The Worst-Selling Microsoft Software Product of All Time: OS/2 for the Mach 20

Raymond Chen, writing for Microsoft DevBlogs: In the mid-1980’s, Microsoft produced an expansion card for the IBM PC and PC XT, known as the Mach 10. In addition to occupying an expansion slot, it also replaced your CPU: You unplugged your old and busted 4.77 MHz 8088 CPU and plugged into the now-empty socket a special adapter that led via a ribbon cable back to the Mach 10 card. On the Mach 10 card was the new hotness: A 9.54 MHz 8086 CPU. This gave you a 2x performance upgrade for a lot less money than an IBM PC AT. The Mach 10 also came with a mouse port, so you could add a mouse without having to burn an additional expansion slot. Sidebar: The product name was stylized as MACH [PDF] in some product literature. The Mach 10 was a flop.

Undaunted, Microsoft partnered with a company called Portable Computer Support Group to produce the Mach 20, released in 1987. You probably remember the Portable Computer Support Group for their disk cache software called Lightning. The Mach 20 took the same basic idea as the Mach 10, but to the next level: As before, you unplugged your old 4.77 MHz 8088 CPU and replaced it with an adapter that led via ribbon cable to the Mach 20 card, which you plugged into an expansion slot. This time, the Mach 20 had an 8 MHz 80286 CPU, so you were really cooking with gas now. And, like the Mach 10, it had a mouse port built in. According to a review in Info World, it retailed for $495. The Mach 20 itself had room for expansion: it had an empty socket for an 80287 floating point coprocessor. One daughterboard was the Mach 20 Memory Plus Expanded Memory Option, which gave you an astonishing 3.5 megabytes of RAM, and it was high-speed RAM since it wasn’t bottlenecked by the ISA bus on the main motherboard. The other daughterboard was the Mach 20 Disk Plus, which lets you connect 5 1/4 or 3 1/2 floppy drives.

A key detail is that all these expansions connected directly to the main Mach 20 board, so that they didn’t consume a precious expansion slot. The IBM PC came with five expansion slots, and they were in high demand. You needed one for the hard drive controller, one for the floppy drive controller, one for the video card, one for the printer parallel port, one for the mouse. Oh no, you ran out of slots, and you haven’t even gotten to installing a network card or expansion RAM yet! You could try to do some consolidation by buying so-called multifunction cards, but still, the expansion card crunch was real. But why go to all this trouble to upgrade your IBM PC to something roughly equivalent to an IBM PC AT? Why not just buy an IBM PC AT in the first place? Who would be interested in this niche upgrade product?

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Xbox Transparency Report Reveals Up To 4.78 Million Accounts Were Proactively Suspended In Just Six Months

Microsoft has released its first Digital Transparency Report for the Xbox gaming platform, revealing that the company took proactive action against throwaway accounts that violated its community guidelines 4.78 million times within a six-month period, usually in the form of temporary suspension. The Verge reports: The report, which provides information regarding content moderation and player safety, covers the period between January 1st and June 30th this year. It includes a range of information, including the number of reports submitted by players and breakdowns of various “proactive enforcements” (i.e., temporary account suspensions) taken by the Xbox team. Microsoft says the report forms part of its commitment to online safety. The data reveals that “proactive enforcements” by Microsoft increased almost tenfold since the last reporting period and that 4.33 million of the 4.78 million total enforcements concerned accounts that had been tampered with or used suspiciously outside of the Xbox platform guidelines. These unauthorized accounts can impact players in a variety of ways, from enabling cheating to spreading spam and artificially inflating friend / follower numbers.

A further breakdown of the data reveals 199,000 proactive enforcements taken by Xbox involving adult sexual content, 87,000 for fraud, and 54,000 for harassment or bullying. The report also claims that 100 percent of all actions in the last six-month period relating to account tampering, piracy, and phishing were taken proactively by Xbox rather than via reports made by its player base, which suggests that either fewer issues are being reported by players or the issues themselves are being addressed before players are aware of them. As proactive action has increased, the report also reveals that reports made by players have decreased significantly despite a growing player base, noting a 36 percent decline in player reports compared to the same period in 2021. A total of 33.07 million reports were made by players during the last period, with the vast majority relating to either in-game conduct (such as cheating, teamkilling, or intentionally throwing a match) or communications.

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Microsoft Unveils Surface Pro 9 With Choice of Intel or ARM Models, No Headphone Jack

Earlier today, Microsoft unveiled three new Surface computers: the Surface Pro 9, Surface Laptop 5, and Surface Studio 2+. While this year’s Surface Pro 9 remains very similar to last year’s Surface Pro 8, it’s being offered with refreshed Intel 12th-gen CPUs or a “new 5G-equipped model with a custom SQ 3 Arm chip,” reports Engadget. From the report: If that sounds confusing to you, well, it is. We last saw the company’s SQ chip in the 2020 Surface Pro X, a computer that we found both beautiful and frustrating, thanks to Windows’ crummy software compatibility with Arm chips. To shift that problem over to a computer with the same name as its Intel sibling is a recipe for disaster. (We can just imagine the frustrated Best Buy shoppers who are dazzled with the idea of a 5G Surface, only to learn they can’t run most of their traditional Windows apps.) The 5G Pro 9 is also broken down into millimeter-wave and Sub-6 variants, which will be sold in their respective markets. It’s understandable why Microsoft isn’t keen to keep the Surface Pro X moniker going — the Pro 8 lifted many of its modern design cues, after all. But from what we’ve seen, Windows 11 doesn’t solve the problems we initially had with the Pro X. After analyzing the product’s tech specs, The Verge discovered that the Surface Pro 9 no longer appears to have a headphone jack. From the report: This seems to be the direct result of Microsoft bringing the Intel and Arm versions of the Surface Pro 9 together in the same chassis. The Surface Pro X has never had a 3.5mm jack, so now, the Intel hardware is coming in line with that design direction. But I’d argue it’s a more controversial omission this time. Why? The new universal outer enclosure is essentially the same size as that of the Surface Pro 8.

The Surface Pro X hardware was quite a bit thinner than Microsoft’s Intel hardware at the time (and still now). So excising the 3.5mm jack made sense. But we’ve now lost the headphone jack for a chassis that’s basically identical in dimensions to last year’s model. They really couldn’t fit one on there somewhere? Further reading: Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 Plus Ships With an RTX 3060 for $4,299

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Microsoft Partners With Meta To Bring Teams, Office, Windows, and Xbox To VR

During Meta Connect today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the company is partnering with Meta to bring its biggest services — Teams, Office, Windows, and even Xbox Cloud Gaming — to Meta’s Quest VR headsets. The Verge reports: It’s a surprise partnership that will see Microsoft and Meta combine their strengths. Microsoft sees an opportunity to bring Teams and its other productivity experiences to a capable VR headset, and Meta gets a key partner in its grand metaverse plan. […] The Teams experience the new Quest Pro and Quest 2 headsets will even include Microsoft adapting Meta’s avatar system for Teams and Teams getting support within Meta’s own Horizon Workrooms. “People will be able to join a Teams meeting directly from Workrooms,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during the event. “We think that this cross-device, cross-screen experience will be the foundation of the virtual office of the future.”

This virtual office of the future won’t just be about meetings. Microsoft is bringing Windows 365 to Quest, the company’s platform for streaming full versions of Windows to devices. “With Windows 365 coming to Quest, you’ll have a new way to securely stream the entire Windows experience, including all the personalized apps, content, and settings to your VR device with the full power of Windows and Windows applications,” Nadella said.

Microsoft is also bringing 2D versions of its Office apps to Quest through its Progressive Web Apps (PWA) technology. These won’t be full-blown 3D versions of Office designed for VR, but if there’s an appetite for VR in the enterprise, then it’s easy to imagine Microsoft adapting them in the future. Xbox Cloud Gaming will even make its way to Meta’s Quest VR headsets, allowing Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to stream games. It’s not going to be as immersive as a native VR experience for Xbox games, but you’ll be able to pick up an Xbox controller and play them on a giant screen projected inside a Quest headset. Earlier today, Meta announced the Meta Quest Pro: a $1,499 virtual reality headset it’s been teasing for the past year. They also announced a big addition to their updated higher-detail avatars: legs.

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New Windows 11 Insider Build Supports Third-Party Widgets, Slick New Teams Video Feature

Microsoft is rolling out support for third-party widget development and new video calling functions for Chat from Microsoft Teams in its latest developer build of Windows 11. The new features in Preview Build 25217 are available for folks enrolled in the Windows Insider program. The Verge reports: Now, developers can create and test widgets that can be added to the Windows 11 widgets panel. New third-party widgets can only be tested locally on the latest Insider Preview build for now, but can later appear in the Microsoft Store for the shipping version of their apps once the build is formally released to the public. Microsoft says that Widgets can only be created for packaged Win32 apps at this time, but support for Progressive Web App (PWA) Widgets is planned as part of Microsoft Edge 108.

The Insider preview also includes a sneak peek (for a limited group of Insiders) at a new video calling experience for Chat from Microsoft Teams on Windows 11. When you open Chat from the taskbar, you’ll soon be able to see a preview of your own video feed, allowing you to fix your appearance or spot any background issues before starting a call. Microsoft hopes to make this experience more broadly available in the coming months, but a ‘small subset of users’ will already have access to the feature as part of a sneak preview release. You can launch Chat from your Windows 11 taskbar yourself to check if you’re one of the lucky few selected.

The Insider Preview Build 25217 also contains a few other feature updates, including improved cloud suggestions and integrated search suggestions for Simplified Chinese, and some design changes to the Microsoft Store. Now, the store makes it clearer if a game is included as part of Game Pass to spare you from accidentally purchasing a game you may have free access to. The Game Pass library is also getting a performance boost and some more simplified options.

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Microsoft Employees Exposed Own Company’s Internal Logins

Multiple people who appear to be employees of Microsoft have exposed sensitive login credentials to the company’s own infrastructure on GitHub, potentially offering attackers a gateway into internal Microsoft systems, according to a cybersecurity research firm that found the exposed credentials. Motherboard reports: “We continue to see that accidental source code and credential leakages are part of the attack surface of a company, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to identify in a timely and accurate manner. This is a very challenging issue for most companies these days,” Mossab Hussein, chief security officer at cybersecurity firm spiderSilk which discovered the issue, told Motherboard in an online chat. Hussein provided Motherboard with seven examples in total of exposed Microsoft logins. All of these were credentials for Azure servers. Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computer service and is similar to Amazon Web Services. All of the exposed credentials were associated with an official Microsoft tenant ID. A tenant ID is a unique identifier linked to a particular set of Azure users. One of the GitHub users also listed Microsoft on their profile.

Three of the seven login credentials were still active when spiderSilk discovered them, with one seemingly uploaded just days ago at the time of writing. The other four sets of credentials were no longer active but still highlighted the risk of workers accidentally uploading keys for internal systems. Microsoft refused to elaborate on what systems the credentials were protecting when asked multiple times by Motherboard. But generally speaking, an attacker may have an opportunity to move onto other points of interest after gaining initial access to an internal system. One of the GitHub profiles with exposed and active credentials makes a reference to the Azure DevOps code repository. Highlighting the risk that such credentials may pose, in an apparently unrelated hack in March attackers gained access to an Azure DevOps account and then published a large amount of Microsoft source code, including for Bing and Microsoft’s Cortana assistant. “We’ve investigated and have taken action to secure these credentials,” said a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement. “While they were inadvertently made public, we haven’t seen any evidence that sensitive data was accessed or the credentials were used improperly. We’re continuing to investigate and will continue to take necessary steps to further prevent inadvertent sharing of credentials.”

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