Bing profitable, but Microsoft revenue down 12 percent as shift to cloud continues

Microsoft posted revenue of $20.4 billion in the first quarter of its 2016 financial year, down 12 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Operating income was $5.8 billion, down 1 percent, and net income was $4.6 billion, up 2 percent. Earnings per share were $0.57, a six percent increase.

The company attributed much of the decline to the strong dollar. The dollar value of prices charged outside the US has declined as the dollar has grown stronger, and with much revenue coming from beyond America’s borders, this is having a material effect on earnings. This effect reduced revenue by some $1.2 billion, operating income by $0.69 billion, and net income by $0.65 billion.

The quarter also saw the introduction of a new reporting structure just a couple of years after the last change to the reporting structure. The company is now

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NSA advisory sparks concern of secret advance ushering in cryptoapocalypse

In August, National Security Agency officials advised US agencies and businesses to prepare for a not-too-distant time when the cryptography protecting virtually all sensitive government and business communications is rendered obsolete by quantum computing. The advisory recommended backing away from plans to deploy elliptic curve cryptography, a form of public key cryptography that the NSA spent the previous 20 years promoting as more secure than the older RSA cryptosystem.

Almost immediately, the dramatic about-face generated questions and anxiety. Why would the NSA abruptly abandon a series of ECC specifications it had championed for so long? Why were officials issuing the advice now when a working quantum computer was 10 to 50 years away, and why would they back away from ECC before recommending a suite of quantum-resistant alternatives? The fact that the NSA was continuing to endorse use of RSA, which is also

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Pandora will pay RIAA $90 million for playing pre-1972 songs

(credit: RIAA)

Internet radio company Pandora has agreed to pay the major US record labels $90 million over streaming of pre-1972 songs, which aren’t covered under federal copyright but are covered by state-level copyrights in areas including New York and California.

It’s the second big payment that will go to the Recording Industry Association of America, which has already won a $210 million settlement with SiriusXM satellite radio over the same issue.

The settlement covers Pandora’s past plays of pre-1972 music, and it also covers the music service through the end of 2016. At that time, Pandora will have to reach another licensing deal with the RIAA if it wants to keep playing the old music.

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Next-gen cellular networks could use spectrum all the way up to 71GHz

The Federal Communications Commission is drawing up rules for extremely high frequency spectrums that could be used in “5G” mobile broadband.

4G (fourth generation cellular technology) LTE in the US relies on frequencies from 700MHz to 2.5GHz, with the lower frequencies being best suited for covering long distances and penetrating building walls. The FCC’s vote today proposes new “flexible use service rules in the 28GHz, 37GHz, 39GHz, and 64-71GHz bands,” and seeks public comment on other bands above 24GHz that could also be used.

The FCC has said these frequencies could enable speeds between 1Gbps and 10Gbps. But it will take a lot of work to overcome distance limitations and physical obstacles that can block the signals.

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Are a million free Google Cardboard sets doomed to repeat CueCat’s history?

(credit: Denise Chan)

A growing technology sector had finally made the big shift toward catching the interest of the greater consumer market. More people could afford the necessary devices and services to join in, and the sector promised to change the way people got their news and information, so media companies fought to find a way to tie into this new thing that they barely understood.

One of the biggest media outlets at the time, a vanguard of the old print world, tried to shake things up with a categorically weird new product that revolved around this burgeoning new tech. Knowing that novice users might not understand or even want an unfamiliar media-consumption device, the company tried to curry favor with a giant giveaway and shipped millions of freebies to newspaper subscribers.

That’s the story making the rounds this week thanks to a partnership announced on Tuesday between The New York Times and Google Cardboard. On the

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Feminist, civil rights groups tell Dept. of Education that Yik Yak is awful

(credit: Yik Yak)

A large group of 72 women’s and civil rights groups have asked for the Department of Education’s help in protecting students and faculty from abusive speech and threats made on university campuses via the Yik Yak app. In a letter published this week, the organizations seek a formal “guidance” to colleges from the Department’s Office of Civil Rights and hope to specifically put such online threats under the umbrella of federal gender and racial equality legislation.

The purportedly anonymous social network allows users to leave messages within a certain geographic area. While the company’s website doesn’t use the word “anonymous,” it does boast on its Features page that users can “keep their privacy” while on the app. In some cases, Yik Yak has handed over user data to law enforcement to prosecute people making violent threats.

These groups, which include the Feminist Majority Foundation, Advocates for

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Harmonix employees found posting Rock Band 4 user reviews on Amazon

(credit: Harmonix)

We’re not really sure why people put any trust in user reviews posted by random strangers online. There’s just no way of knowing much about the people posting those reviews or what motives might lie behind them. Case in point: the Amazon user reviews for Rock Band 4, which developer Harmonix admits include many positive takes from employees that worked on the game.

The potential connection was first noticed by Redditor Documental38, who found the real names of some pseudonymous Amazon reviewers by clicking through to their Amazon wish lists. A few of the names found by Reddit and sites like Destructoid (some since deleted) matched up with those of Harmonix employees: Project Manager Matthew Nordhaus, consultant Jayne Tan, Senior Designer Chris Foster, Audio QA Tester Richard Cody, Lead Character Artist Shawn Witt, and Legal and Music Coordinator Morgan Milardo. In Milardo’s case, the review made

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Microsoft Edge won’t get Chrome-like extensions until 2016

Our favorite site rendered in Edge.

Microsoft’s new Edge browser shows a lot of promise, and at its core it seems to be a fast and attractive browser. Currently, however, its features are very bare-bones. It doesn’t support Internet Explorer’s extensions and plugins, either, meaning that there is no real way to add these features. A solution is in store, however, in the form of Chrome-like HTML-plus-JavaScript extensions, which Microsoft has promised for the browser.

Those extensions were widely expected to be included in the first major update to Windows 10, which will arrive in November. Unfortunately, while the update will include some new features for Edge (most notably, it will show previews of each tab’s contents when hovering the cursor over the tabs), extensions will not be among them.

The company has issued a short statement that confirms that extensions won’t be supported until 2016 at the earliest:


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Android compatibility document mentions forthcoming car infotainment OS

Insert Google software here. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

With every new version of Android comes a new version of the Android Compatibility Definition Document (CDD). If OEMs want to license the Google Play Store and other Google apps, they must be declared by Google to be “compatible” with Android, and the requirements for this compatibility are laid out in the CDD. The 74-page document details how to implement APIs, parts of the user interface, media codecs, and hardware compatibility. Companies like Samsung and LG use this document to create different hardware that will run the same operating system and apps.

One of the biggest changes is probably the mandatory encryption for any device fast enough to handle it, which we’ve already covered in a separate article. While combing over the new the document, though, we noticed something: there is an awful lot of car stuff in here.

Requirements for a car operating system have no reason to

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Dealmaster: Get a PS4 Guitar Hero Live Bundle for only $369

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, we have a great deal that you can rock out to. Now you can get a Sony PlayStation 4 500GB Uncharted Bundle with Guitar Hero Live and Guitar Controller for just $369. Originally a bundle like this would set you back $449, but you can get it now for a sweet price. You may not want to think about it yet, but this deal is enough to tempt us to start our Christmas shopping a little early.

If Guitar Hero isn’t your cup of tea, we have the usual list of electronics deals below as well.


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ISPs “reminded” to not use government money for alcohol and vacations

*Not an actual ISP party. (credit: Warner Bros.)

Internet service providers who accept government funding in exchange for providing Internet access in rural areas were “reminded” this week that they’re not allowed to use the money for food, alcohol, entertainment, personal travel, and other expenses unrelated to providing Internet access.

The Federal Communications Commission issued a public notice with a “non-exhaustive list of expenditures” that cannot be reimbursed. The list includes all of the above as well as political contributions, charitable donations, scholarships, payment of penalties and fines, club membership fees, sponsorships of conferences and community events, gifts to employees, and personal expenses of employees and family members “including but not limited to personal expenses for housing, such as rent or mortgages.”

The ban on using subsidies for food includes but is “not limited to meals to celebrate personal events, such as weddings, births, or retirements,” the FCC said.

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Drug with rage-inducing >5,000% price-hike now has $1/pill competitor

Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that last month raised the price of the decades-old drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750, now has a competitor.

Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company based in San Diego, announced today that it has made an alternative to Daraprim that costs about a buck a pill—or $99 for a 100-pill supply.

“While we respect Turing’s right to charge patients and insurance companies whatever it believes is appropriate, there may be more cost-effective compounded options for medications, such as Daraprim,” Mark L. Baum, CEO of Imprimis, said in a news release.

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Drug with rage-inducing >5,000% price-hike now has $1/pill competitor

Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that last month raised the price of the decades-old drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750, now has a competitor.

Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company based in San Diego, announced today that it has made an alternative to Daraprim that costs about a buck a pill—or $99 for a 100-pill supply.

“While we respect Turing’s right to charge patients and insurance companies whatever it believes is appropriate, there may be more cost-effective compounded options for medications, such as Daraprim,” Mark L. Baum, CEO of Imprimis, said in a news release.

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Xbox Elite controller review: Welcome tweaks come at a price

For nearly two decades now, the game industry at large (with the significant exception of Nintendo) has only made small tweaks to the reigning dual-stick controller design standard, first set by the PlayStation’s original Dual Shock controller in 1997. Now, though, we seem to be in something of a golden age of experimentation with that design. First there was Valve’s utterly unique Steam Controller, and now we have Microsoft’s high-end Xbox Elite controller.

Microsoft’s effort throws a lot of ideas at the proverbial wall, and a few of them stick well enough that we’d like to see them integrated into every handheld controller going forward. At $150, though, the price of entry to try out Microsoft’s view of the controller’s future is a bit too steep for all but the most competitive of gamers.


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Fairphone 2 hands-on: Modular phones are finally here

(credit: Andrii Degeler)

The Fairphone 2 is launching only in select European countries. The company says it plans to bring the device to other countries in 2016.

AMSTERDAM—With more and more similarly priced and specced Android smartphones arriving on the market, unique selling points are becoming increasingly rare. There’s nothing bad about selling a decent phone with an attractive price tag, but it’s always more interesting to take a look at something that stands out.

You don’t have to add a plethora of unnecessary features or keep pumping the display resolution up, though. You can also stand out by changing the way a device is manufactured and sold. That’s what Dutch startup Fairphone has been doing for a while now.

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Massive stars are so close that they’re touching

Artist’s impression of VFTS 352, a binary star system 160,000 light-years away. The stars are close enough that some of their material is being shared between them. (credit: ESO/L. Calçada)

New observations from the Very Large Array have turned up a system with two stars that are so close they’re actually touching. Named VFTS 352, this isn’t the first time we’ve observed a system of this type, known as an overcontact binary. But this is the most massive one discovered to date and the hottest one yet discovered, with both stars having temperatures over 40,000ºC.

Overcontact binaries are extremely rare and thus are observed infrequently. That’s because they exist for only a very short period in the lifespan of a system.

VFTS 352’s stars are continuing to orbit one another despite their close proximity of 12 million kilometers.  They complete an orbit of their common center of mass in just over a day. By contrast, Mercury’s

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Judge overturns ban on ballot selfies

(credit: Joe Schlabotnik)

Democracy in the Hoosier State will live another day after a federal judge declared Indiana’s “ballot selfies law” unconstitutional. The measure barred constitutionally protected speech, US District Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled while blocking Indiana from enforcing the measure that carries up to 30 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Indiana lawmakers approved the legislation, which became effective July 1, based on the contention that a ban would prevent vote buying and voter coercion while maintaining the integrity of the electoral process and secrecy of voters’ ballots. The American Civil Liberties Union sued to overturn the measure, which banned photographing your marked ballot and distributing it “using social media or by any other means.”

“The State has entirely failed to identify any such problem in Indiana relating to or evidencing vote buying, voter fraud, voter coercion, involuntary ballot disclosures, or an existing threat to the integrity of the electoral

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HBO CEO doesn’t get why ISPs like Comcast won’t embrace HBO Now

This week at the WSJD Live event in Southern California, HBO CEO Richard Plepler took the stage to criticize broadband providers like Comcast, Charter, Time Warner Cable, and AT&T (which owns DirecTV) for not jumping at the chance to bundle HBO Now with their Internet services.

The network launched HBO Now, a standalone streaming service that costs $15 per month, earlier this year. Initially, you could only get the service on Apple TV or through Cablevision Optimum Internet service. Over the next few months, HBO Now service expanded to Android and Amazon Fire devices, and Verizon offered its broadband customers the option to get HBO Now as well.

But Comcast and other heavy-hitters in the pay-TV and broadband world have resisted HBO Now’s breakout business model.

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Descent Underground recaptures that Descent multiplayer magic

Video: the Descent Underground Early Access gameplay trailer.

AUSTIN, TX—About a month ago, we called the retro-themed Descent-style shooter Sublevel Zero an awesome Descent-like experience but lamented its lack of multiplayer. Well, good news this morning for folks who are still craving multiplayer tunnel-shooting: as of 11:00 EDT, Descent Underground is available on Steam Early Access for $29.99. Players will be able to jump in and fly three classes of ships in five maps and a few different game modes.

The product of a small Austin company called Descendent Studios founded by former Star Citizen Austin studio head Eric “Wingman” Peterson, Descent Underground was originally envisioned as a Descent clone under the working title “Ships That Fight Underground” (abbreviated as “STFU”). However, the game changed course when an encounter with an Interplay shareholder led to a licensing agreement with Interplay, the studio that controls the bulk

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Review: The Moov Now is an activity tracker that forces you to be active

(credit: Valentina Palladino)

Until recently, “fitness tracker” was a glorified name for a pedometer. Most wristbands focused on steps and deriving nebulous calorie counts from how many of them you took, and many of the most high-end fitness bands still put steps at the forefront of daily activity.

Fitness bands like the Moov Now take a different approach. The second iteration of the Moov band has a number of workouts to choose from that you can try out at your own pace, all featuring a voice coach who guides you while you listen to your favorite tunes. While the $79 Moov Now doesn’t have the name recognition of Fitbit or Jawbone, it takes a more active approach to fitness that those who are looking to step up their game or try something new will appreciate.


The Moov Now is smaller and sleeker than the original Moov. It’s a tiny disk, similar to the

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