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Microsoft’s Big changes

January 15th, 2008 by Patrick S

I stumbled accross the Shipping Seven blog today… Its a blog from someone on the Windows 7 team who isn’t afraid to make their true feelings about Microsoft and Windows and general heard (all be it annomously 😉 )

 Check out this interesting post off the Shipping Seven blog: 

In almost every Windows OS release so far, we’ve changed something major in the OS subsystems, to improve the Windows infrastructure. And that generally screws up application or driver compatibility:
Windows 95
Long file names – Application developers had to fix their applications to support long file names. (A good thing, though: What is in 1NTINPRS.AVI?)
Windows NT
Driver developers had to write drivers for a new driver framework because of the hardware abstraction layer. Actually, most of them just stayed away, and supported Win9x only.

Windows 2000
A major annoyance for driver developers, who could ignore the NT driver models up to this point. Win2k ran on NTFS, and had locked-down permissions – developers couldn’t install their application’s files in \windows\system anymore.
We were telling corporations to set up their users as non-admins on their machines, and for the first time, corporate users in were logging in without admin rights, breaking all sorts of enterprise apps.

Consumers just sailed past, on to:
Windows XP
Installed on NTFS on default – breaking lots of applications that were used to the wide-open, unsecured world of FAT32.

We were telling the dads (or moms) of the world to run as administrator, and set up non-administrator accounts for everybody else in the household. Pretty much nobody did that – they all just logged on as Administrator. A situation that almost every bit of spyware exploited.

Which brings us to the OS everybody loves to hate (that isn’t actually that bad) – the fustercluck known as:
 

Windows Vista
This time round, punch-drunk from all our security issues, the Windows team said: F*** it, let’s just lock it all down:
AUC: All your applications will run as non-administrator, even if you have an administrator account. No excuses. We’ve been telling you that you should do this since 1999.
A new graphics driver infrastructure: We had to protect the system from video driver crashes, as graphics card companies care only about performance, not stability.
Session 0 Isolation: No system service can directly create a UI. Lots of drivers and antivirus apps broke, but we fixed up a major security design flaw in Windows.

Posted in MS News | 2 Comments »

Microsoft Student Experience beta site launched

January 15th, 2008 by Patrick S

Microsoft has just launched Microsoft Student Experience beta.
This site has a lot of features and useful information which is predominantly targeted at students.  
The site contains information from Microsoft internships, getting discounted software ( e.g. obtaining Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate for just $600) to a set of How-To’s.

So if you are a student or just interested in the site-Check it out… 

msstudent

… its a silverlight enabled site-although is still able to be browsed without it

Posted in Learning, Products, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Microsoft Student Experience beta site launched

Windows Server 2008 Security Guide – Beta now available

January 14th, 2008 by Patrick S

One of my favorite documents for Windows Server 2003 is now available in beta form for Windows Server 2008.  If you have never reviewed these guides I strongly recommend them.  The guide makes it easy to tailor the security configuration to accommodate the needs of your organization.  There is also a really cool GPOAccelerator (Group Policy Object Accelerator) tool to help you rapidly setup, test and deploy configurations of Group Policy security settings.  Here are some of the resources for Windows Server 2008 Security Guide:

Check out the Executive Overview.

Join the Windows Server 2008 Security Guide beta.

Posted in Beta News, Security, Windows Server System | Comments Off on Windows Server 2008 Security Guide – Beta now available

Spammers Hijack Microsoft’s SkyDrive Service

January 11th, 2008 by Patrick S

Microsoft’s Windows Live SkyDrive (formally Windows Live Folders) launched their public beta late last year. It is an online storage service for sharing files and links… and NOW it’s also an online repository for spammers to host links to their electronic junk-mail/spam.

The service lets you save information online for personal use; share information with select people based on their Live ID, with either read or contributor permissions; and makes content available to anyone via web-links. The Live SkyDrive interface is simple and intuitive, and the service currently enforces a 1GB limit.

As of late spammers have been abusing this service by taking advantage of a loophole (of such) within the Sky Drive system itself. So how do they do it?

Spammers simply create a free SkyDrive account and upload a simple html file that redirects the unsuspecting viewer to a respiratory of pills and meds for sale (how cliché).
The html file is relatively simple, consisting of some basic JavaScript:

<html><body><script language=JavaScript>window.location.replace(
"http://top10epharms.com“)</script></body></html>

So what makes services like these worth abusing and attractive to spammers?

  • Unique urls
  • Domains relatively safe from blacklisting
  • Link longevity
  • abuse handling issues
  • Features – host *almost anything*
  • Great Price
  • Someone else pays the hosting costs

Usually spammers use compromised servers in foreign countries or bonnets to send out their spam, however utilizing file sharing sites (such as SkyDrive) is not the newest trick in the book, this one just got hit…hard & suddenly.

Another interesting point is the number of times we trapped each URL was interestingly low for such a big campaign, I’d therefore estimate they had tens of thousands of files uploaded- McAfee Weblog.

Microsoft have come to the party however and are beginning to shut down these malicious SkyDrive accounts (some 24 hours after they had started), instead replacing the old malicious files with Sky Drive Welcome Notes as seen here.

Yet another instance of “If its free and worth abusing, discovery time is the variable these days”

Posted in Security, Windows Live | 2 Comments »

FAQ: Is it possible to only use 1 server to deploy Office Communications Server?

January 9th, 2008 by Jabez Gan [MVP]

I’ve received quite some queries about Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007. One of the queries is:

Can I use only 1 server to deploy Office Communications Server?

The simple answer is:

If you do not need external users to connect into the OCS service, then it is OK. The minimum setup is:
1 Domain Controller
1 Member server installed with OCS

The above will only give you simple MSN-like service within your corporate.

However, if you need to have external users to be able to connect back to the OCS, you will need to setup another server called an Edge Server (install the Edge Server roles).

For Audio/Video, you might need ANOTHER server for it, since it will be pretty processor/memory intensive.

So… Is OCS a feasible solution for small businesses? I would say – It depends. If their TOC outweights the benefits, then No. But if they do a lot of trainings and employees are scattered across the place and needs frequently web conference, then yes.

What do you think? Have you tried out OCS2007? Is that what you were expecting?

P.s: OCS2007 was formerly known as Live Communication Server 2003/2005. I’m also doing screencasts on OCS which can be found at www.internet.com/video (http://www.internet.com/video/3601)

More information of OCS can be found: http://office.microsoft.com/communicationsserver. If you need more information or guidance on OCS, you can contact me through this blog or send me an email over at mingteikg [ at    ] blizhosting-Dot-com.

Posted in Office Communications Server | 2 Comments »

Windows Live Mobile Messenger & The Mysterious Trial Period…

January 9th, 2008 by Patrick S

Yesterday (and possibly the day before) a lot of commotion was caused when people started getting “Trial Period” notices appearing when using Windows Live Mobile Messenger.
The message read the following (image):

“Hello! Starting today, your 30 day trial period beings. By selecting OK you acknowledge that your use of Windows Live services continues to be subject to the Terms of Use and Privacy Statement. Data charges from your mobile operator, including roaming fees may apply for using the Windows Live services. At the conclusion of this trial, you will be given the option to purchase a 30 day pass.”:

Here is what actually happened: Microsoft rolled out a direct-to-consumer billing service for the Windows Live client on Nokia S60’s in the UK and Sweden. The only problem was that not just Nokia S60 users got the message but everyone using the Live Service.

As you may know, we offer Messenger services through mobile operators on lots of handsets, not just Windows Mobile. Traditionally, customers have been billed by their mobile operators for many of these services, either directly or through their data package.- Matt Champagne, director of Windows Live mobile services.

Microsoft are considering adding the “direct-to-consumer billing service” to everyone in the future the finial decision has not been made yet.

So…If you were on a Windows Mobile device and not a Nokia S60 and received the message by accident-ignore it!

Posted in Bugs, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Mobile | Comments Off on Windows Live Mobile Messenger & The Mysterious Trial Period…

Get the new face of Windows XP, Before it eXPires!!!

January 6th, 2008 by Patrick S

 

2008 Is here, its now time to face the truth… The clock is ticking on Microsoft’s Windows XP. And whilst Microsoft may view this as a natural stage in the evolution of a product that was RTM’ed (released to manufacturing) all the way back in 2001, a healthy proportion of people will fail to see eye to eye with the company on this one. In this context… Windows Vista.xptarget

Vista In 2007

Even with Vista hot off the presses, XP did not give one inkling that it was going to give up the fight, with Microsoft focusing on winding XP up for good-Ending support for SP1 and soon to be SP2.

-Microsoft’s Windows Product Management vice president Mike Nash on September 27th: “with more than 60 million licenses sold as of this summer, Windows Vista is on track to be the fastest-selling operating system in Microsoft’s history.”
They had done it-sold over 20 million licences in the first month since RTM, passing 40million within the first 100days and 60 million by mid 2007. The last statistics made available to the public, dating back to the end of October, pointed to over 88 million Vista copies sold worldwide.

At the end of 2007, according to statistics provided by Net Applications, Vista enjoyed a market share of 10.48% – a percentage roughly synonymous with 100+ million sold copies. And while in just a single year Vista’s install base has passed the combined audience of Mac OS X and all the Linux distributions, its performance is still perceived with nuances of failure. And at fault is Windows XP with its roots firmly dug in for the past six years.

Vista’s Problem

Currently Vista (in general) leaves a lot to be desired-to be honest it’s just how I feel. Sure SP1 comes out this year, and there is still hope that Microsoft will boost Vista up to the OS that it has the potential to be, but lets face it-there are A LOT of users who wont go with the flow. Admittedly Vista HAS grown on me since I first tested it a couple of years ago-I have the upmost confidence SP1 will change my mind for the better.

Let’s explore what’s gone down with Vista last year:

  • Dell, HP and Acer have all asked Microsoft to extend XP’s availability for an additional 6 months due to the concerns of customers.
  • Many Businesses have been slow to adopt Vista due to poor performance and compatibility issues.
  • Complaints have arisen regarding performance issues and the fact that Vista is so damn hungry.

XP’s Future

2008 Marks another milestone for Microsoft Windows-No it’s not Service Pack 1. It’s the real upgrade to Vista (SP0)… XP’s Service Pack 3. This final major update to XP has been dubbed by some as the Vista without the crap.

Although XP was faster than Vista before, SP3 ups the ante. Microsoft has said that SP3 features about 1073 fixes and adds some cool features from Vista to make your experience far better. Using Vista after XP seems weird-no device incompatibility warnings, pop-ups asking for permission and poor performance.

Sure this may not seem like big improvements and most of the fixes included in SP3 can already be found on Vista, but isn’t that the issue here? Now that XP is more secure and already sports any and all drivers you are currently using without costing hundreds of dollars to implement, couldn’t it be said that XP is simply the better choice? … It just works!!!

Sadly the end of June (30th )2008 marks the day where Windows XP will no longer be available pre-loaded on computers from original equipment manufactures or from retail outlets. Starting with the summer of this year (4th Quarter) and ending sometime in 2010, when windows 7 is planned, end users will only have access to Windows Vista. XP will survive a little longer with System Builders until early 2009, and until mid 2010 with the Starter edition, but sales of the Windows operating system connected with white-box PC’s are only a fraction of the Windows client businesses.

What about the Big Picture?

In the end, it’s not all about the support life-cycles and marketing, not by a long shot. With SP1, Vista will enter its first stage of evolution and with that a massively increased user-base. This will lead better support and compatibility, to increased reliability and boosted performance-XP will fade to the background and Vista will take centre stage.

So…While Office 07 and Vista get their first Service Packs-Windows XP will get its last.

I Say “Viva La XP” but Bring on Vista SP1 😀

Stats and info sourced from cnet and softpedia

Posted in Beta News, MS News, Products, Windows Vista, Windows XP | 2 Comments »

Windows Virtual Desktops

January 5th, 2008 by Patrick S

I love Windows as much as the next guy however there are certain features on Linux that I really wish were in Windows. E.g. The Power of Bash or Multiple (Virtual) Desktops.

Thanks to Microsoft’s Code Plex program I stumbled across a program that allows users to run multiple desktops within Windows XP & Vista. Its a completely open-source program (yay) and even supports Vista’s DWM based aero interface (They seem to have found a way around the slowness of the SDK however).
This virtual desktop program takes advantage of this new API and uses some tricks of its own to provide a powerful virtual desktop manager with a full screen thumbnail based preview. You can have as many desktops as you want and can seamlessly switch between them.

Some of the programs key features include:

  • Multiple-monitor support
  • Per-desktop backgrounds
  • Sticky windows to exclude windows from the virtual desktop manager
  • Live Vista thumbnails of all of your windows (Will only work in Vista-XP does not support WDM)
  • An infinite number of desktops only limited by the amount of memory in your computer

Download and toy around Virtual Desktop Manager here http://www.codeplex.com/vdm

VDM

Pretty cool huh?

Posted in Computing, Reviews, Windows Vista, Windows XP | 2 Comments »

Delayed Startup of Windows startup applications

January 4th, 2008 by Jabez Gan [MVP]

Are you experiencing a loooooooooooooong startup of Windows due to the startup of not-so-important applications, like OneNote or Adobe Gamma Loader? Or maybe you want Microsoft Office Outlook to run automatically after Windows loads? Fear no more, there’s a quick app by Clint Rutkas called “Delayed Startup” which will help you!

From his blog,

“Why did I create a delayed startup program?  After I saw all the stuff my manager had booting up on his computer, I thought this may be useful.  His computer really wasn’t terribly usable for a good 10 minutes after a reboot so I decided to spend a few minutes and create him a nice program while I’m at a .Net User Group meeting (they had free food and it was 1 floor up in my building).  My theory is most of the programs in your startup folder aren’t actually needed asap.  I don’t need OneNote open right away, I don’t need a bunch of other stuff right away.  The nice thing is now I can have Visual Studio, Outlook, IE, and a few other programs I run everyday not impact me restarting my computer’s bootup time since they’ll do a gradual loading sequence.”

More information of Delayed Startup can be found at http://betterthaneveryone.com/archive/2007/10/29/delayed-startup.aspx ,  which includes the Setup program.

What do you think of this application? Leave a comment!

Posted in Windows Vista, Windows XP | Comments Off on Delayed Startup of Windows startup applications

Zumobi – Stop Surfing, Start Zooming!

January 4th, 2008 by kenlin@HK [MVP]

Zumobi, the mobile startup spun off from Microsoft Research, has launched its first beta. The Zumobi lets you access, enjoy, and share web-based content on your mobile phone in an innovative, new way. The Zumobi software presents a unique way to access content, with a grid of sixteen tiles that you can zoom in and out of, and the tiles acting as widgets that display web-based content.
Currently, mobile browsing goes something like this…

    1. Either you navigate through a list of web sites pre-loaded on your phone, navigate through static bookmarks, or maybe even attempt to type in a long URL with your thumbs. Ugh.

    2. Now that you’ve chosen your content, wait while it loads. And wait. And wait.

    3. Ok, site loaded. Read a few lines and scroll down. Scroll down. Scroll down, deeper into the abyss searching for what you wanted buried somewhere in all that content. Tedious. Often frustrating.

    4. Rinse, repeat.

Ultimately, it’s an underwhelming experience.

Enter Zumobi. Beta Launch Video On YouTube

Welcome to Zumobi!

They are also recruiting Beta Users, To participate in the Zumobi Beta you’ll need the following:
Zumobi Tiles create a solution through which advertising and marketing communications are highly contextual and personalized.

  • A U.S.A. mobile phone number
  • A data plan with your mobile phone service provider (we strongly recommend this be an unlimited data plan)
  • A mobile phone running Windows Mobile 5 or 6

While Zumobi is compatible with most phones running Windows Mobile 5 or 6, we have certified and recommend the following devices for optimal performance:

  • Motorola Q
  • Samsung Blackjack 1.0
  • HTC Dash
  • HTC Touch

Of course, you are also welcome to download and test Zumobi on other Windows Mobile 5 or 6 phones, but we have not fully certified these phones yet and cannot guarantee an optimal experience. Additional certified phones will be added frequently, so please check our website for the most current list of devices.

Posted in Beta News, Daily Life, Windows Mobile | Comments Off on Zumobi – Stop Surfing, Start Zooming!

MVP Status Renewed, Congrats

January 4th, 2008 by Patrick S

I would like to congratulate 4 of our Authors for being re-awarded their MVP status.

  • Joseph Bittman – Awarded for work in the field of Windows Server System – Data Protection Manager
  • Jabez Ming Teik Gan – Awarded for work in the field of Windows Server System – File System/Storage
  • Kristan Kenny – Awarded for work in the field of Windows Shell/User
  • Kam Hung (Ken Lin) – Awarded for work as a Visual Developer – Visual Basic

These 4 people are active beta testers and always strive to be the best at what they do!

Well done you 4-Keep up the good work 🙂

Posted in MVP Program | Comments Off on MVP Status Renewed, Congrats

Vista pirated half as much as XP, Microsoft Happy

January 4th, 2008 by Patrick S

While it admits it’s not possible to pin down an exact number, Microsoft has let out word today that it estimates the counterfeit rate of Vista to be about half that of XP, a figure that it seems to be more than pleased with. Of course, one could interpret those numbers in slightly less positive ways, but Microsoft claims the sharp dip in piracy is due to Vista’s amped up authentication system, which it says is a “proven and effective way to combat piracy.” To come up with the numbers, Microsoft apparently relied statistics based on Windows Genuine Advantage validation failures, as well as other unspecified internal data. As TG Daily notes, all this follows Microsoft’s announcement of revised anti-piracy measures in Vista SP1 and, specifically, some big changes to the aforementioned WGA feature.

Microsoft’s statistics are based on Windows Genuine Advantage validation failures, along with other internal data.

Microsoft’s statement on counterfeit data comes as it reveals new piracy prevention plans for Vista’s first service pack. “What is changing with SP1 is the nature of the experience for those systems that are never activated or that fail validation,” said Sievert. The service pack will also help prevent users with legitimate installs from being affected by Vista pirates.

Posted in Anti-Piracy, Windows Vista, Windows XP | 4 Comments »