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Microsoft reissues Windows 8.1 Update 1 via WSUS

Microsoft reissues Windows 8.1 Update 1 via WSUS

Microsoft has resolved the issue with rolling Windows 8.1 Update 1 out via WSUS and appeased customers with a new 120-day grace period, but home users are still facing the 13th of May deadline.


Microsoft has reissued its Windows 8.1 Update 1 patch for Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) users, having resolved a flaw that would prevent client systems from installing future updates.

A mandatory install for all Windows 8.1 users – those without Update 1 will be blocked from downloading security and bug-fix updates starting with next month’s Patch Tuesday on the 13th of May – the update has been the source of more than a little heartache for Microsoft’s customers. As well as the flaw that saw it pulled from WSUS shortly after release, users have reported numerous issues installing the patch and further flaws once the software is installed.

The cause of the WSUS flaw has been isolated, at least, and Microsoft has officially rereleased the update for corporate customers. ‘This means that you can now easily deploy these updates to the computers or servers you manage,‘ explained Microsoft’s Brendan LeBlanc in the company’s announcement. ‘For computers and servers that have already installed these updates, note that Windows Update will re-offer them but it will only install the portion of the update that addresses the fix. Other portions of the update which users have already downloaded and installed will not be downloaded or installed a second time.

Having perhaps recognised that the rollout of the first major update to Windows 8.1, and a mandatory one at that, hasn’t gone smoothly, LeBlanc also announced a new grace period to win over corporate customers. ‘We’ve decided to extend the timeframe for enterprise customers to deploy these new product updates from 30 to 120 days,‘ LeBlanc explained. ‘In order to receive future updates, all customers managing updates using WSUS, Windows Intune, or System Center Configuration Manager have until August 12th to apply the new updates. For those that decide to defer installation, separate security updates will be published during the 120-day window.

For home users, however, the extended deadline does not apply: anyone outside a WSUS-controlled corporate network who has not installed Windows 8.1 Update 1 by the 13th of May will not be able to download updates until Update 1 is installed.

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Amazon says no to Bitcoin

Amazon says no to Bitcoin

Amazon’s head of payments Tom Taylor has said that the company has no plans to add support for Bitcoins to its webshop, despite rivals doing exactly that.


Amazon has indicated that it’s not going to join in the cryptocurrency revolution by adding support for Bitcoin to its payment system, even as increasing numbers of its competitors do exactly that.

Bitcoin, created by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, is a distributed, decentralised cryptocurrency based on proof-of-work principles: set your computer generating SHA256 hashes for transaction validation and you’ll get rewarded with Bitcoins of your very own, generated at an ever-decreasing rate by the algorithm itself. The cryptocurrency is free from governmental control, anonymous yet entirely traceable – until you attempt to convert Bitcoins into fiat currency or vice-versa, of course – and runs on a decentralised system of volunteer computers.

It sounds remarkable, but Bitcoin’s meteoric rise from being worth fractions of a penny to a high of more than $1,000 per coin has been fraught with difficulties. Amateur coding errors in major Bitcoin exchanges like MT Gox – originally set up to be a trading site for Magic: The Gathering cards, hence the name – has led to the loss of millions of dollars in Bitcoins and a significant drop in their value on the open market. For every country like the US which is making its laws more Bitcoin-friendly, there are countries like China which have banned the use of the cryptocurrency outright.

In the UK and US, increasing numbers of retailers are accepting payment in Bitcoin – largely out of a hope that it will continue its rise in value, recover from the recent slump and make yesterday’s £50 payment double in value or more. Amazon, however, has said it won’t be joining the revolution. ‘Obviously, it [Bitcoin] gets a lot of press and we have considered it,‘ Tom Taylor, head of Amazon’s payments arm, told Re/code in a recent interview, ‘but we’re not hearing from customers that it’s right for them and don’t have any plans within Amazon to engage Bitcoin.

At the time of writing, a single Bitcoin was valued at just shy of £300 – a significant dip from its high of more than £600 before the recent crash.

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Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth announced

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth announced

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is receiving a spiritual successor in the form of sci-fi-themed Civilization: Beyond Earth, launching this year on Windows, OS X and Linux.


A spiritual successor to Sid Meier’s intergalactic classic Alpha Centauri has been officially announced, and it brings the promise of treats for PC gamers including support for AMD’s low-level Mantle application programming interface (API) and cross-platform gaming on Windows, OS X and Linux – the latter to include Valve’s SteamOS.

Released in 1999, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri was a spin-off from the Civilization franchise, acting as a follow-on of sorts for anyone who had completed a space victory in the game. The player was given the task of colonising Chiron in the eponymous star system, and later the option of playing as one of two non-human races – previously limited to non-playable characters in the game.

The game was critically acclaimed, but a poor seller; following its release, the Civilization franchise would again return to historical rather than futuristic settings and never again venture beyond our solar system – until now. Firaxis has announced Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, the first space-based title to carry the official Civ branding – and a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri.

Announced at PAX East this weekend, the game promises to revamp the Civilization experience with a new web-like technology tree, a more open-ended progression system no longer tied to real-world history, and many of the developers who worked on the original Alpha Centauri. For PC gamers, the news gets better still with Firaxis announcing that the game will launch later this year on Windows, OS X and Linux platforms – the latter to include support for Valve’s SteamOS Linux distribution. The company has also promised support for AMD’s Mantle API at launch, giving hope that the game’s performance will be acceptable even on lower-end hardware.

If all that has whetted your appetite the company has offered a teaser trailer for the title, reproduced below.

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Windows 8.1 Update 1 installation problems continue

Windows 8.1 Update 1 installation problems continue

Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 Update 1, a mandatory patch for future security updates, is proving a pain for some users who are unable to install it on their systems despite recent patches.


Microsoft is continuing to address problems with Windows 8.1 Update 1, its first major update to the operating system formerly known as Windows Blue and a mandatory install for anyone who wants to continue to receive security updates in the future.

Released earlier this month, Windows 8.1 Update 1 introduces a number of tweaks and improvements to Microsoft’s flagship OS including user experience enhancements for those who eschew touch-screen interfaces in favour of the traditional keyboard and mouse. While the biggest of these improvements, the reintroduction of the Start Menu which was removed in Windows 7 after its introduction way back in Windows NT 4.0, has been held back for a future release the mandatory nature of Windows 8.1 Update 1 makes it quite literally a must-install for Windows 8.1 users.

Sadly, all is not well with the update. Last week Microsoft was forced to pull the update from WSUS following reports that it would prevent the installation of future updates for corporate users. Now, the company is working to patch additional issues with the update – some of which prevent its installation altogether.

One bug, which presents the error code 0x800f081f during installation, has already seen a patch released on Windows Update; a second patch has been provided for users who are finding that installing Windows 8.1 Update 1 prevents Internet Information Services (IIS), Microsoft’s web server package, from being uninstalled at any time.

Despite these patches, problems with the update still remain. Many users are taking to the Microsoft support forums to claim that, despite the updated patch being released to Windows Update, Windows 8.1 Update 1 still fails to install. A work-around suggested in the forums has been noted by some to improve matters, removing a damaged version of the package so a fresh copy can be downloaded, but others report that the process makes no difference to their systems.

With Microsoft planning on enforcing installation of Windows 8.1 Update 1 by refusing security updates to anyone still on plain old Windows 8.1 starting on the next Patch Tuesday in May, the race is on for the company to fix the flaws and get the update rolled out to all its customers.

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Web hit by OpenSSL ‘Heartbleed’ vulnerability

Web hit by OpenSSL 'Heartbleed' vulnerability

Versions of cryptographic library OpenSSL since 2012 are vulnerable to the ‘Heartbleed Bug,’ which allows an attacker to silently steal the contents of system memory.


Security researchers have released details of a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic library which exposes encrypted internet services to information disclosure attacks.

Continuing a terrible year for information security, what with the verification flaw in GnuTLS and Apple’s infamous goto fail bug, the OpenSSL project has confirmed that versions of its software since 2011 have held a serious vulnerability which has been dubbed the ‘Heartbleed Bug,’ and which can be used to read a system’s memory remotely – gathering secret keys which can then be used to decrypt previously-transmitted information.

It’s a serious flaw; OpenSSL is the standard library for driving SSL and TLS encryption in a variety of software packages and information appliances; Apache and nginx, two of the most popular server packages around accounting for an estimated 66 per cent of all web servers, use OpenSSL; the library is also commonly used in other encrypted systems such as virtual private network (VPN) appliances, point-of-sale (PoS) systems and messaging servers.

The Heartbleed Bug works by exploiting the heartbeat extension of the Transport Security Layer (TLS) protocol; attackers are able to read unlimited system memory in 64KB chunks, with exploitation leaving no trace on the system. These memory chunks can be reassembled and analysed to gather usernames, passwords, encryption keys, and other privileged information which should not be exposed to the public.

The OpenSSL project has confirmed that the code responsible for the flaw has been present in its software since 2011 and available to the public since the release of OpenSSL 1.0.1 in March 2012. Since then, the 1.0.1 branch has become widespread, shipping by default with numerous operating systems including Ubuntu Linux and OpenBSD. While the project has released a fixed version, OpenSSL 1.0.1g, this will take time to distribute – leaving servers with less proactive admins vulnerable to attack.

Ironically, those who have not upgraded in a while may be protected against the flaw: the older OpenSSL 1.0.0 and 0.9.8 branches are unaffected, having been frozen before the bug was introduced.

More details of the flaw are available at Heartbleed.com.

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Games Workshop’s Mordheim getting the digital treatment

Games Workshop’s Mordheim getting the digital treatment

Playable races include all of the basic races featured in the original Mordheim.


Games Workshop’s cult classic specialist game Mordheim is getting its own digital version with Mordheim: City of the Damned.

The game will be a turn-based strategy game where players lead small bands of warriors into skirmishes in a blend of RPG and tactical combat gameplay.

The miniatures-based war game Mordheim is based on Games Workshop’s highly successful Warhammer franchise. Instead of fielding large armies, players would build small gangs that would then level up and grow depending on their performance in battle.

Mordheim: City of the Damned sounds to be faithful to the game’s setting with warbands squabbling over Wyrdstone fragments in the ruins of the ruined city in the same way as the tabletop game.

The digital version will include playable gangs from the Skaven, the Empire, the Possessed and the Sisters of Sigmar with more factions to follow.

The game is being published by Focus Home Interactive, the independent French studio that was also behind the digital rendition of Games Workshop’s fantasy football game Blood Bowl. The company also has Cities XL, TrackMania and Farming Simulator in its portfolio.

Mordheim: City of the Damned is scheduled for a late 2014 release.

Several games in Games Workshop’s back-catalogue have made the transition to video games in recent years. Space Hulk, Warhammer Quest, Talisman and the aforementioned Blood Bowl have all seen a digital release on various platforms.

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Eich pledges to support Mozilla’s inclusiveness

Eich pledges to support Mozilla's inclusiveness

Newly-appointed CEO Brendan Eich has claimed he will fully support Mozilla’s policies on inclusion, despite his personal support for a bill proposing to ban gay marriage.


Newly-appointed chief executive of the Mozilla Foundation Brendan Eich has responded to criticisms of a donation he made in support of the banning of gay marriage, promising to uphold Mozilla’s inclusiveness.

The appointment of co-founder Eich to the role of CEO caused a stir when his support for Proposition 8, a law which would ban gay marriage, was made public thanks to a $1,000 donation to lobbying efforts. Mobile developer Rarebit, founded by a married gay couple, was the first out of the gate with a statement that they would cease plans to port their products to Mozilla’s Firefox OS and remove already-ported software from the platform as long as Eich remained in charge.

Although Mozilla issued a blanket statement supporting diversity, it made no direct comment on Eich and his personal beliefs. Late last night, however, Eich broke his silence and spoke on the matter – even though the issue of the donation itself was not a topic up for discussion.

I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] individuals at Mozilla,‘ Eich wrote on his personal blog. ‘I hope to lay those concerns to rest, first by making a set of commitments to you. More important, I want to lay them to rest by actions and results.

Eich’s commitments include the promise of full equality in employment, Mozilla-run events and within the Mozilla community, continued work with LGBT communities, no changes to the community participation guidelines or the inclusive health benefits offered by the organisation, and a personal claim that Eich himself will ‘work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalised in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult.

‘I know some will be sceptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything,’ Eich admitted. ‘I can only ask for your support to have the time to “show, not tell”; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain. I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion. You will see exemplary behaviour from me toward everyone in our community, no matter who they are; and the same toward all those whom we hope will join, and for those who use our products.

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World’s largest TV, ‘Big Hoss,’ is as long as a jet

Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage looks on during a February tour of the giant TV’s construction.


(Credit:
Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and now they have the TV to prove it.

The “Big Hoss” TV was turned on for the first time in front of a live audience Wednesday night at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The screen, built by Panasonic, measures 218 feet wide by 94.6 feet tall. That means it’s longer than Boeing’s biggest 767 (the 400ER), and taller than a seven-story building. To put it in home electronics terms, it’s a 2,852-inch TV. The display features 20,633.64 square feet of HD LED lights that broadcast 4.8 million pixels and 281 trillion colors.

The TV has a 140-degree viewing angle so it can be seen by people in a large swath of seats at the Speedway, and it takes a crew of five people to operate it from within the attached control room. The screen is also allegedly able to handle wind speeds of up to 120 mph, as well as impacts from projectiles like hail, something that was confirmed by workers hitting golf balls at the LEDs, according to ESPN.

So what was all that tech used to show on its big night? An episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new “Cosmos” series, perhaps? An edition of the Science Channel’s “How It’s Made” maybe? Nope. This is Nascar country after all, so the first show to air on Big Hoss was an episode of “Duck Dynasty.” In fact, “Duck” Commander CEO Willie Robertson and his wife Korie were on hand for the “big” event.

To cement the screen’s rightful place among its teenier brethren, an adjudicator from the Guinness World Record association will be at the speedway to verify the TV as the world’s largest before the Duck Commander 500 race on Sunday, April 6.

The screen was powered on by Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage, who used a giant remote control prop to get the job done. About the addition of the screen to the speedway, Gossage said, “You are going to see the replays. You are going to see the up-close, tight shots. The fans won’t miss a thing. It is the ultimate fan amenity. To have the biggest one in the world, that’s just one of those ‘Everything is Bigger in Texas’ stories that we are really proud to be a part of.”

Now let’s just hope the drivers can keep their eyes on the road and not watch TV while they’re zipping around the track at over 200 mph.

What would be the first show you’d watch on your very own 2,852-inch TV?

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Prepare Barbie for battle with 3D-printed armor

Designer Jim Rodda wants to make sure Barbie is ready for battle in this 3D printed medieval armor.

Designer Jim Rodda wants to make sure Barbie is ready for battle in this 3D-printed medieval armor.


(Credit:
Jim Rodda)

Barbie can be anything — an astronaut, doctor, Air Force pilot, rock star, police officer, computer engineer — so why not a warrior? That’s exactly what 3D designer Jim Rodda, known as Zheng3 in the hobbyist 3D-printing community, envisioned when he started a Kickstarter campaign to create Barbie-compatible 3D-printed medieval armor.

It started because Rodda’s 4-year-old niece has a birthday coming up and he wanted to design and print a unique gift for her.

“The original plan was to make My Little Pony-compatible glitter cannons, but the engineering turned out to be beyond what I could handle in a reasonable amount of time,” Rodda told Crave. “So I back-burnered that idea, but was still interested in making accessories for toys she already had. I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since forever, so my design thinking often goes towards fantasy medieval themes. From there it’s a short mental hop to armor for Barbie dolls.”

According to the Kickstarter page, the funding covers the biodegradable plastic to print the armor and replacement printer parts, as well as “the time needed to design a highly detailed suit of armor, with all the engraving, ensorcelling, and enameling Barbie’s parade panoply deserves.”
While Rodda isn’t selling the actual Barbie dolls, his armor designs will fit the standard Barbie Fashionistas Barbie Doll.

“The design is a hodgepodge of German and French armor styles from the 13th through 16th centuries, with artistic compromises made for Barbie’s unusual body shape and strange joints,” Rodda said. The armor consists of 30 pieces, including the sword and shield. Many of the pieces articulate with 3D-printed chain links, so in total, about 40 pieces of plastic make up an entire suit.

“This armor’s plain-Jane in design,” Rodda added. “After the Kickstarter is funded I’ll be doing a revision that keeps the same basic form but with lots of engraving and enameling. It’s got to look lovely, or Barbie wouldn’t wear it.”

In addition to the Barbie armor, theres also the Athena Makeover Kit which comes with a spear, shield and winged boots.

In addition to the Barbie armor, there’s also the Athena Makeover Kit which comes with a spear, shield and winged boots.


(Credit:
Jim Rodda)

For those excited about the prospect of Barbie fitted with armor, Rodda also suggests that anyone who already has access to a 3D printer download a copy of his Athena Makeover Kit.

With more and more animated female characters bypassing ballgowns for battle gear, the idea of a armor-clad Barbie doll isn’t so far fetched.

“Kids should play with Barbie in the way that best helps them explore their imaginations,” Rodda said. “For some, that’s going to be putting Barbie in a dress, and for others that means dressing her in plate mail.”

The Kickstarter project, if fully funded, will be distributing the armor under a Creative Commons License, which was important to Rodda.

“Once the Kickstarter is funded I’ll be shipping digital blueprints to all of my backers so that they can print copies at home,” Rodda explained. “There’s little I can do to prevent the files from being shared once I give them to backers, so I feel it’s better to embrace the distribution rather than fight it. As long as people credit me as the original designer, I’m happy. CC licensing is also an implicit stamp of approval telling people, ‘Go ahead, change this. Remix it. Explore your creativity. Share it with the world.’”

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3D-printed corset wraps model in revisionist Eden

3D printed fashion
(Credit:
Lori Grunin/CNET)

Multimaterial is going to be the next big thing in 3D printing, allowing for multiple colours and materials in a single print session. And 3D-printing company Stratasys is right in the vanguard with its Objet500 Connex3, unveiled in January.

The printer has three nozzles, which makes it possible to print in three materials at the same time — or three different colours, cyan, magenta and yellow, for an entire rainbow of colour options.

What could you do with such a printer? Well, the potential options are amazing. But perhaps an artist is the best person to showcase just how beautiful 3D printing can be. Michaella Janse van Vuuren, a South African artist, designer, and engineer, has used the Objet500 Connex3 to create a range of fashion accessories in a collection she calls the Garden of Eden — a subverted version of the biblical myth in which, she says, the woman is free and powerful.

“This is the first time that I’m using a 3D printing technology that truly allows me to make something so close to an end product,” van Vuuren said in a Stratasys statement. “The ability to combine rigid and flexible materials in one piece is something that is so rare, and introducing color into the process inspires us creatives to think in a whole new way.”

3D-printed shoes
(Credit:
Stratasys)

The collection consists of some truly gorgeous pieces: a stained-glass-inspired corset based on the Tree of Knowledge, made of three different rubbery materials in clear, solid black, and pink-hued plastic, fitted using body-scanning technology; several pairs of shoes based on the serpent, with the snake forming the heel from rigid material and a more flexible upper; a serpent belt from multihued rubber material; and fish bracelets made from both rigid and flexible materials.

“Depicting the water features in the Garden of Eden, the Fish in Lilies bracelet explores rigid mechanical solutions to bend the bracelet around the wrist while the Fish in Coral piece experiments with different material properties to create a more rubbery part,” van Vuuren explained.

Van Vuuren has not mentioned whether she will be selling the collection on her Web site, or whether it is an art piece not meant for consumer release, but Garden of Eden is only the beginning — not only for van Vuuren, but for an entire new generation of 3D-printed design.

3D-printed shoes
(Credit:
Lori Grunin/CNET)

“I have only scratched the surface of the possibilities with the Objet500 Connex3 3D Printer,” concluded van Vuuren. “Not only does this technology replace traditional methods of fashion manufacturing, it enables one to manufacture in a completely new way. The ability to include different material properties and beautiful jewel-like colours in a single print run is absolutely ground-breaking. Like paint on a canvas, this 3D printer is a powerful tool for engineering and creative expression — I cannot wait to see the objects that this technology will enable.”

(Source: CNET Australia)

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