If, like me, you’re panting with lust to lay hands on a copy of Windows 7 RTM so you can start building production PCs using the latest — and indeed, possibly also the greatest — Windows ever, I may just be able to share some good news with you. Last Tuesday, indefatigable product marketing manager Brandon LeBlanc posted some very interesting information to his Windows 7 Blog. I’ll quote one section from that blog in full, because it covers the bases for most, if not all, of the readers of this enterprise desktop blog:
Once Windows 7 is complete, how do I get it?
The answer depends on who you are:
- MSDN & TechNet Subscribers: Subscribers will be able to download the final version of Windows 7 a few weeks after we announce RTM.
- Volume License (VL) Customers: Customers with Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download the final version of Windows 7 Enterprise a few weeks after we announce RTM. As announced today by Bill Veghte during his WPC09 keynote, customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 7 through Volume Licensing on September 1st.
- Consumers, Enthusiasts, & Beta Testers (Everyone else): The retail version of Windows 7 will be available in stores October 22nd. If you pre-ordered Windows 7, it should be delivered sometime around the October 22nd timeframe (depends on the retailer). You can pre-order Windows 7 today through many online retailers like the Microsoft Store.
- On New PCs: OEMs are expected to start shipping new PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed on them around October 22nd.
Of course, this begs the inevitable question “When will Windows 7 RTM be released?” All LeBlanc is willing to say in this blog, and all that Microsoft will tell anybody on the record is “When it’s ready.” Some time during or before the end of July looks pretty likely for the actual RTM itself, which means Windows RTM versions for those with the right subscriptions or volume license agreements (and OEMs, of course) some time during or before the middle of August. Or, as Jerry Pournelle would say “Real Soon Now.”
OK, so today is Wednesday, so that means Patch Tuesday has now come and gone, and the finalized version of the Security Bulletin Summary for July 2009 is now available. In addition to six updates, there’s also an updated version of the Windows Malicious Software Removal tool included amidst this month’s offerings. The following table provides some details on the security-related patches and updates, with links to their underlying individual security bulletins.
|MS09-023||Critical||Microsoft Windows||2 privately reported remote code execution items in the Windows Embedded OpenType (EOT) Font Engine|
|MS09-028||Critical||Microsoft Windows||2 vulnerabilities (1 public, 2 private) in Microsoft DirectShow; opening a specially formatted QuickTime media file can lead to remote execution|
|MS09-032||Critical||Microsoft Windows||Resolves privately reported vulnerability already being exploited in the MS Video ActiveX control; could lead to remote execution upon viewing a specially crafted Web page in IE with a malicious ActiveX control|
|MS09-033||Important||Virtual PC Virtual Server||Privately reported vulnerability allows arbitrary code to be executed, or complete control taken for an affected guest OS|
|MS09-031||Important||ISA Server 2006||Privately reported vulnerability could allow elevation of privilege upon successful impersonation of administrative account on ISA server configured for Radius One time Password (OTP) authentication and authentication delegation with Kerberos Constrained Delegation|
|MS09-030||Important||Microsoft Office Publisher||Privately reported vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted Publisher file; could lead to complete control over affected system.|
The critical Windows related items will probably need to be addressed as soon as possible; the other important items may or may not apply to all enterprise situations, but will surely apply to some. For those outfits, the possibility of remote code execution or outright system takeover suggests that they, too, should be addressed quickly.
FWIW, I was able to download and install all these patches on several Vista systems late last night/early this morning without any difficulties. Alas, the same is not true for an optional update to one of my systems Realtek 8111B PCIe GBE Ethernet controller: after three attempts to install same, I’m still scratching my head and wondering why it won’t work. And wouldn’t you know it: the Realtek Web site doesn’t have an update newer than May 2009, while this one is dated for earlier in July. Sigh.
According to the most recent Security Bulletin Advance Notification for July, things are a little less hectic this month (6 bulletins, 3 for Windows, 3 for other products) than they were last month (11 bulletins total). What we see this time around is a bit less threatening and potentially dangerous overall, which is not to say that you can simply skip this month’s go-round: all three of the Windows bulletins earn Critical ratings for remote code execution and should therefore be handled immediately. Two affect most Windows operating systems, and the third affects all DirectX versions from 7.0 to 9.0c for most Windows operating systems.
The other three bulletins are rated important. One affects MS Virtual PC versions 2004 and 2007, plus Virtual Server 2005 R2. Another affects ISA 2006 versions, and the third affects Microsoft Publisher from the Office 2007 Suite. The first two involve elevation of privilege, while the third involves remote code execution.
Other items for the upcoming patch release include a new version of the MS Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool, and other items may appear in the official release bulletin when it’s published on Tuesday, July 14.
Here’s another caveat: the primary audience for this book is Windows system developers. They’re the people who will get the most out of its contents, and my lack of in-depth Windows system programming experience probably explains why my eyes glaze over and my mind goes on vacation as I look at certain sections in the book.
That said, there’s a tremendous wealth of information on Windows in here (and from what I can tell, it applies nearly 100% to Windows 7 as well as Windows Vista, thanks to relatively little changes in the kernel and other system facilities between these two most recent desktop Windows versions). In particular, these are the topics that I found most interesting and illuminating as I flipped through the book for a first quick pass over its contents (I’ll report again from time to time as I dig more deeply into its contents):
- Chapter 2 System Architecture: learned a thing or two about device drivers, and how to find them, in this chapter.
- Chapter 3 System Mechanisms: the best coverage of the MS Hyper-V Hypervisor I’ve ever seen anywhere.
- Chapter 4 Management Mechanisms: as in previous versions, this chapter provides some of the best information about how the Windows registry is structured, and how it works, that I’ve ever seen. Worth the price of admission all by itself.
- Chapter 5 Processess, Threads, and Jobs: Here’s a tour-de-force illustration of Mark Russinovich’s knowledge of Windows internals, and how nicely the SysInternals tools work to reveal their inner workings.
- Chapter 6 Security: Provides a killer walkthrough of how Windows performs access checks and uses security identifiers (SIDs) for accounts, groups, and logons. Lots of good detail here on security minutae.
- Chapter 7 I/O System: includes great sections on Windows Plug and Play (PnP) operation and facilities, and ditto for ACPI/Power Manager.
- Chapter 8 Storage Management: Best discussions of both BitLocker Drive Encyrption and Volume Shadow Copy Servive (VSS) I’ve seen anywhere.
- Chapter 9 Memory Management: Another embarrassment of riches, and also worth the price of the book all by itself, especially the sections on physical memmory limits, working sets, and SuperFetch/ReadyBoost/ReadyDrive.
- Chapter 11 File Systems is worthwhile because it pulls info on all the Windows file systems together in one place and because it provides lots of great information on NTFS in particular.
- Chapter 12 Networking: lots of good information on the Windows IP stack, NetBIOS, MUP, NLA, LLTD, NAT, and more. I need to spend more time with this chapter to savor it more fully.
- Chapter 13 Startup and Shutdown: Great excursions into BIOS boot processes, BCD and Bootmgr, EFI boot stuff, plus more on ReadyBoot/ReadyBoost interaction. The great, great section on troubleshooting boot an startup problems is another gem.
- Chapter 14 Crash Dump Analysis: the second on “The Blue Screen” includes a list of the top 30 stop codes for Windows Vista, and included all my old familiars, for sure. The in-depth discussion of crash dump analysis includes basic and advanced sections, and is also sure to reward further study.
Anybody who works with Windows regularly and needs to understand its inner working will find their investment in this book amply repaid. It is worth every bit of the $38 to $70 you’ll pay for it by shopping online. My only beef about this book is that it’s a monster, at over 1,200 pages and 4.4 pounds, it’s a bit too heavy to read in your lap or hold in your hands for very long. You’ll want to plant this puppy on a table to flip through its many useful bits of information.
Here’s a full citation: Mark Russinovich, David A. Solomon, and Alex Ionescu: Windows Internals: Including Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista, Fifth Edition, Microsoft Press, 6/17/2009, ISBN-13: 978-0735625303.
In case you didn’t notice, I’ve retitled this blog with TechTarget’s blessing. Whereas it used to be called the Vista Enterprise Desktop blog, what with the looming release of Windows 7 and continuing interest in Windox XP on enterprise desktops, I thought it made sense to broaden the scope to include Windows and bring in all those various versions. I was taking that license anyway, so now it’s “official.”
Interestingly, the scope for this blog may need to go beyond Windows. I heard a news story on NPR this morning entitled “Google Operating System to Challenge Microsoft,” wherein the long-standing rumor that Google was planning to release an operating system for netbook use finally became news. Apparently, the work is based on the Chrome Web browser, and is going to be called the Google Chrome OS according to the announcement posted last evening on the Google Blog. Here’s a brief snippet from same that lays things out:
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.
This should be pretty interesting. And now that I own a couple of netbooks — a Dell Mini 9 and an Asus Eee PC 1000HE — I can hardly wait to try this out when it becomes more broadly available.
Just when the Vista to Windows 7 migration path appears relatively smooth and clear, up pops another bump in that road to make life interesting. This time, there’s been one very emotional and highly negative reaction to Microsoft’s recent pre-release promotional pricing extravaganza for Windows 7 Upgrades ($49.99 for Windows 7 Home Premium, and $99.99 for Windows 7 Professional through July 11). There’s apparently no such deal for Vista Ultimate in the works, despite Microsoft’s having charged a premium price for that product, in part based on promises for extras that were supposed to include “cutting-edge programs, innovative services, and unique publications” not available to owners of other Windows Vista versions. In actual practice, that turned out to be the fun but not terribly valuable Microsoft Hold ‘Em game (developed for MS by Mobicore), the MS Tinker game and related themes and backgrounds, and some interesting but not terribly valuable animated themes and backgrounds. No publications and no services at all, with applications and stuff that was arguably far from anyone’s idea of the cutting edge.
This has caused a firestorm of furor among Windows Vista Ultimate owners, many of whom have opined that MS should give them a free upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate by way of apology for failures to deliver on the aforementioned promises of valuable extras and add-ons. I can understand this sentiment, but have to observe that while charity may now be Bill Gates only and primary avocation, charity has never been a priority for the company he founded. Frankly, I don’t see this happening, though it would be nice if MS did relent, and offer a half-price ($160?) upgrade from Windows Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate on more or less the same terms as what they offered for Home Premium and Business/Professional versions.
To enterprise users and admins, however, this whole phenomenon is just a sideshow. For them the real unanswered questions are “How much will volume licensing for Windows 7 cost? What kinds of cost differentials apply to Windows 7 Business versus Windows 7 Enterprise?” These are the burning queries that must be answered to help them figure out when it makes sense to switch over to Windows 7, and how much that move is going to cost.
As I reported in my blog from yesterday various Windows watchers are starting to zero in on language in the Windows 7 Home Premium EULA that indicates the planned release of a Windows 7 “Family Pack” to cover multiple machines with a single license. Kristan Kenney’s Digital Life blog for July 2, 2009 is entitled “Windows 7 Home Premium to include family pack licensing?” actually quotes the EULA to provide evidence that this is more than mere rumor. With appropriate thanks and attribution, I reproduce that information here:
2. INSTALLATION AND USE RIGHTS.
a. One Copy per Computer. Except as allowed in Section 2 (b) below, you may install one copy of the software on one computer. That computer is the “licensed computer.”
b. Family Pack. If you are a “Qualified Family Pack User”, you may install one copy of the software marked as “Family Pack” on three computers in your household for use by people who reside there. Those computers are the “licensed computers” and are subject to these license terms. If you do not know whether you are a Qualified Family Pack User, visit go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?Linkid=141399 or contact the Microsoft affiliate serving your country.
c. Licensed Computer. You may use the software on up to two processors on the licensed computer at one time. Unless otherwise provided in these license terms, you may not use the software on any other computer.
d. Number of Users. Unless otherwise provided in these license terms, only one user may use the software at a time.
e. Alternative Versions. The software may include more than one version, such as 32-bit and 64-bit. You may install and use only one version at one time.
Kenney also indicates the same findings that Ed Bott reported in his blog on this subject–namely that neither Windows 7 Professional nor Windows 7 Ultimate EULAs include the same “family pack” language. I guess that means that this has a better than average chance of becoming a reality. And of course it raises the very interesting question: how much will it cost? Stay tuned, and you’ll find out!
It’s a truism in engineering that no matter what customers request, when it comes to revising existing products given goals to make things better, faster, and cheaper, it’s necessary to pick at most two of those characteristics to guide future development work. Thus, if you want a product or system to be better and faster, you must accept that it will also be more expensive. Likewise, if you want it to be better and cheaper, you must accept that it will be slower. And finally, if you want it to be faster and cheaper, quality has to give to make this possible. Or at least, that’s how the conventional wisdom is supposed to go…
Well, it looks like Microsoft is going for the hat trick with Windows 7. In my work with the Windows 7 betas and the Release Candidate, I’m satisfied that published reports that Windows 7 is faster and less resource hungry than Windows Vista are true. So that’s faster taken care of. I’m also convinced that Windows 7 is more robust, reliable, and easier to troubleshoot and repair that Windows Vista ever was, also based on my own experience. That’s why I also go along with the notion that Windows 7 is better than Windows Vista, according to a whole slew of metrics from code size, to stability, to reliability, to overall functionality, and more.
According to a June 26 story by Sharon Pian Chan in the Seattle Times entitled “Windows 7 to be cheaper than Vista,” it looks like there’s a reasonable basis to believe it’s going to cost less than Vista, too. I’ve already reported on the special pricing available for Windows 7 Home Premium ($49.99) and Windows 7 Professional ($99.99) available for pre-order now through July 11 (a week from Saturday as I write this on 7/2/09) at select e-tailers, retailers, and the MS Online Store. The Seattle Times reports that retail prices for boxed versions of Windows 7 are also at least 10% cheaper than applicable Windows Vista counterparts. My own inspection, based on the June 25 Windows 7 Team Blog is that only Windows 7 Home Premium prices have decreased (by $10) vis-a-vis comparable Visa products.
Even so, I do think we have to give MS some credit here, even if an across-the-board price cut appears to be questionable. Why do I say this? Two reasons: worst case, MS held the line on prices, and you could argue that a 2.5 year time span with no increase reflects no cost adjustment for interim increases in inflation (modest), and costs of doing business (also modest). Then, too, there’s always the notion that street prices are less than official vendor (MSRP) prices. These numbers set the ceiling for what people will pay; smart shoppers will usually save at least 10-20% off these published prices buying from price leader online vendors. Enterprises and OEMs will also pay less, when the time comes to negotiate volume contracts for thousands of licenses, or even greater quantities.
[Afternoon update 7/2/2009: Ed Bott just published a ZDNet blog entitled "Microsoft to Offer Family Pack for Windows 7 Home Premium" that does indicate some new and possibly substantial discounts are coming into play for Windows 7. This could be very cool (I just wish it worked the same as for the Vista Family Discount that he also describes in that blog).]
In a recent blog I indicated that MS planned to make its Microsoft Security Essentials product available as a free beta soon. Well, it went into beta on 6/24 but the number of downloads was limited to 75,000. Within 24 hours of the opening gate, that ceiling was reached and the gate was closed. If you weren’t lucky enough to grab it during that narrow window, console yourself with this screencap of the Beta home page:
In case you can’t read the fine print in the reduced-size screenshot, let me reproduce it here “Thank you for your interest in joining the Microsoft Security Essentials Beta. We are not accepting additional participants at this time. Please check back at a later date for possible additional availability.”
Since I can’t check it out for myself having also missed the window of opporutunity, I’ll cadge from an interesting blog on ChannelWeb from Stephanie Hoffman entitled Microsoft Security Essentials Reaches Max Downloads. She reports on independent Web testing from AV-Test.org that indicates MSE fared well against a week-old collection of malware from their current WildList, and also did well against false positives. These are all good signs, so I’m hopeful MSE will emerge as a viable low-cost security software alternative in the future when it becomes more broadly available.
Sigh. Another chance missed…
With all the details on Windows purchase, upgrades, and pricing now established, it should come as no great surprise that Microsoft has also finished up its retail packaging for the boxed versions of the new OS. For a sneak peek, you can check out the “...New Windows 7 Packaging” entry on the Microsoft Windows 7 Blog.
To me, it looks like MS retained a similar box shape as compared to the Vista design, with a rounded upper right corner, though it looks like the Windows7 box may be a bit bigger than the hard plastic Vista version. The best change, however, is that they abandoned the clumsy hinged interior chamber (you had to pull on a tab at the upper left corner of the Vista package to expose the contents of a “box within a box” where the CDs and documentation was inserted with the product key label affixed to the back of the interior chamber). The Windows 7 retail box is a simple translucent plastic clamshell that opens and closes like a book.
Microsoft also indicates that they made the plastic case lighter and completely recylable. I’m sure that’s as much a consequence of switcher to a simpler box design that is not only easier to open and close but also requires substantially less raw materials to fabricate. Gone, too, is the 42-page Quick Start Guide included with Vista retail versions. All you find is a very short Getting Started Guide, a DVD, and the case itself. The product key label is on the inside front cover of the box, which makes it easy to find and see.
In retrospect and by comparison I see many of the seeds of Vista’s problems in the box itself: a snazzy but overly complex and not terribly user friendly design presaged much of what I’ve learned to expect from Vista since then, software-wise. Let’s hope that by this logic the simple spare design of the Windows 7 box also speaks to the design and behavior of the OS itself. In my last three months of intensive testing and writing for the upcoming Pearson book Windows 7 in Depth, I have to say that this appears to be the case! But of course, only time will tell…