As Xbox Live-FIFA 12 fraud continues, Microsoft’s response becomes maddening

Gamers have been suffering from hacked Xbox Live accounts with lost points and activity focused around EA’s series of FIFA games for months now, but the issue has only recently gathered attention from the press. Since we ran our story, the number of comments we’ve received from people who have suffered from hacked accounts has multiplied, but the underlying story is always the same: someone gains unauthorized access to an Xbox Live account, Microsoft points are used or bought to purchase in-game items for a FIFA title, and it ends with MIcrosoft shutting down the account for up to 25 days to investigate the attack.

Stories of hacked accounts are flooding the Internet, but both EA and Microsoft are denying that there is a problem with security.

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Feature: Real competition from Redmond: Windows Phone 7 "Mango" reviewed

When we reviewed Windows Phone a year ago, we liked a lot of what we saw, but recognized that it had more than a few gaps and rough edges. While the platform has attracted developers and applications, with more than 30,000 titles in the app store, success with consumers has been harder to come by. Though there are signs that the platform is at least appearing on buyers’ radars, actual sales remain low.

Windows Phone 7.0 was not a perfect release. Desirable features—chief among them copy-and-paste and multitasking—were missing. It had an SDK and a development environment that were easy to use but narrow in scope; applications couldn’t access the camera and were limited in the network connections they could make, for example. The release of the first upgrade, which added copy-and-paste, was anything but smooth, with delays, incompatibilities, and even the occasional bricked phone. Living with Windows Phone in the first year of its release meant living with some compromises.

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20 Years Of Microsoft Research


This month marks the 20th anniversary of Microsoft Research, perhaps the most consistently interesting division of the hulking software company. Take a few minutes to peruse the timeline of their work, which ranges from consumer-facing work like Cleartype and spam recognition to the obscure, academic, and quixotic. The names behind the ideas are unlikely to be recognized, but they include geniuses, visionaries, knights, and humanitarians. Billions of dollars per year being expended towards furthering the reach and worth of technology constitutes an important but largely thankless endeavor.

Sure, products like Office, Exchange, and other enterprise stuff make up the majority of Microsoft’s income, but I don’t think Microsoft was founded to be a office-tools company. The vision of Microsoft was putting a computer in every home and making that computer as versatile and powerful as possible. Microsoft Research is perhaps more in line with that philosophy than its parent company has been in years.

If I had to pick a place to work at Microsoft, Research would be it without a doubt. Unfortunately, I’m not an accomplished computer scientist or engineer, so I have to be content with occasionally reporting mind-blowing creations like using a Kinect to map a room in 3D in real time. Things like that make me actually excited about what they’re doing. So many companies featured on this site have their sights set on such miniscule problems, such niche applications, that I can’t bring myself to feel anything at all about them, however much funding they score. If Instagram had a billion dollars a year to spend on R&D, what would they spend it on? More filters?

Watching for interesting projects is especially easy with both MSR and Google, because both companies want this stuff out there. And with the Motorola purchase, I think Google might just be getting started with the tinkering. There is probably quite a lot of interesting research being done at Apple as well, but their secretive nature over there doesn’t permit snooping. That’s why I like Microsoft Research. Their semi-academic model for collaborating and sharing means the papers and demonstration videos are often right there for you to browse. Sure, for budding products like Kinect they have to keep the lid on tight, but for more esoteric projects it’s all in the open.

Rob Knies describes here MSR Director Peter Lee’s optimism at the next few years for the division, and looks back at the last 20 years of discoveries and investigations. Research has grown to encompass more than 850 researchers at 12 facilities around the globe. Microsoft spends $9 billion per year on research and while they may have some trouble turning them into products, MSR is still an idea factory well worth the money.

Making the lives of IT easier: Windows 8 Refresh, Reset, and Windows To Go

Though aimed primarily at software developers, last week’s BUILD conference introduced a few new Windows 8 features that will make the lives of enterprise IT departments easier. Windows 8 Refresh and Reset will both make it easier to clean malfunctioning systems and restore them to a working state, and Windows To Go offers new deployment features using Windows installations that run directly from USB.

Refresh and Reset both revert Windows back to its system defaults. The difference between the two is the extent to which the system gets reset. “Refresh” preserves user settings, user data, and applications bought through the Windows store. Everything else is removed and restored to defaults. The process is quick, taking just a few minutes to complete.

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Microsoft Charm


Chew on this: two days after unveiling the developer preview of the next generation of its Windows operating system (“Hands On With Windows 8″), Microsoft filed a U.S. federal trademark registration for the word ‘CHARM’.

The description provided to the USPTO for CHARM is “computer programs; graphical user interface software; operating system programs”.

They’ve left cybersquatters the opportunity to grab and, though, so the trademark filing doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Interesting, nevertheless, particularly given the timing.

If anyone knows what’s something cooking in Redmond, feel free to let us in on it.

You’d be making me and this charming young lady very happy.

Update: My bad. Some people kindly pointed out to me that ‘charms’ are commands (search, share, devices, settings and a button to return to Start) that come up when you swipe right in Windows 8.

Launch Date:
April 4, 1974


Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is a veteran software company, best known for its Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software.

Starting in 1980 Microsoft formed a partnership with IBM allowing Microsoft to sell its software package with the computers IBM manufactured.

Microsoft is widely used by professionals worldwide and largely dominates the American corporate market.

Additionally, the company has ventured into hardware with consumer products such as the Zune and…

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Microsoft Office likely to get the Metro treatment

This week, Windows president Steven Sinofsky reiterated what we already knew: Windows 8 PCs and tablets running on ARM chips won’t be able to load applications originally built for Intel-based computers. While this is no surprise, Microsoft did also say that applications using the Windows 8 Metro interface will be easily ported to ARM platforms and that Microsoft Office will likely be given the Metro treatment.

In a call with financial analysts Wednesday, Sinofsky was asked if Microsoft will use an emulator or application virtualization to bring current applications to Windows 8 on ARM chips.

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Liveblog: Microsoft previews Windows Server 8 at BUILD

It’s a busy week for Microsoft. After a two-plus hour keynote on the future of Windows 8 desktops and tablets on Tuesday, the BUILD conference will continue Wednesday with what we expect to be a look at Windows Server 8 and tools for developers.

We learned a little bit about Windows Server 8 in July at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, where Microsoft talked about a new Hyper-V Replica feature that allows virtual machines to be asynchronously replicated off-site, to provide much greater resilience to system failures.

You can check out the keynote at the BUILD conference site, and Ars will liveblog during the event, which begins at 9am Pacific time Wednesday, Sept. 14. Check back here at that time to follow our liveblog!

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Windows 8 Has A Friendlier Blue Screen Of Death


While Windows 8 was widely expected to have a black screen of death, the developer build released yesterday has revealed that Redmond has opted to stick with the historic blue. It does, however, come with a peculiar twist. Rather than inundate people (who hopefully remembered to save their work) with a breakdown of why their computer stopped working, it seems Microsoft has chosen to take things in a more compassionate direction.

Unlike the classic, wordy blue screen of yore, the latest version instead makes a sad face at the user. In addition to flashing that large frown, the new BSoD also provides some key search terms just in case the user feel likes digging into what just happened. Users are given a few seconds to write it down or commit it to memory before before the PC automatically restarts, and voila: it’s back to business.

It’s a step in the right direction, as the classic blue screen was nigh unintelligible to most users. This latest version manages to make the process a little less headache-inducing, but I (perhaps naively) long for the day when Microsoft can tell me in plain English why my computer just failed.