What happens when creating a new AI chatbot is as easy as installing a new app? Hugh Hancock writing on Charles Stross's blog explores the future implications of swarms of artificially intelligent chatbots. [more inside]
Virtual Reality, a tech geek dream for decades, was long hobbled by high latency, clunky hardware, and perennially absurd reports on network news. That all changed in 2011, when Palmer Luckey, then 18, built the first Oculus Rift prototype in his parents' garage with iPhone repair money. Awed by its powerful sense of presence, developer John Carmack became a fan and demoed it at E3. The ensuing Kickstarter campaign shattered all fundraising goals, and Facebook controversially bought the rights for a whopping $2 billion -- alienating erstwhile partner Valve Software, the iconic creators of Half-Life/Portal/Steam. A Cambrian explosion of headsets followed: Morpheus, HoloLens, Google Cardboard, Gear VR. But perhaps most interesting is Valve's own counter-project: a breathtaking "room scale" VR set-up with Tron-like "Chaperone" and tracked motion controls called the HTC Vive. With this week's commercial launch of Rift and Vive bringing us to the threshold of a new interactive medium, look inside for guides, notes, and killer apps for this, the stunning arrival of consumer VR. [more inside]
Ubuntu on Windows -- The Ubuntu Userspace for Windows Developers A team of sharp developers at Microsoft has been hard at work adapting some Microsoft research technology to basically perform real time translation of Linux syscalls into Windows OS syscalls. Linux geeks can think of it sort of the inverse of "wine" -- Ubuntu binaries running natively in Windows. Microsoft calls it their "Windows Subsystem for Linux". [more inside]
From a suburban British house in 1984, Julian (password: 1234) demonstrates a modem while Pat (seemingly not allowed to touch the keyboard) lists her uses of the "communal" BBC Micro. Turn on your recorders as this TV clip ends with a data transmission! But how, in bygone online times, have modems been used... [more inside]
Remember when Valve founder Gabe Newell called Windows 8 and its Windows Store a "catastophe" for the industry? Now another founder of a hugely important PC software company has come out against the Windows Store in a Guardian op-ed. [more inside]
After 18 years in operation, after a federal law mandating that hospitals work to prevent needle-stick, and after two successful lawsuits resulting in BD paying more than $400 million for violating anti-monopoly statutes, Retractable Technologies made only $34 million in global sales last year. BD, with an inferior, more expensive product, sold $8.4 billion, the payouts to its competitor serving only as the cost of doing business. In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control estimated 380,000 needle-sticks at hospitals every year. Today, they estimate 385,000. “You turn on the TV and watch politicians talk about unleashing the power of the free market, that’s absurd,” Shaw says. “The American public is being denied a free market, being denied competition.”We need a new antitrust for a new predatory era.
Recently, they've been helping us track our facial hair. Now Microsoft's Project Oxford will recognize your emotions from a photo. In the demo, upload (or link to) an image, then roll over the face(s) and get a probability distribution for their emotion(s).
Microsoft accounts have a feature called family accounts. And with Windows 10, Microsoft automatically emails parents a weekly activity report that includes all websites visited by the child, time spent in apps, etc. if they have a family account set up. [more inside]
20 years ago: August 24, 1995 was the release date of Microsoft Windows 95. Its legacy was vast.... [more inside]
"Women told Microsoft the animated paper clip was leering at them. The software company didn’t listen." -- the story of Microsoft's Clippy.
Start-up Costs: ‘Silicon Valley,’ ‘Halt and Catch Fire,’ and How Microserfdom Ate the World
Douglas Coupland’s novel Microserfs is about the spiritual yearnings and time-frittering activities of youngish coders immersed in the drudgery of the software-development process, and how those activities become an expression of those yearnings. It was published 20 years ago this month, which as far as I’m aware makes it the earliest significant stab by a fiction writer at the Great North American Tech-Company/Start-up Novel. It predates Po Bronson’s The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest, Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, Dave Eggers’s The Circle, numerous other neuroman-à-clefs, score-settling pseudomemoirs and murder-dot-com whodunits,1 as well as tech-sector TV shows like Silicon Valley and Halt and Catch Fire, serials that pick up where the novels leave off.[more inside]
Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade for millions of current Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update users, for a year (specs). This offer is extended to people with Genuine and non-Genuine Windows copies (Chinese pirates and others). As details a-plenty flood the internet, there is also the news that this will be the last Windows "version" as Microsoft shifts gears for its OS and moves to a subscription model. [more inside]
“The inspiration for the graphical design is Courier New meets film noir.” Meet MS-DOS Mobile.
A research team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen claims to have finally found the wreckage of the Japanese Yamato-class Battleship Musashi, sunk at the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea October 23-24, 1944, part of the largest naval battle of World War II. [more inside]
"After locking away all my recording instruments and switching to the almost prehistoric pen and paper, I had a tantalizingly brief experience of Microsoft's HoloLens system, a headset that creates a fusion of virtual images and the real world. While production HoloLens systems will be self-contained and cord-free, the developer units we used had a large compute unit worn on a neck strap and an umbilical cord for power. Production hardware will automatically measure the interpupillary distance and calibrate itself accordingly; the dev kits need this to be measured manually and punched in. The dev kits were also heavy, unwieldy, fragile, and didn't really fit on or around my glasses, making them uncomfortable to boot. But even with this clumsy hardware, the experience was nothing short of magical." ... [more inside]
On Dec 15, 2014, Microsoft announced the first public beta preview for new Skype Translate, a service which will (eventually) work as a go-between to help break down language barriers during voice calls. The initial trial is Spanish <> English only,> [2m marketing video] but that's only the beginning. How, though, does it work? And the even bigger question, DOES it work? (The answer appears to be yes.)
The programming world seems stunned with the recent announcement from Microsoft that .NET is going open source. [more inside]
A decade after Halo 2 (and a day before the MCC), enjoy this loose timeline of essential Halo fandom: Halo.Bungie.Org / Halo at Macworld '99 / Red vs. Blue / The Halo Trilogy in 5 minutes / The Cortana Letters / HBO's cutscene library and dialog databank / Main Menus / Kitty Cat / Warthog Jump (and BOLL's Warthog Launch game) / How Not To Be Seen / Fan Art / Panoramas / The Music of Marty O'Donnell (prev.) / Video Games Live: Halo / Analysis by Stephen Loftus / Who was Brian Morden? / I Love Bees and the ARG radio drama / Halo 2 Trailer / Halo 2 E3 '04 Demo / Full Halo 2 making-of documentary / Voice acting / Conversations from the Universe / The Beastiarum / Surround Sound Test! / Geography of New Mombasa / This Spartan Life / The Solid Gold Elite Dancers / Creepy Guy at Work / Gameplay May Change / Master Chief Sucks at Halo / Another Day at the Beach / '06 Bungie Studios Tour / Halo 3 Trailer / Starry Night / Believe / HALOID / No Scope Was Involved / 100 Ways to Die / "Bungie Favorites" gallery / Mister Chief / OONSK / OneOneSe7en / 2553 Civilian 'Hog Review / Griffball / ForgeHub / 405th Cosplay / Neill Blomkamp's Landfall / Weta's Real-life Warthog / Halo Legends anime anthology / List of Halo novels / Halopedia / Halo 3 Terminal Archive / DDR Dance / Animatronic Elite project / HBO's "Guilt-O-Lantern" contest / Keep It Clean / We Are ODST / Sadie's Story / Halocraft / "A Fistful of Arrows" fan comic / RvB Animated (and CGI) / Project Contingency / Halo Zero / Halo 2600 (prev.) / Reach Datapad Transcripts / The last Halo 2 player on Xbox LIVE / Bungie's Final Halo Stats Infographic / Key & Peele: Obama on Halo 4 / Top 10 Halo Easter Eggs / Behind the scenes of Halo 2 Anniversary
Microsoft CEO to women: Don't ask for a raise. CEO Satya Nadella spoke at the Grace Hopper Celebration and told women to use their "super powers" to get raises. [more inside]
Can Satya Nadella Save Microsoft? (Longform) Great Vanity Fair article that spends a lot of time examining the Gates/Ballmer dynamic.
Two years ago, Notch of Minecraft fame, posted a tweet that mockingly said "Anyway, my price is two billion dollars. Give me two billion dollars, and I'll endorse your crap. Earlier last week, rumors started going around that Microsoft was interested in buying Minecraft and its developers, Mojang. And today, it is official. Microsoft has bought Minecraft and Mojang for 2.5 billion dollars.
A week of Ctrl-Alt-Del posts on Raymond Chen's blog The Old New Thing begins with a simple blog post: Who wrote the text for the Ctrl+Alt+Del dialog in Windows 3.1?. What followed was a mixture of confused tech journalism and Chen's patient Windows archaeology. [more inside]
Researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Microsoft Research, and Adobe Research have presented a technique for reconstructing an audio signal by analyzing minute vibrations of objects depicted in video. For example, the method can be used to extract intelligible speech from video of a bag of potato chips filmed from 15 feet away through soundproof glass. [more inside]
The History of Autocorrect
...some of the calls were quite tricky, and one of the trickiest involved the issue of obscenity. On one hand, Word didn't want to seem priggish; on the other, it couldn't very well go around recommending the correct spelling of mothrefukcer. Microsoft was sensitive to these issues. The solution lay in expanding one of spell-check's most special lists, bearing the understated title: “Words which should neither be flagged nor suggested.”
Microsoft Just Laid Off Thousands of Employees With a Hilariously Bad Memo, Robotic letter is an unfortunately normal example of how companies talk to employees.
FREE Microsoft eBooks! Who doesn’t love FREE Microsoft eBooks? Ymmv - but, Did I mention FREE! MSDN (Microsoft Developer network) writer Eric Lightman provides links to approximately 150 free ebooks, that anyone interested in MSDN matters might find useful. [more inside]
A year ago, Microsoft was crucified in the press for the PR fiasco of the Xbox One, with rival Sony winning thunderous applause for its PS4 by simply maintaining the status quo. But after doing a
360 180 on its hated policies, Redmond is attempting to close the gap with the most valuable package deal since The Orange Box.
A remarkable feat of engineering, Halo: The Master Chief Collection will feature on a single disc the complete HD-remastered campaigns of Halos 1-4 alongside Ridley Scott's Nightfall, the Halo 5 beta, and the holy grail of Xbox gaming: every last one of the series' 100+ multiplayer maps in a single unified matchmaking system incorporating the original engines, gameplay mechanics, and idiosyncrasies of each.
Ten years after Halo 2 (and four years after MS shut the taps), IGN suspects a plan by 343 to rekindle (and data-mine) Bungie's magic for an uncertain Halo 5, while Eurogamer welcomes the return of what it calls online FPS's peak. [More reaction: NeoGAF - Ars Technica - Reddit]
Bungie, meanwhile, stood with Sony to showcase its upcoming Destiny, the vaunted space epic that will beta this summer before facing its revamped forerunners later this year. More E3 coverage: Microsoft (5min) - Sony (5min) - Nintendo (airing noon EST) - SW: Battlefront - AC: Unity - MGS5: The Phantom Pain - Evolve - No Man's Sky - The Order: 1886 - Sunset Overdrive - Grim Fandango - Bloodborne - Arkham Knight - Scalebound - Mortal Kombat X - The Division - LittleBigPlanet 3 - Inside - Uncharted 4 - Crackdown
Internet Explorer 6, listed by PC World as the eight worst tech product of all time has finally been inhumed.
Mark Ames follows up on The Techtopus (previously) with a new report showing a much larger conspiracy than has been previously reported: [more inside]
Satya Nadella, a 22 year veteran of Microsoft, is the company's new CEO. Founder Bill Gates will step down as Chairman. [more inside]
Got 30 seconds of XBox One game footage and absolutely nothing negative to say about it? A tweet from Ron Smith, community director for Machinima UK, announced that if you posted videos for Machinima, you could be making $3 CPM ($3 per thousand video views) on those videos. Only one catch: the agreement specifically forbids you from saying "anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its Games"... in fact, you can't disclose the existence of the agreement. OK, maybe two catches: this may violate FTC rules on endorsements in advertising [PDF]. Smith's tweet was quickly taken down (and the Twitter handle taken by some vituperative anti-Machinima person), but the news spread to NeoGAF before being confirmed by ArsTechinica and by Kotaku. Want to know who nibbled at the bait? Check the Poptent activity panel for Nick Sheets, who according to LinkedIn is the "Manager, Affiliate Activations (Branded Entertainment)" for Machinima's L.A. office.
Wow! Microsoft is thinking about bringing back the Start Menu and Modern apps on the Desktop. This is perfect timing! Here you’ll why it’s a good idea and how they should do it.
Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, LinkedIn and Aol have all teamed up to oppose widespread government surveillance. In an open letter to the US president and members of congress, the companies urge the government to reform its digital spy apparatus. Live reactions at the Guardian.
Like the AmigaOS, TOS, and BeOS, IBM's OS/2 operating system's rise and fall gives insight into the current computing landscape.
Blonde hair, skimpy skirt, big blue eyes. Yup, it's ... INTERNET EXPLORER — Get ready for Inori, the 'personification of IE'. Microsoft launches ad campaign in Singapore featuring a new Internet Explorer 11 mascot (mildly NSFW anime, not hentai).
It begins. A consortium of mobile phone makers including Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson and Sony have launched a barrage of patent suits against Google and major Android handset makers such as Samsung, Huawei and HTC. Unlike previous patent suits from the major shareholders, these suits are on the rocket docket of Eastern Texas.
Steve Ballmer bid farewell to Microsoft employees today after nearly 14 years as CEO, and he did it in his usual understated fashion. [more inside]
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced a reorganization of the company today to focus on devices and services. Ballmer said that the goal was to have "One Microsoft" where "our strategy will focus on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most". [more inside]
How Can Any Company Ever Trust Microsoft Again?A thoughtful essay about why companies and individuals shouldn't trust Microsoft in light of the recent leaks.
Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple are being monitored by the FBI and NSA, with Dropbox "coming soon." So what can you do? Use some alternatives. As Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGo, told NPR: "we made the choice to just not track people so there is nothing to turn over."
Microsoft has unveiled their new console, and it wants to dominate your living room. How Xbox One plans to fight Sony, Steam, and everything else.
"What was most perplexing of all to me was that, although I was certain that the ads contained Chinese phrases and sentences, every Chinese person to whom I showed them emphatically maintained that they could not understand a single word."
Back in the day, Ken Segall helped create Apple's Think Different campaign and helped name the iMac. More recently he worked on JC Penney's Yours Truly, commercial, before JCP ousted Ron Johnson as its CEO. He writes a sharp, entertaining blog called Ken Segall's Observatory, where he offers opinions on advertising and design geekery. His take on Ron Johnson's failure is interesting, as is this post on what it takes for an advertisement to stand out in a crowd. He calls attention to surprisingly decent ads from Microsoft and Dell, critiques terrible ads (from Microsoft and JC Penney and even Apple, and comments on whether skeuomorphism has its advantages. He's also fond of discussing product names. Give this one a skip if advertising gives you hives, but for those of you who're interested in things like this Segall's blog is especially choice stuff.
Microsoft's IllumiRoom takes gaming visuals outside the box and onto the living room. Basically projection mapping for your living room, based on a 3D scan using Kinect, Microsoft Research's IllumiRoom lets you show either all of a game's environment, or only certain parts, projected on your living room walls.
Fairsearch (a group led by Microsoft, Oracle and Expedia) has filed a complaint [PDF] with the EU claiming that Google has a monopoly in the mobile market and is using its mobile position to force its other products on users.
"Today I donated my Xbox 360 Elite to Goodwill. It represented a time in my life as a developer that I'm not overly proud about living." A former Microsoft game designer reflects on how his ex-company turned gaming into a bro thing and perfected a formula for the modern console title.
Arena.Xlsm is the fever dream of a Canadian Chartered Accountant with a love of roleplaying games (Hat tip to Special K over at mefightclub!)
Michael Dell, with the help of a $2 billion dollar investment from Microsoft, is taking Dell private. Dell was once a $100 billion company, but has fallen behind HP and Lenovo in marketshare in the post-PC era. This is the largest leveraged buyout since 2007. [more inside]