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A Microsoft Future

Posted by Andrew at 5:56 PM on November 14, 2013

Microsoft Windows 8Last week’s “Microsoft Fantasy” here on GNC suggested that Microsoft was in danger of fading into irrelevance; that it should retreat to servers and gaming; that it should re-orient its mobile strategy around Android. I suggest that Microsoft is now very well positioned to offer far more than its competitors. And to negate any ad hominem attacks, I’m no Microsoft fanboy – I’ve a Linux desktop, Android tablet, Nexus smartphone and a Chromebook – but I can see a better strategy in Microsoft than defeat and retreat.

There are three players in the OS space – Microsoft with Windows, Google with Android and Apple with iOS. Each of these pairings has strengths and weaknesses. Microsoft is strong in servers, PCs and gaming. Google is good in mobile. Apple’s strength lies in PCs, entertainment and mobile. Obviously there are other players, such as Sony who are strong in gaming, but they can be discounted without OS aspirations.

Microsoft is a large organisation. It can be slow to respond and doesn’t always identify and embrace future technologies as fast as it should. The internet and Internet Explorer is a pretty good example. Other times, it moves into new markets, starting slowly and building up: look at the Xbox – it’s the market-leader. Certainly Microsoft has never been strong in the smartphone market being overshadowed previously by Blackberry and Palm, but it has a track record of trying tablet-type devices. Anyone remember Windows XP Tablet Edition? No, you probably don’t, but it existed.

But let’s think about how Microsoft’s competitors can realistically move in on their turf. For all the rise of BYOD, most large organisations use Windows on the desktop, Exchange for email, Ms Server on the tin. Google is trying hard to offer software as service in the cloud but there’s still lots of nervousness about the cloud and the leaks about US snooping aren’t going to help. Apple isn’t big in business by any stretch of the imagination and this is unlikely change. Both Apple and Google are into entertainment but neither have expressed much interest in hardcore gaming. It’s certainly not impossible for a hot Android or iOS console to come out but for now I think we can discount that.

Accepting then that Microsoft is reasonably unassailable (without being complacent) in gaming or business, let’s look at mobile and tablets in particular. Both Apple’s iPad and Android-based tablets are great devices, but even the most ardent fan will admit that tablets are generally best for consumption rather than production – it’s watching videos, surfing the web, listening to music. For creation, most people return to the keyboard and mouse on a desktop or laptop. Looking at business, while opportunities exist for tablets in business without a doubt, the bread and butter is still going to orient around Word and Excel.

The trend to mobile has been going on for years: from the desktop to the laptop to the tablet. But it’s extension to new devices, not extinction of the old. When laptops came out, did all the desktops go away? No. And it will be no different with tablets. We can see the rebalancing in the slow down of PC sales but this is entirely to be expected.

And this is Microsoft’s killer advantage – a potentially seamless suite of devices and form-factors from servers, through desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Business in particular want to use what they have already invested in – ActiveDirectory, Group Policies, Sharepoint. Microsoft and its partners are responding to this with devices that offer both a touch interface via the Modern UI and a traditional desktop for legacy applications where a keyboard and mouse is needed. The bottom line is that there’s no longer any need to shoehorn in Apple or Android onto the infrastructure at extra cost.

But what about the consumers? They’re not businesses, they’ve no investment, they’re not going to be swayed by ActiveDirectory concerns. They want apps! Absolutely, but let’s be honest about apps – most key apps and popular games are available across all platforms, and the relative low cost of apps means that it is easier to jump ship to a different OS.  Windows 8 isn’t perfect, but I would lay good money that if a 7″ Windows-based tablet was available for Nexus 7 money, they’d sell shed-loads. A similar argument follows for smartphones and Windows Phone has actually been doing quite well recently with solid gains according a recent IDC survey.

Microsoft is ahead of the game in recognising that the future is not a tablet future, but a touch future, and building touch into the core of Windows is a winner. For me, all Microsoft needs to do it get the prices down, tweak the usability of Windows 8 and continue with the “Windows Everywhere” advertising. It’s a Microsoft future.

Microsoft Gets No Love From IBM

Posted by susabelle at 1:26 PM on July 2, 2010

“Firefox is now the gold standard for what an open, secure, and standards-compliant browser should be.”

So says Bob Sutor, vice president of Open Source and Linux at IBM.  The new default browser for half a million IBM employees worldwide is now Firefox.  All newly deployed computers at IBM offices will be set with Firefox as its default browser, and IBM has gone so far as to recommend that home and business customers it deals with use Firefox as well.   They are also encouraging vendors who may be supplying to IBM to be sure their products are Firefox-friendly.

As a Firefox zealot myself (I’m not just a lover of Firefox, I preach its gospel as well), I am happy to see this.  I’ve been using Firefox since almost the beginning, on every Windows or Apple-based machine I have any control over.  I have successfully dissuaded the parents, siblings, children, and spouses of same to leave the Internet Explorer foolishness behind and use Firefox exclusively.  The only time I use Internet Explorer at all is when I’m using our backwards and stodgy business systems at my job, and we are still on IE 7 with no plans to move forward anytime soon. (We were on IE 6 until about four months ago because newer versions are not compatible with our business systems.)

IBM is a huge player, and to make such a public statement says something about both Microsoft, and Firefox.  I am glad to see it, and hope more companies, especially big ones, will make the same move.

My Internet Explorer 6 Eulogy

Posted by J Powers at 2:58 AM on March 8, 2010

Last week, Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) got a full funeral and hopefully (soon) burial. I, too, am glad to see the older browser go: Even though there are some who will try to hold on for dear life. Nonetheless, if I was to have given a Eulogy for IE6, this is how it would have went.

You know, I remember when IE6 came out. IE4 and IE5 were the kings, except for those who were really into Netscape Navigator. IE5.5 really made me switch at the time, because I could have two versions on the computer for the first time.

Still, it was simpler times and IE6 was a stable young horse ready to jump out of the stall. I remember loading it for the first time on my Windows 98 machines. It brought in DHTML and CSS support, which was really starting to prove itself in the web page evolution. I could even get the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK), which would let me tweak my IE6 to my infrastructures needs. I really enjoyed changing the IE spinning logo with some custom logos throughout Internet Explorer’s life.

When we hit the dark days of IE7, I was an early adopter, but still had IE6 in my heart. It was the safer browser at the time, simply because the new features would make certain websites not work. I remember this one time I had a customer come in and say they couldn’t access the payroll site. After some troubleshooting, I finally had to walk over to their machine. Once I sat down I noticed things were changed.

“You installed IE7, didn’t you?” I muttered. Keep in mind that this was a smaller company and no real policies were put in place to dis-allow installations or upgrades by the customer (a.k.a. employee).

“I didn’t do anything,” they remarked. “It just started doing that.”

“But we said that this site will not run on IE7,” I replied. ” and you have IE7 installed”.

“Well, I don’t know how that got there.  But you can take it off, right?”

“Yes, I can. But please do not install IE7 on this machine until we tell you to …”

Ahh, those were the days when people got to look at their Yahoo email, play the fantasy football leagues and do a full day’s worth of stock trading without the IT department coming down on them. Heck, there were even a few “Pamela Anderson Playboy Screen savers” installed. Brings back memories.

However, IE6 really began to show it’s age. It started to become more of a hindrance than anything on computers. There was another place I worked, employees would have to access IE6 to get to the Citrix Virtual Machine session. They would then open up another version of IE6 to browse the web. IE7 was able to be installed, but it didn’t look great through the VM. That, and my supervisors would tell me not to spend time on updating, since the upcoming Daylight Savings Time fix took precedence.

My memories of IE6 are fond ones. When I heard that Google tried to revive the old gal, I was shocked. In a way, I wanted that to work – giving life once again to the browser. On the other hand, I thought that Frankenstiening the browser would only lead to more problems and two companies that would not really support the process.

So here we are. IE6 – You did us well. You brought us into the Windows XP era, which, too will soon need it’s own Eulogy. You showed us that we can create a webpage that can be altered at a shared source, instead of having to re-key every HTML page out there. You also survived Netscape Navigator and watched Mozilla Firefox usher in the new era.

Here’s to you, IE6. You were a good browser. I will leave you with my online Forum, who died an untimely death about a year ago.

That is what I would say…

Intrusion Alert!

Posted by susabelle at 9:08 AM on June 1, 2009
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I’ve spent a good amount of time this morning tracking down what I thought was a rumor about Microsoft forcing a .net add-on to Firefox.  Turns out the rumor was true.  And it’s not a pretty thing to contemplate.

Any Firefox user receiving a Microsoft update to either XP or Vista (and possibly Windows 7 but I cannot confirm this) in the last two weeks will have gotten this forced push, right into Firefox, and wouldn’t even have known it.  If you go to Tools > Add ons, you should see an entry for Microsoft .net Framework Assistant 1.0.  You will notice that you can disable it, but that the “uninstall” option is grayed out, meaning it is stuck there unless you do some fancy footwork to remove it.

This particular add-on is not something you want to have installed, in my opinion.  Upon installation, it provides a ClickOnce capability that pretty much lets Microsoft do what it wants when it comes to your browser, as well as opening you up to all kinds of other nasties out there, since we all know the .net Framework is riddled with bugs that are not always fixed as quickly as they should be.  The biggest security flaw with the ClickOnce install is that it allows easy installation of malicious software from websites, without your permission and knowledge.

Microsoft claims they were “helping” by providing a plug-in that “people were asking for.”  This is not something I would have asked for, and to be honest, I don’t trust Microsoft all that much to begin with so find this explanation a bit questionable.  One of the reasons I use Firefox instead of IE is the level of security Firefox offers, as well as an understanding that Firefox will continue to keep their product a safe alternative to less secure browsers.  For Microsoft to provide a “fix” I didn’t ask for is intrusive, at the least.

As of this morning, Microsoft will be sending out a patch to the patch which will make the add-on easy to uninstall, but if you just can’t wait to have this thing gone from your system, I located these instructions (the aforementioned fancy footwork).  I tested the removal steps and they do work.

  1. Open Registry Editor (type regedit in the Start menu Search box in Vista or in XP’s Run window).
  2. Expand the branches to the following key:
    • On 32-bit systems: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Mozilla \ Firefox \ Extensions
    • On x64 systems: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Wow6432Node \ Mozilla \ Firefox \ Extensions
  3. Delete the value named {20a82645-c095-46ed-80e3-08825760534b} from the right pane.
  4. Close the Registry Editor when you’re done.
  5. Open a new Firefox window, and in the address bar, type about:config and press Enter.
  6. Type microsoftdotnet in the Filter field to quickly find the general.useragent.extra.microsoftdotnet setting.
  7. Right-click general.useragent.extra.microsoftdotnet and select Reset.
  8. Restart Firefox.
  9. Open Windows Explorer, and navigate to %SYSTEMDRIVE%\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v3.5\Windows Presentation Foundation.
  10. Delete the DotNetAssistantExtension folder entirely.
  11. Open the Add-ons window in Firefox to confirm that the Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant extension has been removed.

GNC-2006-11-10 #215

Posted by geeknews at 3:13 AM on November 10, 2006

Shout Out to all Veterans, Thank You for your service! I have a great show tonight and I get up on my soap box a couple of times. Lots of great show feedback from my family of listeners. Make sure you check out whats hot at Blubrry.com

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Microsoft has released 10 very critical updates!

Posted by geeknews at 12:17 PM on April 12, 2006

If your a IE user click tools Windows Update now and get the latest updates from Microsoft if you have not got them already. This 10 part update fixes a series of highly critical bugs. If you are the type that surfs to a lot of new websites every day you may already have a machine that has been compromised. [news.zdnet.com]

1 in 67 Websites contain IE security exploit

Posted by geeknews at 3:40 AM on February 13, 2006

Asa Dotzer points to a pretty interesting study, now I am not one to buy into these types of studies on face value, but the sheer number of sites they found with exploits has made me begin to wonder why can’t their be a way to get these sites shut down. If there is a way to detect the sites that are intruding then we need a way to take those sites down. The number of sites going after Firefox is on the rise also. [Asa Dotzer]

World coming back to work and a huge Windows Security Issue

Posted by geeknews at 12:05 PM on January 3, 2006

This broke last week but many have been away from their computers due to the holidays. Seems all of the news organizations reporting staff is finally catching up with what most of us have known since last week. The Windows flaw can cause a fully patched PC to be hacked by a malicious site putting malicious code in a image. Firefox users are more protected than IE users but not completely. Here is a link to another temporary fix, this is a unofficial patch and the associated story. [Patch] [ft.com]

How can people be passionate about IE anymore?

Posted by geeknews at 2:56 AM on December 19, 2005

I have had a interesting e-mail exchange this weekend, I will not go into the details but suffice to say I am blown away how many people are still using Internet Explorer as their default browser. But the more I got to thinking about it I realized that the only people that truly understand the impact and the inherent problems of IE are people like me that spend all day reading article after article that essentially has shaped my mind into understanding that running IE is not an option and to be avoided at all cost.

Someone said they have been on broadband for years, never used a firewall prior to the one that was shipped with windows, uses IE and says they do not have any spyware on their machine and that it has not been compromised. This goes against all odds that clearly shows that the majority of computers are probed multiple times on a daily basis. I have a machine that sets on the front line with only a software firewall and I can tell you that machine is probed hundreds of times a day. Those that are using a router with their cable service have a certain amount of additional protection.

My mom is in a area where their is no broadband she is on dial-up and in the interim between the time she bought it and when I was able to visit and install a firewall that machine was essentially hacked and owned. This was a dial up connection mind you that was not on all the time. The only thing that I could do was get the rebuild disk out and start over. So unless someone has a kick butt ISP that is protecting them to a certain extent I am still astonished in some of the comments today.

Don’t get me wrong I had a Unix machine of my own penetrated recently so no one or no operating system is perfect but I shudder to imagine having to surf the net today with IE by choice.

Firefox 1.5 on the street yet IE version 1.7 is still not available!

Posted by geeknews at 11:52 AM on December 10, 2005

Those of you still using Internet Explorer need to realize that you are running one of the most dangerous applications on the Internet today! Do you realize that IE7 which was announced to be available summer of 2005 is still no where to be seen. Do you know that people are actually trying to compare Firefox version 1.5 with IE7?

Internet Explorer version 7 may not be vapor ware but it is as close to that definition as any application that is being hyped and talked about today. Microsoft blew it plain and simple and for a long time had a strategy of we don’t care about your browser and your security.

How many of you have parents or relatives that have spyware, malware and computers that are running at the speed of snail because they have been using a browser that is about as secure as a open jail cell with no keepers. Don’t get me wrong Firefox is not 100% immune but you will be about a magnitude of a 1000 more safe running Firefox than you will running the Internet Explorer version 6.0

I cannot tell you the number of times I have walked up to a PC and seen IE running on it and said oh man your running IE why in the world are you running that. If your still running IE version 6 and have not switched to Firefox all I can say is you have been warned.

For more were this comes from read this -> [Asa]