We live in a “green” world these days. If you aren’t concerned about your “carbon footprint” and the amount of the Earth’s resources you consume on a daily basis, I am pretty sure you are supposed to be. Seriously. Check your Junkmail folder. Maybe you missed the memo.
In keeping with that “green” mindset, Windows 7 includes a variety of power management features to ensure your computer system consumes as little energy as possible, especially when it is just sitting there not really doing anything.
What? You don’t care about being “green”? Let’s try a different tack. Even if you could care less about the Earth, or you at least don’t feel that whether or not you recycle your Coke can actually matters to the planet, there is a self-serving angle to look at. If you learn about Windows 7 power management and how to configure and use it, you can squeeze more life out of the battery so you can get in a few extra games of solitaire on your next cross-country flight.
Check out this video walkthrough of Windows 7 power management features from Microsoft’s Springboard Series: Power Management in Windows 7.
I’ll let you in on a little secret…Windows 7 is more secure than Windows XP. According to the most recent Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, Windows XP with Service Pack 3 is 75 percent more likely to be compromised by malware or exploits than 64-bit Windows Vista with Service Pack 1. Windows 7 is more secure than that.
The problem is that Windows XP still accounts for nearly three-fourths of the operating system market. Windows 7 has been a huge success, and that success will continue throughout 2010, but not all regions of the world are likely to adopt the latest and greatest flagship PC operating system from Microsoft at the same rate and that will leave some regions more vulnerable than others.
Malware developers and cyber criminals are a lazy bunch and tend to take the path of least resistance. Regions that lag in adopting Windows 7 and continue to rely on Windows XP will offer attackers pockets of easy targets.
The most affected regions for the Conficker worm were Brazil, China, Russia, India, and Vietnam. F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen says “It’s likely that XP attacks will still be around for a number of years…The easy target will be these ghettos.”
Microsoft critics are fond of saying that Windows 7 is just Windows Vista with a makeover, or that Windows 7 is nothing more than Windows Vista Service Pack 3, or that it is the operating system Microsoft should have developed instead of Windows Vista.
I never really had any issues with Windows Vista beyond having to struggle with printer drivers when it was first released. Personally, I think that most of the “problems” with Windows Vista are more perception than reality and that the real failure of Windows Vista is that Microsoft lost the marketing battle with Apple and other Microsoft critics.
People who have never even seen Windows Vista running will still tell me a list of the reasons why they hate it and those reasons are always just a sampling of sound bites from some “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercial Apple produced.
I liked Vista, but Windows 7 rocks. Windows 7 is no Vista with lipstick. Don’t take my word for it. Check out this blog post which lists some of the key differentiators that set Windows 7 apart from its predecessor.
Since its release in October, Windows 7 has received kudos and rave reviews. Sales have been solid–although Windows 7 seems to have primarily replaced Windows Vista rather than Windows XP in market share, and it did not initially drive significant PC hardware sales.
That was then, this is now. When the dust settles from the 2009 holiday season, and 2010 gets in gear, Windows 7 will be the poster child for Microsoft’s 2010. I haven’t seen any sales figure yet, but I suspect that the holidays were good for Microsoft and for PC sales. A new year will bring with it new budgets and companies will finally drop Windows XP and embrace Windows 7.
David Coursey, author of PC World’s Tech Inciter blog, also predicts a strong 2010 for Windows 7. “Windows 7 will sell many computers during 2010. The new operating system is more than just a Vista replacement; it is good enough to make a Mac user (like me) think about switching back to Windows. Most people I’ve talked to think it’s Microsoft’s best OS since Windows 2000 Professional. Small business should look toward standardizing on the new OS.”
Most IT managers would probably be shocked to learn how much data is leaked or compromised from internal employees–particularly those who are leaving the company.
A recent Ponemon Institute survey of 1000 workers that recently changed jobs revealed that 59% of them did not feel any wrongdoing in taking company’s data when leaving or asked to leave a job. Employees take information such as customers’ data, email and contact lists, employee records, financial records, confidential business documents and other intellectual property.
The economic crisis has exacerbated the problem. The skyrocketing number of workers who have been let go as a result of tough economic times has been accompanied by a similar spike in data theft and compromise. Many workers who still have their jobs may even preemptively horde sensitive and confidential information out of paranoia that they may soon be out of work.
The diversity of portable devices capable of storing huge amounts of data doesn’t make things any easier for IT administrators. Devices like smartphones, MP3 players, digital cameras, and more traditional storage like portable external hard drives, SD memory cards, and USB flash drives provide users with small, convenient, and virtually undetectable tools for transporting gigabytes–potentially even hundreds of gigabytes–of data.
Zecurion has a solution to enforce policies, and protect the data with Zlock. According to the Web site, “Zlock is an endpoint security software solution that was specifically designed and developed to address today’s corporate needs to prevent data leakage by securing and managing various computer ports including USB, LPT, Firewire, Serial, etc. Zlock provides lockdown of computer ports and management console to implement a port/device user access control. User access control, which is based on access control lists (ACL), is tightly integrated with Active Directory (AD). System administrators can take full advantage of the existing AD user groups, which can be assigned various port/device access levels, such as: allowing full access; read only; or denying the access altogether.”
IT administrators aren’t omniscient. They need tools like Zlock to ensure that users can not simply save confidential and sensitive data and walk out the front door with it. Zlock also can also log and create shadow copies of data that is saved or printed, providing a valuable forensic and compliance tool as well.
Microsoft is licensing its Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) technology for use by other vendors. The exFAT format offers a number of advantages over FAT and FAT32- most notably support for up to 256 terabytes of storage. For flash memory devices, exFAT also provides faster file save speeds–boosting SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity) up to 300 mbps.
David Kaefer, general manager of Intellectual Property Licensing at Microsoft explained “There has been an explosion in the use of rich audio and video files.”
Kaefer continued “exFAT is an ideal file system that delivers fast and reliable use of audio and video files. It is an important technology in Windows 7, and now that we are licensing this technology broadly to the industry, we want to encourage and support partners to build products that also contain this technology.”
Yes, and no.
A blog post citing statements from Swedish security software developer Lavasoft, makers of Adaware, claims that 2010 will see a shift in attacks and malware techniques to adapt to the improved security of Windows 7. The post stresses that Microsoft will continue to be the focal point of most malware due to its overwhelming presence, but that rising use of Ubuntu and Mac OS X could lead to an increase in attacks targeting those OS’s as well.
I would argue that Ubuntu and Mac OS X are still far from being worth a malware developer’s time. The combined total market share of all Mac OS X versions, and all versions of Linux- including Ubuntu- combined is about six percent. Linux makes up only one percent of the OS market, so no matter how much Ubuntu may seem to be gaining, its share is still irrelevant.
It is sort of a no-brainer that attackers will seek to crack Windows 7’s armor. That is hardly a revelation. I expect there will be a success or two on that front and we’ll see some malware targeted specifically at Windows 7. With more cloud-based services, and the ubuquitous nature of Web browsing across all operating systems and all platforms- desktops, laptops, netbooks, mobile phones, etc.- attackers will pay extra attention to Web-based exploits.
Windows 7 still hasn’t lost that “new operating system smell”, but it’s never too early to start listing the features and functions that are missing, or the annoying elements that you wish weren’t there, so Microsoft has a running to-do list to work with as it begins early development of Windows 8.
This blog post has begun just such a Windows 8 wish list which, fittingly enough, contains eight items thus far. I couldn’t agree more with the need to drop legacy 16-bit and 32-bit support, and to include the ability to create, open, and otherwise work with, .ISO files natively.
What would you add to the Windows 8 wish list?
Reports have been circulating that the bargain-priced Windows 7 Family Pack has all but disappeared from store shelves and online inventories. Microsoft did market the specially priced three-license packs as “while supplies last”, but it makes them appear particularly “Scrooge-ish” if the discount Family Pack becomes unavailable in the middle of the holiday shopping frenzy.
I love Windows 7. Love it. But, I do have to say that between not having any direct upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7, not even providing Windows 7 XP Mode for Windows 7 Home Premium users, and now running out of Windows 7 Family Pack during the holiday season, Microsoft seems to be going out of its way to alienate home users and hobble the potential success of Windows 7.
I understand why there is a Windows 7 Starter version. Offering a stripped-down version of the operating system to run lean and mean on low-end netbook computers is a brilliant strategic move. The full-blown Windows is too bloated for netbooks, but providing the Starter version still keeps customers engaged with Windows and may help prevent any mass exodus to Ubuntu, or the much-hyped Google Chrome OS.
My understanding of Windows 7 versions ends there though. As far as I am concerned, all of the other versions–Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise–should all be scrapped and the only version of Windows 7 that Microsoft should offer is Windows 7 Ultimate.
The majority of home users are still using Windows XP and could benefit from XP Mode virtualization, but its not available in WIndows 7 Home Premium. Small and medium businesses can use features like DirectAccess and Branch Cache as much as their larger corporate competitors, but Microsoft doesn’t include those features in Windows 7 Professional.
Users have told me that my advice is impractical because Windows 7 Ultimate is cost-prohibitive for many users. I understand that. I don’t fault the users for not investing in Windows 7 Ultimate (although if you can, you should). I fault Microsoft for not just narrowing the options and providing all users with access to the complete Windows 7 feature set.