arbitrarily, and it keeps giving you visual or auditory reminders that pull you away from your trivial activity. The third major feature is Dictation, which is natural voice input as somewhat grammatically correct text. Microsoft made improvements to Edge that include the ability to mute tabs, maximize Reading Mode or PDFs into full-screen, secure payment options storage, and in-built Grammar Tools besides spell-checkers, so you no longer need to pay for services such as Grammarly.

Intel Announces iGPU-accelerated Threat Detection Technology

Today, Intel is taking another step forward, with two new technology announcements: Intel Threat Detection Technology (Intel TDT), a set of silicon-level capabilities that will help the ecosystem detect new classes of threats, and Intel Security Essentials, a framework that standardizes the built-in security features across Intel processors. We are also announcing a strengthened academic partnership with Purdue University, to help accelerate the development and availability of cybersecurity talent.

Intel Threat Detection Technology leverages silicon-level telemetry and functionality to help our industry partners improve the detection of advanced cyberthreats and exploits. Today we are announcing the first two Intel Threat Detection Technology capabilities, including implementation plans by Microsoft and Cisco.

The first new capability is Accelerated Memory Scanning. Current scanning technologies can detect system memory-based cyberattacks, but at the cost of CPU performance. With Accelerated Memory Scanning, the scanning is handled by Intel's integrated graphics processor, enabling more scanning, while reducing the impact on performance and power consumption. Early benchmarking on Intel test systems show CPU utilization dropped from 20 percent to as little as 2 percent.

Intel FPGAs Accelerate Artificial Intelligence for Deep Learning in Microsoft's Bing

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming industries and changing how data is managed, interpreted and, most importantly, used to solve real problems for people and businesses faster than ever.

Today's Microsoft's Bing Intelligent Search news demonstrates how Intel FPGA (field programmable gate array) technology is powering some of the world's most advanced AI platforms. Advances to the Bing search engine with real-time AI will help people do more and learn by going beyond delivering standard search results. Bing Intelligent Search will provide answers instead of web pages, and enable a system that understands words and the meaning behind them, the context and intent of a search.

4A Games' Metro Exodus to be First AAA Game to Feature NVIDIA's RTX Technology

After the world was introduced to the Microsoft and NVIDIA partnership to bring real time raytracing solutions to DirectX 12 via NVIDIA's RTX initiative, we now have confirmation of what is expected to be the first game studio - and AAA game experience - to feature the technology. In a post from their official Twitter account, 4A Games has announced that they are collaborating with NVIDIA to bring RTX's effects to their upcoming Metro: Exodus open-world video game.

The company further warned users to keep at attention towards the impending release of a proof of concept video to be released during GDC. 4A Games is one of those companies that has been delivering incredible experiences through and through, and has already dabbled with NVIDIA's technologies in the past (particularly with their first game, Metro 2033). Here's hoping that AMD can work its drivers into great performance levels in supporting this DX12 technology on their graphics cards as well.

Futuremark Showcases DirectX Raytracing Demo, Teases Upcoming 3D Benchmark Test

DirectX Raytracing (DXR) is a new feature in DirectX 12 that opens the door to a new class of real-time graphics techniques for games. We were thrilled to join Microsoft onstage for the announcement, which we followed with a presentation of our own work in developing practical real-time applications for this exciting new tech.

Accurate real-time reflections with DirectX Raytracing
Rendering accurate reflections in real-time is difficult. There are many challenges and limitations when using the existing methods. For the past few months, we've been exploring ways of combining DirectX Raytracing with existing methods to solve some of these challenges. While much of our presentation went deep into the math for our solution, I would like to show you some examples of our new technique in action.

Initial AMD Technical Assessment of CTS Labs Research

On March 12, 2018, AMD received a communication from CTS Labs regarding research into security vulnerabilities involving some AMD products. Less than 24 hours later, the research firm went public with its findings. Security and protecting users' data is of the utmost importance to us at AMD and we have worked rapidly to assess this security research and develop mitigation plans where needed. This is our first public update on this research, and will cover both our technical assessment of the issues as well as planned mitigation actions.

The security issues identified by the third-party researchers are not related to the AMD "Zen" CPU architecture or the Google Project Zero exploits made public Jan. 3, 2018. Instead, these issues are associated with the firmware managing the embedded security control processor in some of our products (AMD Secure Processor) and the chipset used in some socket AM4 and socket TR4 desktop platforms supporting AMD processors.

Rare's Sea of Thieves Now Launched For Xbox, Windows 10

Rare's latest (and first in a long time) original, full fledged video game has just been made available. Done under the umbrella of Microsoft, Sea of Thieves promises to bring back the fun in games, with a ludicrous setting and an entire design philosophy that just speaks "fun". The first-person, multiplayer co-op and player vs. player game has both sea and land fights, treasure and player hunting, so there's enough there to sate the tastes of different players altogether.

Sea of Thieves is part of Microsoft's Game Pass subscription, which means that for $9.99 monthly, users have the chance of trying out the game and playing it, no holds barred, with no additional payment (you can always purchase it for the usual asking price of $59.99/£49.99/€69.99 - and don't you just love the price differences across currencies?) This "Games as a Service" is being hailed as one of the solutions for triple-A game development, bringing companies like Microsoft steady streams of revenue they can then re-inject into their in-house game studios. Furthermore, Sea of Thieves is part of Microsoft's Play Anywhere program - meaning a digital purchase on either Xbox or PC will grant you the ability to play it on both platforms. So go out there and walk the plan, drink rum, shoot some cannons, and drink some gallons of salt water, you old sea dog!

Microsoft Rolling Out New "Speculative Execution" Bug Bounty Program

In a blog post, Microsoft has announced that it has decided to take the matter of finding critical bugs of similar nature to the Spectre/Meltdown flaws into its own hands - at least partially. Adding to its bug bounty programs, the company has now announced that a new pot of up to $250,000 is up for grabs until at least December 31st of this year.

The new bug bounty program is divided into four different severity/compensation tiers, with tier 1 flaws (New categories of speculative execution attacks) granting up to $250,000 in rewards for the "coordinated disclosure" of such vulnerabilities. The idea here is Microsoft is employing the knowledge and will of the capable masses that might find ways of exploiting vulnerabilities, and would choose to disclose them to Microsoft - getting the prize money, helping the tech industry in providing a timely, coordinated defense against these exploits, and saving vast amounts of funding (and time), by not having to do the bug bounty themselves.

CTS Labs Sent AMD and Other Companies a Research Package with Proof-of-Concept Code

CTS Labs, the Israel-based IT security research company behind Tuesday's explosive AMD Ryzen security vulnerabilities report, responded to questions posed by TechPowerUp. One of the biggest of these, which is also on the minds of skeptics, is the ominous lack of proof-of-concept code or binaries being part of their initial public report (in contrast to the Meltdown/Spectre reports that went into technical details about the exploit). CTS Labs stated to TechPowerUp that it has sent AMD, along with other big tech companies a "complete research package," which includes "full technical write-ups about the vulnerabilities," "functional proof-of-concept exploit code," and "instructions on how to reproduce each vulnerability." It stated that besides AMD, the research package was sent to Microsoft, HP, Dell, Symantec, FireEye, and Cisco Systems, to help them develop patches and mitigation.

An unwritten yet generally accepted practice in the IT security industry upon discovery of such vulnerabilities, is for researchers to give companies in question at least 90 days to design a software patch, harden infrastructure, or implement other mitigation. 90 days is in stark contrast to the 24 hours AMD got from CTS Labs. CTS Labs confirmed to TechPowerUp that it indeed shared its research package with AMD (and the other companies) just 24 hours prior to making its report public, but urged those disgruntled with this decision to look at the situation objectively. "If you look at the situation in the following way: right now the public knows about the vulnerabilities and their implications, AMD is fully informed and developing patches, and major security companies are also informed and working on mitigation."

Intel Considers Buying Out Broadcom

In a sequence of events perfectly illustrated by the stock image below, Intel is reportedly mulling the acquisition of Broadcom, which is still making efforts to acquire Qualcomm; the Wall Street Journal reported late last week. Shares of Intel fell 1 percent on this report. A successful acquisition of Qualcomm by Broadcom would result in a seemingly-American silicon supergiant that could pose a threat to Intel's position in the industry, observes CNBC. Both Intel and Broadcom spokespersons refuse to comment the WSJ report, terming it as "deal chatter."

Broadcom recently swayed Qualcomm board its way ahead of a crucial vote for the acquisition, prompting a CFIUS investigation, by American regulators, which has the legal power to halt the acquisition if national security implications emerge. Taking advantage of this, and its relatively stable outlook despite the recent CPU vulnerability mess, Intel is looking to mop up a seemingly foreign Broadcom. Other industry giants such as Microsoft and Google have expressed extreme concern with the developments in this deal, particularly with Apple's "sway" over it.

Next Major Windows 10 Update Named "Spring Creators Update"

The next Windows 10 service pack major update has been named "Spring Creators Update." Windows Insider Program users toying with Build 17618 of the operating system spotted a listing of all the major updates of Windows 10 known to the build, when running "Get-VMHostSupportedVersion" in Power Shell. The last entry reads "Microsoft Windows 10 Spring Creators Update 1803." The version number (1803 in this case), often coincides with the public release date of the update. The Fall Creators Update 1709, released in 2017-09 (September) to Insiders. Going by that convenion, Spring Creators Update could see a "branded" Insider preview build this month, 2018-03 (March), with a public release usually 3-4 weeks after, presumably before Summer kicks in.

State of Decay 2's PC System Requirements Revealed

State of Decay 2, the sequel to the multi-million selling State of Decay game, will be making its way to the PC and Xbox One on May 22. The Standard Edition will carry a $29.99 price tag and the Ultimate Edition will set you back $49.99. Consumers who purchase the Ultimate Edition will get receive four days of early access beginning May 18 and the "Independence Pack" and "Daybreak Pack" DLCs. Microsoft will also be rewarding consumers who pre-order State of Decay 2 between now and May 21 with some exclusive in-game goodies. State of Decay 2 is a Xbox Play Anywhere title, therefore, consumers will receive both the Xbox One and Windows 10 versions of the game upon purchase. They can access their game saves, achievements, and progression no matter which platform they game on.

in the first place, State of Decay 2 will only work on a Windows 10 64-bit operating system. The game occupies a mere 16 GB of hard drive space. The minimum system requirements include an Intel Core i5-2500 or AMD FX-6300 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a GeForce GTX 760 or Radeon HD 7870 graphics card. For the more demanding gamers who enjoy maxing out all the eye-candy, Microsoft recommends an Intel Core i5-4570 or AMD FX-8350 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a GeForce GTX 960 or Radeon R9 380 graphics card.

Microsoft Pushes New Software-Based Spectre, Meltdown Mitigation Patches

The Spectre/Meltdown road is long and pocked with lawsuits and security holes as it is, and Microsoft is one of the players that's trying to put the asphalt back to tip-top, Autobahn-worth shape. The company has already improved users' security to the Meltdown and Spectre exploits on its OS side; however, hardware patches, and specifically BIOS-editing ones are much harder to deploy and distribute by the PC chain. That may be one of the reasons why Microsoft is now again stepping up with software-based mitigations for Intel-based systems, specifically.

The new updates introduce a software-based CPU microcode revision update, and work at the OS-level to plug some security holes on your Intel processors that might otherwise remain unpatched. The reasons for them remaining unpatched can be many: either Intel taking even more time to deploy patches to the still vulnerable systems; your OEMs not deploying the Intel CPU microcode revisions via a BIOS update; or the good old "I forgot I could do it" user story. Of course, being software based means these Microsoft patches will have to be reapplied should users format their Windows system. The update can for now only be manually downloaded and installed, and can only be applied to version 1709 (Fall Creators Update) and Windows Server version 1709 (Server Core), but that's definitely better than the alternative of forcing less knowledgeable users to try and find their way through BIOS updates. Of course, that is assuming OEMs will ever push BIOS updates to their products.

Microsoft Shares What to Expect From Mixed Reality in 2018

In a LinkedIn blog post, Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman shared the company's vision for its Mixed Reality ecosystem for this 2018 year. The vision stands on a three-pronged stance: MR +AI, AR + VR, and Immersive Communication. The first is likely the more exciting of the bunch: marrying MR environments and apps with the power of the cloud to render extensive AI workloads. This starts with the inclusion of AI-processing capabilities intro the next version of Microsoft's HoloLens and its HPU (Holographic Processing Unit). With a strong internet connection, this local processing will be joined by Microsoft's cloud AI processing glut to marry the virtual and physical worlds in an increasingly inseparable mix, allowing for the virtual to perfectly overlap the physical.

The second stance on this Microsoft approach is the marriage of the AR + VR environments in a single product, which both allows for virtual overlays in the physical world, and a comprehensive solution for VR-specific workloads that the same AR headset can propel you to - essentially building a HoloLens + VR headset solution. Finally, Immersive Communication is one of the other applications where Microsoft sees extreme potential in this MR world we're about to enter: where the instant messaging and video chats of the world are superseded by an actual VR solution that places people next to their desired public, be it their loved ones or, frighteningly, their boss, from the comfort of their home or another location they see fit. A focus on actual presence can be brought equally to people separated by an inch or a thousand miles.
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