Siri Is The New Clippy

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So you’re trying to navigate through apps to distract yourself from the mind numbing boredom of a tech conference, let’s say, and all of a sudden you accidentally press too hard on your iPhone’s home button and boom, the tell-tale tone of your digital inattention interrupts the entire auditorium: Siri butting in out of nowhere with, “What can I help you with?”

“Well, actually nothing Siri, truth is you are terminally unhelpful in your current iOS5 incarnation,” you say in your mind to your phone. You quickly hit the Home button again, desperately hoping every one around you is thinking you’re taking some high-tech form of notes.

Because the truth is, unless you’re driving all the time, you don’t actually use Apple’s Siri for very much. Because of the endless “D’oh” moments, the only interactions you have with it is on accident; Ask Siri to call you an ambulance, and it literally calls you ‘An Ambulance.’

Despite whatever Samuel Jackson says, Siri in its current incarnation simply doesn’t work. In fact, it’s actually starting to remind us of Microsoft’s Mr.Clippy, that cloying MS Office “assistant” that would pop up upon start and say stuff like, “It looks like you’re writing a letter, can I help you?”

Clippy was so unpopular that he eventually got axed by Microsoft in 2001, which, considering how slow Microsoft moves, is pretty impressive.

What bugs people the most about these ill-thought-out products is that they’re like that annoying person at work who’s always all, “Can I do anything to help?” when they can’t actually do anything, don’t know shit, and are actually neglecting their real job while they take the time to ask you that question. And everyone knows what eventually happens to that person product.

Here’s to iOS6.

Microsoft Officially Signs Off On Windows 8, Releases It To Manufacturers

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Right on schedule, Microsoft has just announced on its Windows Team blog that Windows 8 has emerged from its long development and testing phase, and will soon be in the hands of manufacturers and OEMs for installation on new PCs and devices.

Among those on the list to receive the final build (build 9200, if you were curious) are Lenovo, Acer, ASUS and Toshiba, though that’s clearly just the tip of a very large iceberg.

While average users won’t be able to get their collective hands on the new OS before its official launch on October 26, Microsoft revealed when certain subsets of users could access the final build. Developers can download Windows 8 via their MSDN subscriptions on August 15, as can IT professionals with their TechNet subscriptions — lucky devils.

In a separate blog post, Microsoft’s Stephen Sinofsky dives into greater detail about the RTM process and the steps that led up to it. One of the juicier tidbits Sinofsky addressed was just how many people participated in the Windows 8 preview program — over 16 million PCs took part in the preview, with a full 7 million of those PCs running on the company’s Release Preview build. Solid numbers for what the company has referred to as a substantial “reimagining” of Windows as we know it, and the company hopes that same sort of momentum carries over into retail sales.

With Windows 8 finally complete, Microsoft has begun to bring other parts of its ecosystem online. Take the Windows Store for instance — developers will soon able to submit paid apps into the new marketplace, though they’ll have to have their RTM builds installed and ready first. That said, Sinofsky was quick to note that “no software project is ever really ‘done,’” so the company will continue to monitor feedback from both users and its myriad hardware partners.

Microsoft wins injunction against Motorola phones in Germany

On Friday, a German court ruled that several of Motorola’s Android devices infringed on a patent of Microsoft’s relating to the File Allocation Table system architecture. The lower regional Mannheim court issued an injunction against the sale of Motorola phones including the Atrix, the Razr, and the Razr Maxx, according to AllThingsD.

The patent in question allows the creation of flexible names for media files in the FAT filesystem, so users can find and change file names easily. It creates two names for a file: an operating system file name and an application system file name that permits a user to edit it.

Microsoft is hoping to get Motorola, now part of Google, to pay for licenses with the company, but Motorola has yet to do so. “We will continue to enforce injunctions against Motorola Mobility products in those countries and hope they will join other Android device makers by taking a license to Microsoft’s patented inventions,” Microsoft’s deputy general counsel David Howard said in a statement.

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Spoofing a Microsoft Exchange server: A new how-to

If you use an Android or iOS device to connect to a Microsoft Exchange server over Wi-Fi, security researcher Peter Hannay may be able to compromise your account and wreak havoc on your handset.

At the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, the researcher at Edith Cowan University’s Security Research Institute in Australia described an attack he said works against many Exchange servers operated by smaller businesses. Android and iOS devices that connect to servers secured with a self-signed secure sockets layer certificate will connect to servers even when those certificates have been falsified.

“The primary weakness is in the way that the client devices handle encryption and do certificate handling, so it’s a weakness in SSL handling routines of the client devices,” Hannay told Ars ahead of his presentation on Thursday. “These clients should be saying that the SSL certificate really doesn’t match, none of the details are correct. I won’t connect to it.”

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Microsoft halts further development on free-to-play Flight

The first free-to-play entry in Microsoft’s venerable Flight Simulator franchise is reaching an ignominious end just a few months after its initial release. Microsoft has announced that it is halting further development on Microsoft Flight and reassigning some staff members at the Vancouver studio that developed it.

Flight, which launched in February, will continue to be available as a free download with a small number of planes and the ability to fly around certain Hawaiian islands. Microsoft will also continue to operate the online store where players can purchase new planes, locales, and gameplay goals as DLC, but no new content will be produced.

The staff reductions in Vancouver also put an end to Project Columbia, a Kinect-based child-focused interactive TV project first announced last year.

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VMware vs. Microsoft: Ars OpenForum debates who’s best at virtualization

One of the tech industry’s fiercest battles has Microsoft playing the underdog against a dominant leader in market share—but the battle we’re thinking of has absolutely nothing to do with smartphones and tablets. If you work in IT, you know we’re talking about VMware’s virtualization software vs. Microsoft’s Hyper-V.

In the Ars OpenForum thread “Your expert opinions wanted on VMware vs. Hyper-V,” we asked IT pros for an on-the-ground look at just how VMware and Microsoft software stack up against each other. We’re going to detail what you told us—but first, some background.

VMware has long dominated the virtualization market with the ESXi hypervisor and vSphere management software, but its leadership is in jeopardy. Microsoft’s Hyper-V, an included feature of Windows Server, has become a strong alternative with the addition of advanced features in the upcoming Windows Server 2012 (like live migration of VMs from one server to another) that used to be available from VMware only. And the market is moving far beyond just virtualization of servers to how entire data centers are managed, how applications are deployed, and how internal resources are integrated with public cloud services. The shift from virtualization as a means of improving server efficiency to large-scale automation of all data center tasks provides a window of opportunity for Microsoft.

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Patent troll takes last shot at owning "interactive web," but falls short

A patent-trolling firm called Eolas, working together with the University of California, took a notorious patent to trial in East Texas earlier this year, trying to win close to $1 billion from Internet companies including Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and others. The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, actually flew down to East Texas to testify for the defense, which ultimately beat Eolas.

Now Eolas has taken a final, post-trial longshot, but missed its target again.

Judge Leonard Davis, who oversaw the case, issued an order (PDF) today that puts a final stop on attempts by Eolas and its owner, Michael Doyle, to claim it owns technology that’s critical to running any “interactive” site on the web. That means Eolas can’t use its 5,838,906 patent, or a successor patent, No. 7,599,985, to sue anyone, unless it manages to overturn this verdict on appeal.

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