Microsoft Releases Emergency Patch for All Versions of Windows

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Microsoft has released an emergency out-of-band patch for a critical flaw, affecting all supported versions of Windows.

The software giant said in an advisory Monday that the vulnerability, if exploited, could “allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted document or visits an untrusted webpage that contains embedded OpenType fonts.“

“An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights,“ the advisory added.

In other words, a previously undisclosed flaw in the way Windows handles certain fonts can allow a hacker to take over an entire machine.

Users running Windows Vista, Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and Windows RT are all affected, including those running Windows Server 2008 and later.

The “critical”-rated software update lands almost a week after its scheduled Patch Tuesday where it typically issues security fixes. Microsoft said it believed the flaw was public but did not have any evidence to suggest it was being actively exploited.

Security researchers from Google’s Project Zero and FireEye were credited with finding the flaw.

The patch is available over typical update methods, including Windows Update.

How to Protect Your e-Reader from the Sand and Surf

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Few things in life say “indulgence” like a bunch of good books, a beach blanket and a long afternoon — except, perhaps, sneaking a deliciously bad book somewhere in that pile. But when you’re packing up the beach bag, you may have second thoughts about throwing your expensive e-reader into the mix.

You’re right to hesitate. Sand, surf and sun are good for your soul, but they’re horrible for your technology. Fortunately, there are cases out there to let you bring along your e-library no matter where you’re going.

To find the right one, think carefully about what your needs are. If you have a full-color touchscreen tablet such as the Kindle Fire or Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK — any e-reader you can watch a movie on — then you’ll want something substantial to keep it safe from the elements.

To get full protection, look for cases reminiscent of the shockproof, water-resistant accessories you see for smartphones. A strong case should have two lines of defense: an inner shell to cradle the device itself; and a stronger outer layer of protection, often made of foam. Or if you want to avoid a case altogether, check out the Kobo Aura H2O, a 6.8-touchscreen e-reader that is fully waterproof, according to its maker.

Many durable smartphone case makers, such as OtterBox or Gumdrop’s Drop Tech line, also make cases for tablets. Most are shockproof and should protect against sand. These tend to cost between $50 and $100. They’ll add bulk to your device, of course, but the pressure to have a beach-ready body shouldn’t extend to your tablet, anyway.

If you’re planning on taking an e-reader aboard a boat or floating lounge chair, check to make sure the case is water-resistant before you buy. The key thing to look for is covers for any charging or headphone ports. Those little flaps, if sealed well, will go a long way toward saving your tech if it takes a surprise dunk. They also help with keeping sand away from the inside of your devices. (On the cheap, electrical tape over the ports will work, too.)

For e-ink readers — think Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite or the NOOK GlowLight — there are cheaper options. There’s also a broader market for waterproof covers from companies such as OverBoard and BeachBuoy. These cases, priced between $15 and $30, are like airtight flotation devices to keep your e-reader safe in the event of a water landing.

There’s also the “lifehack” method: a clear, airtight plastic bag. Low-tech? Sure. But it’s cheap and gets the job done. This will work best with e-readers that have physical buttons and/or use e-ink technology rather than a full-color touchscreen. Some readers track movement by detecting screen pressure, while others sense your bare finger touching the screen. A plastic bag should work with both but will interfere more with the bare finger. This is not a “case” that you should stress-test too much, but the clear plastic bag is a pretty good option for people who are more into hanging out near the pool rather than in it.

Regardless of the case you choose, if waterproofing is your primary need, test your case before you head to the beach. The best way to do this is to put a piece of paper in the case and seal it up tight. Then dunk the whole thing under water. If you make it through that test without any wet spots, you’re in good shape.

None of these cases, though, will protect you against the perils of heat and direct sunlight. Heat can cause serious, if often temporary, damage to your devices. This is a greater risk for tablet-like e-readers (and phones, for that matter), but overheating is bad for all electronics.

Keeping your device in the shade is the best defense. Even keeping it under a dry towel or beach chair will help. Or bring an extra cooler with no ice or water in it. If your device overheats, take the case off and let it cool back to room temperature before you fiddle with it again.

And a final tip: No matter what you decide, put your e-reader in its case before you get to the beach. Better yet, do it at home, before you pack and while you’re on dry, solid land.

If your device does get dunked, avoid the temptation to get out the hair dryer. The best thing to do is to be patient, pat the device as dry as you can and let it sit overnight in a bowl of rice or kitty litter to draw out the water. Wait as long as you can to try to turn it back on, for the best chances of a full recovery.

Apple’s Updates iPod Touch Amid Declining Sales

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Although the iPod’s popularity has waned, Apple is updating its music player for the first time in nearly three years by giving the flagship Touch model a faster processor and better cameras.

The new iPod Touch also enables Apple Music, a $10-a-month service that offers unlimited playback of millions of songs. Apple Music launched June 30 as music fans increasingly embrace subscriptions over pay-per-song services such as Apple’s industry-leading iTunes.

Although music players existed before the original iPod’s debut in 2001, the iPod was the first to simplify syncing with digital music collections on personal computers. It was Apple’s first success beyond personal computers and began a company transformation that led to the iPhone in 2007, the iPad in 2010 and the Apple Watch this year.

Many people now listen to music on smartphones rather than iPods, though. Sales of iPods peaked at nearly 55 million in fiscal 2008, the year after the iPhone came out. In the most recent fiscal year, which ended last September, Apple sold 14 million iPods. By contrast, Apple sold 169 million iPhones in the same period.

As demand has slowed, so has Apple’s updates to the iPod: Apple no longer updates its iPods annually as it usually does with its top sellers.

But Wednesday’s update shows Apple isn’t giving up on the iPod.

The Touch is essentially an iPhone without cellular capabilities, as it runs the same iOS operating system and most of the same apps. Connected to the Internet over Wi-Fi, the Touch extends Apple Music and iPhone apps to teens and other younger customers who might not need cellphones or cannot afford cellular service.

Beyond music, the iPod Touch might get new customers hooked on Apple’s apps, video and other content — such that they’ll turn to an iPhone, iPad or Mac when they are ready.

Prices for the Touch start at $199, the same as an iPhone 6 with a two-year service contract, but the iPod Touch requires no monthly service fees for voice, text and data. Calling is possible over Wi-Fi through FaceTime audio and video conferencing.

Without a contract, an iPhone 6 starts at $649, compared with a few hundred dollars for some Android smartphones.

Roger Kay, president of the market research firm Endpoint Technology Associates, said the iPod Touch helps protect Apple from lower-priced competitors.

“Having a $200 small computer without cellular service is a pretty good price,“ Kay said. “This may be a second, third or fourth device for families that already have a bunch of Apple products. The 9-year-old wants something, so they get them a Touch.“

It also makes Apple products more affordable in emerging markets, said Carolina Milanesi, who heads U.S. operations for the Kantar Worldpanel ComTech research group.

Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group said that while iPod sales have been declining, they are still massive.

“Not everyone wants an iPhone, yet a lot of those folks loved their iPods,“ he said. “This product will be far more successful than anyone expects.“

Among the improvements:

— The processor now matches that in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus from last fall, rather than one from the iPhone 4s in 2011. Apple says the new chip is six times faster for general tasks and 10 times faster for graphics.

— The rear camera can take sharper pictures, at 8 megapixels. That matches recent iPhones and exceeds the 5 megapixels in the previous Touch. The front and rear cameras can now take 10 shots per second and slow-motion video at 120 frames per second.

“Customers can experience next-level gameplay, take even more beautiful photos and enjoy their favorite music, TV shows and movies,“ said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone, iPod and iOS product marketing.

Although the Touch has an accelerometer to track basic fitness, it doesn’t have all of the iPhone’s sensors. There’s no barometer to measure steps climbed and no fingerprint ID to unlock the device. There’s also no Apple Pay, the technology for making payments at retail stores. The screen remains at 4 inches, as measured diagonally, even though iPhones have gotten bigger at 4.7 and 5.5 inches.

Apple is introducing a new $399 model with 128 gigabytes, matching the iPhone’s maximum capacity. The $199 base model has 16 gigabytes, enough for thousands of songs, though the iPod Touch is meant to hold photos, video and apps, too.

The $49 iPod Shuffle and the $149 Nano are getting the same colors, but what’s inside isn’t changing. Neither model can run Apple Music or the various iPhone apps.

Microsoft Releases New License Terms for Windows 10: Biggest Surprise? No Gotchas

Sorry, conspiracy theorists:
The new documents are simple and straightforward, with absolutely no gotchas.

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You can put your tinfoil hats away now.

Two weeks ahead of the global launch of Windows 10, Microsoft has finalized the terms of its license agreements for the new operating system. I’ve had several days to study the documents in detail, and I can report that there are no surprises, no gotchas, and no hidden subscription traps waiting to be sprung in two or three or four years.

Sorry to disappoint you, conspiracy theorists.

Microsoft has consistently said that its new “Windows as a service” model doesn’t change the basic licensing terms for Windows. Based on these documents, that’s still true.

The Gilmer Free Press

In fact, the new license agreement is simpler and written more clearly than any similar document I’ve reviewed in 20 years of examining Windows license agreements. There are a few noteworthy changes, which I’ll outline in this post, but every one of those changes has previously been disclosed.

Like I said: No surprises.

Instead of publishing separate agreements for each edition (Home and Pro) and each distribution channel (OEM and retail), the Windows 10 license agreement is a single document that applies to all editions, with the only changes being variations in the “Limited Warranty” section at the end of the document.

Here’s what’s new:

  • Activation and licensing status when upgrading from a non-genuine copy of Windows.  As usual, the license agreement allows the right to install and run Windows on a single licensed device. It also requires activation, a process that is automatic on most devices from large OEMs. The new agreement adds this clause: “Updating or upgrading from non-genuine software with software from Microsoft or authorized sources does not make your original version or the updated/upgraded version genuine, and in that situation, you do not have a license to use the software.“

  • Transfer rights. I heard some observers speculate that the new terms would limit Windows 10 transfer rights. Nope. The new license agreement preserves the longstanding transfer rights: OEM copies are locked to the device on which they’re sold, retail copies can be transferred to a different device as long as the old copy is removed first. (The Windows 10 EULA includes a specific exception for PC buyers in Germany, who are allowed to transfer OEM software thanks to a court ruling.)

  • Downgrade rights. As with all recent Windows releases, buying a PC with a Professional version of Windows installed by the OEM includes the right to downgrade to either of the two earlier versions, in this case Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro. The new agreement specifies an end date for those downgrade rights, which are valid “only for so long as Microsoft provides support for that earlier version.“ Under the 10-year Microsoft support lifecycle , that means downgrade rights for Windows 7 end in January 2020, and the clock runs out on Windows 8.1 in January 2023.

  • Automatic updates. For consumers and small business, Windows 10 delivers automatic updates, with no option to selectively delay or reject individual updates. “The software periodically checks for system and app updates, and downloads and installs them for you. ... By accepting this agreement, you agree to receive these types of automatic updates without any additional notice.“ Business customers have additional management options through the Windows Update for Business program, and enterprise customers can assign mission-critical devices to the Long Term Servicing Branch, which includes only security fixes and not feature updates.

  • No Commercial Use Rights for Office products. Some Windows 10 editions will include Microsoft Office programs. As with Windows RT, those products are limited to personal and noncommercial use. Businesses need to have an Office 365 Business subscription or assign a perpetual Office license to the device.

And that’s it.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. As Windows boss Terry Myerson has stated repeatedly, the company’s “Windows as a service” model represents a new way of delivering updates and upgrades, but it doesn’t change the fundamentals of how Windows licensing works.

The release of the new EULA terms still leaves a few loose ends to be tied up in the next two weeks. Microsoft still has to update its product lifecycle for Windows 10. That will be an interesting challenge, because the traditional 10-year support lifecycle is inconsistent with the entire idea of “Windows as a service.“

One thing I am certain you won’t see is a demand from Microsoft that Windows 10 users begin paying for updates after a few years. The idea that Microsoft is giving away a billion copies of Windows 10 in the world’s largest bait-and-switch operation is laughable on its face. But that’s a topic for another day.

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