As a writer, I spend what time I’m not reading and researching various technical subject matters writing about those same things. My tool of choice (or mandate, for most of the publishers for whom I work) is Microsoft Word. My current version of Word comes from MS Office Professional Plus 2010 and is designated Version: 14.0.6129.5000 (64-bit) in the Help/About display. A couple of days ago I was working on a story for Tom’s IT Pro and had put about 6 hours’ worth of work in without saving the file. Through some crazy accidental combination of right-hand keystrokes (I still can’t reconstruct exactly what they were) I got shown a Word Window with a single character at the lower right-hand side of the screen, and the rest of the page blank. This caused me to think I’d opened a new window by mistake, so I closed it. When I got a save dialog, I declined to save, thinking I would find my open work window underneath. Alas, I was sadly mistaken and quickly realized I’d saved nothing of my previous work.
Rather than give up and start over, I started poking into the Word Autosave and Autorecover features. By clicking File, then Recent, then clicking Recover Unsaved Files, I was able to find and restore my work file as of the most recent Autosave (which is set by default in Word 2010 at ten-minute intervals, so you never lose more than 10 minutes’ work — a much more palatable concept than losing 6 hours’ worth). Although I had never before been forced to learn this recovery technique, because it saved me more than half a day of what would otherwise have been wasted work, I’m delighted to share this tip with you, in case you too were unaware of its presence and capabilities.
Though the old saying is “If you build idiot-proof systems, only idiots will use them” I’m very glad that Microsoft took the steps necessary to protect me from my own idiocy in this particular case.
Yesterday, Microsoft disclosed at CES that Windows 8 sales had hit 60 million in 10 weeks (70 days, which makes the benchmark date January 4, 2013) after its launch (source: NBC News Blog 1/8/2013). At roughly the same time in the Windows 7 sales cycle, Microsoft reported crossing 60 million at around 74 days out, saying further that this 60M number represented “more than have ever been sold in any other single quarter” (attributed to Bill Koefoed, MS GM of investor relations on 1/29/2010).
By my reckoning, this means that Windows 8 is selling roughly on par with Windows 7 after its release. Though pundits and analysts have been sounding notes of doom and gloom regularly on Windows 8 for the past year or longer, perhaps the new OS and its much-maligned touch-oriented interface is doing better than many had thought or hoped. Certainly, matching the Windows 7 sales track is nothing to sneeze at, especially since so many have speculated that Windows 8 could sell even better if more touch-enabled hardware were available to let it really do its thing best. If what we’re seeing at CES in Las Vegas this week is any indication, OEMs and peripheral vendors are working overtime to deliver touch-friendly PCs, platforms, peripherals, and add-ons galore.
That said, some of these sales don’t yet translate into “Windows 8 running on user desktops” because many Windows licenses are sold to OEMs so they can install them on desktops, notebooks, tablets, and so forth. Microsoft gets to book their purchases as sales, even though those same OEMs might not yet have passed those licenses onto actual buyers at any given moment in time. Market research firm NPD also reported on 1/4/2013 that “…the new [Win8] operating system did little to boost holiday sales or improve the year-long Windows notebook sales decline…” but also that “sales of Windows notebooks under $500 fell by 16 percent while notebooks priced above $500 increased 4 percent.”
My gut feel is that the Windows 8 phenomenon has yet to hit its full stride, and that it will take until mid-year — with broader more affordable access to touch-enable Windows 8 tablets, ultrabooks, and notebooks — before the real shape, market share, and momentum of the Windows 8 market is more fully understood. Sales will continue, but I suspect they’ll remain flat or without much added slope until July or August. After that, it will be extremely interesting to see if the sales curve spikes sharply upward, or if it continues its current modest trajectory.
Windows 8 hits 60 million ‘sold’
Sales of Windows 8 have now passed the 60 million mark in the two months since it officially launched, according to Microsoft. No matter how you slice it, that’s an impressive number – but it brings up all kinds of questions.
The company claimed four million licenses had been sold after its first weekend on sale. Then, after a month, those numbers jumped to 40 million licenses. Interestingly, by the time that Windows 7 had reached two months’ , it also reached 60 million units.
This week during the Consumer Electronics Show, however, Microsoft released some metadata that providesclues about what those raw numbers may really mean. It’s unique, given that the company is famous for playing such numbers close to its chest. The numbers include “both upgrades and sales to OEMs for new devices.”
Likely, most of those licenses come from sales to OEMs for new devices. So how many of those 60 million units out there are still sitting on hard drives installed on PCs and laptops, waiting for people to buy them and take them home?
Upgrades at one time were a vital source of sales for new Windows versions, but over the decades, the market has shifted to where today many, if not most, users get an operating system upgrade by buying a new computer.
Additionally, not a large percentage of those 60 million licenses have begun to penetrate enterprises yet. “Twas the season” for consumer PC and device sales after all. Besides, corporate IT is historically slow to move to new operating systems — and even then, typically not without rigorous testing and subsequent deployment planning first.
However, after talking with a lot of IT professionals and hearing them say they’re not currently considering Windows 8, a number have added that they don’t know anyone else who’s doing more than dabbling, either.
It’s clear that Windows 8 still has a lot of inertia to overcome if it’s going to be as successful in the enterprise as Windows 7 has been. It’s different when the new version has to challenge the most popular operating system in history.
Microsoft may have more data to share on January 24 when it reports sales and earnings for its second fiscal quarter ended December 31. Perhaps by then the tea leaves will be clear.
With the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) now underway in Las Vegas, all kinds of vendors are offering up interesting Windows 8 add-ons and platforms. Though this exposition clearly aims at consumers, interesting items that could also be of interest to corporate or enterprise technology buyers (and users) are popping up, and will probably continue to do so all week long (CES runs through Friday, January 11). In perusing announcements and debuts already streaming out of this year’s CES, I’ve already seen these following items of potential interest:
- A 13.3″ mobile add-on touch monitor from Lenovo called the ThinkVision LT1423p with 10-point touch ($349 for a wired version, $449 wireless) that includes a stylus, designed to bring touch access to Win8 for portable PCs that lack such capability.
- A notebook/laptop/ultrabook add-on called the Targus Touch Pen that attaches a small receiver via USB to the side of a portable display and communicates with a soft-tipped stylus/pen to bring touch control to a non-touch display (works with displays up to 17″, and is said to cost “about $100“).
- New touch-enabled notebook, ultrabook, and tablet PCs for Win 8 from lots of well-known players (such as Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Samsung, and others) and some lesser luminaries in that market space (Vizio has announced an 11.6″ tablet, LG also has one, and others are no doubt on the way) are sure to follow suit soon.
So far, I find the Targus Touch Pen to be extremely interesting because it essentially provides an easy and affordable way to retrofit touch onto existing notebook, laptop, and ultrabook PCs. Therefore, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Microsoft itself venture into this particular product space, because it’s clear they understand the benefits of adding touch to existing platforms (and already have two touch-sensitive mouse models, as well as a medium-sized trackpad, all of which work with Win8 to support gestures and its touch interface).
Image credit: Shutterstock 83143285.
I just read a fascinating Windows 8 analysis from Larry Dignan over at ZDNet entitled “Windows 8’s problem: It’s the hardware.” I kinda sorta agree with him that various hardware aspects of Windows 8 have contributed to slow uptake, lower-than-expected consumer and corporate interest levels, and consequently slow sales of systems with Microsoft’s new flagship desktop already installed. But I think the real reason the various native Windows 8 offerings such as Microsoft’s Surface in both Windows 8 RT and Pro flavors, various convertibles from Dell, Asus, Acer, Samsung and Lenovo, and the handful of non-MS “mainly tablet” PCs from Samsung, Asus, and Acer haven’t jumped off of the Web or store shelves is because of two primary factors:
- Price: for all forms of Windows 8, the perceived price/performance level is discouraging purchases all over the place. At similar prices to iPads, RT Surface (and similar products from third parties) don’t offer enough capability, apps, or wow factor to be taken seriously. And there’s not enough oomph in higher-end offerings to persuade buyers that Win7 is passe, and Windows 8 (with touch hardware of some kind) the only way to go.
- Battery Life: Especially for non-Atom Intel processor based tablets, convertibles, and touch-screen ultrabooks and notebooks, there’s not enough juice available from the smaller batteries necessary to meet general needs for “small, light, and portable” to which all of these devices are subject, to get a full day’s use out of them before it’s necessary to make a connection with a wall socket.
Dignan goes on to make some predictions he thinks will start turning things around in the middle of 2013:
1. Microsoft will roll out an update that will smooth out Windows 8.
2. Some hardware vendor will come up with a winning Windows 8 design.
3. Consumers will react positively to this device.
4. Microsoft will get enough app momentum.
Again, I can’t find too much fault with any of this, considering especially Microsoft’s professed intent to start getting on an annual update cycle for its various OSes (the so-called “Windows Blue” phenomenon). But I have a different set of ingredients to add to this mix, courtesy of Intel. First is the remake to the low-power end of the Ivy Bridge processor line called “Y” that the company plans to announce later this month at CES in Las Vegas, with various CPUs available at or under a 10-Watt TDP rating. The second is the planned introduction of the Haswell processor family, whose ultra-low voltage (ULV) components — which is what tablets and ultrabooks invariably depend on for the best combination of processing power and battery life — are rumored to sit in a TDP range between 7.5 and 11.5 Watts.
Once Microsoft and the OEMs get their hands on these kinds of building blocks, I predict that Windows 8 tablets, convertibles, and touch-enabled ultrabooks will become more attractive to buyers. Hopefully, overall prices can fall at least a bit to enable the Windows platform to regain a postive price/performance edge against competing Apple products, which have currently taken over the high end of the market for ultrabooks and notebooks, and completely dominate the tablet space. It’s still a pretty tall order even so for MS to “achieve world domination” any more, but it should help to put some momentum onto Windows 8’s marketshare, and provide more and better reasons for corporate adoptions to occur, on their typical “2-3 years after commercial release” timetable.
All this remains speculation, but hopefully not idle speculation. We’ll see what happens when the new Ivy Bridge Y finds its way into Windows 8 tablets, convertibles, and ultrabooks, and what impact Haswell has after that. If the results still don’t impress, there could be a world of hurt in store, not just for Microsoft, but for Intel as well. Stay tuned!
Thanks to Martin Brinkman over at ghacks.net, I was reminded of two important Windows 8 related expiration dates for this month. First, and probably foremost for most readers, the $40 to Windows 8 Pro upgrade offer expires on January 31, 2013. This is a great deal for machines with a valid Windows OS already installed, where you can exercise it directly from the PC you wish to upgrade on as many PCs as you like, all for the same charge. You can even download the upgrade and wait to install it after the deadline, if you like. One potential gotcha to be aware of: if you download the upgrade from a 32-bit Windows install, you’ll get a 32-bit install image for Windows 8. Since most people will want to download and install the 64-bit version, no matter what version they’re currently running, be sure to run your download from a 64-bit machine!
The other expiration date hits in mid-January — the 15th of the month to be precise — and it’s for any and all of the Windows 8 Preview versions (Developer/Build 8102, Consumer/Build 8250, and Release/Build 8400). My guess is that if you grabbed any other builds through “alternate channels” (such as BitTorrent) they will also go bye-bye at the same time. Just for the record, a legit copy of Windows 8 shows a build version of 9200, so anything less than that number is probably subject to the turn-off by the middle of this month.
After posting about Windows 8 UEFI Install on December 19, 2012, I’ve now been through that exercise enough times to have learned some “don’ts” along with the instructions I provide in that blog, and those you also find in the EightForums tutorials on creating a bootable UFD for UEFI and doing a Windows 8 UEFI install. As always, I keep reading about more and better ways to do things in setting up the UFD and performing the install, and I found some approaches to avoid as well as some potential gotchas to explain. Here goes:
1. Despite what other sources may say, you can’t use the Microsoft Store’s Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool to build a bootable UFD that works with UEFI. It will cheerfully deploy the Windows 8 ISO on the UFD, but when you examine the drive inside your PC BIOS for boot targeting, it lacks the essential UEFI: label needed to drive a UEFI drive layout during Windows 8 installation. That said, this tool is good for one thing: It checks .iso file integrity to make sure they can and will install properly.
2. It’s a grand idea to check the integrity of the Windows 8 .iso file you set up with diskpart and whose contents you copy to your bootable UEFI UFD. I didn’t do this on my first try, and sure enough my ISO file was corrupted. It threw a “missing media driver” error in the initial stages of the install, and only Internet research showed me that this normally indicates integrity problems with the files extracted from the ISO for use on the UFD. A quick download from MSDN and a rebuild of my UFD and everything on the next attempt worked exactly as it should.
3. Disconnect all other Windows boot drives from your target system before you attempt a UEFI install. I didn’t do this on my second attempt, and learned that the new drive simply uses the EFI partition on the original system drive to do its boot thing and doesn’t create a native EFI disk partition structure on the second drive (because it’s already got a working one on the original EFI system drive, thank you very much). Unfortunately, this did some very weird stuff to the EFI and boot partitions on that original system drive, too. In fact, when I booted into that original partition, the OS wouldn’t come up. I had to reboot from the UEFI UFD, run the repair option from the installer, and restore my most recent system image (taken earlier that afternoon before all these shenanigans began, as a necessary precaution) before I could restore the system to normal, proper operation. Subsequent research showed that some installers actually disconnected ALL other drives from their systems besides the intended system target drive when doing a UEFI install, because of other odd issues here and there that popped up when other drives were present.
4. I learned that the Windows boot manager will let you boot directly into a VM without also booting the underlying host machine. I didn’t realize what was going on at first, and was nonplussed at the presence of a virtual Ethernet interface that couldn’t connect to the Internet (of course not, without the virtual switch connection to the host, there is no Internet link). But this sorted itself out pretty quickly, and I learned to include VM in the computer name for all Windows 8 VMs going forward so I can tell what’s what when the boot manager asks me which OS I should boot! 😉
Here’s what Disk Management reports as the layout for my EFI drive:
My next goal is to create a bootable UFD or DVD that will let me run the UEFI shell from a cold boot. So far, I’ve been unable to get that working on my UEFI systems, either. I hope to make some informative and useful reports on the shell environment in the relatively near future. Stay tuned!
Chances are better than average that those who read this blog won’t themselves benefit from this information. But most IT pros have friends, family, and perhaps even co-workers or fellow staff members who could benefit from a quick-n-easy introduction to Microsoft’s latest and greatest desktop OS.
All it takes is visiting the download link, providing contact info (which you can make completely bogus if you like), and clicking the Submit button. Next up comes a download link to this 11 MB PDF file. Aside from brief sponsor info at the head of the book, and a one-age ad for Dell “Windows 8 optimized devices” at the very end, the material is otherwise devoid of advertising. This is what’s known as a “For Dummies custom publication” inside Wiley — I’ve written about a dozen of these myself — and it uses a smaller trim size (5.5 x 8.5″ on paper, slightly less in e-book form). So its 138 pages of actual content (not counting front matter and the concluding advertisement) aren’t as substantial as a full-size For Dummies book of the same length could be, but the content is well-written and pretty informative (as you’d expect from Rathbone, one of the most successful authors in the whole For Dummies line-up).
Here’s a snapshot of the table of contents, by Chapter title
Chapter 1: The New Start Screen
Chapter 2: The Traditional Desktop
Chapter 3: Storage: Internal, External and in the Sky
Chapter 4: Working with Apps
Chapter 5: Engaging the Social Apps
Chapter 6: Getting Connected and Having Fun Through the Start Screen
Chapter 7: Ten Things You’ll Hate about Windows 8 (And How to Fix Them)
All in all this is a nice little self-starter for those who might be inclined to greet Windows 8 with trepidation or confusion, rather than digging into help files, online guides, and other available tools to help them figure out the new desktop in record time. I figure that makes it a nice link to pass onto others who might benefit from its sometimes amusing but always helpful content. Happy Holidays!
Last Thursday, right after applying the second MS12-078 patch to my production Windows desktop machine, Identity Safe in Norton Internet Security 2013 quit working. I didn’t have time to deal with this until the weekend, and worked around the loss of access to my password vault because I’m lucky enough to have memorized all of my really important passwords for my most frequently-accessed password-protected Web assets. The basic symptom was as follows: every time I tried to access Identity Safe, I first had to login to my online Norton account, but each such login attempt would end unsuccessfully with an error message that the software was unable to access the Internet. This, despite my ready ability to login directly to my Norton account online, and actually see the contents of the Identity Safe/Vault with my own eyeballs.
A little quick Web research showed that hundreds, if not thousands, of other Norton users have suffered from the same problem, some as far back as this summer. Thus, although my symptoms didn’t manifest until Thursday, December, 20, the day that the second coming of MS12-078/KB2753842 occurred, it’s not at all necessary that those two events be related to each other. After trying various fixes and workarounds from the Support pages and from advice dispensed to other fellow sufferers, I got exactly nowhere.
So, yesterday I finally took the time to open an online chat with Norton Tech Support and ask for some professional help. It turns out that a remove-and-replace operation on NIS 2013 was necessary to restore Web-based access to the password vault. But somehow during the remove-reinstall maneuver, my original database of account and password information got trashed. The Norton tech support pro valiantly tried to restore the contents of the vault using the local backup file that the program creates in the C:\Program Data\Norton\<<SID>>\NIS_220.127.116.11\IdentitySafeDataStore folder every day, but the Import operation on that file returns the error “file unreadable or corrupt.” I jumped in to help out, and started using Acronis True Image Home to mount images for backups going into late November, but each had the same results: no luck. After about 90 minutes on the phone, we decided to give up and I was faced with having to rebuild all 243 of my accounts and password manually. Ouch!
Later that afternoon, running an errand with the family, I had an idea: Why not dig further back into my backup trail, and find an identity safe snapshot that predated my adoption of the Norton Vault (Web-based technology that superseded local disk-based Identity Safe stuff)? Sure enough, I found a file named IDDStor2.dat in the same folder dated July 5, 2012, and was able to import it into my current Vault environment without difficulty. And then, in looking at the directory structure of the afore-cited Program Data director for Norton stuff, I observed a pattern that probably indicated why our import efforts failed:
I have to believe that the folder names represent some kind of unique ID or hash value, and that the reason the import failed is because the ID or hash value is used to decrypt the contents of the locally-stored vault information. That’s because the 8d2… folder name represents where vault stuff lived when the previous NIS 2013 installation was active, but the 5e0… folder took over when the latest installation occurred. By my reckoning, the error that caused all this grief was the failure to export the local vault contents to a more readable file format before reinstalling NIS 2013 and breaking the link that permitted the vault to be properly decrypted at runtime. Thus, I’m adding a manual export of that data to a file on another drive to my weeky list of system maintenance chores. I hope it’ll keep me out of hot water for the foreseeable future.
I’m lucky: I only lost a couple dozen pairs of account-password information when I reverted by to July’s vault snapshot. I also keep my logins and account information in a special email folder (the welcome messages that follow new account setups don’t always provide all the necessary details but they do make it possible to recover them) so I’ve been able to keep up my daily routine without losing too much time or effort to get back to where I started. Other folks who face this kind of problem may not be so lucky, however. For them, some time and effort — and possibly even heartbreak — might be involved in returning to status quo. So, to all who use the online Norton Vault, I strongly recommend making an occasional export of the Vault contents. That way, you’ll never lose more than what occurs between the time of the snapshot and the time at which you lose access to your current vault contents.
I asked the Norton Tech Support rep who helped me out to communicate to his superiors that it’s not acceptable to create an environment wherein complete loss of important data can occur, especially for something as important as an account-password store. I sincerely hope they come with a more foolproof way to protect such information in the event of software problems or failures, and that this kind of situation isn’t allowed to persist.
Security bulletin MS12-078, originally released on 12/11/2012, was updated yesterday (12/20/2012). This is a critical patch that seeks to address “vulnerabilities in Windows Kernel-Mode drivers [that] could allow remote code execution,” so it’s a pretty big deal. The update has to do with corrections to the way that Windows kernel-mode drivers handle objects in memory. So far there have been some reports of font corruption in Windows XP and Windows 7 as a result of this fix, which manifested as disappearing fonts in PowerPoint, Corel Draw, Quark Express, Flexi, and other graphics/layout applications. Apparently, this is what occasioned the out-of-band “band-aid” on December 20 to fix the bugs introduced by the original version of the MS12-078 update released on December 11. There’s a good story about this on the Infoworld Tech Watch by Windows and Office guru Woody Leonhard dated December 14 — I wish he’d update to follow up with coverage of the band-aid — and he has done so, see his “re-issue” blog at the same site.
In today’s follow-up post, Woody identifies a “list of borked apps” as follows: Quark Xpress, Quark CopyDesk, FlexiSign, SignLab, Musescore, Avid Marquee, Bentley MicroStation, Inkscape, Xara, Extensis, Serif PagePlus, Document Toolkit, Flash in design mode, and most embarrassingly PowerPoint and, reportedly, Excel. That’s quite a handful!
Apparently, it’s tied into the OpenType Compact Font Format (CFF) driver, as documented in MS KB article 2753842. Yesterday MS amended the KB article to add this language:
The original version of security update 2753842 had an issue related to OTF (OpenType Font) rendering in applications such as PowerPoint on affected versions of Windows. This issue was resolved in the version of this security update that was rereleased on December 20, 2012.
The upshot of this re-issue is that you need to install this new version of MS12-079/KB s753842 whether or not ou installed the original, bug-infested version. That’s why many users will see the patch offered a second time (the first time on or around December 11, the second time starting yesterday, December 20). It’s the only way to fix the bugs that the original patch introduced, while also addressing the security vulnerability that both patches were intended to address, even though the first one didn’t do so in the most efficacious way.