Monthly Archives: October 2008

Microsoft releases Windows 7 Pre-Beta

Vista, we hardly knew ya… and we didn’t really want to.

On Tuesday morning, October 28th 2008, Microsoft gave attendees of its Professional Developers Conference a glimpse of Windows 7, the much-ballyhooed successor to Windows Vista, and said it plans to release the Windows 7 beta early next year.

The question on everyones mind… is this Windows 7 or simply Vista 2.0.

Some of the things that are gone:
No more sidebars. Gadgets are added to the desktop, freeing up screen real estate
No more UAC (User Access Control), Microsoft gives control back to the user where it belongs.

To see some of the features that are being added, click the link below. Remember this is the Pre-beta release so what you see may not be what you get. Microsoft can and does change things as they go.
http://www.crn.com/software/211601039

Windows 7 Ultimate Sneak Peek Slide Show
http://www.crn.com/software/211601161;jsessionid=0VBZSM5ODSI1AQSNDLOSKH0CJUNN2JVN?pgno=1

Let’s all hope this OS is better than their last release. Time will tell.

David

Microsoft Releases Emergency Critical Patch

Hot Off The Net – Oct. 23, 2008 2:18PM EDT

Microsoft issued an emergency critical update today addressing a malicious Internet worm that could allow attackers to infiltrate systems remotely and take control over users’ computers without any user interaction.

The critical update is one of a handful of patches released out of sequence in the past few years. Microsoft issues regularly scheduled updates on the second Tuesday of every month, which has become known in IT circles as “Patch Tuesday.”

The fact that Microsoft has released what’s known as an “out-of-band” patch indicates the vulnerability is pretty severe.

The vulnerability, which affects almost every Windows operating system, is rated critical for multiple versions of Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003, but is given the less severe rating of “important” for Vista and Server 2008.

The error, if left unpatched, allows remote attackers to infiltrate systems in order to take control of users’ computers and steal data without any user interaction or social engineering lures. What makes this bug particularly nasty for business networks is that it has the ability to rapidly spread to other vulnerable computers within the network.

Security experts confirm that an exploit is loose in the wild, meaning that there is evidence that an attacker has already used the exploit code to conduct attacks on unsuspecting users. Microsoft also suspects that the code has been used in targeted attacks.

While Microsoft has provided possible workarounds for the vulnerability, users are advised to simply apply the patch as soon as possible. Normally we like to test these updates because you don’t want to break anything with the patch but with a critical patch such as this, it’s best to just get it installed.

Security updates are available on the Microsoft Update, Windows Update and office Update sections of the Microsoft Download Center.

As additional information becomes available, I’ll update this post.

Windows XP Problem Solving for Everyone


The June 30 date for Windows XP “end of life” has come and gone, and Microsoft has officially placed Windows XP on the long road to retirement. Support for the most widely used operating system in the world will still be available for some time, but there are signs that the software giant is forging ahead deeper into an all .Net model, while scrapping the Win32 code altogether—even in legacy mode. Windows 7 might just be that turning point.

With the fundamental shift in the way its desktop operating system functions, Microsoft has placed millions of users in a tough position. The new XP technician must be crafty and resourceful to solve performance problems, security flaws, unstable environments and countless other issues.

But not everyone is tech-savvy enough to solve the arcane errors that pop up from time to time. With that in mind, here’s a simple list of fixes, tools and automated techniques that can satisfy most users needs with little to no technical understanding of XP.

Prepare Yourself
Similar to adjusting a carburetor to produce the right mix, XP requires up-front adjustments to get the OS to perform at optimal conditions. But before looking under the XP “hood,” follow these steps:

1st. Back up all your critical data to an external storage device.

2nd. If working with a laptop, make sure the laptop is plugged in and not running on battery power.

3rd. Make sure you have administrative access and are logged on as the administrator.

Probably the simplest and most reliable way to optimize storage and improve OS performance is to buy Diskeeper 2008 Professional. But for those on tight budgets, free solutions (and free is always my personal favorite) are also available.

Increasing the physical RAM size is probably the easiest way to manage memory, but if that’s too expensive or not an option, I’d recommend resizing the Windows System Cache and its Registry settings. Here’s how:
1. Go to the Control Panel, click on System Properties, Advanced tab, Performance/settings button. In the Performance Options pane click on the advanced tab, users can increase the size of the virtual memory, and set up processor and memory usage priorities.

2. Controlling cached icons in memory is simple to change in XP. To change the system cache, go to Start, Run and type and run Regedit. Press F3 to find this key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer. Lower the value of the Max Cached Icons.

3. To optimize memory, we recommend using Process Lasso. The tool is free, reliable and powerful. Process Lasso provides fine control over applications and services by allowing users to change running priorities and restrain memory usage.
Process Lasso: http://www.bitsum.com/prolasso.php

4. Have only a single primary disk partition for XP. Creating a single hard drive partition for XP has been proven to be the fastest way to set up system storage.

5. Detect and repair disk errors on a regular basis. There’s no special software to complete this function as the feature is built into Windows XP SP2 and above. Go to Start | My Computer | and right click on the hard disk you want to check, then click Properties. In the properties dialog box, click on the Tools tab and click the Check Now button. In the Check Disk dialog box, select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check box and click Start. You do not have to select “Automatically fix file system errors” unless you think that your disk contains bad sectors. If bad sectords are found, simply choose to fix them.

Know Your System
Here are more tips on how to avoid corrupting the registry. Take advantage of tools like CCleaner, RegCleaner and RegSupreme.
CCleaner: http://www.ccleaner.com/
Regcleaner: http://www.regclean.com/index.php
RegSupreme: http://www.download.com/RegSupreme/3000-2086_4-10225988.html

IMPORTANT! Back up the Registry by simply saving copies every time software is installed. By this I mean to backup your registry BEFORE you install a new software package. That way, if the installation messes up your computer and you can’t successfully uninstall the offending software, you’ll be able to revert to a good registry

And lastly, here’s how to know if you’ve been hacked:
Never depend on antivirus software and personal firewalls to automatically protect an XP computer. If a user knows what to look for, even sophisticated Windows forensic tools can work quite well.

For years now we’ve been been using Process Explorer and we highly recommend it. Process Explorer provides a listing of all processes running within an XP system, including all interdependencies for the processes.
Process Explorer: http://www.download.com/Process-Explorer/3000-2094_4-10223605.h

TPCView and FPort are simple tools that provide realtime information on all ports. If a hacker is attempting to enter through a port, FPort will show the pathway of the port access and map it to services in the OS.
TCPView: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb897437.aspx
FPort: http://www.scanwith.com/Fport_download.htm

Becoming an XP mechanic doesn’t require popping the hood and getting your hands dirty. Users just need to be proactive and smart enough to use sophisticated tools without having to learn the inner complexities of XP. Fortunately, the information provided here can help even the most nontechnical user figure out tough problems in minutes.

HI-YO Silverlight – AWAY!

What are you waiting for Tonto?
Unfortunately, my heading will be lost on some younger viewers/listeners but I thought it was cute…

The Internet remains the biggest opportunity for most companies jockeying for your eyeballs and Silverlight is Microsoft’s attempt at gaining market share in the enormous Internet multimedia market (sometimes referred to as RIA – Rich Internet Applications).

Essentially, Silverlight is a competitor to Adobe’s Flash which currently has an estimated 90% market share; both are web development platforms.

Most everyone is familiar with Adobe’s Flash as the engine that renders the videos at sights like YouTube.com and CNN.com, but it’s also the technology used for just about anything visual that has movement or animation (if you right-click on any video or animation that is being generated in flash, a dialog box will appear with the last item being “About Adobe Flash Player…”)

Microsoft’s approach with Silverlight is quite different from Adobe’s Flash in that it is currently more focused on application development (it works directly with the .Net development platform), but at the end of the day, they both want you to use their software to view video and rich media on the Internet.

In order for Microsoft to get more web surfers to use the Silverlight viewing software (often referred to as a ‘plug-in’), they have to convince more website developers to use their development tools for generating multimedia content. In order for more website developers to commit to using Silverlight development tools, they want to see more web surfers that have the Silverlight viewing software installed, so it is a bit of a ‘Catch-22’ at the moment.

One of the highest profile partnerships that Microsoft landed for Silverlight was NBC’s Olympics website, which required the Silverlight software in order to view the live streams that were available during the games.

Oddly enough, now that the Olympic games are over, all of the archive videos at NBCOlympics.com are encoded using Adobe’s Flash. Many are speculating that NBC realized that 40 million US visitors to their Olympics site did not have Silverlight installed yet and that the extra annoyance of having to download the software in order to view the video was not worth the hassle.

So the real question is, do YOU need it? The answer to that question is different for everyone reading this and the sights you visit on the Internet will be the biggest factor. Until you go to a website that requires the download and you deem the content valuable enough to do so, you don’t need to install it.

Many of you may be seeing it as a download during Windows updates, which is another way to get it installed. In general, I am not seeing anything outside the ordinary problems for those that have installed Silverlight, so installing it before you find a need for it shouldn’t impact a properly running computer (never install anything new if your computer is not running properly – it just adds more variables to the problem).

Silverlight is still in its infancy (Version 2 is currently in Beta testing and available at microsoft.com/silverlight), so Microsoft has another long battle in front of it if they want to grab market share away from Adobe.

If you happened to be a business and in the market for development tools for web-based applications, you would do well to evaluate all of the options in the family of development tools offered by Microsoft including Silverlight (www.silverlight.net) in your search.

Learn more about Silverlight here:
http://silverlight.net/GetStarted/

Install the newest version here – it’s a 4 MB download and a 10 second install
http://www.microsoft.com/SILVERLIGHT/
 
As for my headline: Backed by the William Tell Overture, the full mantra of the Lone Ranger went like this: “A firey horse with the speed of light. a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver!” Want to hear it for yourself – click here

Just doing what I can to keep the legend of the Lone Ranger and Tonto alive.

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