Tag Archives | Microsoft

Skype Demos Real Time Conversation Translation

Multiskype tools iconThe new guy running Microsoft just might make the software giant cool again. Ripped straight from the pages of science fiction, imagine having a Skype conversation with real time translation into the language of your foreign interlocutor. Or how about Microsoft launches a Google Glass-like product with this translation tool built in for face to face conversations? Yet again, Star Trek technology is becoming a reality (think of the Universal Translator). The Verge discusses CEO Satya Nadella’s announcement:

Microsoft’s Skype will eventually be able to translate voice calls between people. In an on-stage demo at the Code conference today, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella showed off Skype Translator, an upcoming version of the service that is capable of translating voice conversation in “near real-time” using technology developed by the company’s Skype and Translator teams. With it, you can talk in your native language to another user who speaks a different language, and Microsoft will translate it to the other person.

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The Richest Man in the World Explains How to Save the Planet

BillGates2012Bill Gates really wants to do good things, but there are plenty of people who think he has a hidden and possibly nefarious agenda. He opens up for Rolling Stone, in this segment speaking about income inequality:

RS: Let’s talk about income inequality, which economist Paul Krugman and others have written a lot about. As a person who’s at the very top of the one percent, do you see this as one of the great issues of our time?

BG: Well, now you’re getting into sort of complicated issues. In general, on taxation-type things, you’d think of me as a Democrat. That is, when tax rates are below, say, 50 percent, I believe there often is room for additional taxation. And I’ve been very upfront on the need to increase estate taxes. Particularly given the medical obligations that the state is taking on and the costs that those have over time.

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NSA, CIA, And FBI Swap Classified Data With Media And Tech Corporations

classifiedCould Microsoft, Google, et al. be considered bureaus of the national security apparatus? Bloomberg reports that the providing of sensitive information is a two-way street:

Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said.

These programs, whose participants are known as trusted partners, extend far beyond what was revealed by Edward Snowden, a computer technician who did work for the National Security Agency.

Michael Hayden, who formerly directed the National Security Agency and the CIA, described the attention paid to important company partners: “If I were the director and had a relationship with a company who was doing things that were not just directed by law but were also valuable to the defense of the Republic, I would go out of my way to thank them and give them a sense as to why this is necessary and useful.”

Intel Corp’s McAfee unit, which makes Internet security software, regularly cooperates with the NSA, FBI and the CIA, for example, and is a valuable partner because of its broad view of malicious Internet traffic, including espionage operations by foreign powers, according to one of the four people, who is familiar with the arrangement.

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Microsoft Hates Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter 2007 (Cut image)Well we've all hit that send button too soon, haven't we? One wonders if the Microsoft employee who denigrated Ann Coulter via Twitter will be heralded or fired by his employer though. Via Politico:
Microsoft accidentally stepped into ugly partisan politics over the weekend — on Twitter. The company’s official Twitter feed sent a public response to liberal economist Robert Reich, who tweeted he was in New York to visit his 4-year-old granddaughter and sit on a panel with Ann Coulter. “@RBReich your granddaughter’s level of discourse and policy > those of Ann Coulter,” the company tweeted Saturday on its official Twitter account. The tweet was later deleted. Reich tweeted earlier on Saturday: “To NY to visit my 4-yr-old granddaughter. Also on ABC’s ”This Week” panel w/ Ann Couter, among others. I’d rather be w/ my granddaughter.”...
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Microsoft’s Own Holodeck

Picure: US Patent Office (PD)

Via Ars Technica

A newly published patent from software giant Microsoft indicates that the company is looking at developing a new, immersive video game environment. The concept sounds similar to the holodeck of Star Trek fame. Here’s hoping that the “blue screen of death” won’t become literal anytime soon:

Microsoft’s patent for an “immersive display experience” was published by the US Patent Office last week after being filed back in early 2011. It describes a standard video game system with a connected “environmental display” capable of projecting a panoramic image that “appears to surround the user.”

Such a projector wouldn’t replace the central TV display used in current consoles, but it would provide a “peripheral image” that would “serve as an extension” of that primary display. The purpose, of course, is to extend the gaming environment outside of the TV screen, so a player could, for instance, “turn around and observe an enemy sneaking up from behind.”

Wrap yourself in a snuggly digital cocoon and keep reading here.… Read the rest

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How Microsoft and Yahoo Are Selling Politicians Access to You

Writes Lois Beckett on ProPublica:

Microsoft and Yahoo are selling political campaigns the ability to target voters online with tailored ads using names, Zip codes and other registration information that users provide when they sign up for free email and other services.

The Web giants provide users no notification that their information is being used for political targeting.

In one sense, campaigns are doing a more sophisticated version of what they’ve always done through the post office 2014 sending political fliers to selected households. But the Internet allows for more subtle targeting. It relies not on email but on advertisements that surfers may not realize have been customized for them.

Campaigns use voters records to assemble lists of people they’re trying to reach 2014 for instance, “registered Republicans that have made a donation,” Yahoo’s director of sales Andy Cotten told ProPublica. Microsoft and Yahoo help campaigns find these people online and then send them tailored ads.… Read the rest

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Microsoft Employs Many BitTorrent Pirates While Funding Anti-BitTorrent Startups

MicrosoftWrites Ernesto on TorrentFreak:
In recent weeks the anti-piracy antics of Microsoft have made the news on a few occasions. From censoring The Pirate Bay to funding BitTorrent poisoning startups, the software giant is determined to attack piracy head-on. But perhaps the company should make a start by educating its own employees first. In Microsoft’s offices around the world many company employees are using BitTorrent to download and share pirated movies. YouHaveDownloaded is a treasure trove of incriminating data on alleged BitTorrent pirates all across the world. The site, launched late last year, exposes what people behind an IP-address have downloaded using BitTorrent. This data was gathered from public BitTorrent trackers, and the founders released it to show how much information can be found on BitTorrent users who don’t hide their IP-address...
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Microsoft Shows What The Future Will Look Like

Microsoft has released this "positive" (hear the cheery music?) thought-exercise short film titled "Productivity Future Video" which shows "how future technology will help people make better use of their time, focus their attention, and strengthen relationships while getting things done at work, home, and on the go." It's an affluent, depressing world in which every surface has been turned into a screen with notifications telling you what do or think, interpersonal relations have completely atrophied, and emotions and sensation are muted as one is shuttled between airports, hotels, and other highly-planned spaces. Just wait until everything around you, the walls and the floor the table, is a Microsoft product with malfunctioning software.
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Cloud-Based Data Outside the U.S. Not Exempt From PATRIOT Act Spying

Bald EagleStephen C. Webster writes on The Raw Story:
In the brave new world of cloud computing, where data is stored off-site in massive server farms instead of on a user's local hard drive, privacy and security are paramount in the consumer's mind. Unfortunately for privacy advocates, their concerns are essentially moot thanks to the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which a key Microsoft official said recently permits the U.S. to spy on data stored within cloud servers across the European Union. The revelation of transcontinental spying, which has long been suspected, came from Gordon Frazer, Microsoft U.K.'s managing director, speaking at an announcement event for the company's new suite of office software. Frazer's admission was caught by ZDNet reporter Zack Whittaker, who's long covered data security issues as they relate to the Patriot Act.
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Why Do Gadget Makers Wield A ‘Kill Switch’?

Photo: Stahlkocher (CC)

Photo: Stahlkocher (CC)

Mark Milian writes on CNN:

When you buy a video game from Best Buy, you don’t give the retailer the right to barge into your house whenever it wants. So why do we give that permission to software companies?

Most popular smartphone operating systems and other electronic gadgets include what security researchers refer to as a kill switch.

This capability enables the company that makes the operating software to send a command over the Web or wireless networks that alters or removes certain applications from devices.

Apple, Google and Microsoft include this function in their platforms, along with a few lines in their usage agreements describing the policy. Google and Apple executives say this feature is important in order to protect against malicious software.

“Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs told The Wall Street Journal in 2008.

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