XP Users Beware of IE v8 Beta 2

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 and A Warning To XP Users

Users anxious to upgrade their Web browser to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 may encounter a snag if they’ve downloaded Windows XP Service Pack 3. After announcing IE8 Beta 2, the Microsoft team quickly wrote a blog post warning users that IE 8 Beta 2 combined with Windows XP SP3 will not be able to uninstall IE8 Beta 1 or SP3.

Here’s how it breaks down. Microsoft released IE8 Beta 1 before XP Service Pack 3 became available. Users who downloaded and installed SP3 after IE8 Beta 1 are urged by Microsoft to manually uninstall Beta 1 before upgrading to Beta 2; otherwise, neither SP3 or Beta 1 will be able to be uninstalled from your machine.

According to the Internet Explorer Blog, users who have Automatic Updates turned on will be prompted by the operating system to upgrade to Beta 2, but the update message won’t explain the ramifications of putting IE8 Beta 2 on top of Beta 1 and SP3.

Personally, I think it might be a scheme orchestrated by Microsoft to retroactively add another feature to IE8. Is it too outlandish to consider that Microsoft is hedging its bets on IE8 Beta 2 by making sure Beta 1 will always be tied to a machine? And isn’t it just a tad suspicious that the flaw only affects Windows XP — the very operating system that many users refuse to migrate away from in favor of Vista?

Anyway, we (the users) should be the final decision makers when it comes to the software we allow to run on our systems. If you’re considering IE 8 Beta 2 I urge you to read the blog post BEFORE attempting to download and install this updated version.

Explorer8 Features

8 Add-ons

Explorer 8 Beta 2 what’s next in the browser wars.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about Google and their newly released “Chrome” browser. Here’s a link to their 38 page comic book introducing Chrome – way too much information in my opinion but:,M1

I’ll report back on how Chrome works when I’ve had an opportunity to fully test it – stand by…..

In the meantime, if you’re the adventureous type, here’s the download link for Chrome BETA:

More Junk found on the Internet

I really don’t know why I’m posting this but here you go:

The Top 10 reasons you don’t want GM to engineer cars like Microsoft engineers their Windows Operating Systems.

Below is the content of an email I received last week. The original author of the content is not known and the quotes have not been verified. Even so, it provides food for thought and could be the beginnings of some interesting water cooler discussions.

For all of us who feel only the deepest love and affection for the way computers have enhanced our lives, please read on.

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, ”If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.”

In response to Bill’s comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

Microsoft vs General Motors

1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash……..Twice a day.

2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.

4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive – but would run on only five percent of the roads.

6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single ”This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation” warning light.

7. The airbag system would ask ”Are you sure?” before deploying.

8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

9. Every time a new car was introduced, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

10. You have to press the ”Start” button to turn the engine off.

Have a GREAT Day!

Microsoft Windows v7 First Glimpse

Windows 7 “Ultimate” video
First glimpse – let’s fire up the rumor mill!

Windows 7 “appears” to look a lot like Windows Vista, judging from a video purporting to show the “Ultimate” version of Microsoft’s next operating system. The video popped up on the Internet and has drawn more than one and a half million hits on YouTube.

The three minute and 48 second video claims to show Windows 7 Ultimate at “Milestone 1.” For the record, Windows 7 isn’t slated for release until January 2010 at the earliest.

Not much happens in the video’s first 30 seconds, then a screen appears showing the words “Windows 7 Ultimate”, version 6.1, along with Microsoft’s usual licensing disclaimers. The video then runs through an assortment of screens.

The most interesting, and credible, portion shows a scrollable menu that’s subdivided into areas such as TV and Movies, Pictures and Videos, Music, Tasks and Online Media. It doesn’t feature the sort of touch screen interface that Microsoft demonstrated for Windows 7 “Surface” technology earlier this year at the All Things Digital Conference. You can view a YouTube video of Surface technology in action here – it’s pretty darn cool:

But beyond a few new bells and whistles, what’s most noticeable about Windows 7, at least as it’s shown on this video, is how similar it looks to Windows Vista. That’s probably bad news for Microsoft, if it turns out to really be the case.

Early word from Microsoft indicates that Windows 7 will include many of Vista’s useless CPU and memory munching “features” and then some. In other words, it will be time to upgrade your hardware again when the OS arrives in the next year or so.

The fact is, most users don’t want all these extras, especially if they require hundreds of dollars worth of additional hardware. Computer users — in business and at home – simply want a machine that can handle word processing, e-mail and the Internet, and that’s about it.

To experience all of Vista ‘s bloated features, PC users need a computer with at least a 1-GHz processor, 1 GB of memory, and a 40-GB hard drive. By contrast, Windows XP Professional requires only a 300-MHz processor, 128 Mbytes of RAM, and a 1.5 GB hard drive.

Here’s a YouTube video showing some screen shots.

Microsoft has also launched a blog called Engineering Windows 7 to keep developers informed on progress on its forthcoming operating system. Take a look.

Windows 7 News

Protecting Your Computer From Mother Nature

August is bad weather month here on the South Shore and it’s not uncommon for a severe storm to hit without warning. That’s why protecting your computer and printer with a surge suppressor is more than a good idea—it’s an absolute must.

While a home circuit breaker can protect some of your appliances, they were not built to protect the sensitive electronic equipment in a computer. If a high electrical surge hits your computer, it could fry your motherboard and CPU in seconds causing you to lose data AND the use of your computer.

The biggest mistake most users make is thinking that their power strip will protect them, when in reality, it won’t. To adequately protect your sensitive electronic investments, you need a quality surge suppressor designed to handle the job.

There are main 2 things to look for in a surge suppressor:
First is response time. This is the amount of time it takes this device to react to a power surge. This should be 10 nanoseconds or less; any longer and you run the risk of damaging your PC.

The second thing to look for is the amount of energy it can absorb and dissipate before it blows, measured in joules. I recommend at least 800 joules or higher.

Another feature to look for is a failure indicator light. This light will come on when the suppressor is fried and no longer protecting your computer. Most surge suppressors will have this.

If you’re using a dial-up modem (hopefully only for your fax machine), be sure the suppressor blocks electricity that can come in from the phone lines. If you have a fax or cable line, make sure the suppressor you chose handles those too. You also want to make sure the suppressor you choose meets the UL 1449 specifications (this will be listed on the box).

There are three levels of protection: 330, 400 and 500. This number refers to the maximum voltage that the suppressor will allow to pass through the line. The lower the number, the better off you are.

Finally, unplug your computer and all computer equipment, telephone, and modem lines during a lightning storm. This is the ultimate protection against sudden and devastating power surges.

For more information, visit one of my favorite wewbsites – How Stuff Works

FREE Laptop Tracking System Hits the Streets

Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego, have launched Adeona, an open source service aimed at helping consumers and businesses track the location of lost or stolen laptops.

Adeona may have been the goddess of safe returns, but if a group of computer science professors and graduate students get their wish, they’ll be viewed as the patron saints of secure laptop computer data, thanks to their new open source software service named after the Roman deity.

Also, for those who worship at the altar of bargains, Adeona may indeed be a godsend: It’s free.

Adeona, the result of a yearlong joint research project at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego, allows users to track the location of lost or stolen laptop computers.

It’s designed to answer the needs of corporations and government entities that have seen an increase in personal data breaches because of missing laptops, as well as consumers who are putting more music, photos and memories onto their portable computers.

Security vs. Privacy
For one of the graduate students involved in the project, Adeona became a search for a truly private system for laptop users. “The research project at first was initially not about delivering a service for the general public,” Thomas Ristenpart, graduate student from UCSD says. “We were originally looking at the privacy implications of some of the device-tracking systems now on the market. But as we got into it, we realized we were going to develop a client that people would be interested in using.”

That interest stems from the fact that existing commercial laptop-tracking products involve someone besides the owner having access to personal data. Ristenpart has no information that any abuse has taken place, he said, but his team understood the concerns some users might have regarding those products.

How It Works
Users install Adeona onto their laptops, which then set up encrypted connections to the open source OpenDHT storage servers on the Web. If a user loses a laptop or is the victim of theft, another download and a password allows him to track his device via last-known Internet protocol (IP) addresses and Internet nodes that were used to connect to the missing machine. Users are the only ones to see the information about their laptops — not outside companies or law enforcement agencies.

“We think that one of the cool contributions of this type of research is not only can you develop a system that successfully tracks your laptop, but it can do so with privacy mechanisms in place. People don’t have to sacrifice privacy to get these kinds of benefits,” Ristenpart said.

Open Source Security
There are some questions about whether an open source-based tracking system would itself be secure, since any developer would have access to the source code. The fact that it’s open source makes the structure of security visible to the bad guys as well. … many Corporations don’t open source security for that reason.

Tracking systems focused on the hardware and not the data itself face challenges. The thieves steal the laptops, and within an hour just throw them away. What they really wanted was the data, they wanted the identity on the laptop.

Adeona runs on Mac’s, PC’s with Windows XP and Vista and of course, Linux.

Here’s the link to Adeona’s home page for additional information and downloads:

Microsoft Eats Humble Pie

Microsoft eats humble pie and announces Windows XP support to be extended to 13 years!

Microsoft took a large bite of humble pie this week, announcing that it will continue to support Windows XP until 2014. That’s an unprecedented 13 years from the operating system’s release, a new record for Microsoft’s support of an operating system. It will take the form of critical updates and security patches, but there was no mention of major service pack releases.

Hinting at Microsoft’s embarrassment over the announcement, the news was released via a letter sent from Microsoft senior VP Bill Veghte to customers, rather than a formal press release. Within the letter, Mr Veghte claimed that “Our ongoing support for Windows XP is the result of our recognition that people keep their Windows-based PCs for many years”. Sounds nice, but the truth isn’t quite as charitable. The fact is that Vista simply hasn’t penetrated businesses as quickly as Microsoft would have liked, with many choosing to stick with the proven stability and lower hardware demands of Windows XP.

In an extraordinary case of double speak, Mr Veghte confirmed that as of June 30, Windows XP will no longer be available at retail, and will also no longer be licensed directly to major PC manufacturers. Yet in the same breath, gave the cryptic explanation that “…customers who still need Windows XP will be able to get it.” (In the absence of any further explanation from Microsoft officials, we’re sure BitTorrent will fulfil many people’s needs for years to come.)

A major segment that is relying heavily upon this continued access to Windows XP is the ultra low-cost PC market. The flagship ultra low-cost PC, Asus’s Eee PC, is a prime example of why – it simply doesn’t have the oomph to power the resource-hungry Vista. With this market set to boom, the only other alternative – shipping with Linux – obviously doesn’t meet with Microsoft’s plans of continued global domination. I’m still trying to figure out how these low-cost manufacturers are going to “be able to get ” XP. Shifty guys wearing XP-laden trench coats, offering their illicit wares on street corners and back alleys?

For the immediate future, it looks like we’ll have to wait for Vista’s successor (currently code named Windows 7) to see any real improvement in the Microsoft operating system. Thanks Microsoft – and the beat goes on!

To add insult to injury….. Pirated Windows more impressive than the real thing!
The latest version of TinyXP has hit the pirate boards. SP3-integrated and with more tools than you can poke a stick at, it gives XP a new lease on life. Shame it’s illegal.One of the annoyances with installing a fresh copy of Windows XP these days is that the driver set is six years out of date, and there’s been a LOT of new hardware emerge since then. It’s one thing to install the latest graphics driver, but it’s another to have to set up everything from the chipset to the storage drivers. Sometimes you feel that after having spent half an hour installing XP, you’re spending twice that much time again to just get it functional.

Check out the rest of the story:

Bill Gates is Moving On

The End of an Era?
For more than 30 years, Bill Gates has been at the helm of Microsoft. All that changes as of Monday June 30th, 2008.

In some respects, this week won’t be terribly different for Bill Gates than the previous 1,712 weeks he has spent working full-time at Microsoft, the company he co-founded as a teenager. The 52-year-old icon has some one-on-one meetings scheduled with a few of his top technical executives. He has some customer meetings. And, as often happens, he’ll go to the television studio on Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., campus to tape a few messages for events he won’t be able to attend. In addition, he says, “I hope to write a few memos.” But normalcy will be an illusion. Everybody knows that when the week ends, Bill Gates will walk out of his office for the last time as someone on the clock for Microsoft. (On that final day, the routine will be shredded, and the staff has planned some internal commemorative events.) He’ll take a break this summer (including a sojourn to the Beijing Olympics), and beginning in September the new focus of his work life will be the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the organization he began with his wife in 2000. With a current $37.3 billion endowment, it’s the world’s richest philanthropic institution.

Gates leaves at a challenging time for Microsoft, but this is the final step in a painstakingly planned process that began four years ago. It was spring 2004 when the Gateses began discussing the possibility that if Bill increased his role at the foundation—making as big a donation in brainpower as he has in dollars—he could save or improve many lives. Gates formalized the move in June 2006, when Microsoft announced a two-year transition period scheduled to end, well, right now. “I don’t know of any retirement that’s been as carefully thought through,” says Gates.

The paradoxical aspect of this period has been that while Gates has consciously been stepping back in some areas (almost no one reports to him, and he has limited his tech focus to a few key areas like search and the next version of Windows), his passion for the software world is as intense as ever. “Bill comes to every meeting like he’s going to be here for the next 10 years,” says CEO Steve Ballmer. So no one really knows how much culture shock will set in when Gates leaves the campus this Friday. Though he will remain the chairman of its board of directors—assuring him a huge voice in any big decisions—and plans to spend the equivalent of one day a week on company business, the idea that he won’t be there seems unreal. Microsoft without Bill Gates? It does not compute.

Gates does have some specific ideas, big and small. At the suggestion of Warren Buffett—who will donate billions from his fortune to the foundation over the next few years—Gates intends to work on an annual letter, in the same spirit as Buffett’s yearly missive to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. To learn more about areas the foundation is working on, he is doing intensive reading on education and science, and has monitored online college courses in geology, history and microparticle physics. He is fully engaged on several problems already. “People know I have a particular fascination with AIDS and malaria,” he says. One obsession is an AIDS vaccine, and Gates was disappointed when a trial indicated that a promising candidate for a solution, made by Merck, was not effective. Discussing the vaccine, an intense Gates cites research that implies that a variation might be more effective. Clearly, he’s viewing the process the same way he views software development—maybe version 3.0 will do the trick.

Gates understands that his identity as a philanthropist will be drastically different than his role as the king of software. “We don’t have a CES on malaria, so you don’t get 50,000 people converging on a city and saying, ‘Oh, Bill’s keynote on malaria is coming’,” he says. He realizes that working on the issues of the foundation could make him more of a lightning rod than he was as the head of the digital Borg. “The new world is more controversial than the old world,” he says. “We do family planning. We fund research on crops, and some people think that you shouldn’t take science to help the poor people. This whole thing about which operating system somebody uses is a pretty silly thing versus issues involving starvation or death.”

Treading on uncertain ground like that underlines the difficulties Gates may face in leaving the job he has loved so much. “It may be more of a change than he thinks,” says Paul Allen, recalling his own departure from Microsoft in 1983. “You don’t always realize how dramatic that transition is going to be when people aren’t depending on your decisions day by day.”

“In no sense would I say, ‘Oh, I’m making a sacrifice because it’s something my mother told me I ought to do’,” Gates says. “I am doing something my mother told me I ought to do, but it’s going to be a lot of fun. And I feel good about the impact as well.” As for Microsoft, there’s always e-mail.

Here’s a funny You Tube Video of Bill’s final days.

FIREFOX v3 RC1 now available

Mozilla Corp., of Mountain View California has released Version 3 of their very popular Firefox browser. This update is more secure, easier to use and more personal. Among Firefox 3’s new security features is one-click access to site info to allow users to quickly see information on who owns a given Web site and whether the connection is protected from eavesdropping.

What’s New in Firefox 3
Firefox 3 is based on the Gecko 1.9 Web rendering platform, which has been under development for the past 33 months. Building on the previous release, Gecko 1.9 has more than 14,000 updates including some major re-architecting to provide improved performance , stability, rendering correctness, and code simplification and sustainability. Firefox 3 has been built on top of this new platform resulting in a more secure , easier to use, more personal product with a lot more to offer website and Firefox add-on developers.

More Secure
• One-click site info: Click the site favicon in the location bar to see who owns the site and to check if your connection is protected from eavesdropping. Identity verification is prominently displayed and easier to understand. When a site uses Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates, the site favicon button will turn green and show the name of the company you’re connected to. ( Try it here! )

• Malware Protection: malware protection warns users when they arrive at sites which are known to install viruses, spyware, trojans or other malware. ( Try it here! )

• New Web Forgery Protection page: the content of pages suspected as web forgeries is no longer shown. ( Try it here! )

• New SSL error pages: clearer and stricter error pages are used when Firefox encounters an invalid SSL certificate. ( Try it here! )

• Add-ons and Plugin version check: Firefox now automatically checks add-on and plugin versions and will disable older, insecure versions.

• Secure add-on updates: to improve add-on update security, add-ons that provide updates in an insecure manner will be disabled.

• Anti-virus integration: Firefox will inform anti-virus software when downloading executables.

• Vista Parental Controls: Firefox now respects the Vista system-wide parental control setting for disabling file downloads.

• Effective top-level domain (eTLD) service better restricts cookies and other restricted content to a single domain.

• Better protection against cross-site JSON data leaks .

Easier to Use
• Easier password management: an information bar replaces the old password dialog so you can now save passwords after a successful login.

• Simplified add-on installation: the add-ons whitelist has been removed making it possible to install extensions from third-party sites in fewer clicks.

• New Download Manager: the revised download manager makes it much easier to locate downloaded files, and you can see and search on the name of the website where a file came from. Your active downloads and time remaining are always shown in the status bar as your files download.

• Resumable downloading: users can now resume downloads after restarting the browser or resetting your network connection.

• Full page zoom: from the View menu and via keyboard shortcuts, the new zooming feature lets you zoom in and out of entire pages, scaling the layout, text and images, or optionally only the text size. Your settings will be remembered whenever you return to the site.

• Podcasts and Videocasts can be associated with your media playback tools.

• Tab scrolling and quickmenu: tabs are easier to locate with the new tab scrolling and tab quickmenu.

• Save what you were doing: Firefox will prompt users to save tabs on exit.

• Optimized Open in Tabs behavior: opening a folder of bookmarks in tabs now appends the new tabs rather than overwriting.

• Location and Search bar size can now be customized with a simple resizer item.

• Text selection improvements: multiple text selections can be made with Ctrl/Cmd; double-click drag selects in “word-by-word” mode; triple-clicking selects a paragraph.

• Find toolbar: the Find toolbar now opens with the current selection.

• Plugin management: users can disable individual plugins in the Add-on Manager.

• Integration with Windows: Firefox now has improved Windows icons, and uses native user interface widgets in the browser and in web forms.

• Integration with the Mac: the new Firefox theme makes toolbars, icons, and other user interface elements look like a native OS X application. Firefox also uses OS X widgets and supports Growl for notifications of completed downloads and available updates. A combined back and forward control make it even easier to move between web pages.

• Integration with Linux: Firefox’s default icons, buttons, and menu styles now use the native GTK theme.

More Personal
• Star button: quickly add bookmarks from the location bar with a single click; a second click lets you file and tag them.

• Tags: associate keywords with your bookmarks to sort them by topic.

• Location bar & auto-complete: type in all or part of the title, tag or address of a page to see a list of matches from your history and bookmarks; a new display makes it easier to scan through the matching results and find that page you’re looking for. Results are returned according to their frecency (a combination of frequency and recency of visits to that page) ensuring that you’re seeing the most relevant matches. An adaptive learning algorithm further tunes the results to your patterns!

• Smart Bookmarks Folder: quickly access your recently bookmarked and tagged pages, as well as your more frequently visited pages with the new smart bookmarks folder on your bookmark toolbar.

• Places Organizer: view, organize and search through all of your bookmarks, tags, and browsing history with multiple views and smart folders to store your frequent searches. Create and restore full backups whenever you want.

• Web-based protocol handlers: web applications, such as your favorite webmail provider, can now be used instead of desktop applications for handling mailto: links from other sites. Similar support is available for other protocols (Web applications will have to first enable this by registering as handlers with Firefox).

• Download & Install Add-ons: the Add-ons Manager (Tools > Add-ons) can now be used to download and install a Firefox customization from the thousands of Add-ons available from our community add-ons website . When you first open the Add-ons Manager, a list of recommended Add-ons is shown.

• Easy to use Download Actions: a new Applications preferences pane provides a better UI for configuring handlers for various file types and protocol schemes.

Improved Platform for Developers
• New graphics and font handling: new graphics and text rendering architectures in Gecko 1.9 provides rendering improvements in CSS, SVG as well as improved display of fonts with ligatures and complex scripts.

• Color management: (set gfx.color_management.enabled on in about:config and restart the browser to enable.) Firefox can now adjust images with embedded color profiles.

• Offline support: enables web applications to provide offline functionality (website authors must add support for offline browsing to their site for this feature to be available to users).

• A more complete overview of Firefox 3 for developers is available for website and add-on developers.

Improved Performance
• Speed: improvements to our JavaScript engine as well as profile guided optimizations have resulted in continued improvements in performance. Compared to Firefox 2, web applications like Google Mail and Zoho Office run twice as fast in Firefox 3, and the popular SunSpider test from Apple shows improvements over previous releases.

• Memory usage: Several new technologies work together to reduce the amount of memory used by Firefox 3 over a web browsing session. Memory cycles are broken and collected by an automated cycle collector, a new memory allocator reduces fragmentation, hundreds of leaks have been fixed, and caching strategies have been tuned.

• Reliability: A user’s bookmarks, history, cookies, and preferences are now stored in a transactionally secure database format which will prevent data loss even if their system crashes.

The only caveat affecting Microsoft Windows users thus far:
• A Windows Media Player (WMP) plugin is not provided with Windows Vista and some other versions of Windows. To view Windows Media content, you must install this plugin by following these instructions . After installing you may need to check for Windows Updates before the plugin will show content properly.

Windows Operating Systems
Windows 2000
Windows XP
Windows Server 2003
Windows Vista

Minimum Hardware
Pentium 233 MHz ( Recommended: Pentium 500MHz or greater)
64 MB RAM ( Recommended: 128 MB RAM or greater)
52 MB hard drive space

Mac Operating Systems
Mac OS X 10.4 and later 

Minimum Hardware
Macintosh computer with an Intel x86 or PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor
128 MB RAM ( Recommended: 256 MB RAM or greater)
200 MB hard drive space 

Linux Software Requirements
Please note that Linux distributors may provide packages for your distribution which have different requirements.

Linux kernel – 2.2.14 or higher with the following libraries or packages:
glibc 2.3.2 or higher
XFree86-3.3.6 or higher
gtk+2.0 or higher
fontconfig (also known as xft)

Minimum Hardware
Intel Pentium II or AMD K6-III+ 233 MHz CPU ( Recommended: 500MHz or greater)
64 MB RAM ( Recommended: 128 MB RAM or greater)
52 MB hard drive space

One Laptop Per Child now with Windows XP

OLPC Adds Windows XP To XO Laptop

Microsoft said Thursday that it has reached a deal with the One Laptop Per Child project to make its Windows XP operating system available on the group’s low-cost notebook computers for distribution to students in developing countries.

“By supporting a wide variety of affordable computing solutions for education that includes OLPC’s XO laptop, we aim to make technology more relevant, accessible, and affordable for students everywhere,” Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, said in a statement.

Microsoft will charge OLPC a highly reduced Windows XP licensing fee of $3 per unit under a program it calls Unlimited Potential. OLPC’s goal is to make the XO widely available to students in poor nations for a total price of less than $100.

OLPC said it now plans to offer XO models with both the Windows XP and Linux operating systems. “Today’s announcement, coupled with future plans for a dual-boot version of the XO laptop, enhances on our ability to deliver on this vision,” OLPC chairman and founder Nicholas Negroponte said in a statement.

Negroponte added that OLPC would work with “third parties” to port the XO’s open source Sugar user interface to Windows XP. Sugar features numerous tools and miniapplications that students can use to create content and music, interact with friends and teachers, and browse the Web.

The plan isn’t without controversy.

Sugar was developed by Sugar Labs. Founder Walter Bender recently left the OLPC project over differences with Negroponte concerning the project’s direction. The rift could hinder OLPC’s plans to port Sugar to Windows XP. “There’s a lot of engineering and it’s not clear that it’s the best use of engineering resources,” Bender stated on Friday.

However, some educational officials said adding Windows to the OLPC XO is a practical move. Windows support on the XO device means that our students and educators will now have access to more than computer-assisted learning experiences. They will also develop marketable technology skills.

Microsoft said OLPC is planning to start testing Windows XP on the XO starting in June. Here’s a picture of what the XP Laptop looks like.

It’s still not clear as to why Microsoft will be licensing their “discontinued” operating system in an effort to help those less fortunate. Perhaps, it’s the means to get their hooks into young computer users who will be forced to continue using Windows based technologies since it is what they were originally introduced too and understand how to operate. Anyone for world domination?

One Laptop Per Child

The XO Laptop

Would you like to donate to the OLPC cause? Bring the light of learning to a child who would otherwise be left without adequate access to information and education with a donation of one or more XO laptops. A donation of $200 will pay for and deliver one XO laptop to a child in a developing nation, $400 will pay for and deliver two XO laptops, and so on. Your entire contribution will be tax-deductible.

The mission and goal of OLPC is to provide a laptop that costs $100 to manufacture. The current “real cost” is around $180 per unit – still an excellent value for the money.

User Names and Passwords: How to Manage the Keys to the Kingdom

With all the sites that require sign-in passwords — and all the havoc that could be visited upon your life should some thief crack them — effective account access management is a top job for the savvy computer user.

Naturally, you should avoid the obvious choices when setting a password. However, you should also never be obvious when setting up that password reminder failsafe device that asks you for Mom’s maiden name.

Creating and remembering strong passwords — like backing up the important files on our computers’ — is something many of us know we should do, but never get around too.

Who can blame you? Having to come up with user names and passwords for virtually everything we do on a computer is enough to tempt anyone to use “Magic123” over and over. I’ve even witnessed people who keep lists of passwords taped to their computer screens.

With a little time and some discipline, you can create strong passwords and do a better job managing them. Of course, no matter how many precautions you take, no password is ever 100 percent secure. By the same token, you don’t have to follow all the advice in this column to avoid password theft.

Be Obscure, Be Weird
By now, most people know that you shouldn’t use personal information such as your name, birth date or address in a password. It’s also not a good idea to use something obvious such as “1234” or “password.” Passwords should be at least seven or eight characters in length. The longer the password, the stronger it is.Next, choose a password that would appear as nothing more than a random list of characters to someone else. Use both uppercase and lowercase letters and, if possible, use punctuation marks from all over the keyboard.

One technique is to take a phrase that means something to you or a line from a favorite song and create a password by taking the first letter of each word of that phrase or line. Make sure to add in some symbols. For instance, you could replace an “a” with “@” but use this technique sparingly in your password.

Although you should never use the same password to secure highly sensitive information on more than one site, it’s probably OK to use the same password for low-risk areas, such as news or sports Web sites.

Get Creative
You should never give out real information in the password helper sections. So for your mother’s maiden name, make up a name you can remember. Use your favorite vacation spot instead of your place of birth.  Substitute the name of a pet from a TV show or movie for your real pet.

This may seem a little extreme, but if an online vendor that’s storing your personal information gets compromised, then hackers could use that personal information to piece together details about you and access your account on another site.

Into the Vault
However, since most people need passwords to secure lots of important information, remembering more than one or two long passwords is difficult. That’s where password managers come in. These programs typically are encrypted and act as a vault to store all of your user names and passwords. You only need to remember one master password to open them up.

There are also lots of downloadable password managers, such as KeePass Password Safe, RoboForm and PassKeeper.I’ve personally tested and use KeePass, which is free and Open Source, and found it to be easy to install and use. Once you’ve set up the program, you create a database for your passwords. KeePass lets you organize passwords into groups, and it can generate secure passwords for you. Once the passwords are set, you can copy and paste them into Web sites or drag and drop them.

I’ve been told that RoboForm is also good but the problem I have with this program is I’ve found it installed by hackers on systems that have been hacked. Call me skeptical… but I’m not too comfortable using a password manager that hackers like to use in their sneaky little ways.

If you are the only one using your computer, you can have your Web browser automatically remember them for you. However, this shouldn’t be the only place you store passwords, because when data from your browser is cleared (or if your computer dies), your passwords will vanish.You can also download and install KeePass on portable media, such as a USB (Universal Serial Bus) flash drive, so you can have access to your passwords when using another computer. Make sure to copy your KeePass database from your computer to the USB drive. With KeePass Portable, I can quickly access all my regular websites from my office computer, my home computer or any public system I have access too.

KeePass Password Safe Portable

RoboForm Password manager

Password Safe


Lastly, if you’ve run out of good passwords try this FREE password generator – you chose the number of characters (remember 8 should be the minimum), what characters to use in the password and how many different passwords you would like generated. We’ve used this tool on a number of occassions when we wanted to assign a really secure password for someone.

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