Tech Strategy Trends

October 13, 2009  10:40 PM

Microsoft and Adobe Unleash Deluge of Patches

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Do you use Windows? How about Internet Explorer? What the heck- do you have any Microsoft operating systems or applications on your computer? OK. Suffice it to say you are virtually guaranteed to be affected by the October Patch Tuesday.

Microsoft unloaded a barrage of 13 Security Bulletins addressing 34 different flaws- a record for a single Patch Tuesday (woo hoo?). Eight of the Security Bulletins are rated as Critical, with the remaining 5 labeled as Important.

Adobe joined the party as well, rolling out updates to address 29 flaws in Adobe Acrobat and the popular Acrobat Reader application. As Microsoft software security has improved, attackers have sought out alternative attack vectors and Adobe is arguably the leading alternative source of exploitable vulnerabilities.

Make sure you have Automatic Updates enabled, or check out the resources linked above to find out more information about the multitude of flaws and what you need to do to patch and protect your system.

October 10, 2009  9:41 PM

Hints of Windows 8 (and Windows 9) Leaked

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Windows 7 won’t be officially available to the general public for almost 2 weeks, but there are already some hints out there about features we can anticipate in Windows 8 which isn’t projected to be released for another 3 years.

Thanks to a small slip of the tongue keyboard by a Microsoft employee “working in high security department for research and development involving strategic planning for medium and longterm projects,” we can look forward to Microsoft incorporating 128-bit architecture into the next incarnation of the flagship desktop operating system.

Windows has had 64-bit versions since Windows XP, but Microsoft is pushing 64-bit compatibility much harder with Windows 7. Microsoft feels that 64-bit hardware and software are becoming more mainstream and it has made 64-bit compatibility a requirement for the certification under the Windows 7 logo program

Apparently, Microsoft is predicting that by 2012, when Windows 8 will be released, 64-bit systems will be the standard and we’ll be ready to expand computing capacity even farther with 128-bit systems.

October 2, 2009  10:16 PM

Protecting Windows from the Cloud

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Small and medium businesses (SMB’s) have smaller budgets and fewer personnel resources than large enterprises, but they still face the same network security threats and compliance requirements.

One option for SMB’s is to basically outsource the maintenance of the security infrastructure while retaining administrative control over the actual implementation of security. Companies contract outside resources for a variety of services from janitorial duties to physical security of office facilities. Why not contract network security as well?

The evolution of the Internet has given rise to the concept of “cloud computing”. Put simply, cloud computing means that the software is centrally located and managed somewhere out there on the Internet, affectionately known as the cloud.

Panda Security offers Panda Managed Office Protection which basically provides a cloud-based, managed security infrastructure that lets Panda handle the expense and the grunt work of keeping the servers online and up to date, while enabling customers to manage security policies and administer the implementation of security through a web-based console.

I had an opportunity to test out PMOP and I was pretty impressed. There are two things in particular that really stand out in my opinion: peer-to-peer updating, and Collective Intelligence scanning.

Administrators can configure the endpoints to acquire updates from other endpoints on the network in a peer-to-peer framework rather than having every client update from a single source or bogging down the available network bandwidth by having all of the endpoints download the updates directly from Panda. For SMB’s with a limited bandwidth pipeline to the Internet this feature can ensure that security updates don’t cripple the network.

With Collective Intelligence the majority of the malware scanning is done in the cloud on the Collective Intelligence servers. That reduces the resource consumption and performance impact on the endpoint systems, and also provides virtually limitless resources to analyze malware samples and develop signatures on the fly.

I think PMOP may be just what many SMB’s are looking for. PMOP is a sort of hybrid solution between a locally installed enterprise security solution and a fully managed security service. It provides a cost-effective solution for SMB’s to get enterprise-class security without relinquishing complete control of security to a third-party.

September 26, 2009  11:30 PM

Virtual Roundtable: Windows 7 Application Compatibility- Virtualization

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

This past week Microsoft’s Springboard Series hosted another live virtual roundtable presentation. The sessions, hosted by Mark Russinovich, provide IT pros with an opportunity to hear from a panel of experts- including Microsoft internal resources, Microsoft MVP’s, and customers.

This roundtable discussion was about how virtualization tools can help you with application compatibility concerns whether you’re migrating from Windows Vista® or Windows® XP.

The panel discussed how presentation virtualization, desktop virtualization and application virtualization can reduce testing times, expedite deployment and ultimately help you streamline PC management. They also covered the latest desktop virtualization technologies from Microsoft, including Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), and Windows XP Mode for Windows 7.

The live event is over, but you can watch the virtual roundtable in its entirety by visiting the Springboard site.

September 23, 2009  11:22 PM

Decison Time: Upgrade the OS or the Whole PC?

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

October 22 is right around the corner- which means Windows 7 will be officially unleashed on the general public. Unlike its much-maligned predecessor, Windows Vista, Windows 7 has garnered virtually universal praise.

If you are still hanging on (with a ‘from my cold, dead hands’ python-style death grip) to your antiquated Windows XP system, now is the time to upgrade. The question is- can you just upgrade your operating system from Windows XP to Windows 7, or should you invest in new hardware as well (which will ostensibly come with some flavor of Windows 7 pre-loaded)?

Of course, the same question can be applied for users running Windows Vista, but the hardware question will be a much bigger deal to those running the older Windows XP.

Michael Scalisi wrote an excellent article addressing this very question. The article walks through a Q&A asking important questions like “Will I get the most out of Windows 7 on my current hardware?” and “Does it make sense to sink money into my old computer?” Check out the article and answer the questions for yourself so you can start preparing for how you will make the move to Windows 7.

September 22, 2009  10:27 PM

Rumor of Microsoft ‘Courier’ Booklet Device

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

I know what I’m asking Santa for this Christmas!

The Microsoft Courier is little more than a vague rumor- like the Apple tablet that the world is waiting so anxiously for.

If this post from Gizmodo and the accompanying video overview can be believed though, it exists somewhere and its only a matter of time until its in my hands available to the public.

Now, if they could add mobile phone functionality and offer it at a subsidized price through my mobile phone provider I could pick it up at a reasonable price (with the accompanying indentured servitude contract) AND narrow the must-have devices I carry around to one.

Sign me up!

September 22, 2009  10:15 PM

System Restore With a View

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

I am a fan of System Restore. You know when you call tech support and they ask silly questions like ‘are you sure the device is plugged in?’ or ‘have you rebooted it?’? Well- ‘have you restored your system to a point in time before the problem started occurring?’ is on my short list of questions when troubleshooting a problem (OK- I admit that ‘have you rebooted?’ is still the number one troubleshooting step).

One thing that has been an issue with System Restore in previous Windows operating systems is that you were flying blind. In other words- say your system started acting wonky yesterday. After putting up with it for a while (and trying a reboot), you decide to do a System Restore. You find a restore point from 3 days ago, but you aren’t really sure what programs or drivers you may have installed since that time.

Left with few options you take your chances and go through the System Restore anyway, but then you have to sort of stumble along to try and identify what might have changed from your little time travel trick. Not so in Windows 7.

With Windows 7 Microsoft added a button labeled Scan for affected programs. Select a restore point and click on Scan for affected programs to display a listing of programs and drivers that will be deleted by restoring to this restore point, and programs and drivers that might be restored as a result of restoring to this restore point.

Good, bad, or indiffferent, you at least know what you’re getting involved in before you click Next and kick off the restore.

September 20, 2009  8:52 PM

Making Use of the Windows Key

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Apple has the Apple Key. So, at some point way back when Microsoft decided that they needed to follow suit and include a Windows Key on the PC keyboards. The problem was that they never seemed to really figure out *why* they needed a Windows Key (aside from emulating features from Apple).

Granted, the Windows Key has done *something* in previous versions of Windows–just nothing of any actual use or concern. With Windows 7, Microsoft has finally figured out how to embrace the productivity potential of the Windows Key by designing a variety of keyboard hotkeys or shortcuts using the Windows Key to accomplish a variety of tasks.

Here is a listing of the Windows Key shortcut combinations and their functions:

  • Win+Up Arrow. Maximizes the current window
  • Win+Down Arrow. Restore or minimize the current window
  • Win+Left Arrow. Snaps current window to the left half of the screen
  • Win+Right Arrow. Snaps current windo to the right half of the screen
  • Win+Shift+Left Arrow. Jumps focus to left monitor for multiple monitor configurations
  • Win+Shift+Right Arrow. Jumps focus to right monitor for multiple monitor configurations
  • Win+Home. Minimize all other windows beside the window with current focus
  • Win+T.  Brings focus to taskbar. Hitting Win+T repeatedly will cycle through the taskbar icons (once Win+T moves focus to taskbar you can also move between icons with the arrow keys)
  • Win+Shift+T. Same as Win+T but it cycles through the icons in the opposite direction
  • Win+Space. Provides a peek at the desktop. Focus returns to current window when you let go of the keys
  • Win+G. Brings active desktop gadgets to the  top view
  • Win+P. Activates external display options such as Duplicate or Extend
  • Win+X. Opens Windows Mobility Center
  • Win+#. Launches an instance of the application in the Nth position on the taskbar where the number pressed = N
  • Win + – (plus or minus key) Zoom in or out.

September 19, 2009  10:03 PM

Windows 7 HomeGroups Simplify Home Networking

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Networking home computers and sharing resources like files and printers has been possible in some way, shape, or form pretty much since Windows has existed. Microsoft has made great progress with Windows XP and Windows Vista, but for many users home networking is still part skill, and part blind luck, with a healthy dose of black magic thrown in for good measure.

With Windows 7 Microsoft has gotten it right. HomeGroups greatly simplify the process of sharing resources between networked home computers and it enhances security at the same time to prevent unauthorized access to those same shared resources.

This Springboard Series blog provides an in-depth look at Windows 7 HomeGroups and how they work. I particularly like this description of Microsoft’s model for HomeGroup security:

“Microsoft modeled HomeGroup security after the way most people secure their homes. They tend to secure the outer perimeter (doors, windows, and so on) but leave interior doors unlocked. They also tend to allow free access to the documents and media within the household. As a result, HomeGroup secures the perimeter with the homegroup password. Joining a homegroup by using the password gives you full access to the interior, including all of the documents and media in the homegroup that are in shared libraries.”

September 15, 2009  7:11 PM

Windows 7 Libraries

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

At first glance, Libraries may seem like Microsoft just arbitrarily decided to rename Folders in Windows 7. Once you understand Libraries though you will see how much more powerful they are than Folders and how they will make your life easier.

A Folder is a container. It holds files. A Library is a view. The Library itself doesn’t hold anything (well- it *can* but that is not the intended purpose). Viewing a Library provides an aggregated view of all related data no matter where it is on the computer, or even if its data from other systems.

Watch this screencast for a quick overview of Windows 7 Libraries: Organizing With Windows 7 Libraries

If you still have some questions or concerns after watching the screencast, then check out Windows 7 Libraries: Frequently Asked Questions.

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