Mark Wilson

Microsoft apologizes for Halo: The Master Chief Collection snafu with a bunch of freebies

Microsoft apologizes for Halo: The Master Chief Collection snafu with a bunch of freebies

The Halo series has been a massive success for Microsoft on Xbox, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection was an eagerly anticipated launch. But when the remastered game collection hit Xbox One, it didn't take long for gamers to discover a raft of problems with multiplayer games, and a range of glitches that impacted on performance.

Now Microsoft and games studio 343 Industries have apologized for the issues in a way that the companies are hoping will be well-received -- by giving away a batch of free stuff. That's not to say that an accompanying, contemporaneous apology has been issued; instead the freebies are a thank you for gamers' "support and understanding as we worked through issues impacting" the game.

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Tor network could be attacked and knocked offline this week

Tor network could be attacked and knocked offline this week

Roger Dingledine, leader of the Tor Project, has warned it could be the subject of an attack this week. In a blog post, he cautioned users that the project had learned that directory authorities might be seized in an attempt to incapacitate the network. Dingledine does not hint at who might be responsible for a future attack, but reassured users that anonymity would be maintained.

Directory authorities are used by Tor clients to help route traffic through the network, ensuring that users remains anonymous at each stage. An attack on directory authorities would probably have little effect to start with, but there is potential to take down the network if enough servers were targeted.

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Reddit (sort of) launches its own nebulous cryptocurrency, Reddit Notes

Reddit (sort of) launches its own nebulous cryptocurrency, Reddit Notes

We've already heard that 2015 is supposed to be the year of cryptocurrency, and Microsoft recently announced that Bitcoin is an acceptable form of payment. Now Reddit is getting in on the virtual currency action. Kind of. Well, perhaps. The details are vague at the moment, but the intriguingly-named Reddit Notes have been announced.

It comes just a few months after Reddit managed to secure $50 million in funding, and at the time "the investors in this round have proposed to give 10% of their shares back to the community". The birth of Reddit Notes is the start of this payback, but it's not yet clear who will receive them or what they will be used for.

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Ad slip-up reveals Apple Pay is about to expand to Europe, Middle East, India and Africa

Ad slip-up reveals Apple Pay is about to expand to Europe, Middle East, India and Africa

Oops! Less than a month ago, Microsoft accidentally let it slip that it was about to acquire email firm Acompli. Not to be outdone, Apple has now let a cat out of the bag a little early as well. A job ad spotted by iClarified shows that the company's Apple Pay service is set to expand outside of the US.

While rolling out outside of the States is not exactly surprising, Apple has given no hints about the timescale it is working to. More and more companies are signing up to get involved with Apple's contactless payment system, and a European launch was all but inevitable -- and now we know for sure.

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Secret CoolReaper backdoor for hackers discovered in Chinese Android phones

Secret CoolReaper backdoor for hackers discovered in Chinese Android phones

China's monitoring and control of how its citizens access the internet is something that has been going on for some time. Now there is something new for Chinese smartphone owners to worry about. Security researchers at Palo Alto Networks have discovered a backdoor built into millions of handsets produced by Coolpad.

Known as CoolReaper, the backdoor potentially places more than 10 million smartphone owners at risk. The security firm conducted investigations after users complained on message boards about suspicious activity on their handsets. After downloading multiple copies of the stock ROM used on Chinese CoolPad phone, it was found that "the majority of the ROMs contained the CoolReaper backdoor".

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Over 1.5 million Windows 10 Technical Preview users, nearly a third use it daily

Over 1.5 million Windows 10 Technical Preview users, nearly a third use it daily

Microsoft's Gabe Aul has given an insight into how the Windows 10 Technical Preview has been received by testers. In a blog post, Aul reveals that there are more than 1.5 million registered Windows Insiders testing out preview builds, and that nearly a third of this number -- around 450,000 -- are using it on a daily basis.

So far there have only been three official preview builds: build 9841, build 9860, and build 9879. There have also been a few unofficial leaks including, 9888 complete with a limited preview of Cortana and more recently build 9901. Microsoft does not shy away from acknowledging the existence of these leaks, but it's not clear if they have been included in the usage figures.

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Microsoft's view of 2015: Internet of Things, security, and machine learning

Microsoft's view of 2015: Internet of Things, security, and machine learning

Companies are always forward-looking, but it's at this time of year that this is really focused on. Consumers are excited to see what products they'll be able to get their hands on in the year ahead, businesses want to know what services the coming year has to offer, and technology enthusiasts are keen to learn about what projects are in the works.

Today, Microsoft shares its view of which areas of technology are going to be of the greatest importance for businesses in 2015. Corporate Vice President, Enterprise and Partner Group, Susan Hauser believes that security will continue to be strengthened, the Internet of Things will grow, and predictive tools will be more heavily utilized.

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BlackBerry launches the Classic -- a smartphone with an old-school keyboard

BlackBerry launches the Classic -- a smartphone with an old-school keyboard

BlackBerry is not a company that's afraid to do things a little differently, and this is something that's perfectly demonstrated by its latest release. Rather than eschewing the physical keyboard like most smartphones, the BlackBerry Classic embraces it. The square 720 x 720 screen is comparable to that of the BlackBerry Passport, but stands out from mainstream handsets due to its size -- just 3.5 inches -- and unusual aspect ratio.

The look of the handset might be a little dated, and the specs are also something of a blast from the past. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus dual-core processor, the phone has 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, an 8MP rear camera, and a 2MP front shooter. And it can be yours for $449 unlocked.

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Apple puts sales on hold in Russia as rouble collapses

Apple pulls out of Russia as rouble collapses

The financial crisis in Russia is beginning to have an impact on the rest of the world. The value of the rouble has been fluctuating tremendously, but is generally on a downward trajectory -- it plummeted in value by 20 percent so far this week. For Apple the uncertainty about how things could pan out is too much, and the company has stopped sales of iPads, Macs and iPhones on the Russian version of its online store.

As reported by the BBC, Apple had to increase its prices in Russia last month as a result of the devaluing of the rouble. But now a more drastic step has been taken. Head to the Russian Apple Store now and you're greeted by a virtually blank page rather than the latest tech from the company.

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Google increases security for desktop Gmail with Content Security Policy support

Google increases security for desktop Gmail with Content Security Policy support

Google today revealed a new feature for Gmail that should help to increase inbox security. Newly added support for Content Security Policy (CSP) keeps Gmail extensions in check to ensure that none are malicious or try to interfere with your Gmail session.

It's essentially server-side malware protection for Gmail extensions, and this is just the latest move from Google that aims to increase inbox security. Email security is of interest to everyone online, but it's something that is particularly important to business and enterprise users -- groups Google is keen to keep happy.

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Twitter could be on the verge of introducing auto-playing video ads

Twitter could be on the verge of introducing auto-playing video ads

A little over a year ago, Facebook introduced videos that play automatically. If a report from AdWeek is correct, it looks as though others thought that this was a great idea because Twitter is reportedly considering implementing the same feature. As this is a report that appeared in AdWeek, it should be clear that one of the most likely reasons for introducing the feature would be to increase the visibility of ads.

Just as with Facebook, the concern here is that -- as well as being considered by many as an invasion of, if not privacy, then virtual personal space -- it will lead to an unwanted increase in data usage.

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Apple, Amazon, HP, Verizon and others back Microsoft's fight against US government

Apple, Amazon, HP, Verizon and others back Microsoft's fight against US government

Microsoft is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the US government, and the fight has led to an unlikely alliance between several rival companies. Microsoft was handed a government order requesting access to emails stored at a datacenter in Ireland. The company has been battling the order for several months, and now Apple, Amazon, Verizon, and HP are among the big names lending their support to the fight.

It's not just technology firms who are putting their names forward in support of the challenge of the search warrant. Several global media outlets, including the Guardian, the Washington Post, and CNN as well as numerous trade associations and advocacy organizations have signaled their support for Microsoft.

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Microsoft opens up improved Sway Preview to everyone -- no more waiting list!

sway_preview

It has been a few weeks since Microsoft introduced us to the latest addition to the Office family -- Sway. In fact, as Microsoft points out, the preview was unveiled 10 weeks ago. While the initial preview required anyone interested to join a waiting list, now it's possible to get in on the action straight away; and it seems there has already been great interest in the product.

Microsoft says that there have been 175,000 requests to access the Sway Preview, and the Sway.com website has received over one million visitors. Now anyone with a Microsoft account is able to try out the data collection and presentation tool and check out a batch of new features.

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Skype offers free calls from India to US and Canada until March

Skype offers free calls from India to US and Canada until March

Microsoft has an end-of-year present for Skype users in India. Starting now and running until the beginning of March, calls from India to the US and Canada are completely free of charge. Interestingly, this includes calls placed to mobiles as well as to landlines.

Unusually for such an offer, there's no commitment, no free trial and, seemingly, no catch -- just free calls for the next three months. The news comes just after Microsoft unveiled details of its Skype Translator preview, and is just in time for the holiday season when the number of phone calls placed tends to skyrocket.

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Edward Snowden condemns Amazon's 'morally irresponsible' encryption policy -- users don't care

Edward Snowden condemns Amazon's 'morally irresponsible' encryption policy -- users don't care

In a near-perfect example of how there is always more than one way to look at things, Edward Snowden has very different views on Amazon than Amazon users do. On Friday, Snowden appeared -- as ever -- via video link at the surveillance symposium at the Cato Institute. He condemned Amazon's lack of encryption of customers' searches, referring to the practice as "morally irresponsible".

But Snowden's condemnation of Amazon comes at the same time as a study by Bizrate Insights which finds that more than 45 percent of online shoppers trust the site with their payment and personal information. So why the disparity?

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