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Security

The 'USB Killer' Has Been Mass Produced -- Available Online For About $50 (arstechnica.com) 237

New submitter npslider writes: The "USB Killer," a USB stick that fries almost everything that it is plugged into, has been mass produced -- available online for about $50. Ars Technica first wrote about this diabolical device that looks like a fairly humdrum memory stick a year ago. From the report: "The USB Killer is shockingly simple in its operation. As soon as you plug it in, a DC-to-DC converter starts drawing power from the host system and storing electricity in its bank of capacitors (the square-shaped components). When the capacitors reach a potential of -220V, the device dumps all of that electricity into the USB data lines, most likely frying whatever is on the other end. If the host doesn't just roll over and die, the USB stick does the charge-discharge process again and again until it sizzles. Since the USB Killer has gone on sale, it has been used to fry laptops (including an old ThinkPad and a brand new MacBook Pro), an Xbox One, the new Google Pixel phone, and some cars (infotainment units, rather than whole cars... for now). Notably, some devices fare better than others, and there's a range of possible outcomes -- the USB Killer doesn't just nuke everything completely." You can watch a video of EverythingApplePro using the USB Killer to fry a variety of electronic devices. It looks like the only real defense from the USB Killer is physically capping your ports.
United States

This Cyber Monday Was the Biggest Online Shopping Day, Ever (zdnet.com) 56

Cyber Monday is likely to have been the biggest online shopping day in history, according to an analysis of visits to US retail websites. Online spending in the US yesterday hit a new record with $3.39bn spent online, a 10.2 percent increase year-over-year -- ahead even of Black Friday, when $3.34bn was spent. ZDNet adds:Cyber Monday is expected to generate slightly less mobile revenue than Black Friday at $1.19bn, but that's still a 48 percent increase on last year, according to the analysis by Adobe. Consumers have spent a total of $39.9bn online so far this month, it said, up 7.4 percent on last November, with 27 out of 28 days seeing online sales of over $1bn. The five best-selling toys in terms of quantity sold on Cyber Monday were Lego, Shopkins, Nerf, Barbie, and Little Live Pets. The five best-selling electronic products were Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox, Samsung 4K TVs, Apple iPads, and Amazon Fire tablets, the company said.
Businesses

Yesterday Saw $3.3 Billion In Online Purchases (cmo.com) 66

Friday humanity set a new record for the most money ever spent online in a single day -- and the most ever purchased on mobile devices. An anonymous reader writes: Online sales reached $3.34 billion yesterday, up 11.3% from the same day last year, according to a new report from Adobe Digital Insights. And most of that traffic came from mobile devices. In fact, yesterday became "the first day to ever generate over a billion dollars in online sales from mobile devices," according to their report. Although 64% of online sales came from desktop computers, 55% of the traffic to shopping sites still came from mobile devices -- 45% from smartphones, and 10% from tablets. (Just three years ago, only 20% of Black Friday sales came from mobile devices.)

The top-grossing products appeared to be iPads and Macbooks, Microsoft's Xbox, and Samsung and LG TVs, while the top-grossing toys were electric scooters, drones, Nerf guns and LEGO sets. The products mostly likely to be "out of stock" yesterday included the new NES Classic and the Nintendo 3DS XL Solgaleo Lunala (black edition), the Playstation VR bundle (and the PS4 "Call of Duty: Black Ops" bundle), and the Xbox One S bundle for Madden NFL 17.

The day after Black Friday is now being touted as "Small Business Saturday," a tradition started in 2010 when American Express partnered with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation (and some civic-minded groups in Boston) to encourage people to shop in their local brick-and-mortar stores. American Express reported a $1.7 billion increase in sales on Small Business Saturday in 2015, "with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more."
Windows

VLC Media Player Previews 360-degree Video Support (videolan.org) 17

VideoLAN has released a technical preview of VLC Media Player 3.0 with 360-degree video support. The new build handles videos following the Spatial Video format, and photos and panoramas following the Spherical spec (the official test page has sample files). More on this: The files play back just like any other video, but you can now left-click and drag within the screen or use the numeric keypad arrows to look around. VideoLAN says there are multiple display modes -- Zoom, Little Planet and Reverse Little Planet -- although we couldn't immediately see how they were activated. This initial release is only available for Windows and Mac, but eventually 360-degree support will arrive for Android, iOS and Xbox One, with VR headset support likely to arrive in 2017.
PlayStation (Games)

Virtual Reality is Pushing Gaming Into Another 'Golden Age': Xbox Co-founder (cnbc.com) 114

From a CNBC report:The Xbox and PS2 were two of the most popular consoles ever and now gaming is entering "another golden age," according to Otto Berkes (a pioneer of the gaming industry), driven by virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). "One of the aspects of VR that has incredible potential is interaction and communication -- interacting with characters that are both artificial and virtual, being able to blur distance and geography, you can be anywhere and literally in any time," Berkes told CNBC in an interview on Wednesday. "We're entering another golden age of interactive content development."
Windows

Microsoft Solitaire Collection From Windows 10 Now Available For Android and iOS (betanews.com) 50

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Back in the the mid-1990's, everyone thought they needed a computer. After all, Windows 95 made using one particularly easy, and the internet was a very attractive thing. Unfortunately, once some people got their first-ever PC set up in their homes, they didn't really know what to do with it. In the end, it would turn out that some consumers spent thousands of dollars for a machine dedicated to one thing -- playing Solitaire! Yes, this fun Windows game is responsible for much wasted time, but not just at home -- at businesses too. The card game has historically been viewed as a negative for productivity. Fast forward to 2016 and fewer people are sitting in front of large desktop computers at home -- people are increasingly turning to tablets and smartphones for entertainment. Today, just in time for Thanksgiving, Microsoft Solitaire Collection comes to both Android and iOS. "Microsoft Solitaire continues to be one of the most-played games of all time on Windows for more than 25 years. What's more, the version of Solitaire you know and love on Windows 10 and Windows 8 PC and mobile devices, Microsoft Solitaire Collection, has reached more than 119 million unique players in the last four years alone! And now, those on iPhone, iPad and Android devices can play the popular card game for free," says Paul Jensen, Studio Manager of Microsoft Casual Games. "[...] with Xbox Live integration, you can sign in with your Xbox Live gamertag or Microsoft account to earn Xbox Live achievements and Gamerscore, compete with friends, and continue playing on any Windows 10, iPhone, iPad, or Android device while on the go since your progress and game data are saved in the cloud. If you're not an Xbox Live member, signing up for a free membership through the game is easy and totally worth it." It's worth noting that the "freemium" model features advertisements, but players can go "Premium" to remove those ads for $2 per month and receive other perks. You can download Microsoft Solitaire Collection from the App Store, Google Play, and Windows Store.
Twitter

Spammers Compromised Popular Twitter Accounts Including Viacom And Microsoft Xbox (engadget.com) 23

"A number of popular Twitter accounts suddenly wanted to help you add more followers," joked Engadget. An anonymous reader writes: Early Saturday morning, due to a breach of the Twitter Counter analytics service, the compromised Twitter accounts started posting images touting services that sell Twitter followers. The affected accounts include @PlayStation, @Viacom, @XboxSupport, @TheNewYorker, @TheNextWeb, and @Money (Time's finance magazine) as well as @NTSB (the National Transportation Safety Board) and @ICRC (the Red Cross), and the Twitter accounts of famous individuals include astronaut Leland Melvin, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, and actor Charlie Sheen. "We can confirm that our service has been hacked; allowing posts on behalf of our user," Twitter Counter posted Saturday, announcing minutes later that "hackers CANNOT post on our users' behalf anymore."
"Apologies for the spam, everyone," tweeted the account for Xbox support, adding "We're cleaning things up now."
Games

Hacker Charged With Fraud After 'Stealing' In-game FIFA Currency (cnet.com) 149

The FBI said it believes a group of hackers made millions off a scam to defraud publisher Electronic Arts. From a report on CNET: A US man is facing felony wire fraud charges for the theft of digital currency from game developer Electronic Arts. According to an FBI indictment, Anthony Clark and his co-defendants are being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud for "stealing" in-game currency in multiplayer football game FIFA Ultimate Team for Xbox One, PS4 and PC. The indictment details that Clark and three others, named as Ricky Miller, Nicholas Castellucci and Eaton Zveare, members of hacking group RANE Developments, designed an app using the game's source code and developer kit. This app fraudulently told EA's servers that thousands of matches had been completed in the game. These completion reports were rewarded with FIFA coins, which the group sold to what the FBI called "black market" coin dealers. Between them, the group earned $15-$18 million.
Windows

Windows 10 Updates Are About To Get a Lot Smaller To Download as Microsoft Switches To Differential Patching (theverge.com) 110

Microsoft currently distributes major Windows 10 updates -- Anniversary Update, for instance -- as essentially full operating system installs, going as much 4GB in size. But that is changing starting today (for some users). From an article on The Verge: Microsoft has been promising smaller updates to Windows 10, through various methods, for what feels like years, but the company is now starting to test a new Unified Update Platform (UUP) that will make a big difference. "One of the biggest community and customer benefits of UUP is the reduction you'll see in download size on PCs," explains Bill Karagounis, a Windows program manager. "We have converged technologies in our build and publishing systems to enable differential downloads for all devices built on the Mobile and PC OS." Differential downloads only include the changes that have been pushed out since you last updated a Windows 10 PC. This new change will debut with the Windows 10 Creators Update that's expected to arrive in March, but Windows Insiders can start testing the technology in today's latest build update for mobile devices. Microsoft will start rolling this out to PC builds later this year, alongside HoloLens devices. Xbox One devices running Windows 10 won't benefit from UUP as Microsoft distributes operating system updates to consoles using different methods.
Operating Systems

Windows 10 Now On 400 Million Active Devices, Says Microsoft (thurrott.com) 153

Microsoft announced today that Windows 10 is now running on over 400 million active devices. This is up from 300 million as of May, and 207 million as of end of the March. The company says that it deems devices that have been active in the past 28 days as "active." Microsoft added that this 400 million active devices figure include tablets and phones as well as Xbox One consoles, HoloLens, and Surface Hubs running Windows 10. Paul Thurrott adds:Microsoft last provided a Windows 10 usage milestone on June 29, when it said that there were 350 million active Windows 10 devices. At that time, I noted that the Windows 10 adoption had accelerated from the previous milestone, hitting an average of almost 29 million new devices per month. But 50 million additional devices over three months is a much slower pace of about 17 million per month. This is the slowest rate since Windows 10 was first announced. Again, no surprise there: Windows 10 was free for its first year, and over that time period it averaged roughly 31.25 million new devices per month (if you assume a figure of 375 million after one year, as I do). Does this mean that Windows 10 will see fewer than 20 million new devices each month, on average, going forward? No, of course not. There's no way to accurately gauge how things will go, given that most future devices will be new PCs purchased by businesses or consumers, or business PCs upgraded to Windows 10.
Microsoft

Microsoft and Sony Are Debating Over Whose Console Really Offers 'True 4K' (arstechnica.com) 147

Sony's PlayStation 4, which will go on sales in two months, comes loaded with rendering pipeline and some proprietary upscaling techniques that can improve lower resolution base signals to take fuller advantage of a 4K display. Microsoft is seemingly upset with how Sony is marketing this, and it is not shying from telling people that no amount of upscaling can fill in those missing 4K pixels and the hardware inefficiency to produce native and "true 4K" images that the Project Scorpio, its gaming console that is coming next year can. Microsoft has also said that any game that it will launch during the Scorpio timeframe will "natively render at 4K." But the debate is anything from over because Microsoft keeps reminding everyone that the processor and GPU in its upcoming console is more powerful. As ArsTechnica explains: With Scorpio, Microsoft seems to be arguing that every first-party game at launch will be able to generate and render nearly 8.3 million pixels (four times as many as a 1080p game) at an acceptable frame rate (i.e., at least 30 times a second). That would be quite an achievement. As we noted back at E3, it currently takes pricey, high-end PC graphics cards like the Nvidia GTX 1080 or the AMD R9 Fury X -- cards that run $300 or much higher -- to "barely scrape by" with a native 4K, 30fps game. And those PC cards seem to have significantly more raw power than what is being claimed by Microsoft -- 9 and 8.4 teraflops, respectively, vs. a claimed 6 teraflops for Scorpio (and 4.2 teraflops for the PS4 Pro).Microsoft's head of Xbox planning, Albert Penello said, "I know that 4.2 teraflops is not enough to do true 4K." In an interview with Eurogamer, Penello adds:I think there are a lot of caveats they're giving customers right now around 4K. They're talking about checkerboard rendering and up-scaling and things like that. There are just a lot of asterisks in their marketing around 4K, which is interesting because when we thought about what spec we wanted for Scorpio, we were very clear we wanted developers to take their Xbox One engines and render them in native, true 4K. That was why we picked the number, that's why we have the memory bandwidth we have, that's why we have the teraflops we have, because it's what we heard from game developers was required to achieve native 4K.
Media

The Slashdot Interview With VideoLAN President and Lead VLC Developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf 40

You asked, he answered!

VideoLan President and Lead Developer of VLC Jean-Baptiste Kempf has responded to questions submitted by Slashdot readers. Read on to find out about the upcoming VideoLAN projects; how they keep VLC sustainable; what are some mistakes they wish they hadn't made; and what security challenges they face, among others!
XBox (Games)

Microsoft Says Upcoming Project Scorpio Might Be the Last Console Generation (engadget.com) 264

Earlier this year, Xbox chief Phil Spencer expressed desires to see a steady stream of hardware innovation rather than a typical seven-year gap between different console generations, noting smartphone market as inspiration. In an interview with Engadget, Aaron Greenberg, Microsoft's Head of Xbox Games Marketing has hinted that the company's upcoming Project Scorpio is likely going to be the last generation of Xbox console you will ever need to purchase. From the report: I think it is ... For us, we think the future is without console generations, we think that the ability to build a library, a community, to be able to iterate with the hardware, we're making a pretty big bet on that with Project Scorpio. We're basically saying 'this isn't a new generation, everything you have continues forward and it works.' We think of this as a family of devices. But we'll see, we're going to learn from this, we're going to see how that goes. So far I'd say based on the reaction there appears to be a lot of demand and interest around Project Scorpio, and we think it's going to be a pretty big success. If the games and the content deliver, which I think they will do, I think it will change the way we think about the future of console gaming."
Microsoft

Microsoft Starts Testing Windows 10's Next Major Update (theverge.com) 94

A week after releasing Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft is already ready to unveil new features for its next major update dubbed Redstone 2. The Verge reports: The new update doesn't have any big new features for public testers yet, as Microsoft is in the early stages of making structural improvements to its OneCore shared code of Windows across PCs, tablets, phones, HoloLens, Xbox, and IoT. The first few builds available for testing "may include more bugs and other issues that could be slightly more painful for some people to live" according to Windows software engineer Dona Sarkar. Microsoft has released Windows 10 build 14901, and the company is testing out new notifications within File Explorer to provide tips on what's new in Windows 10. You can opt out of the notifications, and they're just a test for now.
Microsoft

Microsoft Acquires Beam Game Streaming Service, Embracing Alternative To Amazon's Twitch (geekwire.com) 29

An anonymous reader shares a GeekWire report: Microsoft's Xbox group announced Thursday that it has acquired Seattle-based interactive game streaming service Beam, bringing the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant into an arena dominated by Amazon's Twitch. Microsoft said in a blog post the deal will help make Xbox more social and interactive. Beam launched in January, with a goal of giving people watching gamers the ability to participate in the experience. Viewers can affect gameplay by presenting new challenges and quests using visual controls.
Open Source

Ask VideoLAN President and Lead VLC Developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf Your Questions 204

VLC remains one of the most popular applications. First released over 15 years ago, VLC is open-source, and is available across multiple platforms including Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, ChromeOS, iOS, and it's coming to the Xbox One later this year. We thought it would be great to have Jean-Baptiste Kempf, President of VideoLAN non-profit organization (the maker of VLC media player). In addition, he is also a lead developer of VLC.

Leave your questions in the comments section below. Let's get this going.
Microsoft

Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Anniversary Update (zdnet.com) 177

Windows 10 Anniversary Update is now rolling out, Microsoft announced Tuesday. The major update brings with it Windows Ink, a dedicated hub designed especially for 2-in-1 devices with styluses, and improvements to Cortana among others. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley writes: I'm hearing that the first users to get Anniversary Update via Windows Update will be those with the newest hardware, BIOSes and firmware. Those who may encounter compatibility issues because of drivers may get it slightly later through Windows Update, my contacts say. Microsoft actually delivered some of the Anniversary Update features for Xbox One on July 30. On August 1, Microsoft made Windows 10 Anniversary Update available to its volume licensees in the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center. It also made the Anniversary Update code available to its reseller partners via its Partner Portal yesterday. MSDN users can get the Anniversary Update bits today. Microsoft officials said a week ago to expect Microsoft to make Anniversary Update ISOs available today, August 2. The Media Creation Tool seems to now be updated to include the Anniversary Update release.We asked readers last week whether they would update their computers to Windows 10, and the majority of people indicated they wouldn't.
Microsoft

Xbox One S is the Best Xbox You Might Not Want To Buy (cnet.com) 114

The Xbox One S, successor to Microsoft's Xbox One gaming console, has begun shipping today. Media outlets, which had received the review unit a week ahead of the launch date, have put out the review. In short, everyone loves the Xbox One S' compact design -- 40% slipper form-factor than the Xbox One -- and the 4K support has been widely praised as well. But perhaps, it's CNET's review that captures the sentiment of most people: "Xbox One S is the best Xbox you might not want to buy." From their review: THE GOOD The Xbox One S is a slick looking game console that's 40 percent smaller than the original and ditches the infamously gigantic power brick. It can display 4K video from streaming services and Ultra HD Blu-rays, and supports HDR contrast on video and games. The updated controller works with other Bluetooth devices, too.
THE BAD 4K, Ultra HD Blu-ray and HDR settings only work with newer TVs, and may require some trial and error. The updated controller feels cheaper than its predecessor. Project Scorpio, the more powerful Xbox One successor, arrives in late 2017.
THE BOTTOM LINE The Xbox One S is the console Microsoft should have delivered three years ago, but there's little reason to upgrade if you already own the original box.
It's worth noting that the Xbox One S doesn't support game titles in 4K -- a capability that has been scheduled for the Project Scorpio, another new gaming console from Microsoft. It's set to launch next year.
Microsoft

Microsoft Live Account Credentials Leaking From Windows 8 And Above (hackaday.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes: Discovered in 1997 by Aaron Spangler and never fixed, the WinNT/Win95 Automatic Authentication Vulnerability (IE Bug #4) is certainly an excellent vintage. In Windows 8 and 10, the same bug has now been found to potentially leak the user's Microsoft Live account login and (hashed) password information, which is also used to access OneDrive, Outlook, Office, Mobile, Bing, Xbox Live, MSN and Skype (if used with a Microsoft account). The bug itself seems to be present in all Windows systems since Windows 95 / NT, although only Windows 8 and above are effectively compromised. To see if your machine is affected, you may want to check the public demonstration of the exploit, set up by the guys from [Perfect Privacy] and based on [VladikSS] original work. Basically, the default User Authentification Settings of Edge/Spartan (also Internet Explorer, Outlook) lets the browser connect to local network shares, but erroneously fail to block connections to remote shares. To exploit this, an attacker would simply set up a network share. An embedded image link that points to that network share is then sent to the victim, for example as part of an email or website. As soon as the prepped content is viewed inside a Microsoft product such as Edge/Spartan, Internet Explorer or Outlook, that software will try to connect to that share in order to download the image. Doing so, it will silently send the user's Windows login username in plaintext along with the NTLMv2 hash of the login password to the attacker's network share.
Microsoft

Xbox One Summer Update Adds Cortana, Music and More (mashable.com) 40

The Xbox One is finally getting the anticipated Summer update. The update brings Cortana voice assistant to all Xbox One systems in the United States and UK. "With Cortana, gamers can expect more from voice commands on Xbox," the company wrote in a blog post. In addition, the update is also adding the ability to play background music while you're playing a game. Also, users will be able to set whatever language they want, no matter what country they are in. Mashable reports: Other summer update changes tweak the usability of the console's dashboard and sharing features. There are also a number of invisible changes that prepare the console for the Windows 10 Anniversary update. Launching on Aug. 2, the Anniversary Update carries a number of benefits for gamers, chief among them the launch of Microsoft's Xbox Play Anywhere program. Play Anywhere is Microsoft's version of cross-play, allowing Xbox One users to download and play the PC version of supported games on Windows 10 machines. The list of initially supported games is rather small and it only works if you bought the game digitally, but it's a significant step toward Microsoft's goal of joining the Xbox and Windows platforms under one development umbrella.

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