Archive for Microsoft

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.

Microsoft Announces Windows 10… Really. It’s Called Windows 10. [UPDATED]

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

That isn’t a misprint. Microsoft today at a preview event announced Windows 10 to the public.This is  the last “major” Windows update. Microsoft’s strategy is to make smaller updates to the Windows 10 codebase, rather than pushing out new major updates years apart. Sort of what Apple does with OS X where they come out with a new release every year with smaller updates in between.

Some of the key features include:

  • A refreshed user interface.
  • The Start Menu will be a mix of what users loved about the one in Windows 7 with elements of Windows 8.
  • The addition of Universal Windows apps which addresses a major grievance that many Windows 8 users have experienced with Modern user interface apps not working well when run from the desktop.
  • A feature called “Continuum” that automatically adjust Windows for 2-in-1 tablet-computer hybrids so that it can automatically detect whether there’s a keyboard and mouse hooked up to the device and offer the more desktop-friendly version of the Windows user interface.
  • A “tablet mode” that will automatically pop up whenever you touch the screen.

In short, Windows 10 is supposed to make tablet users as well as mouse and keyboard users happy. Good luck with that Microsoft.

Microsoft is expected to release a preview test build of Windows 10 sometime tomorrow. When it goes live at this link, I will grab a copy and give you my thoughts. Expect the OS to ship sometime in 2015.

UPDATE: Microsoft has just posted a press release on Windows 10.

Microsoft Starts The Process To Kill Off Windows 7

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 24, 2014 by itnerd

If you want a new computer with Windows 7, you might want to hurry. Microsoft has announced that the process to kill off Windows 7 has begun. On the Windows lifecycle fact sheet, Microsoft notes that as of October 31st, it will no longer provide copies of Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium or Ultimate to third-party manufacturers for inclusion on new consumer PCs. So, when that stock runs out, you’ll be stuck with Windows 8. Windows 7 Professional isn’t affected by this. Yet. So that might be an option for you.

A couple of other dates to note:

  • Mainstream support for Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 ends on January 13th, 2015
  • Extended support for Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 will last until at least January 14th, 2020

So, if you like Windows 7, buy now.

Videos Of Windows 9 In Action Leaked

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 15, 2014 by itnerd

Well, this is interesting. Some videos have been posted that apparently show Windows 9 in action. Here’s what Tech Crunch reported:

A number of clips are up for watching, detailing how Windows 9 will handle multiple desktops, the return of the Start Menu, and more. Presuming that you have missed at least one, I’ve included each in this post.

The videos are worth considering as they demonstrate what Microsoft views as a proper remediation — and fusion — of its tablet-facing efforts included in Windows 8, and support of desktop features that echo the popular Windows 7.

The clips in question are on Youtube and I’ve reposted them below:

So, does this make you forgive Microsoft for Windows 8? For me, it’s too early to tell. I will wait until the preview comes out later this month.

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