Technology

With The Release of SP3, it's time to say goodbye to Windows XP (maybe?)

It’s time to say goodbye to an old friend. Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3), due in the second quarter of 2008, will be the final XP service pack, according to Microsoft. XP SP2 shipped over three years ago and the company has since shipped hundreds of hot-fixes for the OS, giving users a painful updating experience, with multiple reboots when there been the need to reinstall Windows XP. SP3 will consolidate all of these fixes into a single package and, surprisingly, add a few new features, including some that–go figure–debuted first in XP’s successor, Windows Vista .

Q: What is Service Pack 3?
A: Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) is the final Windows XP service pack, a collection of previously-released fixes and product enhancements, as well as a few new features that are unique to this release.

Q: Does SP3 include everything from SP1 and SP2 or do I need to install those first?
A: Though XP SP3 aggregates all of the previously-released XP fixes, Microsoft now says that you will need to install at least SP1 on XP before installing SP3. The company recommends installing SP2 first as well, though that is not required.

Q: What versions of Windows XP will work with SP3?
A: You can apply Service Pack 3 to Windows XP Home Edition, Professional Edition, Tablet PC Edition (any version), or Media Center Edition (any version).

Q: What about Windows XP Professional x64 Edition?
A: SP3 does not apply to the x64 version of Windows XP. Instead, that operating system is updated via service packs aimed at Windows Server 2003. The latest Windows 2003 service pack is SP2.

Q: Windows XP SP2 was released over three years ago. Why the delay on SP3?
A: While Microsoft is an enormous company with over 77,000 employees worldwide and over $50 billion in annual revenues, its organizational structure actually constrains which products are actively developed in some cases. For example, while a large team of developers, product managers, and program managers are involved during the ramp-up to any major OS release, Microsoft then pushes the product into its support organization for follow-up development in the form of hot-fixes, service packs, and so on. Other teams work on out-of-band updates that are typically shipped via the Web and, eventually, a new or existing team is constituted to work on the next major release and the entire process begins anew.

With Windows XP, however, Microsoft was forced to temporarily halt development on XP’s successor, Windows Vista, in order to complete XP SP2. That’s because this release, though provided to customers for free as a typical service pack, was in fact a major OS upgrade and was developed outside of the company’s support structure, a first for any service pack release. After XP SP2 was completed, the people involved with that project moved onto other things, typically Vista or Windows Server 2008.

In the case of Windows XP SP3, Microsoft simply dedicated every available employee it could to completing Windows Vista, which by that time was years behind schedule. So it’s only been since the beginning of this year that anyone turned their attention back to XP’s next and neglected service pack.

Q: What are these new features I keep hearing about?
A: Windows XP Service Pack 3 will not include any major new features, but it will include four minor new features that improve the system’s reliability and security. Contrary to reports, Microsoft has been very up-front about these functional additions for quite some time now.

These new features include:
Network Access Protection compatibility. Announced years ago, this feature allows Windows XP machines to interact with the NAP feature in Windows Server 2008. This functionality is built into the RTM version of Windows Vista as well.

Product Key-less install option. As with Windows Vista, new XP with SP3 installs can proceed without entering a product key during Setup.

Kernel Mode Cryptographics Module. A new kernel module that “encapsulates several different cryptographic algorithms,” according to Microsoft.

“Black hole” router detection algorithm. XP gains the ability to ignore network routers that incorrectly drop certain kinds of network packets. This, too, is a feature of Windows Vista.

Q: That’s it? Is there anything else?
A: Nothing major. Some features have actually been removed, like the taskbar-based Address Bar option.

Q: Why is Microsoft even bothering to release this update? Isn’t everyone moving to Windows Vista?
A: Given the relative security, stability, and reliability of XP with SP2, and the subsequent release of Vista , XP SP3 may seem like a pointless update, but nothing could be further from the truth. Many businesses will roll out new XP-based PCs in the coming years, and as anyone who’s had to update an XP SP2 system can tell you, the 100+ updates that Microsoft has shipped since SP2 can be a nightmare to deploy. If you’re already running XP and have been regularly updating your systems all along, the release of XP SP3 will be a minor event. But if you have planned XP deployments in the future, look very carefully at this release and consider it the baseline for your next generation of PCs. Or, you could always consider Vista , which will of course be updated with genuine new features far longer than will XP.

Q: When will Microsoft ship XP SP3?
A: Microsoft finalized Windows XP Service Pack 3 on April 21, 2008 and will release it publicly to the Web on April 29, 2008.

Here’s the complete Windows XP SP3 release schedule:

RTM (release to manufacturing): April 21
Windows Update (optional update): April 29
Microsoft Download Center: April 29
MSDN/TechNet download: May 2
Windows XP SP3 fulfillment media (CD-based): May 19
Volume license customers download: June 1
Windows Update/Automatic Updates: June 10

Q: So with users now being forced to buy computers with Windows Vista only, what’s a person to do if they still need Windows XP?
A: Some vendors Dell, HP, Fujitsu and others, will be selling systems with Vista as required but allow the purchaser to “downgrade” the system to Windows XP.

Dell’s option is shown below:
Windows Vista ® Business offers new features designed to help you focus more on what’s important – your business. However, some businesses may not be ready to transition away from Windows ® XP, and Dell can help ease the transition. Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions on this topic.

Is there any way to get Windows XP after June 30th?
Customers may continue to get Windows XP Professional by exercising Downgrade Rights that come with Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate licenses. Dell has the ability to exercise “Windows Vista downgrade rights” on your behalf in the factory if your business is still reliant upon Windows XP and you’d prefer to have Windows XP Professional preinstalled on your PCs.

So, what are Windows Vista “Downgrade Rights”?
Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate have what Microsoft calls “Downgrade Rights.” Downgrade Rights means that anyone with a Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate operating system can downgrade to Windows XP Professional provided they have the media for Windows XP Professional. Customers may use one operating system at any single point in time (cannot run both operating systems simultaneously unless an additional license is purchased). For customers who decide to exercise Downgrade Rights on their own, however, please note that Dell will only support the factory-installed operating system. Windows Vista Home Basic and Windows Vista Home Premium do not have this option, as they are not capable of downgrading to Windows XP.

EARTH DAY 2008

As we become more dependent on electronic products thus making life more convenient, the stockpile of used, obsolete products continues to grow. Although used electronics represent less than two percent of the municipal solid waste stream, as we continue to replace old or outdated electronic equipment at our current rate, that percentage will continue to grow.

Computer monitors and older TV picture tubes contain an average of four pounds of lead and require special handling at the end of their lives. In addition to lead, electronics can contain chromium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, nickel, zinc, and brominated flame retardants. When electronics are not disposed of or recycled properly, these toxic materials can present problems. Extending the life of your electronics or donating your most up-to-date and working electronics can save you money and saves valuable resources. Safely recycling outdated electronics can promote the safe management of hazardous components and supports the recovery and reuse of valuable materials. This site offers

1: Basic Information about reducing electronics waste
2: Frequent Questions and answers about electronic waste
3: Regulations/Standards for handling electronic equipment
4: Publications that offer valuable information about electronic waste
5: Related Links that include resources for recycling and donation programs
http://www.epa.gov/ecycling/index.htm

Do the PC Thing: Donate
Pass It On!
A working computer is a terrible thing to waste. Donating computers to those who need them is a win-win situation for business and the community. Reusing computers benefits communities, helps us use valuable materials wisely, and keeps working PCs out of the trash.

Do the PC Thing for Businesses:
http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/conserve/plugin/pdf/pcthing-bus.pdf

Do the PC Thing for Consumers:
http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/conserve/plugin/pdf/pcthing-con.pdf

Finding a Local Program
Our own MASS DEP agency has a full list of companies offering recycling resources.
http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/reduce/electron.htm

Earth 911
Earth 911 is a comprehensive communication medium for the environment. Earth 911 has taken environmental hotlines, web sites and other information sources nationwide, and consolidated them into one network. Once you contact the Earth 911 network, you will find community-specific information on eCycling and much more.
http://earth911.org/electronics/

My Green Electronics
Provided by the Consumer Electronics Association, this site is a resource for consumers wishing to purchase green products and/or searching for local opportunities to recycle or donate used electronics.
http://www.mygreenelectronics.org/

Electronic Industries Alliance’s Consumer Education Initiative
The Electronic Industries Alliance’s eCycling Central Web site helps you find reuse, recycling and donation programs for electronics products in your state.
http://www.eiae.org/

TechSoup
TechSoup has compiled a comprehensive body of information to promote computer recycling and reuse. This site provides resources for those who would like to donate hardware, those who would like to acquire recycled hardware, and refurbishers.
http://www.techsoup.org/resources/index.cfm?action=resource.view_summary&resourcelist_id=144&style=recycle&set=products

 

April Showers Bring… Thunder Storms

Get Ready, Electrical Surges are on the Way!

As we move steadily towards spring and summer’s increased threat of violent thunderstorms, it’s time to talk about protecting your computer equipment from the damage caused by power fluctuations. This primer will help you choose the correct uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device for your system.

There are a number of potential electrical problems to be aware of and protecting your computer equipment against surges, brownouts, over voltages, and blackouts should be your goal.

Power Surges
Power surges are an increase in the voltage that powers electrical equipment. Surges often go unnoticed; often they are quick (1/20th of a second) and absorbed by the power supply of a device. Stronger surges will go through a power supply, damaging any circuits as it moves along the grounding line.

Surges come from utility power systems that have become unstable or unreliable. Power grids often generate surges as they switch between sources to generate power. Local surges can occur when power is suddenly added or taken away from a local area. Good examples are if someone starts up an electrical motor or a fuse blows. In the case of a fuse blowing, for a moment there will be more power available to the rest of a house. This sudden excess power can cause a surge.

Lightning can send a spectacular power surge along any conductive line. This is more than just a standard surge — no surge suppressor in the world will survive a direct lightning strike. By choosing the right power protection, your surge suppressor will take the hit, ending up melted, but your equipment will stay protected. Don’t forget that telephone lines are also highly conductive.

Brownouts
Brownouts are periods of low voltage in utility lines that can cause lights to dim and equipment to fail. Also known as voltage sags, this is the most common power problem, accounting for up to 87% of all power disturbances. Brownouts can also be caused by damaged electrical lines, or equipment that draws massive amounts of power (hair dryers, air conditioners, laser printers).

When line voltages are lowered, electrical equipment pulls more current to compensate and generates more heat in the process. Over time, this can contribute to equipment failure.

Brownouts are often caused when utility companies must reduce their voltage output to deal with high power. Demand for power exceeds the supply of power. Brownouts are also referred to as undervoltages; there is power, just not enough to meet the demand of equipment using it. Brownouts place undue strain on power supplies and other internal components, forcing them to work harder in order to function. Extended brownouts can destroy electrical components and cause data glitches and hardware failure.

Overvoltages (spikes)
Undervoltages are often followed by “spikes,” which are also damaging to computer components and data. Voltage variation can be the most damaging power problem to threaten your equipment. All electronic devices expect to receive a steady voltage (120 VAC in North America and 220/240 volts in many other parts of the world) in order to operate correctly. Overvoltages burn out power supplies and other components and can cause massive damage to electronic hardware. Extended overvoltages can even cause fires as electronics “fry” in the extra electricity.

Blackouts
Power failures, also known as blackouts, are the easiest power problem to diagnose. Any temporary, or not so temporary, interruption in the flow of electricity will result in a power failure which can cause hardware damage and data loss.

Blackouts can be caused by many things — weather, overburdened power grids, or the severing of a power line. Power failures are more than simply inconvenient and annoying. Because most computers use a volatile storage method (writing to memory prior to saving on to a hard-drive), information is lost when power is removed. Data can become corrupted, and some devices can be damaged by the sudden loss of power. Just as overpower occurs with brownouts, when the power comes back, spikes can occur that may cause even more damage.

Line Noise
The term “line noise” refers to random fluctuations — electrical impulses that are carried along with standard AC current. Turning on the fluorescent lights overhead, a refrigerator, laser printers, working near a radio station, using a power generator, or simply working during a lightning storm can all introduce line noise into computer systems.

Line noise interference can result in many different symptoms depending on the particular situation. Noise can introduce glitches and errors into programs and files. Hard drive components can be damaged. Televisions and computer monitors can display interference as “static” or “snow,” and audio systems experience increased distortion levels. Noise suppression is stated as Decibel level (Db) at a specific frequency (KHz or MHz). The higher the Db, the greater the protection.

UPS Sizing
To correctly size the proper UPS for your needs, all you have to do is add up the total power draw of the equipment and select a unit from the UPS technical specification page that can support that load for the amount of time desired.

First, which pieces of equipment need UPS support. Typically, only the CPU and monitor are supported to cut down on power draw to the UPS, but you may wish to include peripheral systems like modems or inkjet printers. Laser printers should never be plugged into a UPS.

List the nameplate wattage ratings for all supported equipment. Manufacturers vary in how they express draw so you may have to convert numbers to determine VA load.

If the power draw is expressed in AMPS multiply by your nominal line voltage (North America = 120, Europe = 230, etc.)

If the power draw is expressed in WATTS , multiply by 1.4 for VA load

Example:

Computer #1 –

230 watt power supply (x 1.4) = 322 VA load

Monitor #1 – 0.7 amp (x 120) = 84 VA load

 
Computer #2 –

2 amp power supply (x 120) = 240 VA load

 
Total: 746 VA

 

Once you have calculated the total VA draw of the equipment, look for a UPS that is rated equal to or higher than the number generated. Do not overload UPS systems! UPS systems that attempt to support excessive loads will pop their circuit breakers and provide no runtime at all.

UPS Runtime
To determine runtime, calculate the total VA required by your equipment and compare against the full- and half-load run times listed for the UPS. Fully loaded, you can expect any UPS to give between 5 and 10 minutes runtime.

The VA rating of a UPS is considered full load. Half load is simply a VA load that is half of that figure. Smaller UPS loads lead to ever longer runtimes. And since most equipment doesn’t pull its full VA load all the time, your run times may be significantly longer.

One or Several UPS’s?
There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach. You should first determine the proximity of the equipment to the UPS. Running extension cords to power remote equipment will affect warranty and may be against local electrical codes.

Some people feel there is a pricing advantage in purchasing a single, large UPS, but this is becoming less and less the case. Price competition in the 400 – 675 VA range has driven prices down to the point that multiple UPS systems are now within everyone’s price range.

MySpace Launches New Music Service

MySpace

MySpace

Social networking site MySpace is launching a new music service backed by three of the world’s biggest record companies. Users will be able to listen to songs and watch videos free and buy downloads from the site.

MySpace Music has done a deal with Universal, Sony BMG and Warner. EMI, whose artists include Robbie Williams, Coldplay and KT Tunstall, is not part of the deal though.

The service will make money through music download sales, advertising and sales of concert tickets, artist wallpaper, t-shirts and ringtones.

MySpace users will be able to customize their chosen content into playlists and will be able to buy tracks from the MySpace Music home page, on each of the site’s five million artist profile pages or on individual user home pages. It can’t get mush easier or more interactive than this – you see the artist, watch the video, listen to the tracks and buy just the ones you want.

According to MySpace, the music will not have copy protection on it which means you should be able to load it onto your MP3 player. The company has not said yet whether ALL the music will be copy protection, or DRM, free. That will most likely be up to the music label or perhaps the individual artists

Launch this year
MySpace CEO and co-founder, Chris DeWolfe, said: “Today represents the beginning of a new chapter in the story of modern music.

“We’re proud to announce the marriage of the world’s biggest collection of music content to the world’s most popular music community.”

The move is likely to worry Apple whose iTunes store is the market leader and currently, eight out of 10 songs sold online are purchased through iTunes.

The MySpace entry could mean cheaper downloads as competition heats up. MySpace has a readymade market of more than 100 million users and is likely to be more popular than services like SpiralFrog. www.spiralfrog.com

MySpace Music will be launched later this year.

Here’s the current link to MySpace Music where you can listen to music tracks and watch the videos – keep checking the site for changes coming later this year.
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=music

MediaFire – FREE file and image hosting.

April 1st , 2008
Why use MediaFire?

MediaFire is the simplest way to host files and images and share them with others.

MediaFire is a free and unlimited file and image hosting web site with no strings attached. Our goal is to help make the internet a more interesting and media rich place by provide the fastest and most simple to use tool for sharing all kinds of files in almost any way imaginable. Registration is completely optional and every feature of the service is available to you whether you choose to create an account or not. If you choose to, creating an account is easy and free, allowing you to quick and secure access to your saved files from any computer.

Organize Your Files and Images

Create folders, instantly sort, search, move and browse your uploaded files with a fast Ajax powered file system.

Creating folders on MediaFire is easy! You can create an unlimited number of folders and sub folders to store, organize and share your files and images. MediaFire also provides easy to use privacy tools allowing you to keep some files hidden as private and other files downloadable as public. You can even set passwords for your sensitive files allowing you a flexible and adaptable free file hosting system.

Uploading your files couldn’t be easier – choose up to 10 files at a time using their simple point and click interface and you’re off and running.

Share Your Files and Images

Easily share large files and images by Email, Instant Messenger, and on your web site or MySpace page.

With MediaFire’s easy to use sharing tools and embedding links you can share entire folders of files and images by email, instant messenger, or on your MySpace page, blog or forum. Folders also double as image galleries so sharing all your vacation photos or graphic design work in one place just got a whole lot simpler.

MediaFire currently has a file size limit of 100MB because bandwidth for serving downloads is the most expensive part of running a file hosting service. For example, 200MB files are 2x more expensive to serve to downloaders as 100MB files, 1GB files are 10x more expensive to serve than 100MB files, etc.

By limiting the maximum file size to 100MB, MediaFire can offer features that no other single file hosting service offers for free:

Unlimited disk space
Unlimited bandwidth to serve any files under 100MB
Unlimited downloads of any files under 100MB
Unlimited uploads
No waits, lines, or queues to download files
No daily download limits
No download speed limits
Support for most popular download managers/accelerators
Multiple simultaneous downloads

In Q2 of 2008, MediaFire will be launching a subscription based service that will let you upload much larger files and provide a Flash uploader with additional bells and whistles. Yes – this will be a paid for service. The FREE accounts will be maintained and continue to be advertising supported.

MediaFire was rated one of the Top 100 Undiscoverd WebSites by PC Magazine. To learn more about MediaFire from their FAQ’s :

http://support.mediafire.com/index.php?_m=knowledgebase&_a=view

Windows XP SP3 indicates Microsoft will continue to focus on security.

Some three and half years from the general release of Windows XP Service Pack 2, and with the support of corporate IT managers waning, Microsoft is preparing to release an update to its seven year-old desktop operating system. However, Microsoft has said that Service Pack 3 will once again focus on security, and so those expecting to see features from Windows Vista will be sorely disappointed. Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) includes all previously released updates for the operating system, and is designed to improve overall system performance and stability.

For IT departments, Windows XP SP3 signals a new baseline for standard operating environments (SOE), and so organizations are being encouraged to assess the suitability of this major update by downloading the code from Microsoft’s Technet website. Although not visible to the end user, SP3 does include some functionality updates. These are, however, consigned to updates such as Microsoft Management Console (MMC 3.0), Microsoft’s XML parser (MSXML6), and the Microsoft Windows Installer. In terms of useful networking and security updates, SP3 includes support for Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) and Network Access Protection (NAP) – one feature that has found its way from Windows Vista. However, interestingly, SP3 does not impose Internet Explorer 7 upon organizations and their users. Instead, SP3 will patch whichever version of Internet Explorer it finds on the target system, for example IE6 or IE7.Although Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) has already been released to manufacturing, Butler Group has seen little interest in Microsoft’s latest Windows desktop operating system, and so predicts that, for the most part, Windows Vista SP1 will remain something of an irrelevancy for most IT managers and their organizations.

One issue worth considering is the supposed shelf-life of Windows XP. With System Builder licenses available only until the end of January 2009 (June 2008 for the retail channel), and with demand for Windows Vista in the enterprise extremely weak, Microsoft is coming under increasing pressure to re-think its Windows lifecycle policy. Indeed, InfoWorld is asking users to register their objections to this forced migration by signing its ‘Help Save XP’ petition.

We spoke of this in an earlier report and the site is still getting plenty of action. InfoWorld, a popular website for IT professionals, has the following to say on the matter: “Microsoft plans to end most sales of Windows XP on June 30, despite a deep reluctance by many business and individuals about moving to Vista .InfoWorld believes such an expensive, time-consuming shift with problematic benefits should not be forced on Windows users, so we have decided to rally XP users to demand that XP be kept available.” With Windows Vista a year in the market and Windows XP a year or so away from its supposed retirement, Microsoft is in danger of letting its Windows lifecycle policy get out of sync with reality. In the meantime, however, Windows XP SP3 provides Microsoft with yet another opportunity to address real and significant security concerns, and so the company would do well to promote Windows XP SP3 over Windows Vista SP1. However, whether or not the company will adopt this policy remains to be seen.

 In related news: Microsoft is lowering the price of consumer versions of Windows Vista. Microsoft’s plans to lower prices on consumer versions of Windows Vista are a clear indication that Vista has not had the expected uptake in the home market. While the company is keen to point out that retail sales are only a small part of total Windows-based revenue, there has always been a correlation between home and business users, which suggests business uptake is similarly disappointing.

For the full story:
http://www.cbronline.com/article_feature.asp?guid=CB9DDCAE-49CE-4131-B594-B0F91EB98EA1

Internet Explorer 8 BETA Version

img381/1834/ie8vr4.png

Hot off the heels of Internet Explorer 7 comes the next “end all-be all” internet browser from Microsoft.

Are YOU ready to take the plunge? If so, keep a few things in mind…

1: IE8 is in BETA releaseCRASHES ARE GUARANTEED!
2: IE7 and IE8 cannot co-exist. If you install this beta 1 version, IE* becomes your primary browser.
3: There seems to be a compatibility issue between IE8 and the widely used Google and Yahoo toolbars.  You will have to forgo these add-ons for the immediate future.
4: Read through the articles I’ve provided links for at the bottom of this page and make sure you know the implications if you intend to go down this path. I, for one, intend to pass on this initial beta release.  We still aren’t fully satisfied with IE7 so why mess with this version.

Once we get a later BETA version installed and working on a test machine, I’ll revisit this with our personal experience.

So- according to Microsoft, here are some of the New and exciting features:

Activities
Activities are contextual services to quickly accessa service from any webpage.  Users typically copy and paste from one webpage to another.  Internet Explorer 8 Activities make this common pattern easier to do.Activities typically involve two types of scenarios: “look up” information within a webpage or “send” web content to a web application.  For example, a user is interested in a restaurant and wants to see the location of it.  This is the form of a “look up” Activity where the user selects the address and views an in-place view of the map using his favorite map service.

img381/7754/monsoonjp0.png

An example of a “send” Activity is a user reads an interesting article and wants to blog about a portion of the article.  The user can select a portion of the article and uses the blog activity.  This navigates to the user’s blog site with the selection already available in the edit feild.

Activities are services that the user can install and manage.  Users can install them from the Internet Explorer 8 Service Guide or through any website that advertises Activities.

Webslices

WebSlices is a new feature for websites to connect to thier users by subscribing to content directly within a webpage.  WebSlices behave just like feeds where clients can subscribe to get updates and notify the user of changes.

img366/9905/msnkr8.png

Internet Explorer 8 users can discover WebSlices within a webpage and add them to the Favorites bar, a dedicated row below the Address bar for easy access to links.  Internet Explorer 8 subscribes to the webpage, detects changes in the WebSlice, and notifies the user of updates.  Users can preview these updates directly from the Favorites bar and click-through to the website to get more information.

Favorites Bar

In Internet Explorer 7, the links bar provided users with one-click access to thier favorite sites.  The links bar has undergone a complete makeover for Internet Explorer 8.  It has been renamed the Favorites bar to enable users to associate this bar as a place to put and easily access all their favorite web content such as links, feeds, WebSlices and even Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

img367/2825/barao0.png

A user can easily ass a link to the Favorites bar by using the Add to Favorites button and selecting the Add to Favorites Bar option.

img392/9316/addtobo0.png

Automatic Crash Recovery

Automatic Crash Recovery (ACR) is a feature of Windows Internet Explorer 8 that can help to prevent the loss of work and productivity in the inlikely event of the browser crashing or hanging.  The ACR feature takes advantage of the Loosely-Coupled Internet Explorer feature to provide new crash recovery capabilities, such as tab recovery, which will minimize interruptions to users browsing sessions.

img367/3664/recoveredrd1.png

see Automatic Crash Recovery white paper for more information

Improved Phishing Filter

Internet Explorer 7 introduced the Phishing Filter,  a feature which helps warn users when they visit a Phishing site.  Phishing sites spoof a trusted legitimate site, with the goal of stealing the user’s personal or financial information.  For Internet Explorer 8, we are building on the success of the Phishing Filter with a more comprehensive feature called the “Safety Filter.”

img146/6359/newtabbq5.png

For IT administrators, new Group Policy options are available to remove the user-override option and fully block access to known unsafe sites.

Five things you’ll love (or hate) about IE8
http://blogs.computerworld.com/five_things_youll_love_or_hate_about_ie8

PC Magazines take and screenshots
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2704,2273696,00.asp

Washington Post Article
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/05/AR2008030503239.html

CNet News
http://www.news.com/8301-13860_3-9886854-56.html?tag=newsmap HYPERLINK “http://www.news.com/8301-13860_3-9886854-56.html?tag=newsmap”

If you STILL want to experience Internet Explorer 8 after reviewing the articles above, here’s the link to all the Internet Explorer 8 BETA downloads
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/ie/ie8/readiness/Install.htm

Pakistan's YouTube Censorship Triggers Worldwide Outage


February 26, 2008

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s deputy director for enforcement sent a memo announcing the ban to major ISPs on Feb. 22. The PTA asked Pakistani ISPs to block access to three IP addresses that are associated with YouTube’s site. The ISPs could have used one of several methods to block access to the IP addresses, said Danny McPherson, chief research officer at security provider Arbor Networks.For a couple of hours on Sunday, access to YouTube worldwide was cut, the result of the Pakistani government’s banning YouTube in their country.Access to YouTube elsewhere was restored after two hours or so, but the question on everyone’s minds is, can this happen again?

Why the Ban?
Reports say the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) imposed the ban for two reasons: Controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were posted on YouTube, and the site carried a trailer for a forthcoming film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders portraying Islam as a fascist religion prone to inciting violence against women and homosexuals.
The cartoons caused a furor among Muslims worldwide when they were printed in a Danish newspaper in 2005 — riots led to at least 50 deaths and attacks on three Danish embassies. Earlier this month, they were reprinted by several Danish newspapers in response to a recently uncovered plot to murder the cartoonist.The PTA urged Pakistani Internet users to write YouTube requesting the offending materials be removed. It has told Pakistan ‘s 70-odd Internet service providers that YouTube will be banned until further notice. The PTA’s deputy director for enforcement sent memo announcing the ban to major ISPs on Feb. 22.

The Technical Details
The PTA asked Pakistani ISPs to block access to three IP addresses that are associated with YouTube’s site.
The ISPs could have used one of several methods to block access to the IP addresses, Danny McPherson, chief research officer at network infrastructure security provider Arbor Networks, as quoted by TechNewsWorld.They could have deployed access-control lists on all their router interfaces leading to those addresses; route the three IP addresses to a null, the ISP equivalent of a black hole on the network; or basically have all packets that were being sent to or from those three IP addresses automatically discarded by the network.The second option requires the ISPs to add static routes to every router in their networks. However, the effect of that is to tell the world that traffic to those three IP addresses should be sent to the ISPs instead of to YouTube.This, in essence, is what happened. The fact that today anyone connected to the Internet could potentially go out and announce reachability for anyone else in the Internet space is a huge problem.

A Complicated Problem
YouTube is working to prevent similar problems recurring. “We are investigating and working with others in the Internet community to prevent this from happening again,” states YouTube spokesperson Kathleen Fitzgerald.

Will that work? Probably not.
There’s no authoritative source on the Internet for who owns what address space where you could do real-time address changes.
What about the Internet Routing Registry, with which ISPs register Internet addresses? “The problem is that, when your customers get new address spaces, you may not update that,” McPherson said. “You don’t have automated updates, no one does any filtering, and it’s this huge vulnerability.”Part of the problem is that the Border Gateway Protocol, which Internet service providers use BGP to inform each other which IP address goes where, is not robust. BGP works by maintaining a table of IP networks or “prefixes,” which designate network reachability among autonomous systems. It makes routing decisions based on path, network policies and rule sets.BGP was developed in an attempt to prevent anyone from, essentially, hijacking someone else’s IP addresses, as happened to YouTube, but it has a lot of holes. Remember, basically the Internet’s simply a bunch of loosely connected networks run by different administrators.

What Were They Thinking????

February, 19th 2008

Lately, we’ve been getting a number of calls (from clients and users here in our office) stating they can’t open a file that they are “absolutely positive” is a Microsoft Word document. These users aren’t crazy… Yes – it is a Word document they can’t open and it’s because the document was created in Microsoft Word 2007. You’ve got to wonder what goes through Microsoft’s programmer’s heads when they release a product that is not inherently backwards compatible. Are they trying to tick off the millions of MS Word 2003 users that don’t see a need to upgrade to 2007? Perhaps it’s just another way to scare consumers into a forced upgrade. What ever the thought process (or lack of) behind this decision, here’s a little explanation and a work around to help folks avoid an expensive upgrade. Microsoft Office 2007 provides a lot of new features and functionality. Here are some tips for dealing with compatibility issues when you upgrade to the latest version of Word.

Understanding and using the new file formats

All the Office 2007 programs use new default file formats based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML). The new formats are indicated by an “x” in the file extension. For example:

  • Word documents: .docx
  • Excel workbooks: .xlsx
  • PowerPoint presentations: .pptx

XML is an open standard, and the change makes it easier to move files between different applications. It also makes file sizes smaller than those saved in the old binary formats. However, some users with previous versions of Office may not be able to open files in the new formats. You can still save files in Office 2007 programs in Office 2003 file formats. Just select Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc) from the Save As Type drop-down list in the Save As dialog box, as shown in Figure A .


Figure A: You can easily save individual files in the old Office 2003 formats .

Changing the default format

If you want to always save files in the old format by default, click the Office button, then the <program name> Options button, and select Save in the left pane. Choose Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc) from the Save Files In This Format drop-down list, as shown in Figure B .


Figure B: You can set the default to always save files in the old Office 2003 format.

When you save a file in the old format that was originally created in the new format, you may get a message advising that some of the formatting and features that are only supported by Office 2007 programs will be lost but at least the majority of Word users will be able to open the document.

Using Office 2007 compatibility mode

Office 2007 programs introduce a new feature called compatibility mode. If you frequently share files with others who haven’t upgraded or you need to work on your files on another computer (for example, a laptop) that doesn’t have Office 2007 installed, you can ensure that the files you create in Office 2007 don’t contain any features that aren’t supported by the previous version of the Office program. If you place your Office 2007 applications in compatibility mode, incompatible features, such as the SmartArt diagramming tool, won’t be available to you. Instead, you’ll use the diagramming tool from Office 2003 so that the diagrams you create can be edited in the older version of the program. Compatibility mode is automatically on when you open a file that was saved in the old file formats, when you convert a file from the XML-based format to the older format, or when you configure the program to save to the old format by default. In Word, compatibility mode also kicks in if you create a new document from an old-format template (.dot). When the Office 2007 program is in compatibility mode, it will be indicated in the document title bar, as shown in Figure C .


Figure C:
Office Compatibility Mode is indicated in the title bar of the document.
Some features can be returned to the document if you reopen it in an Office 2007 program; others can’t. For a full list of the features that are lost when you work in compatibility mode and which ones can be refreshed, see the article “ Compatibility Mode in the 2007 Office System “ on the Microsoft TechNet site.

Installing the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack

If someone with whom you exchange files is still running an older version of Office and you want to be able to send them files in the new XML formats (for instance, so they can see the formatting features that are unique to Office 2007), they can install the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack. The Compatibility Pack allows users of Office XP or Office 2003 to open, edit, save and even create files in the new XML-based formats. The pack is available as a free 27.1 MB download from the Microsoft Web site . It can be installed on machines running Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP SP1, and Windows Server 2003.

It's Almost Time!

Windows Vista SP1 is right around the corner…

Microsoft has finally ended the “beta” test on their MS Vista Service Pack 1 and we should expect to see the release candidate available for download over the next few weeks.

Microsoft released the latest pre-release build of SP1 – ‘Windows Vista SP1 RC Refresh’ to approximately 15,000 beta testers. This group includes corporate customers, consumer enthusiasts, software and hardware vendors, and others. The code is not available for public download yet. You may recall that Microsoft released a publicly available test build of Windows Vista SP1 back in December 2007.

A Microsoft spokesperson said “We are still on schedule to deliver SP1 RTM in Q1 2008. The final release date is based on quality, so we will continue to track customer and partner feedback from the beta program before setting a final date.”

Word on the Microsoft street is the Vista team is aiming to deliver the final SP1 code at the same time as Windows Server 2008 becomes available, which is expected in February (and some time before the big Windows Server 2008/SQL Server 2008/Visual Studio 2008 launch on February 27, 2008).

Microsoft also pushed out this week several new Windows Vista reliability and performance updates via Windows Update, as well as an update to the BitLocker encryption component of Windows Vista Enterprise and Windows Vista Ultimate that will be a prerequisite for successful installation of SP1.

What will this mean for users?
Hopefully a more stable and robust version of the Vista operating system – here’s some of the info Microsoft has decided to share.

First, Windows Vista SP1 will include all previously released updates for Windows Vista. It also will include security, reliability, and performance improvements. These improvements target some of the issues Microsoft has identified as the most common causes of operating system crashes and hangs, giving customers a more reliable experience. These updates also improve performance in key scenarios-for example, when copying files or shutting down the computer.

The following sections describe many of the security, reliability, and performance improvements that will be in Windows Vista SP1.

Security
Security improvements that will be in Windows Vista SP1 include:

Provides security software vendors a more secure way to communicate with Windows Security Center .

Includes application programming interfaces (APIs) by which third-party security and malicious software detection applications can work with kernel patch protection on x64 versions of Windows Vista. These APIs help ISVs develop software that extends the functionality of the Windows kernel on x64 computers without disabling or weakening the protection offered by kernel patch protection.
Improves the security of running RemoteApp programs and desktops by allowing Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) files to be signed. Customers can differentiate user experiences based on publisher identity.

Adds an Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC) pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) to the list of available PRNGs in Windows Vista.
Enhances BitLocker Drive Encryption (BDE) to offer an additional multifactor authentication method that combines a key protected by the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) with a Startup key stored on a USB storage device and a user-generated personal identification number (PIN).

Reliability
Windows Vista SP1 will include improvements that target some of the most common causes of crashes and hangs, giving users a more consistent experience. Many of these improvements will specifically address issues identified from the Windows Error Reporting tool. The following list describes some of the reliability improvements that Windows Vista SP1 will include:

Improved reliability and compatibility of Windows Vista when used with newer graphics cards in several specific scenarios and configurations.

-Improved reliability when working with external displays on a laptop.
-Improved Windows Vista reliability in networking configuration scenarios.
-Improved reliability of systems that were upgraded from Windows XP to Windows Vista.
-Increased compatibility with many printer drivers.
-Increased reliability and performance of Windows Vista when entering sleep and resuming from sleep.

Performance
The following list describes some of the performance improvements that Windows Vista SP1 will include:

Improves the speed of copying and extracting files.
Improves the time to become active from Hibernate and Resume modes.
Improves the performance of domain-joined PCs when operating off the domain; in the current release version of Windows Vista, users would experience long delays when opening the File dialog box.

Improves performance of Windows® Internet Explorer® 7 in Windows Vista, reducing CPU utilization and speeding JavaScript parsing.
Improves battery life by reducing CPU utilization by not redrawing the screen as frequently, on certain computers.

Improves the logon experience by removing the occasional 10-second delay between pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL and the password prompt displaying.
Addresses an issue in the current version of Windows Vista that makes browsing network file shares consume significant bandwidth and not perform as fast as expected.
For the complete list, or perhaps just as much as Microsoft wants us to know today, check out this whitepaper.

http://windowsvistablog.com/blogs/windowsvista/pages/windows-vista-service-pack-1-beta-whitepaper.aspx

This is going to be a BIG download and only time will tell if the wait will have been worth it.

Remember you can still opt to try and SAVE WINDOWS XP by adding your name to the list on the InfoWorld website.

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