Relive Windows 95’s 3D Maze screensaver as a nostalgic cyberpunk indie game

Enlarge

Twenty-two years ago, Microsoft Windows took a big leap forward with Windows 95. Most would say that Windows 95 was significant for its addition of the Start button, or the merging of MS-DOS and Windows, or plug and play. Maybe they were wrong; maybe it was the screensavers that mattered the most. That’s what Screensaver Subterfuge, an indie game made by Cahoots Malone, posits.

The game is freely available on itch.io for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and it was previously reported on by Motherboard. It takes the assets (they were extracted directly from ssmaze.scr) from Windows 95’s iconic 3D Maze screensaver—the one that endlessly wanders a maze of brick walls in first-person perspective—and turns it into a very goofy cyberpunk hacking game.

The conceit is that the mazes are actually the tunnels through which truly valuable corporate data travels. You’re a young hacker on a mission to stop your dystopian world from turning into a slightly different kind of dystopian world—this is according to the game’s hilariously bad narration that includes 90s hype lines such as, “Cyberspace has never looked so three dimensional! The geniuses at Microsoft have done it again!”

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Advertisements

Microsoft abandons typical Patch Tuesday playbook to fix Equation Editor flaw

Enlarge (credit: Flickr user: Ivan T)

When a company like Microsoft needs to fix a security flaw in one of its products, the process is normally straightforward: determine where the bug lies, change the program’s source code to fix the bug, and then recompile the program. But it looks like the company had to step outside this typical process for one of the flaws it patched this Tuesday. Instead of fixing the source code, it appears that the company’s developers made a series of careful changes directly to the buggy program’s executable file.

Bug CVE-2017-11882 is a buffer overflow in the ancient Equation Editor that comes with Office. The Equation Editor allocates a fixed-size piece of memory to hold a font name and then copies the font name from the equation file into this piece of memory. It doesn’t, however, check to ensure that the font name will fit into this piece of memory. When provided with a font name that’s too long, the Equation Editor overflows the buffer, corrupting its own memory, and an attacker can use this to execute arbitrary malicious code.

Curious how a buffer overflow works? Previously on Ars we did a deep-dive explanation. (video link)

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft and GitHub team up to take Git virtual file system to macOS, Linux

Enlarge (credit: Git)

One of the more surprising stories of the past year was Microsoft’s announcement that it was going to use the Git version control system for Windows development. Microsoft had to modify Git to handle the demands of Windows development but said that it wanted to get these modifications accepted upstream and integrated into the standard Git client.

That plan appears to be going well. Yesterday, the company announced that GitHub was adopting its modifications and that the two would be working together to bring suitable clients to macOS and Linux.

Microsoft wanted to move to Git because of Git’s features, like its easy branching and its popularity among developers. But the transition faced three problems. Git wasn’t designed for such vast numbers of developers—more than 20,000 actively working on the codebase. Also, Git wasn’t designed for a codebase that was so large, either in terms of the number of files and version history for each file, or in terms of sheer size, coming in at more than 300GB. When using standard Git, working with the source repository was unacceptably slow. Common operations (such as checking which files have been modified) would take multiple minutes.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Surface Book 2 review: Monster performance, but lightning hasn’t struck twice

Enlarge / The 15-inch Surface Book 2. (credit: Peter Bright)

Introduced a little over two years ago, Microsoft’s Surface Book was the hybrid laptop that I had long hoped the company would build. Like the Surface Pro, it worked as a true standalone tablet, but it had the all-important stiff hinge, making it suitable for use on your lap in a way that the Surface Pro’s kickstand and Type Covers never really supported.

The Surface Book was not just a useful form factor; it was also something of a technological showcase. Other hybrid designs I’ve used, such as the ThinkPad Helix, had clunky mechanical linkages between the tablet portion and the base. The Surface Book boasted a clever software-controlled system. The fulcrum hinge design, which helped keep the device balanced when the screen was open, is elegant and visually striking.

And to top it all off, the Surface Book came with an optional discrete GPU, with the GPU housed not in the tablet part but in the base. While we’ve seen many systems with switchable graphics—using the low-power integrated GPU unless you’re playing a game or similar and need the full power of the discrete chip—having the discrete GPU be in a separate component was an exciting twist.

Read 41 remaining paragraphs | Comments

MariaDB coming to Azure, as Microsoft joins the MariaDB Foundation

Enlarge (credit: MariaDB Foundation)

NEW YORK CITY: On the first day of its Connect developer conference, Microsoft announced that it is joining the MariaDB Foundation, the group that oversees the development of the MariaDB database.

Connect is Microsoft’s other annual developer conference. The big conference, Build, takes place each spring and covers the breadth of Microsoft-related development, from Windows to Azure to Office to HoloLens. Connect has tended to have something of an open source, database, and cloud spin to it. At Connect last year, Microsoft announced that it was joining the Linux Foundation. In years prior, the company has used the event to announce the open sourcing of Visual Studio Code and, before that, .net.

MariaDB is a fork of the MySQL database that’s developed and maintained by many of the original MySQL contributors. In 2008, Sun Microsystems bought MySQL AB, the company that developed and created MySQL. In 2009, Oracle announced its plans to buy Sun, creating fear in the community about MySQL’s future as a successful, community-developed, open-source project. To ensure that the database would continue development in spite of the purchase, the MariaDB fork was created in 2009. The subsequent development of MySQL arguably justifies those fears; while Oracle still publishes source code, the development itself happens behind closed doors, with minimal outside contributions.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Visual Studio Live Share gives you pair programming without the shared keyboards

With Live Share (here in Visual Studio Code) you can see what the other person is looking at, from the comfort of your own IDE. (credit: Microsoft)

NEW YORK—Decades after introducing IntelliSense, the code completion and information features that transform Visual Studio into something more than just a text editor, Microsoft is introducing something that it claims is just as exciting: Live Sharing.

Collaboration is critical for many developers. Having another pair of eyes look over a problematic bug can offer insight that’s proving elusive; tapping the knowledge of a seasoned veteran is an important source of training and education. Some developers advocate pair programming, a system of development where two people literally share a keyboard and take turns to drive, but most feel this is intrusive and inconvenient. Ad hoc huddles around a single screen are common but usually mean that one developer has to contend with the preferences of another, hindering their productivity. Screen sharing avoids the awkward seating but also means that the sharer either has a loss of control if they give the other person keyboard and mouse access, or, if they don’t, it prevents the other person from taking the initiative.

Live Share is Microsoft’s solution. It provides a shared editing experience within Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code (currently only for JavaScript, TypeScript, and C#) that’s similar to the shared editing found in word processors; each person can see the other’s cursor and text selections; each person can make edits—but it goes further, by enabling shared debugging, too. A project can be launched under the debugger, and both people can see the call stack, examine in-scope variables, or even change values in the immediate window. Both sides can single step the debugger to advance through a program.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“Resume Assistant” uses LinkedIn’s data to make Word a better résumé builder

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

Writing and updating your résumé is a task that few of us enjoy. Microsoft is hoping to make it a little less painful with a new feature coming to Word called Resume Assistant.

Resume Assistant will detect that you’re writing a résumé and offer insights and suggestions culled from LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a vast repository of both résumés and job openings and lets you see how other people describe their skillsets and which skills employers are looking for.

The feature will also show job openings that are suitable for your résumé directly within Word, putting résumé writers directly in contact with recruiters.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments