Windows 10 Update on Hold Due to ‘Blue Screen of Death’ Issues

Microsoft's big spring update for Windows 10 had been set to start rolling out last week, but the launch was put off after the machines of the developers testing the new version of the operating system encountered the "blue screen of death" (BSOD).

Rather than try to fix the version that caused those problems, Microsoft instead opted to create a new build released yesterday to Windows Insiders in the "fast" ring for testing software updates.

Because of the delay, the final version of the update will likely roll out to general users later than expected, possibly sometime in May. It might also prompt Microsoft to assign a new name to what it had been calling the "Spring Creators Update" or, more recently, the "Windows 10 April 2018 Update."

Insiders' Discovery of 'Blocking Bug'

The build that had been set for general release last week showed some reliability issues that required fixing, Windows Insider program head Dona Sarkar and senior program manager Brandon LeBlanc said in a Microsoft blog post yesterday.

"In certain cases, these reliability issues could have led to a higher percentage of (BSOD) on PCs for example," they said. "Instead of creating a Cumulative Update package to service these issues, we decided to create a new build with the fixes included."

Sarkar and LeBlanc added that the discovery of those problems, widely described as a "blocking bug," underscored the importance of the Windows Insider program.

"This just reinforces that Windows Insiders are critical to helping us find and fix issues before releasing feature updates to all our customers so thank you!" they noted.

Previous updates this month have addressed a number of other Windows 10 problems, including several affecting security in the Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer browsers.

New Security Services for Cloud, Edge Devices

When it does arrive, the next...

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FBI Asked Anew About San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are asking the FBI to explain what they called a "troubling" recent report that appears to show the agency failed to exhaust all technical possibilities before pushing Apple to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

The lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, on Friday sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, citing a report by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General that was published in March.

Statements made by officials involved in the investigation "appear to indicate that the FBI was more interested in forcing Apple to comply than getting into the device," the letter says.

"It was not until the night before the FBI's suit against Apple, which was predicted 'on the notion that technical assistance from Apple was necessary to search the contents of the device,' that the FBI first consulted the third-party vendor that it knew had nearly completed a solution," the lawmakers also said.

In December 2015, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people at Farook's workplace in San Bernardino. After the couple was killed in a shootout with police, Farook's passcode-protected iPhone became the center of an encryption battle between the FBI and Apple, which refused to help unlock the phone -- setting off a heated debate over privacy vs. national security.

In February 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a letter: "The U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone."

Malik was said to have pledged allegiance to ISIS and her husband, a U.S. citizen, was said to have been radicalized. Cook stressed that Apple had "no sympathy for terrorists." But Apple's chief executive characterized...

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How Do Facebook Ads Target You? The Surprising Truth

If you want to tailor a Facebook ad to a single user out of its universe of 2.2 billion, you could. Trying to pitch your boutique bed and breakfast to a 44-year-old "trendy mom" who lives in Seattle, leans conservative and is currently traveling in the Toronto area but hasn't booked a hotel for the night yet? Go right ahead. Interested in mail-ordering pet treats to a 32-year-old cat owner in Madison, Wisconsin who enjoys Japanese food, doesn't like pizza and has an anniversary coming up in the next two months? Not a problem.

Targeting ads, it turns out, is almost infinitely customizable -- sometimes in surprising ways. The ads you might see can be tailored to you down to the most granular details -- not just where you live and what websites you visited recently, but whether you've gotten engaged in the past six months, are interested in organic food or share characteristics with people who have recently bought a BMW, even if you've never expressed interest in doing so yourself.

Facebook made $40 billion in advertising revenue last year, second only to Google when it comes to its share of the global digital advertising market. Even with a recent decision to stop working with outside data brokers to help advertisers target ads based on things like offline purchases or credit history, this number is expected to grow sharply this year.

Here are some ways advertisers can target you through Facebook:

Monitoring Your Facebook Activity

By now you've probably gathered that Facebook uses things like your interest, age and other demographic and geographic information to help advertisers reach you. Then there's the stuff your friends do and like -- the idea being that it's a good indicator for what you might do and like. So, if you have a friend who has liked the...

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Russia Suspected of Targeting Internet Hardware for Espionage

The U.S., Britain and Australia have accused the Russian government of maliciously targeting global internet equipment for political and economic espionage.

The governments said the Russian operations, which allegedly involve planting malware on internet routers and other equipment, could also lay the foundation for future offensive cyberattacks.

A joint statement Monday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the U.K.'s National Cyber Security Centre said the main targets include "government and private-sector organizations," as well as providers of "critical infrastructure" and internet service providers.

"Victims were identified through a coordinated series of actions between U.S. and international partners," according to a companion technical alert issued by the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT). Both nations have "high confidence" in the finding of Russian-sponsored cyber-meddling, which the alert said has been reported by multiple sources since 2015.

Australia also admonished Russia and accused Kremlin-backed hackers of cyberattacks on hundreds of Australian companies last year.

Routers direct data traffic across the internet. US-CERT said the compromised routers can be exploited for "man-in-the-middle" spoofing attacks, in which communications are intercepted by a seemingly trusted device that has actually been infiltrated by an attacker.

"The current state of U.S. network devices -- coupled with a Russian government campaign to exploit these devices -- threatens the safety, security, and economic well-being of the United States," the alert stated. An email message seeking comment from the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., received no response.

US-CERT urged affected companies, and public sector organizations and even people who use routers in home offices to take action to harden poorly-secured devices. But its alert cited only one specific product: Cisco's Smart Install software.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said about 400 Australian companies were targeted in the 2017 Russian attacks, but there was no "exploitation of significance."

"The points which this reinforces for us as...

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Netflix: A Tough Act for Copycats and Pretenders To Follow

Netflix's video-streaming service has been thriving for so long that other companies are striving to duplicate its success in other kinds of digital entertainment and content.

Spotify's music-streaming service has emerged as the most celebrated of the aspiring clones, despite significant challenges that will make it difficult to keep growing at the same pace as Netflix has been in video streaming.

The biggest difference between Netflix and Spotify boils down to their ability to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

Netflix has firmly established its service as a staple in tens of millions of households around the world by pouring billions of dollars into a slate of original programming that can't be watched anywhere else.

Popular shows such as "Stranger Things," ''House of Cards," and "Black Mirror" have enabled Netflix to keep attracting millions more subscribers each year while cultivating enough customer loyalty to be able to gradually raise its prices. That leverage allows Netflix to spend more to acquire the rights to TV series and films while also remaining profitable.

In contrast, Spotify is selling consumers access to an extensive catalog of digital music that is largely the same as the libraries available at the same $10 monthly price on rival music streaming services from Apple, Google and Amazon, three larger companies with far more resources.

Netflix demonstrated how well its formula works again Monday with the release of its first-quarter earnings. The Los Gatos, California, company added another 7.4 million video-streaming subscribers during the first three months of the year, ending March with 125 million throughout the world, including nearly 57 million in the U.S.

The performance exceeded management and analyst projections to the delight of investors. Netflix's stock climbed more than 5 percent to $324.10 in extended trading.

Spotify eventually could build a unique collection of content too, but there is no clear...

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Tesla Temporarily Shuts Down Model 3 Production

Embattled Tesla has temporarily shut down the assembly line for the Model 3, the electric sedan widely seen as critical to the success of the Palo Alto company.

Production of the Model 3 has been plagued by delays, with CEO Elon Musk forced twice to announce the firm would not hit manufacturing targets.

Now, Tesla has shut down the Model 3 assembly line at its Fremont factory.

The pause in production of the car will last four to five days, and came "without warning," employees reportedly told Buzzfeed.

A Tesla spokesperson said Model 3 production included "periods of planned downtime" at the Fremont plant and its Nevada battery factory.

"These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates," the spokesperson said.

"This is not unusual and is in fact common in production ramps like this."

On April 13, Musk had tweeted that "excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake."

Musk added, "Humans are underrated."

The Model 3 starts at $35,000, but only premium-priced versions are currently in production, according to the company. Tesla says nearly a half million pre-orders have been made for the Model 3.

Model 3 production had been suspended for a week in February, with the company providing the same comments about "planned downtime" to "improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates," according to a Bloomberg report in March.

On April 3, Tesla issued a press release saying "several short factory shutdowns to upgrade equipment" had helped it double the weekly Model 3 production rate for the first quarter of this year. Although the company said it had increased Model 3 production "exponentially" in the quarter, the 9,766 cars produced represented a much slower output than the 5,000 per week it had promised to make by the end of December, then by the end of...

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Sony Claims New Xperia XZ2’s Camera Tops the iPhone’s

With today's announcement about its newest smartphone, Sony Mobile claims to have outdone competitors, such as Apple and Samsung, on a key feature: the smartphone camera.

The Xperia XZ2 Premium comes with high ISO sensitivity for both photos and videos, enabling users to capture images even in low-light conditions. It also supports 4K HDR video recording and playback, and has a dual sensor system that can "capture more than the human eye can see," according to Sony.

Featuring a 5.8-inch display that's comparable in size to those on Apple's iPhone X and Samsung's Galaxy S9, the Xperia XZ2 (pictured above) likewise uses Corning's Gorilla Glass 5, which the manufacturer claims is its toughest yet for protecting against scratches and breakage. For now, however, Sony is giving few details on prices and availability, stating only that the new smartphone will be available globally this summer.

Battle of the Smartphone Cameras

As smartphones have become ever-more advanced, manufacturers have tried to emphasize how their devices stand out from the rest by focusing on a handful of key features: artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual reality, and camera/imaging quality.

"Consider that in 2017 alone, it is estimated we took more than a trillion photos globally, shared more than one billion GIFs, sent three billion images, five billion emojis, and more than 10 billion videos -- a number higher than the Earth's total population," Tim Baxter, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America, noted earlier this year upon unveiling the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. "Photos and videos are now a core component of the way we communicate, so we created a smartphone that reimagines the camera."

Similarly, when it announced the iPhone X in September, Apple noted that device's two cameras were optimized for photo and video image quality, as well as "custom tuned for the...

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Spectre and Meltdown: Cyber Hardware Flaws Studied

The most frequent cause of malicious cyberattacks is when computer users click on links that result in malware being downloaded onto computer networks.

But another emerging hardware-based cyberthreat is being studied by the Cyber Command and U.S. intelligence community, according to the nominee to head the command and the National Security Agency.

Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, Cybercom and NSA director nominee, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in written answers that massive hardware vulnerabilities called Spectre and Meltdown are major worries.

"U.S. Cybercom is engaged with the intelligence community, interagency and industry to better understand Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities and employ mitigations," Gen. Nakasone stated.

Spectre and Meltdown are vulnerabilities affecting nearly every computer chip made in the past 20 years. They were discovered by security researchers in late 2017 and can be used by hackers to steal data from computers through flaws contained in microprocessors -- the integrated circuits that contain all the functions of a central processing unit of a computer system.

Malicious programs can be used on the two vulnerabilities to extract secrets stored in the memory of running computers that until recently were thought to be safe from such theft. Potential lost data could include passwords stored in password managers or browsers, personal information such as photos, emails and instant messages, and documents.

A Meltdown attack uses a malware program to "melt" security features that protect information designed into all but two Intel processors released since 1995. Patches are available through operating system updates.

Two variants of Spectre affect all Intel, ARM and AMD processors and require hackers to conduct more complex attacks based on a process called "speculative execution," a process used to speed up computer functions. It allows a hacker to trick programs into revealing their secrets and is more difficult to patch than Meltdown.

Gen. Nakasone said Pentagon directives...

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Ex-Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs May Still Lead Takeover Bid

Former Qualcomm Chairman Paul Jacobs is continuing his efforts to raise money to buy the San Diego cellular giant and take it private, two news outlets reported Thursday.

Bloomberg and CNBC said Jacobs is in discussions with potential investors to see if he can raise enough capital to acquire the company. Both news organizations cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

A representative for Jacobs declined to comment other than to say it's early and his efforts to explore an acquisition of Qualcomm were already disclosed.

Jacobs, former chief executive and chairman of Qualcomm, revealed earlier this year that he wanted to buy the company and take it private. He was removed from Qualcomm's board of directors in March after informing fellow directors of his intentions.

Jacobs' move is considered a long shot by industry observers because of the massive amount of investment required to pull it off.

Qualcomm's board rejected a $117 billion offer from Broadcom earlier this year on the grounds that it undervalued the company given its long-term growth prospects.

Broadcom's hostile takeover attempt was eventually blocked by President Trump over national security concerns. Broadcom was based in Singapore at the time but earlier this month moved its headquarters to San Jose.

According to Bloomberg, Jacobs, who owns less than 1 percent of Qualcomm, is in discussions with strategic investors, sovereign wealth funds and wealthy individuals in hopes of raising the money necessary to buy the chipmaker.

CNBC reported that Jacobs has hired bankers and lawyers to pursue a deal. The report mentions British semiconductor design firm ARM -- which is owned by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and its Vision Fund -- as a possible investor.

ARM denied that it has talked to Jacobs about a possible acquisition involving Qualcomm. " "There have been no discussions between Arm and Paul Jacobs on any potential acquisition of Qualcomm,"...

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NASA Spacecraft Aims To Find and Map Mystery Planets

Calling all planets that orbit around bright, nearby stars: NASA's new Tess spacecraft is looking to do a head count. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite -- Tess for short -- is embarking Monday on a two-year quest to find and identify mystery worlds thought to be lurking in our cosmic backyard. The spacecraft aims to add thousands of exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system, to the galactic map for future study.

Life might be out there, whether microbial or more advanced, and scientists say Tess and later missions will help answer the age-old question of whether we're alone.

"It is very exciting. ... By human nature, we look for exploration and adventure, and this is an opportunity to see what's next," NASA's Sandra Connelly, a science program director, said Sunday on the eve of launch.

Tess is flying on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, scheduled to blast off at 6:32 p.m. Monday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Here's a peek at little Tess and its creators' big ambitions.

SPACECRAFT: At 5 feet (1.5 meters), Tess is shorter than most adults and downright puny compared with most other spacecraft. The observatory is 4 feet across (1.2 meters), not counting the solar wings, which are folded for launch, and weighs just 800 pounds (362 kilograms). NASA says it's somewhere between the size of a refrigerator and a stacked washer and dryer. Four wide-view cameras are surrounded by a sun shade, to keep stray light out as they monitor any dips in brightness from target stars. Repeated dips would indicate a planet passing in front of its star.

ORBIT: Tess will aim for a unique elongated orbit that passes within 45,000 miles of Earth on one end and as far away as the orbit of the moon on the other end. NASA insists there's no chance of...

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