February 5, 2007

Microsoft pushes IE7 browser safety

Link: Microsoft pushes IE7 browser safety

Filed under: Internet, Security, Microsoft, Browsers, Phishing, Companies by Brian Turner

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft has upgraded its computer systems, allowing Web sites fitted with a new type of security certificate to display a green-filled address bar in IE7. The green bar is meant to indicate that the site can be trusted.

Microsoft plans to promote the green bar at next week’s RSA Conference in San Francisco - an annual security conference which will be introduced by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

The coloured address bar is meant to reassure Web surfers that it is safe to carry out transactions on the site. It already appears on the secured sites of Overstock.com and VeriSign. The names of other participating Web sites will be revealed at the RSA conference.

The new feature is part of Microsoft’s strategy to combat phishing - an online scam that uses bogus Web sites to trick people into revealing personal information. Phishing costs businesses millions of dollars and reduces consumer trust in the Net.

IE7 will only display the green address bar on websites with an ‘extended validation certificate’, or EV SSL. This is a new type of security certificate which is sold by the same companies that sell Secure Socket Layer, or SSL, certificates that allow traffic to be encrypted. These sites are indicated by a yellow padlock in Web browsers.

Initially, only incorporated entities will be able to qualify for the ‘extended validation certificate’ and be able to display the green bar. Smaller businesses will be excluded. However, the CA Browser Forum, the organisation that drafts the rules for EV SSL certificates, is working on guidelines that would include all legitimate Web sites.

Microsoft is the first browser maker to adopt the EV SSL certificates and plans to release promotional material explaining what the green bar means. It shouldn’t be too long before other browser makers follow Microsoft’s lead.

Vista kills iTunes

Link: Vista kills iTunes

Filed under: Microsoft, Technology, Apple, Software by Brian Turner

Microsoft Windows

Windows users running iTunes software could face a number of compatibility issues if they upgrade to Microsoft’s new Vista operating system.

PC’s running Vista may experience problems playing music or video purchased and downloaded to the desktop iTunes player from the iTunes Store. Problems have also been experienced with synchronising address book contact and calendar functions, and slowed runtime.

There is also the possibility that plugging an iPod into a computer running Vista may corrupt the iPod player. An iPod may be corrupted if users try to eject the digital music player from a desktop port using the “Safely Remove Hardware” feature found on the Vista sytem tray.

According to Apple, until the patch is released, the safe way to unlock an iPod from a PC running Vista is to use the “Eject iPod” control in the iTunes software.

Apple is advising it customers to delay installing Vista until it releases a new version of its iTunes software which is specifically designed to address the Vista compatibility issues. The software is due to be released shortly.

For customers already experiencing problems a special support page is available.

The problems may not affect all users and iTunes 7.0.2 may work with Windows Vista on many typical PCs, but with the Vista compatible software due anytime, it’s not really worth taking the risk.

February 2, 2007

Free Wi-Fi Trial For Vista Users

Link: Free Wi-Fi Trial For Vista Users

Filed under: Microsoft, Technology, Mobile, Wireless by Brian Turner

Microsoft Windows

Hotzone operator The Cloud is offering early adopters of Windows Vista a three-month free trial of Wi-Fi access.

The Cloud was chosen by Microsoft to promote its new Vista operating systems because of its extensive network coverage in the UK.

Vista users in America are being offered a similar deal with T-Mobile as the operator.

Vista users will be able to access the service from early next week by registering on Microsoft’s UK Vista homepage. No credit card details will be required when users initially register, but these details will be needed if they decide to continue with the service after the trial period.

The Cloud operates 7,500 Wi-Fi sites across the UK. It has indoor hotspots in airports, railway stations and hotels, and outdoor hotzones in six city centres. Its square mile-wide wireless network across the City of London will be operational from the end of March.

January 30, 2007

Microsoft Promotes HD Photo Over JPEG

Link: Microsoft Promotes HD Photo Over JPEG

Filed under: Microsoft, Technology, Software by Jan Harris

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft is promoting its own image format, HD Photo, in preference to JPEG.

The company began promoting its new image standard in 2006 and hopes it will become the de facto standard for people to use for digital photos.

Perhaps misleadingly, HD does not stand for high definition, but has been called HD to reflect the idea that it will provide the high image quality that comes with HD TV.

Compared with JPEG, HD Photo is said to provide subtler details and richer colours. It also takes up half the storage space as that required by JPEG at the same image quality.

A key element in Microsoft’s strategy to gain widespread acceptance of HD Photo is the inclusion of HD Photo support into Windows Vista, which will be released to consumers on Thursday.

This means that camera manufacturers increasingly will be able to count on HD Photo support when customers upload their images to a computer, and software such as Web browsers will be able to display and save HD Photo images.

Adobe Systems is also helping to support HD Photo. The company is working with Microsoft on a plug-in to enable both Windows and Mac OS X Photoshop users to open and save HD Photo files.

HD Photo is said to provide superior image quality to JPEG in a number of ways:

• For each pixel, HD Photo stores at least 16 bits of data for each colour, compared with 8 bits with JPEG, providing greater variations in tone.

• HD Photo’s compression algorithm produces images that have twice the quality as JPEG at the same file size or the same quality at half the file size.

• HD Photo builds in smaller thumbnail images for quick viewing of files at small sizes, while JPEG thumbnails are generated by a computer’s operating system.

• HD Photo uses Microsoft’s scRGB color space, which provides a wider range of colours than the universal sRGB scheme.

January 17, 2007

Apple and Microsoft Battle For Home Entertainment Market

Link: Apple and Microsoft Battle For Home Entertainment Market

Filed under: Microsoft, Technology, Mobile, Apple, Companies, HDTV by Jan Harris


Silicon.com, the technology news site, asked its readers if they thought Apple or Microsoft was the most likely to win the battle for the home entertainment market.

Apple came out first with 54% of the vote, while Microsoft came a close second with 46% of the vote.

Microsoft launched a home server at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Developed in collaboration with HP, the MediaSmart Server running new Windows Home Server software will be available in the second half of 2007.

It will be able to back up photographs, music, videos and documents automatically and can be accessed via a remote handset. The server will store terabytes of data.

Apple recognised the opportunity in the expanding home digital market in 2005 and launched its iMac G5 home entertainment hub. The G5 can be used to back up and access music, DVD movies, photos and television programmes via a remote hand control.

Apple in now preparing to launch the ‘iTV’ which will allow users to stream music or movies from a PC direct to a television.

Although the poll makes for interesting reading, ultimately it can only show what the audience bias for the poll actually is.

However, the battle for home entertainment is real, and Apple have made it clear they intend to prove strong competition.

January 11, 2007

HP Releases MediaSmart TV

Link: HP Releases MediaSmart TV

Filed under: Microsoft, Technology, Wireless by Brian Turner


Hewlett Packard have released the MediaSmart TV, which is intended to act as an extended Media Center for Windows Vista.

HP’s MediaSmart TV is fitted with 801.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi adaptors and Ethernet ports, allowing it to act as a wireless Media Center Extender for Windows Vista. Movies stored on a PC can be shown in the comfort of a living room without the need for wires.

The TV can access video, audio and photos in a variety of formats including DivX, WMV, MPEG-2, MP3, WMA, JPEG and BMP.

It will stream media directly from the Internet via online services such as Real Rhapsody, CinemaNow, SnapFish and Live365 Radio.

The new MediaSmart TV is available in three sizes - 37 inch, 42inch and 47inch. They use either 6ms or 8ms panels, and feature a 1,200:1 contrast radio and ambient light adjustment.

The MediaSmart TV is available now from around £850.

UK Schools Told to Avoid Vista

Link: UK Schools Told to Avoid Vista

Filed under: Microsoft, Technology, Software by Jan Harris

Microsoft Windows

The British government’s schools computer agency has advised schools not to install Microsoft’s Vista operating system within the next 12 months.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency believes that there are no new essential features with the systems and that technical and financial issues involved with its deployment make it a high-risk strategy.

The advice was issued by Tom McMullan, a technical consultant at the agency, at the BETT education trade show in London. The agency also advised against the use of Office 2007, which is being launched alongside Vista. It acknowledged the new features of Office 2007 but said most of them were only useful in the private sector.

Earlier in January the agency renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft for another year. Schools receive discounts of between 20% and 37% on Microsoft’s software products.

January 10, 2007

Microsoft Gatineau analytics in development

Link: Microsoft Gatineau analytics in development

Filed under: Internet, Microsoft, Webmaster, Marketing, PPC by Brian Turner

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft are apparently are developing a website analytics program called Gatineau.

The analytics program is rumoured to be a free offering to compete with Google Analytics, a free program supplied by Google.

The public aim of analytics programs is the ability to provide very detailed visitor information to websites, especially for tracking conversions.

Privately, though, there have been repeated concerns about the extent of data that Google Analytics may provide to Google, and how Google may use this data across it’s other commercial services.

However, whatever the concerns, analytics programs have become essential in PPC management programs - Pay Per Click campaigns that publish ads on search engines and other publisher websites.

If Microsoft can roll out Gatineau for free, it may present a serious rival to Google, but otherwise empower the internet marketing sector - providing Microsoft actually get it right.

January 8, 2007

Gates opens on Digital Decade

Link: Gates opens on Digital Decade

Filed under: Microsoft, Technology, Software by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

Microsoft boss Bill Gates has opened the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), promising that the Digital Decade is here.

CES is a major calendar point for many software and hardware companies, and a traditional place for major industry announcements - proceeded by intense speculation.

There have already been rumours that Apple may announce a partnership with Google over server architecture, for example.

Already Microsoft have announced a partnership with Ford to provide voice activated media controls for drivers - which follows close on the heels of Autonet Mobile’s announcement of wireless internet for cars.

The operability of Vista as a showcase of home digital media management was pivotal in the keynote speech, in which creative computing and accessibility for IPTV were particularly underlined.

Bill Gates specified that IPTV would be delivered live or on demand to Xbox users, and new products and partnerships, such as with Hewlett Packard with Microsoft server, were also announced.

December 28, 2006

Microsoft bodges Vista promo to bloggers

Link: Microsoft bodges Vista promo to bloggers

Filed under: Internet, Microsoft, Webmaster, Marketing, Blogs by Brian Turner

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft sent bloggers a laptop installed with Vista for Christmas - now these bloggers are outraged to find they are being asked to get rid of them.

The ruckus was caused by a marketing promotion partnered by Microsoft and AMD, and managed by PR firm Edelman, which saw prominent bloggers provided with free Acer Ferrari 1000 laptops.

Bloggers sent the 12.1 inch laptop included Scott Beale, Barbara Bowman, Brandon LeBlanc, Mauricio Freitas at Geekzone, Mitch Denny, and others.

They also reported they were sent a note “from Loki”, which identified the gifts as part of Microsoft’s Vanishing Point Game - a viral marketing campaign intended to promote Microsoft Vista.

However, a comment by Aaron Coldiron, from the Vista development team, stated that these were review copies only, and that these should be returned or given away, rather than kept.

The suggestion was that this was made clear to the bloggers - but the bloggers disagree, and report that no such statement or request came with their gifts.

The result is that a high-flying promotions campaign is fast turning into a public relations disaster.

The bloggers who received the gifts are being perceived to be taking bribes to post positive reviews - something ex-Microsoft employee Robert Scoble also made clear at first.

The bloggers are also angry that they felt improperly informed about the purpose of the gifts, especially that they are now no longer part of a viral marketing campaign, but instead simply “reviewers” with no brief on disclosure.

The overall effect is that the marketing campaign has backfired quite badly.

Additionally, it has also raised an important case study for marketers on the issue of sending free gifts to bloggers for promotional purposes.

December 13, 2006

Microsoft forces BIOS changes

Link: Microsoft forces BIOS changes

Filed under: Security, Microsoft, Technology, Software by Brian Turner

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft has secured an agreement with PC manufacturers to add a change at the BIOS level to improve security in Windows Vista.

Microsoft’s Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) feature could make automated, large-scale attacks significantly more difficult.

ASLR relies on Data Execution Prevention (DEP), another new Vista security feature, in order to function fully. DEP is also known as No Execute (NX). PC manufacturers have the ability to disable DEP at the BIOS level, and may choose to do this if they are concerned about application compatibility.

Now, however, all major PC makers have agreed to enable DEP by default.

ASLR involves arranging the positions of certain data areas, such as the position of libraries, heap and stack, randomly in a process’s address space. This means that security attacks, which rely on these components having predictable target addresses, have a low chance of success when ASLR is in place.

ASLR has been used previously in the OpenBSD Unix variant and the PaX and Exec Shield security patches for Linux. Most newer PC processors support DEP. However, DEP is currently switched off in Internet Explorer by default because it can make plug-ins fail.

December 12, 2006

Microsoft pushes VoIP in Communications Server 2007

Link: Microsoft pushes VoIP in Communications Server 2007

Filed under: Microsoft, VoIP, Software by Brian Turner


Microsoft has added VoIP to the list of applications to be supported by its Office Communications Server 2007.

It represents the latest in a string of core enterprise applications to be added to the server, such as audio & video webconferencing, plus support for applications from non-Microsoft companies, such as Siemens, NEC, Nortel, and Avaya.

A beta version has already been seen to around 2500 IT staff for testing, and will allow them to integrate VoIP into Office 2007 applications, such as Word and Outlook, simply by clicking on a name.

The idea is to increase business productivity by increasing the ease of communications within the workplace.

While the business dream is a fully-integrated multi-media office to increase efficiency, we may yet find a lot of it is simply used for chatter.

Next staff won’t have to simply have to forward Joke of the Day emails to the rest of the office - they’ll soon be able to tell it, too. :)

December 5, 2006

Open XML support grates on Linux critics

Link: Open XML support grates on Linux critics

Filed under: Microsoft, Open Source, Programming, Linux, Software by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

Linux users have voiced concerns about Novell’s planned support for Open XML in Open Office.

Since Novell signed an agreement with Microsoft, there has been a general perception that Novell have sold out.

The main accusation from vocal critics is that the agreement simply turns Novell - and their Linux Suse products - into a way in which to funnel open source users into Microsoft’s proprietary systems.

The recent announcement by Novell that they will be releasing a new edition of Open Office - and provide support for Microsoft’s Open XML - has helped amplify these criticisms. This is especially as Microsoft apparently have no plans to support ODF and OOXML in Microsoft Office - even though both are used in Open Office.

However, despite this, other Linux users simply ask what’s so wrong with supporting OpenXML. After all, isn’t cross-platform compatibility to be embraced?

Overall, it shows the high degree of distrust of Microsoft Corp, but it remains to be seen what the advantages of the Novell-Microsoft relationship are by its fruits, rather than disadvantages through speculation.

December 4, 2006

Micrsoft bCentral directory to close?

Link: Micrsoft bCentral directory to close?

Filed under: Business, Microsoft, Search Engines, Webmaster by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

The Microsoft small business directory at bCentral appears to be closing down.

Microsoft is no longer accepting submissions to the directory, and additionally are directed to a new set of online services - which are focused on website design and development.

The news comes only weeks after the DMOZ directory broke.

Overall, while it’s not surprising that Microsoft would wish to focus on Office integration online, , the loss of the bCentral directory further cuts back on the potential for new business to develop strong links online.

November 20, 2006

Vista Release Promises Greater PC Security?

Link: Vista Release Promises Greater PC Security?

Filed under: Microsoft by Jan Harris

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft is releasing its Vista operating system next week with the promise of major improvements in security for PC users. Vista is the first major upgrade to the Windows operating system in five years.

Vista will be available to major business users on 30 November 2006. From 30 January 2007 it will come pre-loaded on new PCs, and consumers will be able to buy it off the shelf for upgrades.

The new system includes some major changes from previous versions of Windows. A new interface replaces the familiar filing system based on folders. Folder icons have been replaced with snapshots of data or tiny images of photos.

There is an improved integrated search function which makes locating data as easy as finding a Web site with an internet search engine.

Vista includes more built-security features than any previous version of Windows, including:

  • a user account control allowing users to change common settings without requiring administrative privileges. This prevents users from making potentially dangerous changes without limiting their ability to run applications
  • the built in Web browser, Microsoft Internet Explorer, protects against phishing and spoofing attacks
  • ‘protected mode’ Internet Explorer helps protect user data and configuration settings from being deleted or changed by malicious Web sites or malware
  • Windows Defender detects potentially suspicious software and prompts the user before allowing applications to make potentially malicious changes
  • outbound filtering in the firewall provides administrative control over peer-to-peer sharing applications and similar applications that businesses may want to restrict
  • Windows Service Hardening limits the damage attackers can do if they succeed in compromising the system
  • Network Access Protection can prevent clients that do meet security requirements from connecting to an internal network and potentially spreading malware to other machines.

New “Vista capable” PCs come with a free or deeply discounted upgrade, but otherwise, the system costs $100 for the most basic version to $400 for an ‘ultimate’ edition which includes both business and home entertainment features.

Of course, with the recent issue of Microsoft suddenly opening up its code to third-party security vendors, it remains to be seen how much of Microsoft’s confidence is marketing bluff.

November 12, 2006

Microsoft Office 2007 already cracked

Link: Microsoft Office 2007 already cracked

Filed under: Security, Microsoft, Software by Brian Turner

Microsoft Windows

Even before final release to beta testers, cracked versions of Microsoft’s completed Office 2007 have already been posted online.

“Cracked software” means that the digital protections have been by-passed, often by usually a single registration key to activate a version for distribution.

Although Microsoft is likely to patch the crack and make the downloads less then useful, it remains surprising at the speed at which cracked versions of Microsoft Office 2007 have already been released.

However, Microsoft have been increasingly tying it’s product piracy protection together - so by the time it’s released, Office 2007 will likely only be able to be activateed if running on a verified copy of Windows.

Microsoft search suffers serious flaws

Link: Microsoft search suffers serious flaws

Filed under: Internet, Security, Microsoft, Search Engines, Webmaster, Software by Brian Turner

Microsoft Windows

Serious flaws in the new MSN Live.com search engine have been revealed, which could adversely affect websites.

The first is that MSN search is reportedly unable to handle 301 redirects, a common internet protocol used online to indicate that a webpage - or even a website - has moved to another domain.

This means that Live.com is likely to provide only information on older locations, including webpages and sites that no longer exist.

Perhaps most seriously, though, is the report that entire websites can be maliciously removed from the Live.com search index.

This involves Microsoft’s “anti-spam” filters, which are primed to remove websites where a large number of pages are copies of one another.

Rival businesses can reportedly have their competitors completely removed from Live.com, simply by creating a string of URLs for non-existent pages, and then forward the list to Microsoft.

The anti-spam filters will reportedly then simply perceive the website as spam, and automatically remove it.

While it remains clear that Microsoft’s presence in the search market is still relatively young, it can only be disappointing that their search engine currently suffers such basic technical issues.

The fact that it cannot apparently process basic internet protocols would be concern enough, but the fact that webmasters can reportedly remove other websites though malicious actions can only be especially serious.

In the meantime, online users have posted code online which should help protect websites from falling foul of the reported malicious practice until Microsoft fixes the issue:


if($_GET) {
header (”Pragma: no-cache”);
header(”Cache-Control: no-store, no-cache, must-revalidate”);
header(”HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently”);
header(”Location: http://www.yourdomain.com/ “);
header(”Connection: close”);


if request.QueryString <> “” then
response.status=”301 Moved Permanently”
response.addHeader “Location”, “http://www.YourSite.com”
end if

November 3, 2006

Microsoft joins forces with Novell

Link: Microsoft joins forces with Novell

Filed under: Microsoft, Open Source, Linux, Software by Brian Turner


Microsoft and Novell have joined together in a strategic alliance.

Both companies aim to promote interoperability between Microsoft’s Windows applications and Novell’s Suse Linux.

Novell is currently developing Xen as a method of running multiple operating systems on the same machine, whereas Microsoft were previously working on their own project, named Veridian.

The move will see both companies and projects coming together.

Microsoft will also protect Novell against potential patent infringements previously claimed by Microsoft.

While the move by both companies to see a working partnership between proprietary and open source development between Microsoft and Novell can only be good for users, there remains a possible ulterior motive in the partnership.

By working with Novell, Microsoft almost certainly undermines Red Hat - currently the dominant linux distro, especially in the server market.

However, it remains to be seen what actual results come from this partnership in the long-term.

October 17, 2006

Microsoft opens Vista for security

Link: Microsoft opens Vista for security

Filed under: Security, Microsoft, Software by Brian Turner


Microsoft has suddenly announced that it’s new Windows Vista operating system will be open to third-party security software - such as McAfee and Norton - to help protect users against malware threats.

This comes as a surprise as previously Microsoft had insisted that Microsoft alone would have root access to Vista, essentially locking out security vendors.

This would have meant that Microsoft alone would have been reponsible for keeping PC’s protected against malware - a stance that was recently roundly criticised as exposing users to security threats.

The sudden change of heart comes only weeks before Vista’s planned release, and only weeks after the core of the Vista program was found to be insecure.

There’s everyone reason for the cynic to suggest that Microsoft have realised that they just aren’t in a position to be able to properly safeguard Vista users on security issues.

However, it remains to be seen how quickly Microsoft can communicate key code to security vendors, so that they can code applications to work with it.

With only weeks away, it may be too little too late for the first wave of Vista users.

October 2, 2006

Security warnings over Windows Vista

Link: Security warnings over Windows Vista

Filed under: Security, Microsoft, Browsers, Companies, Software by Brian Turner



Microsoft is coming under increasing fire over the security of its Windows software.

While criticims of Windows security vulnerabilities are nothing new, Microsoft plans to take control of security on Windows Vista, their next release.

This means that third-party software vendors could be prevented from protecting Windows Vista.

This is a worrying development for many users - business and domestic - because Microsoft’s track record with Windows security has often been poor.

The issue has been highlighted in the past few weeks.

A serious flaw in the Windows shell - affecting all versions of Windows - is currently left unpatched.

This is despite the fact that organised hackers have already been exploiting it.

Additionally, third party security development companies have already released a patch for the flaw - weeks before Microsoft plans to release their own version.

This comes after a series of serious security flaws were found in Windows applications, with Powerpoint, Word, and Internet Explorer all vulnerable - and still unpatched.

It remains an issue of acute embarrassment for Microsoft - that a billion-dollar multinational software development company which receives extensive revenues from licence fees - not simply allows the security exploits to go unnoticed until third-parties notify of them, but also leaves user machines vulnerable while third-party security companies are able to roll out fixes to the public.

While Microsoft have insisted that Windows Vista will be more securely coded to make it harder for such exploits to arise in the first place, Microsoft’s track record with security issues is damning.

Although Microsoft want to aggressively push on take-up of the new Windows Vista operating system by home users and businesses, the bottom line is that Microsoft needs to prove themselves on the whole issue of security.

For that reason, it may well be safer for Windows users to remain with XP until the potential security issues with Windows Vista, and Microsoft’s approach to general security problems, has been roundly proven.

UPDATE: Just after posting the article, McAfee launched an attack on Microsoft’s intention to lock out security software companies from providing user protection.

Additionally, by locking out third-party security companies - such as McAfee and Norton - from providing security solutions to Windows Vistas users, Microsoft could again fall foul of the EU’s monopolies commission.

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