Archive for Microsoft

Ford Punts Microsoft From Sync For QNX

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on December 12, 2014 by itnerd

You might recall that Ford partnered with Microsoft to produce the Sync system. That partnership appears to be over as Microsoft has been dumped for QNX which is a BlackBerry product. Here’s what AutoWeek has to say:

The new system, which Ford calls “Sync 3,” uses BlackBerry Ltd.’s in-car operating system, QNX, instead of the Microsoft Corp. technology that has underpinned Sync since its introduction in 2007. 
 
Sync 3 will be available starting in the 2016 model year and offered throughout the full Ford and Lincoln lineups by the end of the 2016 calendar year, Ford said today.
 
With Sync 3, Ford hopes to resolve the bugs and complaints that turned MyFord Touch from an industry-leading feature into a liability. Raj Nair, Ford’s product development chief and chief technical officer, said the company incorporated more survey data and feedback into Sync 3 than it has when rolling out any new vehicle.
 
Nair said Sync 3 — so named because it’s the third generation of Sync, with the second being MyFord Touch — is designed to be more intuitive and quicker than the current system, which Ford introduced in 2010 to make its vehicles stand out among technology-craving, smartphone-carrying consumers. He said it’s designed to be “device agnostic,” working with any type of smartphone, though it does include Siri Eyes Free capability for more seamless integration with Apple Inc.’s iPhones.
 
“We don’t want you making a purchase decision about a $30,000 automobile based on your $200 smartphone,” Nair told reporters at a demonstration this week.

The funny thing is that this was rumored almost 11 months ago. Clearly, it took a while to actually come true. I for one think this is a good move for Ford as both CarPlay from Apple and Android Auto from Google will force car companies who use neither to step up their game to keep pace. It also removes one hell of a boat anchor from around their neck.

As an aside, this is another boost to BlackBerry and a big slap to the face for Microsoft. I wonder how the former and latter will spin that?

Microsoft Forced To Pull Two Buggy Patch Tuesday Updates

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 12, 2014 by itnerd

One thing that I always tell my customers is that waiting a day or two to update their computers with whatever latest updates are shipped from Apple, Microsoft, or whomever is a good idea because every once in a while, you get an update that causes havoc.

Microsoft apparently has delivered two of them that have cause some degree of havoc.

  • The first one affects Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 users. If you installed update KB3004394, you got an update that was supposed to install new trusted root certificates into your Windows install. Instead, you lose the ability to install future updates. The fix is to follow the instructions in this document to get an update from Microsoft that fixes this.
  • The second one affects those who use Microsoft Exchange as their e-mail platform. On December 10, Microsoft announced that an issue was found in the Exchange Server 2010 SP3 Update Rollup 8, which could impact the ability of Outlook clients to connect to an Exchange server. In response, Microsoft has recalled the specific update and is trying to revise it to fix the problem. The company advises enterprise customers to hold off on this update or roll it back if already installed.

Buggy updates seem to have become a bit of a trend with Microsoft as of late. In October, Windows users were hit by four buggy updates and in August, Microsoft issued an update that affected the display of fonts and triggered the Blue Screen of Death. Clearly, Microsoft has some work to do on the QA front.

Microsoft Spreads Out To iOS & Android…. Buys App Company Too

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 11, 2014 by itnerd

It seems that Microsoft wants to be the center of your universe regardless of what platform you’re on. I cite these as examples:

  • The MSN suite of apps (News, Sports, Health & Fitness, Food & Drink and Money) is now available on iOS and Android; MSN Weather is out on Android, with an IOS release coming soon.
  • Office is now available on every platform that I can think of except maybe LINUX. That includes Apple and Google’s tablets which would have been unthinkable a short time ago. Even the Mac version of Office which was always the red headed stepchild of Microsoft doesn’t suck.

And today, they just bought HockeyApp. No Canada, it’s not an app related to your national pastime. It does something far more important for Microsoft:

Based in Stuttgart, Germany, HockeyApp offers a range of mobile development services enabling developers to develop, distribute, and beta test great mobile applications.  This includes:

  • Crash reporting.  Fast and precise crash reporting with easy app integration, rich crash analysis and support for connecting directly to existing workflows and bug tracking systems. 
  • Distribution and feedback.  Beta distribution and built-in user feedback system.
  • Cross-platform.  Support for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone provides a consistent developer experience across mobile devices.

In the coming months, we will introduce new iOS and Android SDKs for Application Insights  based on the features of HockeyApp.  Application Insights offers a 360-degree view of application usage, availability, and performance across both client and server/cloud application components.  Integrating HockeyApp crash reports with Application Insights usage analytics will extend device support for Application Insights across all major mobile platforms and make application analytics an ambient part of the application development cycle with support for all tiers of a modern “mobile first, cloud first” solution. 

So what this purchase will do is help Microsoft beef up their ability to come out with apps for non Microsoft platforms. Thus further enabling them to dominate the world. Or at least make lots of money which is just as good I suppose.

My, have times changed in Redmond.

Significant Vulnerability Affecting All Versions Of Windows Exposed

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 12, 2014 by itnerd

Microsoft has disclosed a significant vulnerability in virtually all versions of Windows that requires your immediate attention.

Here’s the nerdy explanation of what this vulnerability is: The vulnerability is in the Microsoft secure channel (schannel) security component that implements the secure sockets layer and transport layer security (TLS) protocols. Now according to a Microsoft advisory, a failure to properly filter specially formed packets makes it possible for attackers to execute attack code of their choosing by sending malicious traffic to a Windows-based server.

Here’s the explanation in plain English: If you don’t install the patches referenced in Microsoft advisory, some evil doer on the Internet can remotely send commands to your Windows based systems and cause all sorts of havoc.

Seeing as vulnerabilities in Microsoft products are usually exploited within 24 hours of patch Tuesday (which was yesterday), you need to make sure that you immediately use Windows Update to patch your systems. The people who should be most concerned are those who run Microsoft servers that are exposed to the Internet. But I am certain that some evil doer will find some way to exploit this on computers that aren’t exposed to the Internet. Thus it makes patching every Windows PC that you have a must do item today.

Microsoft Announces “Band” As Their Entry Into The Health & Fitness Market

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 30, 2014 by itnerd

Apple has HealthKit and now Microsoft has an entry in the growing health and fitness market.

First there’s the Microsoft Band. It’s worn on your wrist and it tracks both physical activity and sleep. It includes 10 sensors that track standard health statistics like heart rate as well as unique points of data that other fitness bands do not track, like a UV sensor to measure sun exposure and galvanic skin response, which can identify stress. Like smart watches, the Band can also receive notifications from a user’s smartphone and allegedly lasts up to 2 days on a charge.

Tied into this is a cloud-based health service called Microsoft Health, which can gather data from both the Microsoft Band and other fitness data gathering devices, like smartphones and other fitness bands. The service spans the web and multiple mobile platforms including iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

The band is on sale today for $199 USD. It should be interesting to see how well it is or isn’t received. I think the fact that it supports multiple platforms might gain Microsoft some appeal. Thus, this is worth keeping an eye on.

Microsoft Aims To Dominate Cloud Storage By Offering Unlimited Storage

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 27, 2014 by itnerd

Are you an Office 365 user? If so, you can get unlimited storage with one exception that I will get to. Here’s the details from Microsoft:

Today, storage limits just became a thing of the past with Office 365.  OneDrive and OneDrive for Business will now offer unlimited storage—at no additional cost—to our Office 365 consumer and business customers.

A trip to the One Drive Blog has more details:

For OneDrive for Business customers, unlimited storage will be listed on the Office 365 roadmap in the coming days and we will begin updating the First Release customers in 2015, aligned with our promise to provide ample notification for significant service changes. In the meantime, get started using your 1 TB of storage today by backing up all those work files kicking around on your PC – with the knowledge that even more storage is on its way!

So if you’re a Office 365 Home, Personal and University customer, the joy of having unlimited storage starts today. Business customers will have to wait for a bit. But they get 1TB now so I don’t think that will be too much of a hardship. The bottom line is that Microsoft has pretty much given you a great reason not to use Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, or iDrive.

Hey IT Nerd! Should I Be Worried About How Windows 10 Collects Data?

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 6, 2014 by itnerd

I just got this question in my inbox:

Hello IT Nerd. I am sure you’ve seen the recent media coverage about the Windows 10 technical preview and how it collects all sorts of data. My question is, should I be worried about that? 

Thanks!

Thank you for the question. What this reader is talking about is the fact that the technical preview of Windows 10 says this in their privacy statement:

When you acquire, install and use the Program, Microsoft collects information about you, your devices, applications and networks, and your use of those devices, applications and networks. Examples of data we collect include your name, email address, preferences and interests; browsing, search and file history; phone call and SMS data; device configuration and sensor data; and application usage. For example, when you:

  • install the Program, we may collect information about your device and applications and use it for purposes such as determining or improving compatibility,
  • use voice input features like speech-to-text, we may collect voice information and use it for purposes such as improving speech processing,
  • open a file, we may collect information about the file, the application used to open the file, and how long it takes any use it for purposes such as improving performance, or
  • enter text, we may collect typed characters and use them for purposes such as improving autocomplete and spellcheck features.

That predictably sent the Internet into a tizzy as evidenced by this Inquirer article. So back to the question. Should you be worried? The answer is that it depends. If you’re using pre-release software for any reason, you should fully expect something like this as the whole point of a technical release is for companies to gather info on how you use the software prior to release. Normally that’s through your feedback, but it’s sometimes done via methods like this. Plus, you should never, ever be using pre-release software on a computer that has access to sensitive info or on a computer that you rely on. Thus if this software is on a separate computer that is isolated on your network (which is what the people who are testing this stuff for corporations do…. Or at least should be doing), then go nuts. Use it all you want. But if you’ve put this software on a computer that is part of a part of your production network, then you might want to worry. If anything bad happens, you’re the one who’s going to be responsible as you made that call. Not Microsoft.

Another thing to point out is that features like the voice input feature has to send data back to Microsoft to work at all. Android (Google Now) and iOS (Siri) do that and I don’t hear any complaints.

The bottom line is that this is much ado about nothing as far as I am concerned. As a result, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

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