Windows Help Needs Help

The help system for Windows XP and Server 2003 has a flaw that could (but hasn't yet) allow remote code execution exploits. For the attack to work, a user will have to visit a malicious Web site or click a bad link in a spam message.

The flaw was discovered by Google which blasted Microsoft for waiting to release the information. Correct me if I'm wrong, but disclosing an unpatched flaw is an open invitation to hackers, n'est-ce pas?

What do you think? Should flaws be publicized before there's a remedy? Send me a malicious-code-free e-mail with your thoughts to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on June 14, 20107 comments

New Friday IT Fun

Our new Web editor Chris Paoli loves to scour the Web looking for nutty stuff. As his boss you'd think I'd object such a waste of time, but Chris cleverly turns this surfing into a weekly feature he calls Friday IT Fun.

Last week he found a few doozies, including a cartoon depicting the darker side of Steve Jobs, an Onion story mocking BP paying Google to suppress anti-BP Web sites and a goofy take on Ralph Macchio's flagging career. Friday IT Fun is worth checking out each and every week.

Posted by Doug Barney on June 14, 20100 comments

VMware Pushes Win 7?

VMware and Microsoft aren't exactly friends. So why is VMware offering advice on moving to Win 7? Because it is in its self interest. You see, Win 7 doesn't run all the older XP apps and drivers, which is why Microsoft built XP Mode to allow virtualization of XP under Win 7.

VMware has what it thinks is a better answer: Package up your old XP environment and run it under Win 7 using VMware Player.

VMware claims its Player is faster and just plain better than XP Mode.

Have you tried either? What are your thoughts? Let them be known at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on June 14, 20106 comments

Doug's Mailbag: Tablet Market, Government Involvement in Private Security

Stepping in for Doug last week, Mike Domingo asked about Microsoft's tablet future. Here's one reader's take:

I've been giving some thought to the whole (new) world of tablet computing that the iPad has opened up. The Slate is dead and Courier is a footnote. But there are plenty of other contenders waiting their turn on stage. What kind of computing model are they offering potential customers?

Apple makes a big deal about their "curated" model --  with them having the final say about what apps can be run, what technologies are supported (and not supported) and how these apps are developed. Is this really fundamentally different from the corporate model of the locked-down desktop that we've had for so many years? Approved apps, approved modes of doing things, etc. -- how is the Apple model any different, except in the breadth of the walled garden in which iPad users can play and work? It's freedom, of a sort. A moderated, subtly constrained freedom -- something that a lot of people are apparently comfortable with.

What model is the Windows tablet (if one appears) going to use? Will it be like the Windows PC environment, where essentially anything goes? Or will it be more like the Windows Phone 7 environment, which is basically an imitation of the Apple model? At this point, we just don't know.

We already have these two paradigms of computer usage in place in the video game realm. We have console partisans, and we have PC game partisans. Consoles are locked down, PCs are wide-open. Which model do you favor? How about your readers? Which model is doing well in the market -- one, the other, or both -- catering to different attitudes and value sets and demographics?

I suspect that there's room in the marketplace for both types of tablet computing as well. Except that, once again, Apple has stolen the lead on the other players, and we're seeing a mighty effort to play catch-up.

This is going to be fun to watch.

In light of the news that the DoD is considering taking a bigger role in large corporations' cyber security, one reader chimes in on why this could be a good thing:

If the government doesn't take more control of the Internet then America's security is at risk. With so many companies now off shoring software development, what is to prevent a cyber-attack using our defense weaponry against the U.S.? There are many telecommunications companies that work with the government and promise only domestic support. However, they are skirting the shoreline with phone numbers in the U.S. for those employees in Communist China, Argentina and India. How soon will it be for those countries so close to daily terrorism activities go after our security in the U.S.?

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 June 14, 20101 comments

Doug's Mailbag: Google or the User's Fault?

There have been a huge amount of responses to the case of Lauren Rosenburg's navigation accident. Here's some of your responses:

A couple of years ago, my wife and I drove to Des Moines, Iowa, to attend an event there. Because we wanted to make a weekend of it, we booked a room at a new hotel on the east edge of town. I printed out driving directions from Google Maps so we'd have a hardcopy to guide us as we drove.

We reached the exit on the interstate where we were to turn left and cross the bridge over the highway to get to our hotel. The only problem with this maneuver was that it directed us to an empty field. In fact, the hotel was visible from the ramp, but to the right, rather than to the left and across the bridge. I took matters into my own hands at that point and decided, against the advice of Google Maps, that I was going to go my own way.

Long story short, the weekend was a lot of fun, and we had a great stay at the hotel. The fact that the Google Maps data was totally wrong was just an indication that you have to use common sense when following directions.

This whole situation is relevant to far more than just going from point A to point B geographically. How many times have we been installing or using computer software when we have to "adapt" the instructions to what we actually see on the screen? How many times are the assembly instructions for some consumer purchase less than clear, and we have to work around that shortcoming? How many times has there been an article in a newspaper or magazine that said one thing, and actually meant another, through a misunderstanding on the part of the reporter? In all these situations, we have to be active participants, rather than passive spectators blandly accepting what we're given.

In the case of Ms. Rosenberg, I won't say she was stupid. She could well be called naïve, or gullible, to think that walking along a highway that carries a lot of traffic is going to be a totally safe activity. Did she have no one around her who could give her directions? Was she incapacitated in some way? Who knows? Suing Google for what sounds like her own carelessness seems typical of modern-day America, but I still think the suit should be thrown out. I know enough, however, to expect that she'll get a settlement, and probably her fifteen minutes of fame from all this, however undeserved.

Will I use Google Maps in the future? You bet. I've got it on my phone, and I've used it often. Will I trust it blindly? No -- I've got far too much skepticism about the overall reliability of the data that Maps includes to want to do that. But it is a very handy guide.

Thanks for your reporting on this.

While I feel bad that Rosenberg was hit by a car and feel that the Google mobile app is certainly lacking some important features the full Web version has, she didn't use the good sense that God gave her. This case should not see the inside of a courtroom.

Great writing. Please keep it up.

If there were no cars when she went down the street then it was a good idea. If there were a lot of cars then it was probably a bad idea. But in the end, it was up to her to use her best judgment according to the situation she found herself in and judging by the result she made a bad choice. Can't blame that one on Google any more than if I was using a GPS unit that said I could turn left, but the arrow on the sign in front of me says I can only turn right.

An imbecile, clearly.

My car does not warn me that if I drive it into a lake that I will likely drown.
Food packages do not warn me that if I eat too many frozen pizzas that I will barf.
Washington does not warn us that if we elect stupid leaders that our country will suffer.

Shall I sue BMW? Tombstone Pizza? Obama?

If I ever met Lauren, I'd have two words for her (maybe four)

My vote -- Rosenberg was stupid.

Stupid is as stupid does. Google is not at fault. She chose to walk down the road. If I told her to jump off a bridge and she did it, would it be my fault? We are responsible for our own decisions and actions. Now if she paid Google to instruct her where to go, maybe she has a case. She will win her money just because Google will desire her to go away quietly.

Why do people insist on abdicating responsibility for their own actions? She should sue her parents for not having a child smart enough to know not to go into an unsafe situation.

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 June 11, 20101 comments

There's Bing Envy Over at Google

Visit the top search engine home pages and what do you notice? One of them is stark, plain, all business. But in a weird turnabout, Google seemed to have a bit of Bing envy when it experimented with photos on its homepage. What followed was harsh commentary from all corners of the Web and Google finally coming to its senses, giving the experiment the swift heave-ho a few hours later.

Not everything Google does drips with awesomeness, and you can't blame it for trying. Successful companies have many more failures than hits -- this experiment was definitely in the former category.

My opinion? I'm all for the change. But it's not about what I think, so tell us: Is it time for Google to change its home page or should it leave well enough alone?
--By Michael Domingo

Posted by Doug Barney on June 11, 20106 comments

Azure Skies Over Florida's Census

Another win for Microsoft in the cloud, as the state of Florida turns to Windows Azure to host its portal for census information. Key snip from the press release: "The Florida House chose to host the application in a cloud environment because application use is expected to be high for only a few critical weeks and then gradually fall off over time."
--By Michael Domingo

Posted by Doug Barney on June 11, 20100 comments

Microsoft Zero-Day Patches on Upswing

Lost in all the brouhaha of the latest spitting match between Microsoft and Google -- this one about a Windows XP exploit that Google discovered and didn't give Microsoft any chance to respond to before it went public -- is that fact that it's Microsoft's eighth zero-day vulnerability threat this year. According to a Computerworld story, that compares to 10 zero-day threats for all of 2009. That means zero-days are happening at nearly twice the rate of the previous year. Does that make anyone else nervous?
--By Keith Ward

Posted by Doug Barney on June 11, 20100 comments

Windows XP Deadlines Loom

Several Windows XP deadlines are coming up, both of which may affect businesses. The most important is that end-of-support for Windows XP SP2 hits on July 13. Support for the final XP service pack, SP 3, goes through April 2014, so there's lots of breathing room there. If you haven't upgraded to SP 3, however, the time is now. Microsoft, of course, would like you to skip SP 3 altogether, dump your desktops and replace them with shiny new Windows 7 boxes.

The other note is that this Oct. 22 -- not coincidentally, the day that Windows 7 will be one year old -- OEMs will no longer be allowed to put XP on netbooks, and most will likely move to Windows 7 Starter Edition. It shouldn't be that big a deal for most, since that's what goes out on about 80 percent of netbooks right now.
--By Keith Ward

Posted by Doug Barney on June 11, 20101 comments

Would You Buy a Windows Tablet?

Remember the demos earlier this year of the Windows-based HP "Slate" that may have been nixed because of HP's acquisition of Palm? Yeah, HP's slate was pretty sick, and I would have waited for it if it was coming, but the iPad now looks like a sound choice. Forrester Research makes a convincing case, in a report, that Microsoft needs to come out with a Windows tablet to maintain consumer relevance. If you're reading this post, chances are good you're a Windows consumer. That being the case, if a Microsoft partner produced something like the HP Slate, would it sway you from an iPad? 
-- By Michael Domingo

Posted by Doug Barney on June 09, 201028 comments

Tech-Ed: Software vs. the Real World

Microsoft's learning event, Tech-Ed North America, is winding down in New Orleans. And the most interesting thing about it is…well, New Orleans.

The opening keynote by Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, was about cloud computing (a fancy word for "outsourcing"), along with a recap of past Microsoft announcements.

A lot about the cloud is still murky. Cloud computing can have a dark side, especially when you have to change out your hosted applications, according to Gartner analyst Andrew White. His colleague, Lydia Leong, pointed out that the magic cloud might not be so magic.

One Tech-Ed news tidbit tucked away in the shuffle was the availability of Exchange 2010 Service Pack 1 beta. Microsoft had announced the details about the Exchange 2010 SP1 beta back in April. The beta has some personal archive handling improvements with .PST files, as shown here. It also adds improvements to the Outlook Web App client. But that's about it.

Still, in the background of all of that excitement, there was New Orleans. They are still rebuilding five years since Hurricane Katrina. If that weren't enough, the gushing BP spill spews oil into the Gulf of Mexico with no end in sight. Something's rotten in the country, and we're not talking Denmark here!

And even though Microsoft has its hands full plugging holes in Windows, its engineers still found time to build houses in New Orleans while at Tech-Ed. Steve Andrews, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for Visual Studio ALM, founded a group called Geek Give that advocates spending some time at conferences helping local communities. What a guy!

Will Microsoft employees next devote time to plugging BP's underwater torrent? Maybe they could inject boxes of Windows Vista into that hole? This needs some think time.

In the mean time, Microsoft has generously donated $100,000 to the Colbert Nation Gulf of America Fund, which will go towards the relief efforts in the area

But seriously, what has grabbed you so far at Tech-Ed? Check out the summary here. Was it the technical nuances of cloud computing and using the Opalis solution to manage services? The scale-up capability of SQL Azure? How about the RemoteFX capability coming next month with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1? RemoteFX will enable 3-D graphics experiences on remote thin-client devices. Maybe you were wowed by the promise of unified communications with the release of Communications Server "14" later this year?

Tell Doug what impressed you about Tech-Ed at [email protected]. And please don't mention our national disasters.
--By Kurt Macike

Posted by Doug Barney on June 09, 20101 comments

Collaboration: Friend or Foe?

I wrote an editorial about Microsoft's move to turn its major software platforms into one big collaborative platform.

My point was that having the phone, Web conferencing, video conferencing, IM, presence, e-mail and all forms of social networking is overwhelming. How can you get any work done when you spend all of your time communicating?

Avanade, a massive consultancy, has research that backs my assertions. In a recent survey they chronicle how important this technology is, and how it can sometimes be a colossal waste of time. In fact, 25 percent of survey answerers "dread" this stuff, seeing it as pulling them away from key tasks, killing concentration and generally wasting time.

What is your experience with all this collab tech? Are all these communication technologies a distraction or a help? Whether you love it or hate it, please write (but don't tweet, IM or FaceBook me just yet) to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on June 07, 20103 comments