News

Microsoft Launches XBox Live Creators Program

Paul Ballard

1 Mar , 2017  

A new game developer program from Microsoft allows for fast, simultaneous publishing of Xbox Live-enabled games to Xbox One and Windows 10.

Announced at this week’s Game Developer Conference, the Xbox Live Creators Program is currently in preview. Developers who sign up gain access to the Xbox Live Creators SDK, and can integrate the following features into their games, according to Microsoft:

  • Xbox Live sign-in and profile, including gamertag.

  • Xbox Live presence, recently played and activity feed.

  • Xbox Live social, including friends, Game Hubs, clubs, party chat, gameDVR and Beam broadcast.

  • Xbox Live leaderboards and feature stats.

  • Title Storage and Connected Storage.

Participating developers can build games using Construct 2, MonoGame, Unity and Xenko, then ship them to either Xbox One, Windows 10 or both. Games built under the program will appear in a special ‘Creators’ section in the Xbox Store.

The new program aims to simplify the process for getting games into the Xbox Store without the need for a lengthy certification or concept approval. Developers can apply here and start building, with Microsoft saying publishing will be available in the near future.

However, the Xbox Live features available under the Creators Program are limited. Anyone who wants to take advantage of the full set of Xbox Live features, plus marketing and development support, will still need to join Microsoft’s existing ID@Xbox program.… Read more

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News

How a Single-Character Coding Error Led to a Major Data Leak

Paul Ballard

24 Feb , 2017  

If you don’t follow the tech Twitter-verse as obsessively as we do, you may not be aware that a major data breach at Cloudflare has put user passwords, messages and other information at risk all over the internet.

Cloudflare provides web security and performance services for companies like Uber and OkCupid, among many, many others. A significant chunk of web traffic flows through Cloudflare, and the data breach now known as Cloudbleed dates back to last September, according to New York magazine’s Select All blog—though Cloudflare didn’t disclose it publicly until Thursday.

While all the typical security advice applies in this situation—it’s probably a good idea to update your passwords, and enable two-factor authentication on your accounts when possible—what strikes us about the Cloudbleed debacle is how so much havoc was wreaked based on what Gizmodo describes as a simple, one-character coding error.

Apparently, the company’s switch to a new HTML parser led to what’s known as a buffer overrun vulnerability. Instead of being stored temporarily in a buffer, user data from some sites was leaked into another, insecure location. It could then be returned under certain circumstances in response to an HTTP request, including from search engines.

“I’m finding private messages from major dating sites, full messages from a well-known chat service, online password manager data, frames from adult video sites, hotel bookings,” wrote Tavis Ormandy, the Google security expert who discovered the breach, in a bug report.  … Read more

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News

Skype Lite Launches In India

Paul Ballard

22 Feb , 2017  

Microsoft is debuting a lightweight version of Skype made for locations where internet connectivity is spotty, and India is its first test market.

Announced Wednesday at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in Mumbai, the Skype Lite Android app weighs in at 13 MB, is optimized for 2G networks and supports eight languages. It also includes chatbots for services like Expedia and Skyscanner and is available on Google Play now.

In other nods to market conditions in India, Microsoft says the app will perform well on older Android devices and offers a reduced data usage mode for customers who want to make video calls while conserving data. Users can also send SMS messages from the app.

For business calls and other communication when security is important, the app will be integrated with India’s national identification system, Aadhaar, by June 2017. Users will be able to log in to the system to verify their identities, and the information will be wiped from the app once the call completes.

India is one of the fastest-growing markets for technology worldwide. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella referred to “how India is reshaping technology” in introducing Skype Lite, according to ZDNet.… Read more

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News

Build 2017 Conference Is Now Open for Registration

Paul Ballard

14 Feb , 2017  

Tickets went on sale for Microsoft’s yearly Build developer conference Tuesday, and the registration website was immediately flooded with takers–so much so, that users trying to sign up experienced technical problems throughout the morning.

Though many devs reported on Twitter that they had successfully registered, some posted complaints that they experienced long waits or needed to refresh the page repeatedly.

By midday, however, the problems seemed to be abating. So if you want to attend Microsoft’s biggest developer event, don’t delay: Build 2016 sold out the same day tickets were released.

Priced at $2,195, the conference will take place May 10-12 in Seattle. Along with technical trainings and hackathons, past conferences have included major announcements about new Microsoft projects and products.

A Microsoft blog post promises Build 2017 will cover the following topics:

  • Mixed-reality experiences

  • Cutting edge, intelligent cloud apps

  • Simplified end-to-end dev ops experiences

  • Mobile experiences for nearly any device

  • Apps that make your customers more productive

  • AI-powered apps we have yet to imagine

 … Read more

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News

Microsoft’s Privacy Suit Against Department of Justice Will Go Forward

Paul Ballard

10 Feb , 2017  

A federal judge ruled Thursday that a lawsuit Microsoft filed against the U.S. Department of Justice to protect customer privacy can continue.

At issue are so-called ‘gag orders’ that DOJ sometimes imposes on tech companies who have provided customer emails and other data to the department as part of an investigation. Microsoft says its customers have a right to know if their communications are being monitored under a search warrant, while the department maintains the secrecy is necessary to protect national security.

In the lawsuit filed last April, Microsoft had challenged the gag orders on two grounds: that they violated customers’ Fourth Amendment privacy rights and Microsoft’s First Amendment free speech rights. Judge James Robart from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington said he will allow the First Amendment claims to go forward, but struck down the Fourth Amendment argument.

The Justice Department filed a motion to dismiss the case last July. Other tech companies, including Google and Apple, have weighed in with court briefs in support of Microsoft’s arguments.

The issue of consumer privacy has taken on new dimensions as more and more people are moving personal information to the cloud. When it announced the lawsuit, Microsoft said it had received a whopping 2,500-plus requests for customer information from the government in an 18-month period.… Read more

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News

Visual Studio 2017 Will Be Released March 7

Paul Ballard

9 Feb , 2017  

It’s always an event when a new version of Visual Studio comes out, and the general release of Visual Studio 2017 marks 20 years of Microsoft’s groundbreaking integrated development environment.

Visual Studio 2017 will be available for download March 7, and Microsoft is celebrating the occasion with a two-day training for developers who want to experience all the bells and whistles in the new version.

The live, online event kicks off at 8:00 am March 7, with Microsoft leaders sharing news about Visual Studio, Xamarin, .NET and Azure in a keynote address and demos. That’s followed by a day of interactive trainings on March 8.

Available in preview since early last year, Visual Studio 2017 (formerly known as Visual Studio 15) promises better code navigation and debugging, a faster overall IDE, a light install option and increased support for mobile, cross-platform development, among other new features.

Click here to register for the online event. Microsoft is also encouraging developers to share their experiences with Visual Studio on social media using the hashtag #MyVSstory.

 

 … Read more

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News

Edge Improvements in Windows 10 Creators Update Will Include VR, EBook Support

Paul Ballard

1 Feb , 2017  

Microsoft has released a video detailing a bevy of new features for its Edge Browser in the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update. It’s the latest move in Redmond’s effort to make Edge competitive with Google Chrome and other popular browsers.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Better tab management

Users who like to keep dozens of tabs open at once will appreciate new tab management features that allow them to view thumbnails of all their open tabs. They can also set aside a group of tabs to look at later, reducing clutter without losing access to their past browsing.

WebVR support

Already available on Chrome and Firefox, WebVR uses a combination of VR device and browser to make virtualy reality experiences available on the web. Including it is part of Microsoft’s increased focus on virtual and augmented reality.

Ebook support

Users can now purchase eBooks from the Windows Store and view them on Edge, with Microsoft promising to expand the range of content available.

More, better extensions

Microsoft has made updates to the Edge Extension Toolkit for porting, extensions debugging and interoperability, and is touting a significantly greater number of APIs available to extension developers.

Microsoft Wallet integration

The Payment Request API works with Microsoft Wallet to easily access a customer’s stored payment information and speed up online shopping.… Read more

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News

Microsoft to Host Windows 10 Creators Update Webcast for Developers

Paul Ballard

27 Jan , 2017  

Want to learn a bit more about what’s coming in the Windows 10 Creators Update? Microsoft is hosting a free, live web event for developers February 8.

The four-event will include several substantive sessions on new developer tools and APIs, followed by a Q&A with Microsoft VP of Windows Developer Platform Kevin Gallo and others from the Windows 10 engineering team.

Here’s what to expect, from the event announcement:

  • See what’s new with Windows developer tooling: UWP tooling, Bash, Developer mode, and more.

  • Learn about the latest XAML advancements and how UWP helps you build Windows apps that are more personal and productive.

  • Hear the developer story behind the recent announcements of Cortana skills and the new Windows mixed-reality headsets.

There’s also a session on everyone’s favorite topic: how to make your app successful in the Windows Store.

RSVP here to register for the event and receive updates as the day draws near.… Read more

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News

Google Starts Testing Android Instant Apps

Paul Ballard

26 Jan , 2017  

Android Instant Apps, the lightweight versions of Android apps that can be run without downloading, are now available in a limited run.

Google first shared the idea for Instant Apps at its I/O developer conference last year. The concept is that users can quickly and easily experience an app by simply clicking on a url associated with the app, without going through the hassle of downloading it.

“Instant Apps is an important part of our effort to help users discover and run apps with minimal friction,” reads a post on the Android developer blog.

Instant Apps from BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope and Viki are available to Android users as of this week, and Google says it will be expanding the experiment to more apps going forward. An SDK for building Instant Apps will be available “in the coming months.”

In the meantime, Google has outlined some steps Android developers can take to prepare their apps for Instant App adaptation, including removing unnecessary bulk and adding support for url-based navigation.

So are Instant Apps just a gimmick or do they provide value for users and developers? What are the lessons for other platforms? Sound off in the comments.… Read more

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