FOXTROT/ALFA: Fallout TV Show, Guacamole Vulnerability, Die Siedler Delayed

TGIF! Time for some comfort food and booze, it’s Friday! Well, not for me, I still got work to do over the next few days, but I hope you’re getting ready for the weekend – especially if you’re in the US.

But before you run off, here’s issue 133 of FOXTROT/ALFA for Friday, 3 July 2020 with your dose of tech news for the day.

Amazon is Doing a Fallout TV Show

Yep. They waited until after Bethesda wrecked the franchise to turn it into a TV show. Typical.

Amazon Studios has licensed the rights to the worldwide best-selling game franchise Fallout, with acclaimed producers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s Kilter Films attached to produce the project, currently in development with a series commitment.

“Fallout is one of the greatest game series of all time. Each chapter of this insanely imaginative story has cost us countless hours we could have spent with family and friends. So we’re incredibly excited to partner with Todd Howard and the rest of the brilliant lunatics at Bethesda to bring this massive, subversive, and darkly funny universe to life with Amazon Studios,” said Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, Kilter Films.

Seriously, I’d be much more excited if these games hadn’t gotten worse and worse after New Vegas.

OneDrive Broken for Some Users

Hey, look! New Windows 10 version? More bugs! What a surprise.

While Microsoft was showing off its new OneDrive toys, the company also slipped out a fix for brave souls running Windows 10 2004 and finding Files On-Demand a little borked.

Issues have been rumbling for a few weeks now as users of the new OS began complaining that “OneDrive cannot connect to Windows”, rendering the Files On-Demand feature, which pulls data down from the cloudy bit barn when needed, broken.Microsoft pointed to devices or apps that use legacy file system filter drivers as the culprit, leaving some machines unable to connect to OneDrive via the OneDrive app. The afflicted were unable to download new files or open previously synced files – thus somewhat undermining the point.

Apache Guacamole Vulnerability

There’s a serious vulnerability in the open source remote desktop tool Guacamole from the Apache Software Foundation.

The Apache Project’s popular Guacamole open-source remote desktop software contained vulns allowing remote attackers to steal login creds and hijack targeted machines, researchers have said. Israeli infosec outfit Check Point discovered the reverse RDP flaws, an attack method that allows a compromised host to transmit malware to a clean client machine opening a remote desktop protocol (RDP) session with it.

The Apache Foundation has issued patches for Guacamole following Check Point’s research, which resulted in two CVEs (2020-9497 and 2020-9498). Readers who haven’t patched it lately should do so immediately.

Dutch National Broadcaster NPO Stopped Tracking People and Actually Made More Money from Ads

Maybe tracking your audience everywhere they go isn’t actually the be-all and end-all of financing journalism? Could it be…

Johnny Ryan, chief policy officer at privacy-focused browser biz Brave, has reported on how ad revenue increased when Dutch national broadcaster NPO stopped running third-party trackers on its online video website. Ryan’s report questions the core assumption that targeted adverting is more effective. “In January 2020, when NPO switched from tracking-based targeting to contextual targeting, revenue increased 61 per cent more than January 2019. In February, revenue increased 76 per cent over the previous year,” he wrote.

The research is based on a report by STER (Stichting Ether Reclame), the company that manages advertising for NPO, which was presented at the Computer Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) 2020 conference held in Brussels in January. The big question: how is it that contextual advertising can bring in more revenue for the publisher? The answer may be more to do with the nature of the adtech industry than the effectiveness of the ads themselves. STER says that non-personalised ads are “just as effective”, measured by number of clicks an ad attracts, though the click-through is not a complete analysis of effectiveness.

Perhaps the biggest factor is lack of transparency in the real-time bidding (RTB) market for online advertising. When targeted ads appear on sites like NPO, they cannot be bought directly from NPO (or STER) because the publisher lacks the data that drives the targeting. Instead they are bought via an agency, which takes a cut of the revenue. In the worst case, only 30 per cent of the money paid by the advertiser reaches the publisher, according to the report. This means contextual advertising is potentially much more profitable for publishers, even if the ads themselves are somewhat less effective. According to Ryan, RTB “is a cancer eating the heart of legitimate media, and a business model for the bottom of the web.”

The suggestion, therefore, is not so much that targeted advertising never works, but rather that a greedy adtech industry, along with the impact of privacy concerns, is giving publishers an incentive to return to plain old contextual advertising.

Food for thought.

Amazon Releases .NET Porting Assistant

Amazon is trying to get developers to port their .NET software into the AWS cloud. Many companies use .NET for internal applications and business logic.

The Porting Assistant for .NET is to help users convert a Windows-only .NET Framework application (which typically runs on the IIS web server) to a .NET Core application that will run on Linux and, Amazon hopes, be easy to migrate to the AWS cloud.

Six years ago Microsoft forked the .NET platform, leaving .NET Framework as Windows-only and creating the open-source .NET Core, cross-platform on Windows, Linux and Mac. It was inevitable that the .NET Framework version would be left behind, and Microsoft said last year that “.NET Framework 4.8 will be the last major version.”

Running on .NET Core generally means better performance as well as deployment flexibility and no need to license Windows Server to run an application. Porting from .NET Framework, though, can be a challenge, especially since ASP.NET Web Forms, a popular framework for web applications, has not been implemented in .NET Core. Businesses with .NET Framework web applications can migrate them to Windows Server on public cloud, but migrating them to .NET Core is a better solution if it can be done without too much pain and risk.

AWS is keen for its customers to make this move, no doubt in the hope that more applications will find their way onto its cloud platform, and to that end has released the Porting Assistant for .NET, which promises to assist. Microsoft also has some porting tools, including try-convert which “can convert a project or entire solution to the .NET SDK,” but it comes with a bunch of warnings including that it “rejects many project types that are incompatible with .NET Core.”

Our first thought seeing the AWS Porting Assistant was why Microsoft had not come up with it first. Unfortunately, the tool is currently rather limited.

Tails 4.8 Released

Tails is a live Linux distribution designed to enable you to surf the internet as anonymously as possible. A new version has just been released.

A new version of Tails is now available for download, and this time the highlight is a set of security improvements that are supposed to protect users when running this Linux distro.

The most notable change concerns Unsafe Browser, which has been disabled by default in Tails version 4.8. The dev team emphasizes that Unsafe Browser is not an app that can protect your identity online, adding that the app can be used to deanonymize you and, with the help of other security flaws in the apps running on the OS, could eventually reveal your IP address.

The clue was in the name, it seems.

Die Siedler Delayed Indefinitely

Ubisoft has just delayed the new Die Siedler game indefinitely . Die Siedler (The Settlers) is a legendary German strategy game series, known for its small, funny characters that incessantly run hither and yon. It’s traditionally focused on building villages, infrastructure and then expanding your influence by military means.

The new Siedler remake was shown last year at Gamescom without a planned release date. It seemed to be solid, but Ubisoft (which bought Düsseldorf-based developer Blue Byte in 2001) now says focus groups and other studies have shown that the game needs more work.

Analogue Radio is Here to Stay, At Least in the UK

How well is digital radio received – pun intended – by the public? So well that in the UK, analogue radio is been given a new lease on life.

Analogue radio station licences will be extended for another 10 years, the UK government has said – entirely reversing plans to shut off FM and AM radio stations in favour of DAB digital radio. Commercial radio stations will be allowed to renew their existing, close-to-expiry licences for another decade, meaning your old banger’s tape deck-cum-stereo will keep working until at least 2032.

The U-turn “ensures there is no disruption for loyal listeners of treasured FM and AM radio services such as Classic FM, Absolute Radio and TalkSport over the next decade,” boasted media minister John Whittingdale, a one-time Minister of Fun* now reduced to tinkering with the airwaves.

* Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It follows that the Cabinet minister with responsibility for DCMS is the Minister of Fun.

Also Noteworthy

Some other stories I’ve been reading:

And with that, I’ll say farewell for this week and I’d like to wish all of my readers from the US a good Fourth of July weekend with this Springsteen classic. Have a good one!

This is an archived issue of my daily newsletter FOXTROT/ALFA. You can find more information about it, including how to subscribe via email, on this page.