Super-Scalable SQL Server Scrutinized

There will be a new version of SQL Server 2008 R2 custom-made for the most data intensive shops. The Parallel Data Warehouse edition, now in test mode, can handle terabytes numbering in the hundreds.

The scalability comes from DATAllegro, a company Microsoft bought two years ago.

Three version of SQL Server 2008 R2 will ship next month: Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter. The Data Warehouse rev has no specified release date.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 07, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments


Windows 7 Free All Year

Curious if Windows 7 is as good as Microsoft says it is? Under a free enterprise trial program, you can play with Windows 7 all year long -- for free. The already existing free trial offer has been extended to Dec. 31, 2010.

If you are serious about Windows 7, you might be better off just buying the darn thing. If you like the trial version and want to buy the real thing, you have to do a clean install.
Meanwhile Windows 7 RC users are starting to get shutdown notices. The RC expires June 1.

Do you love Windows 7, or are there still glitches? Send praise and error reports to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on April 05, 2010 at 11:53 AM2 comments


Third-Party Report: Sunbelt Software

I Recently spoke with Alex Eckelberry, CEO of Sunbelt, about new products. Alex reminded me how I make him feel old since we first met around 1988 when he was an Amiga software exec with Aegis Development and I was editor-in-chief of AmigaWorld magazine (in the process he made me feel old right back).

Sunbelt has some pretty cool new products, but we spent way more time talking about the effort the company puts into security research and making sure its tools are truly unique. Sunbelt puts a ton of effort into security research so it can track and prevent the latest infestations.

On the product side, Sunbelt is all about lean and mean, so its security software isn't bogged down by bloat, blogging your machines down with the same boat.

Its core product line is Vipre, which protects against malware in all its forms.

Recently the company announced an upgrade to the core that drives all the Vipre products. Vipre 4.0 includes a new management console that tracks all the tools, and their premium edition, Vipre Enterprise Premium 4.0, includes Web filtering and Host Intrusion Prevention that acts as a two-way firewall and IDS.

Are you a Sunbelt customer? If so, send your thoughts to [email protected] Third-party news also welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on April 05, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments


Chip Wars Renewed

Competition is a great thing. In the case of microprocessors, AMD keeps Intel on its toes and we all benefit. Competition is the thing that actually enforces Moore 's Law.

Recently both AMD and Intel have upped the chip ante. AMD released new eight- and 12-core processors aimed at high-end servers, systems that seem perfect for virtualization.

Intel, at nearly the exact same time, unveiled the Xean 7500 series that go from eight to 64 cores. Now that's cooking!

Which chip vendor do you prefer? Answers welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on April 05, 2010 at 11:53 AM6 comments


Microsoft Attacks Chrome: No Fooling!

Google may have an overall great reputation, but those in the know are very concerned with how the company deals with privacy. Simply put, Google knows a lot about what we do and hangs onto that information like grim death.

Now Microsoft claims the Chrome browser is designed to collect even more of our private actions. According to Microsoft, Chrome is little more than a keylogger, whereas IE 8 takes pains to protect your Internet comings and goings. The crux is that Chrome combines the search and address bars, so when you type in a URL is goes to Google just like any other search.

Skeptics point out that if you use Chrome and have Bing as your default search, those URL request get sent to Microsoft!

What do you think of how Microsoft and Google deal with privacy? How much privacy should we expect online? Send your most public thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on April 02, 2010 at 11:53 AM6 comments


Doug's Mailbag: IE Security, Lieberman Software Praise, Windows 7 Disgust, More

One reader discusses that the IE security breech patched this week may not be the fault of Microsoft:

The issue is not just with browsers, but with us Web designers and developers.

We keep making our sites to require scripts and ActiveX controls. We keep using Flash, Silverlight and any other "cool" graphic appeal we get out hands on. We throw everything, including the kitchen sink, on the front-end just because we can.

All of these add to the security problem. Most of the security hacks are not from IE or any other browser, but from the junk we add. Our sites are totally unusable if one does not allow scripts, ActiveX, etc. So users must leave their browsers open to hackers.

Don't blame the browsers, blame ourselves.
-Anonymous

After Doug recently blogged about hackers cracking IE 8 in two minutes, one reader calls him on singling out only Internet Explorer:

I've read a few stories now on this hacker event and how they cracked IE. Not only was IE hacked but so were Firefox, Safari and Opera. In fact, the only one that wasn't hacked (Google Chrome) had just gotten a big round of patches the day before the event. That way the hackers didn't have any time to plan their attack. My guess is that Chrome would fail too.

I'm with Microsoft on this one. Even a locked steel door can get broken into if someone wants in bad enough.
-Richard

While the industry is still raving and ranting about Windows 7, one reader has had enough:

I am really getting sick of hearing about Windows 7. It is OK but it's just an evolutionary step from it predecessor -- not god's gift to the computer world.

I have two part-time jobs. One is as a consulting project manager for the prime contractor to a government organization. In this capacity, I design and create MS Access clients to Oracle databases. The organization is still using Windows XP and Office 2003 products and is happy with the capabilities and performance. Everything is centrally controlled and to even get Framework installed in my profile, I need the approval of my task manager. People complain but the help desk does a good job and is very responsive and knowledgeable. We have been working on transitioning some of our applications to Office 7 but it is difficult because most of our simulation software has embedded calls to Windows 2000 applications. Very talented people are working on this but it seems like a waste of resources to spend this money so Microsoft can make money by selling new products because they weren'tsmart enough to get all of us to subscribe.

In my second job I support very small businesses, generally doctors' and dentists' offices. These are peer-to-peer networks of six to eight Windows XP computers with one being a "server." All applications run on XP, Vista or 7, but everyone is happy with the installed XP versions. There is no desire to upgrade to Windows 7 especially since they would need to do a clean install on their existing computers and would have to upgrade all of them at the same time. When a new computer arrives with Windows 7 Pro, I set them up to run in XP.

I see no movement on the part of the government contractor to switch to 7. However, it will happen sometime. As to the doctors and dentists, they will not move until they have to. Probably when their applications are only available for Windows 7. Meanwhile I have to listen to the same old Windows 7 hymn.

That felt good, time to go jog and then have a beer.
-Bill

An industry administrator comments on what makes Lieberman Software so great:

We have been running RPM in our environment now for over two years and have nothing but good things to say about it. We leverage RPM to randomize all of our Managed Desktops and Production server local administrator passwords. This is to remain inline with our internal password compliance standards. We are managing roughly 2500 clients with very minimal system overhead. The server runs in our VMware ESX environment with the database residing in our production SQL cluster. All in all the system takes up very little resources because it is agent-less and accesses machines via the RPC shares in windows. We have a heterogeneous environment and since RPM looks at the RID IDs of the accounts, users can rename the local administrator account to whatever they feel like.  However, RPM will still find the account and change the password when the job runs -- a very nice feature. The other great part of RPM is it's not tied down to one specific OS. We manage all of our Windows (XP, Vista, 7) machines as well as our managed Apple (10.5, 10.6) computers with the same system and service account. A very unique feature in today's marketplace.

Our help desk also likes the Web interface for accessing all of the managed desktop passwords. It's AD integrated and allows you to add users or groups for permissions delegation, bypassing the need to engage in the tedious task of create new users accounts for everybody. Their main use of the Web interface is, for instances, where they need local administrator access for software installations and general troubleshooting. Our security team also taps into the Web interface for forensic purposes. 

The product is a breeze to set up and the documentation is very detailed, walking you through all aspects of the product. I have had one or two odd issues with the product since implementing it, and when I call in for support I always get top-notch service and very knowledgeable people. 

We are looking to implement the upgraded version of this product ERPM, which you talk about in your article. We think this will save us a ton of time in our service account management and also remain in compliance.
-Jimmy

Finally, while one reader uses Microsoft's Bing, he knows it's far from perfect:

I like Bing, and use it more than Google these days.

At first, my main criticism was that it gave too many results that were randomly using one or another of the keywords, and were not targeted to sites with all of the keywords. That seems to have gotten better over time, but it took a long time.

Also, it often suggests words that are similar, but have no connection to the keywords used.

A third criticism is that leading returns on the searches often seem to be paid advertisements -- again, only remotely or not at all connected to the search.

That said, I believe that it is giving Google a run for its money. At the moment, I use Bing slightly more than Google, just to give them a boost. I like to see competition in technology. If they make it better, I may give up Google altogether -- I think that they have gotten too smug and take users for granted.
 -Bernie

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to [email protected] Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on April 02, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments


April Fools'

Kids can't resist a good April Fools' joke, and neither apparently can those that run today's top Web sites. Here's a smattering of stunts from yesterday:

You've probably heard that Topeka, Kan. changed its name to Google, prompting Google yesterday to change its name to, you guessed it, Topeka. In more Google news, the New Zealand edition of PC World claimed Google is buying Microsoft for $2 billion. If they said $200 billion it would be more believable.

Meanwhile ITWire ran the lame excuse for a prank claiming Linus Torvalds is helping Microsoft build the next version of Windows.

What was the best April Fools' you've either pulled off or were victim of? Send your stories to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on April 02, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments


Third-Party Report: Centrify

Tom Kemp is not just CEO of Centrify, he is also one of 12 Windows gurus profiled three years ago in Redmond magazine.

Centrify, in essence, allows IT pros to use Active Directory to manage Linux, Unix and Mac computers. The idea is that nearly every shop has Windows Servers and thus has AD. Why not use that knowledge to manage everything else? Microsoft sure doesn't mind since it makes Windows the center of the data universe. Now that it has a few years under its belt, the still young Centrify has a full suite, including two brand new tools. Here's the rundown:

  • The suite starts with DirectControl, which is actually required to use the other pieces. DirectControl allows AD to control access and authentication across heterogenous systems.
  • DirectAuthorize controls authorization based on roles.
  • DirectAudit aids in compliance by tracking and reporting on what users do, whatever system they're on.
  • DirectSecure, a new tool, encrypts data and isolates systems from one another.
  • DirectManage, another new tool, lets AD manage heterogeneous systems almost as if they're Windows.

Back in its early days, Centrify competed with Centeris. Alleviating market confusion, Centeris is now called Likewise.

Have you checked out Centrify? Shoot your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on April 02, 2010 at 11:53 AM4 comments


April Fools'

Kids can't resist a good April Fools' joke, and neither apparently can those that run today's top Web sites. Here's a smattering of stunts from yesterday:

You've probably heard that Topeka, Kan. changed its name to Google, prompting Google yesterday to change its name to, you guessed it, Topeka. In more Google news, the New Zealand edition of PC World claimed Google is buying Microsoft for $2 billion. If they said $200 billion it would be more believable.

Meanwhile ITWire ran the lame excuse for a prank claiming Linus Torvalds is helping Microsoft build the next version of Windows.

What was the best April Fools' you've either pulled off or were victim of? Send your stories to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on April 02, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments


Hackers Crack IE 8 in Two Minutes Flat

At a recent hacker event, it only took two minutes to break through IE 8's defenses. Rather than get defensive or ignore the event, Microsoft addressed the issues head-on, arguing that if you really want to secure your browser, you need a defense-in-depth approach, battening down all your computing hatches.

Part of those defenses, Microsoft argues, includes moving to more secure operating systems such as Windows 7 or Vista.

I'm a little disappointed that IE was cracked so fast, but I'm sure the hackers had time to prepare their attacks so the two minutes was the execution, and not the planning. On the other hand, I like Microsoft's forthright attitude here. I think it takes a fair amount of guts to come clean like this.

Am I giving Microsoft too much credit or not enough? Tell it to me straight at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on March 31, 2010 at 11:53 AM7 comments


IE Patch Rushed to Market

An IE remote code execution (RCE) flaw is so serious that it just can't wait till April's Patch Tuesday. Instead, an out-of-band fix was released this week.

The RCE issue occurs when someone is led to a malicious Web page and is lured into clicking. The fix applies to all current forms of IE -- from IE 5 to the latest, IE 8.

The patch is actually a cumulative fix, repairing a heaping 10 problems.

Experts see this out-of-band patch as a sign that Redmond is getting more aggressive about fixing problems it or outsiders discover. Some praise this aggressiveness while others see the fixes as symptoms of an underlying disease, and suggest IT move off of IE.

Do you trust IE? Are other browsers really more secure? Your opinions welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on March 31, 2010 at 11:53 AM5 comments


Third-Party Report: Lieberman Software

Lieberman Software, headed by super smart Phil Lieberman, has long been in the Windows admin market. Now Phil is eying the cloud with Enterprise Random Password Manager, which now brings its identity management features to cloud providers.

According to Lieberman (the company and the man), IT interest in the cloud is growing, but so are fears that data will be stolen or spied upon.

We at Redmond are working a cloud security story, so a recent e-mail exchange with Phil was timed perfectly. Here's the gist of Phil's thoughts:

"The entire nature of  how insecure the cloud is and how cloud vendors are not taking ownership or providing services for cloud security is a big story that the cloud vendors don't want exposed. Any auditor that allows critical information to reside on these cloud platforms without being able to fully audit the access and security is simply not doing their job.  Or if the auditor tells the client that cloud adoption is a mistake and the client moves forward anyway, some companies have better management and direction than others.

Unfortunately, the auditors may find their client companies jumping in to the pool (cloud cesspool), committing their companies 100 percent between audit cycles, then having to give these companies the bad news that their 'findings' show that they did something really risky and stupid just to save a few bucks.

Very few companies are doing their due diligence about cloud security.  The cloud vendors are telling us they have no interest in implementing security until customers demand it.  It is going to get ugly."

Are you a Lieberman customer? If so, send your thoughts to [email protected] Third-party news also welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on March 31, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments