Short Takes: April 24, 2015

Short Takes: April 24, 2015

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

An often irreverent look at this week's other news. In this edition: iOS Office pranks, humanity's last stand, the quickening of Windows 10, who makes what and why at Microsoft, demolition dinero, German booty call, and Comcast finds a way to make TimeWarner customers happy.



I liked the BBC version of The Office television show a lot, but loved the U.S. version. And, considering the U.S. equivalent ran for nine seasons and had 201 episodes, there was just more of it to enjoy. One of my favorite bits was watching the office pranks. Jim would always concoct a unique and hilarious scheme to torment his officemate Dwight. I could sit and watch just those scenes all day long.

If you're ever looking to relieve boredom through harmless pranks in your own office, you don't have to scratch too hard for an idea. Just look for anyone carrying an iOS device.

This week, security firm Skycure discovered a vulnerability in iOS that, when coupled with a maliciously configured Wi-Fi access point, causes the device to enter into an endless reboot loop. You might think that simply telling the device not to connect to that particular access point would eliminate the problem, but you'd be wrong. According to another flaw, discovered in 2013 (and not yet fixed), iOS devices are forced to connect with any carrier-specific Wi-Fi network by carrier reserved name. For example, if a hacker simply renames the access point to 'attwifi' the iOS device can do nothing else but try and connect to it.

Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galatica.


Oh, the (lack of) Humanity

Over the decades, Science Fiction has cobbled together two potential scenarios that would result in the end of humans. First, in 1968, we were introduced to a future where apes would become our overlords. Rod Serling scripted Planet of the Apes which told the tale of a future where apes ruled and humans were slaves. Secondly, throughout Science Fiction history, and even more recently, humans have been afraid that robots programmed with artificial intelligence would someday eradicate the imperfect and parasitic organism known as man.

40 years ago, both scenarios seemed fantastical and only the result of a very creative, but very delusional mind. According to reports this week, it seems that a future might just exist where both scenarios merge into a single threat.

I'm not making this up…

Chimps given human rights by U.S. court for the first time

Robot with $100 bitcoin buys drugs, gets arrested

Just keep the chimps away from the computers and we might be OK.



Christmas in July

Most of those that have been testing Windows 10 beta bits will tell you that Microsoft still has a lot of work left to do before the OS is viable enough for release. Microsoft has been promising a summer release, and even then, most testers are hoping for a LATE summer release to ensure all kinks get worked out. Time is fleeting and confidence in Microsoft's ability to make it all work is at an all-time low.

So, it was quite a shock this week to hear AMD CEO, Lisa Su, accidentally blab during an AMD earnings call that Windows 10 is set to release in July.

Su said that AMD expected stronger PC sales in the second half of 2015 because she was…


…factoring in the Windows 10 launch at the end of July.


AMD is a hardware partner and should know such things. And, based on follow-ups, it's looking more and more like Su's statement wasn't off base at all.


Skillz that pay

If you've ever wondered what a salary looks like for someone that works for Microsoft, or maybe you're a Microsoft employee worried that a co-worker might be making more than you, Business Insider this week published an article containing average numbers for various positions.

Here's the breakdown:

  • Service engineer: $113,310

  • Software development engineer 1: $114,585

  • Escalation engineer: $148,099

  • Senior software development engineer: $176,459

  • Senior researcher: $184,640

  • Senior director: $190,000

  • Creative director: $194,190

  • Human resources director: $237,934

  • Software architect: $262,286

  • Director of business operations: $268,639

  • Principal group program manager: $271,582

  • Senior director marketing: $342,436

  • Director of engineering: $347,210

  • Director of development: $432,961

  • General manager: $457,382

Microsoft pays well, but the company obviously also expects a lot for the investment. You should also consider that the majority of these jobs listed are in the Seattle/Redmond area which has a pretty stiff standard of living. I've come close to moving there to take jobs several times over my professional career, so I can understand the requirements to survive there. Ironically, any of the positions I was in line for were all dedicated to the Redmond campus, despite the company priding itself on creating software to let employees work remotely.


Bugs for Bucks

The majority of vendors have some sort of bounty program for finding bugs. Essentially, if you find a bug, particularly one related to a security hole, the company will reward you for reporting it. Sometimes the payout is significant.

Microsoft this week expanded its own bounty program to include Azure, and Project Spartan. So, even if you can't land a cushy job with the company as a $194,000 Creative Director, you can still soak the company for cash just by breaking things. I swear my Mom could walk away from this with wheelbarrows full of currency as many times as she's "broken" her PC.

The company has set a $15,000 ceiling for both Azure and, but suggests that even more could be paid out for Project Spartan, depending on the quality and complexity of the reported bug.

Online Services Bug Bounty Terms

Project Spartan Bug Bounty Program Terms


Amazon and Audi to Deliver Junk in Your Trunk

Innovative. Just about everything Amazon proposes to do to improve the online shopping experience has a futuristic flair to it. Amazon just thinks outside the box (pun intended).

Audi, Amazon, and DHL have partnered to give delivery drivers the ability to stick your Amazon orders directly into the trunk of your car. It only works for Audi cars and DHL will only deliver the package if the car is parked at your house – for now.

How it works…

Audi issues a temporary keyless authorization to the DHL driver. The code is used to remotely open the car's trunk lid. The digital code only works during a specified time slot (a short range based on the estimated delivery time) and it only works once. Once the package is delivered and the trunk lid is closed and locked, the code expires.

The pilot program launches next month in Munich, Germany and if it works well, Audi is planning to expand the service to deliver packages wherever the car is parked - say, at work during work hours - and to also enable customers to use their own trunks for shipping packages, such as Amazon returns.


After getting crappy customer support from the FCC, Comcast drops bid for TimeWarner


Yesterday, reports blasted the Internet highway that the proposed merger of Comcast and TimeWarner could be smashed. The merger was in response to the crashing cable TV industry as Internet streaming has become the new way to watch shows and movies. However, it doesn't help that both companies offer horrid support services and seem to raise prices whenever the wind blows, or the CEO needs a new car.

If true, this will make both Comcast and TimeWarner customers the happiest they have ever been.

And, finally…

I'm gearing up for a couple weeks of travel. Next week I'm off to BUILD to hear what Microsoft has to say about Windows 10, Windows 10 for Phones, HoloLens and a myriad of other things. I'll be joined at BUILD by Lisa Schmeiser and Richard Hay.

I'll get back from BUILD on Friday, have Saturday to do my laundry and repack, and then head off to Microsoft Ignite on Sunday. We'll have a large team on hand for Ignite, including Lisa Schmeiser, Marcia Parker, Tony Redmond, Richard Hay, and others.

The news will be fast and furious from both of these events, but keep a keen eye on WindowsITPro and Supersite as we'll be providing a lot of commentary on what we hear.

Someone associated with Ignite asked on Twitter this week (I'm not naming names) if this year's Ignite might be the first for anyone. Seems to be a trick question, considering there's never been one before.

Uhhh....everybody? What did I win?

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