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Microsoft Garage slogan is "Do epic s#!t!"

Microsoft isn't exactly known for its underground hacker culture, but a recent effort to give its employees more slack is generating some wild experiments.

In 2009, Microsoft  came up with a concept called "The Garage." It's essentially Microsoft's answer to Google's famous "20% time" -- the longstanding Google initiative that lets its employees work on projects unrelated to their primary jobs in their spare time.

Microsoft's Garage does that too, only in a physical space. Last summer, Microsoft completed a redesign of one of its original buildings on campus -- Building 4, where Bill Gates' office used to be -- into a laid-back workshop where staff can tinker with things. It's open to anyone, anytime, and it's got everything from a hardware workshop to an actual working garage door.

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Twitter gets a performance upgrade

twitter Twitter has done a bit of work to improve the overall performance of their site. So you shouldn't see much more of their "fail whale".

Their upgrade moves rendering back to the Twitter servers which has allowed them to drop page load times to 1/5th of what they previously were.

The Twitter blog goes into further technical details on how they intend to speed up performance on the site. They also describe how they will remove the "hashbang" (#!) from twitter.com URLs.

While these improves are being rolled out there has been no word of when they will be fully implemented.

Source: Twitter.com Blog

Microsoft buys Netscape in $1 Million deal

microsoftHere's a deal that would have made many minds explode back in the 1990s: Microsoft is buying Netscape. Or at least, most of the important parts of the company that used to be synonymous with "Internet".

That's a side component of the $1 billion patent sale that AOL and Microsoft announced this morning. As part of the transaction, AOL announced that it was selling off "stock of an AOL subsidiary" at a loss, in a move that's supposed to reduce its overall tax bill.

AOL didn't disclose the name of that subsidiary in its press release, but a person familiar with the transaction has clued me in: It's Netscape.

Microsoft will buy the underlying patents for the old browser, but AOL will hang onto the brand, and the related Netscape businesses, which make up a grab-bag of stuff these days: An ISP, a URL, a brand name, etc.

All of which probably makes sense on someone's ledger books. But the transaction may still make a few heads spin, at least for people who remember Internet history and/or have access to Wikipedia.

Source: AllThingsD

HijackThis is now open-source software

Trend Micro Incorporated, a global cloud security leader, today announced the release of HijackThis as an open source application.

HijackThis - (see this Wikipedia article) - scans your computer to find settings changed by spyware, malware or other unwanted programs. HijackThis also generates an in-depth report to enable expert users to analyze and fix an infected computer. Several security communities use HijackThis log files to help users evaluate and eradicate infections. A common practice for novice users is to generate a HijackThis log file and submit it to one of the many forums devoted to HijackThis on the web. Experts at these forums provide information on which items are causing your problems and how to remove them safely from your computer.

The code, originally written in Visual Basic, is now officially available at http://sourceforge.net/projects/hjt/.

"This means that other people can build on a solid base to create or improve their own anti-malware tools," said Merijn Bellekom, the original creator of HijackThis.

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A look back at Microsoft's 2011 security landscape

microsoftDecrease in Critical Issues and Bulletins

As far as individual issues, Critical-class CVEs accounted for less than a third of the issues we addressed in bulletin releases for the first time since we began our monthly bulletin-release cadence in 2004. And in absolute numbers, Critical-class CVEs are at their lowest levels since 2005. The fact that we're seeing lower percentages of Critical issues and bulletins year-over-year demonstrates progress made by the product groups in creating more secure software.

With this regularly scheduled monthly release, our bulletin count for 2011 is 99, with 13 released today. Of those, we determined 10 to be Important-class bulletins, with only three classified as Critical in severity. In 2011, Critical-class bulletins represented just 32 percent of all bulletins – the lowest percentage since we began our monthly bulletin-release cadence in 2004 and, again, the lowest absolute number since 2005. Interestingly, for the second half of the year the numbers are even lower, with under 20 percent of bulletins released in the last six months rated Critical in severity.

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Amazon.com Invests in Foxit

FREMONT, CA - DECEMBER 6, 2011 - Foxit Corporation, a leading provider of solutions for reading, editing, creating, organizing, and securing PDF documents, today announced Amazon.com, Inc. has made an investment in the company, and will be working with Amazon to support PDF reading in Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps. Terms of the investment were not disclosed.

"Kindle has long supported PDF as a document format that is independent of application software, hardware, or operating systems." said Jeff Blackburn, senior vice president, business development, Amazon.com. "Foxit has an industry-leading PDF technology that we think will make the customer experience for PDF's on Kindle even better - we’re excited to back such a great team."

"We are honored to be working with Amazon to provide high-quality rendering of PDFs for Kindle," said Eugene Y. Xiong, CEO for Foxit Corporation. "With over 100 million users, Foxit PDF software continues to find increasing adoption among the Fortune 500 for its breadth of PDF features, blazing speed, affordability, security, and high quality."

Foxit's PDF solution provides the platform independence, lightweight footprint, performance, and display quality to provide a superior user experience across multiple platforms with no loss of quality or consistency.

...the rest of the story

 

Download.com serving up malware

Download.com a.k.a. C|Net download.com is no longer a safe location to download programs, because it now wraps the software in a Trojan Installer, detected as malware by major Anti-Virus programs.

This story was first reported back in August on the ExtremeTech site, when VLC was "trojanised" by Download.com. See "Download.com wraps downloads in bloatware, lies about motivations"

Now it has re-emerged, because another well-known program used by Computer Security testers (nmap) has also been "trojanised" by Download.com:

I've just discovered that C|Net's Download.Com site has started wrapping their Nmap downloads (as well as other free software like VLC) in a trojan installer which does things like installing a sketchy "StartNow" toolbar, changing the user's default search engine to Microsoft Bing, and changing their home page to Microsoft's MSN.

The installer is actually detected as malware:

In fact, if we UPX-unpack the Trojan CNet executable and send it to VirusTotal.com, it is detected as malware by Panda, McAfee, F-Secure, etc: http://bit.ly/cnet-nmap-vt

That bit.ly link will redirect you to virustotal.com for the test results.


Looks like download.com is no longer a safe place to go, for any downloads.

Steve Jobs dies at age 56

Earlier today, Apple's very own Steve Jobs passed away at the age of 56 due to a rare form of pancreatic cancer. His death happens just a day after Apple announced the iPhone 4S.

"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being", the company said. "Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple".

According to the LA Times, Jobs was diagnosed in 2003 with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer, which produces islet cell or neuroendocrine tumors. This form is usually less aggressive than pancreatic exocrine cancer and patients can live longer, with the average survival rate more than three years. Some people with the neuroendocrine form can live as long as 20 years. He had a liver transplant in 2009 and took an extended medical leave from Apple last January. Several forms of treatment are available.

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