Category Archives: Microsoft

Unprotecting Excel Spreadsheets Without The Password



Microsoft Excel LogoSpreadsheets and Microsoft Excel in particular are great tools for any kind of numerical analysis, but they’re good for handling and storing other data as well. I seem to recall a survey a few years ago that Excel was the #1 database in the world with Access, Oracle and SQL Server lagging very far behind. Of course, it all depends on your definition of a database but the point is made.

Excel has useful features for developing forms and hiding information so that it’s easy to create mini apps which take user entered information, combine with data stored in the spreadsheet and provide an answer. Some of the spreadsheets are very sophisticated and Excel offers a “protect” feature that locks down a sheet (or workbooks) and prevents unwanted meddling or fiddling with the data. The protect feature even lets the owner set a password so that the more determined meddler can be thwarted and confidential data kept confidential.

Except it doesn’t. Any protected Excel spreadsheet can be unprotected in three steps. Here’s how.

With the Excel spreadsheet open,

  1. Press Alt + F11 (or go to View Code in the Developer’s Tab)
  2. In the window that appears, paste in this code (courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay)
    Sub PasswordBreaker()
        'Breaks worksheet password protection.
        Dim i As Integer, j As Integer, k As Integer
        Dim l As Integer, m As Integer, n As Integer
        Dim i1 As Integer, i2 As Integer, i3 As Integer
        Dim i4 As Integer, i5 As Integer, i6 As Integer
        On Error Resume Next
        For i = 65 To 66: For j = 65 To 66: For k = 65 To 66
        For l = 65 To 66: For m = 65 To 66: For i1 = 65 To 66
        For i2 = 65 To 66: For i3 = 65 To 66: For i4 = 65 To 66
        For i5 = 65 To 66: For i6 = 65 To 66: For n = 32 To 126
        ActiveSheet.Unprotect Chr(i) & Chr(j) & Chr(k) & _
            Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & Chr(i3) & _
            Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
        If ActiveSheet.ProtectContents = False Then
            MsgBox "One usable password is " & Chr(i) & Chr(j) & _
                Chr(k) & Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & _
                Chr(i3) & Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
             Exit Sub
        End If
        Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
        Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
    End Sub
  3. Press F5 (or click Run) and wait a minute or so…..hey presto, spreadsheet unprotected.

 

On my modest PC it takes about 80 seconds to crack the password and it seems to come up with a password such as AABBAAABBB^ which isn’t the original password but nevertheless works. Spreadsheet is now unprotected. Try it for yourself.

Shocked? Surprised? Worried about a .xls that you sent last week with confidential data in it? I’m sure lots of people would be very worried if they knew how easy it was to unprotect a sheet.

To be fair to Microsoft, the help page says, “IMPORTANT  Worksheet and workbook element protection should not be confused with workbook-level password security. Element protection cannot protect a workbook from users who have malicious intent. For optimal security, you should help protect your whole workbook file by using a password.” Personally, I think setting a password sets unrealistic expectations about the level of protection; in some ways it would be better if there was no password option as there would be no expectation.

Overall, it’s best to think of protecting an Excel spreadsheet as a way of making the spreadsheet more convenient to use and don’t ever think of protecting an Excel spreadsheet as a way to hide secret information.

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A Microsoft Fantasy



MandroidMicrosoft and their “Windows Everywhere” strategy — it’s a painful thing to watch.  Microsoft is becoming the new Blackberry.

Technology is always improving at an ever-accelerating pace.  Mobile devices combined with ubiquitous, ever-present Internet, combined with ever-increasing bandwidth have come together to disrupt the traditional PC market, which itself was a disruption.

Companies that ride the wave of technological disruption frequently become household names. Once upon a time one of them was Microsoft, which was able to ride the crest of the wave of the personal computer revolution. Microsoft software was once almost everywhere. Alas, the next wave of disruption came along in the form of mobile hand-held computers with always-on connectivity, and now Microsoft in many respects is drowning behind that next wave.

I believe people at Microsoft see the handwriting on the wall – traditional PC sales numbers are dropping like a stone into a bottomless pit. The vast majority of people don’t need a traditional computer because modern handheld touchscreen devices such as iPads and smartphones frequently do most of what consumers want faster and better.

So, with Windows 8 Microsoft tried to force Windows users away from the traditional PC desktop to a new touchscreen interface dubbed “Metro” that seems to be sort of half-baked. When users rebelled, they released a semi-compromise in the form of Windows 8.1. Apparently the thinking must have been that if they could get end-users of desktop Windows computers used to the new interface, they would naturally gravitate towards the same interface on Microsoft smartphones and tablets. Thus – “Windows Everywhere” has been implemented and is clearly floundering, with good reason.

Microsoft is still a profitable enterprise, largely because of the X-Box and server software. In my opinion, Microsoft should concentrate on these two profitable areas of their business and forget about selling tablets and smartphones.

A Radical Suggestion

However, if Microsoft can’t bring themselves to abandon the mobile device market, I have a radical suggestion for them. It’s clear to me the only remote chance Microsoft has of success in todays’s mobile market is if they would dump mobile versions of Windows and adopt Android. They could call it Mandroid.

Microsoft now owns Nokia, and even before the Nokia purchase Microsoft has demonstrated it can produce sleek hardware.

Microsoft, if you want ANY chance of the vast majority of consumers considering buying your mobile products, re-develop them with Android. You would have the huge instant advantage of the Android app market, and a stable mobile OS that already has plenty of marketplace traction.

Will Microsoft adopt Android? Not a chance. If Microsoft is lucky it will end up like IBM, a beached shell of its former self.


Microsoft gameplans for 2013 holiday season



surface-pro-2

The holiday shopping season approaches quickly, with Black Friday now showing on the current calendar page. Retailers and manufacturers alike are prepping offerings for eager shoppers and Microsoft is a big part of this. With revamped Windows, Xbox and Surface tablets, the company has big plans for your wallet in 2013, and those plans have been laid out for all to see.

After last year’s public perception problem caused by Windows 8, and poor Surface sales, the company has reinvented both products, and getting touch into your daily computing life is now on the collective Microsoft brain. The software giant aims to sell 16 million tablets this season and make touch a feature of new desktop and laptop computers found under trees in 2013.

To accomplish this lofty aspiration, a rather large perception problem must be overcome. Windows 8 suffers from an image breakdown, after a vocal group of critics attacked the operating system for perceived shortcomings and YouTube videos depicted inept users attempting to find the Start button and app location. Surface was greeted by a group of fans, but not enough of them to overcome the sales number problems.

Microsoft insider Paul Thurrott explains part of the plan — “A big part of Microsoft’s plans, of course, is to turn the PC aisle hell holes you see today in physical stores into clean, uncluttered and welcoming Windows centers. To this end, Microsoft has created store-within-a-store locations in Best Buy other premium retailers, and has provided other retailers with updated retail kits”.

It will certainly take a Herculean effort from the software giant to get this ship righted, but there is an ace in the hole. The Xbox 360 has remained an incredibly popular product throughout its lifecycle, and the upcoming release of the brand new Xbox One hopes to light up the shopping season with anxious parents scouring store in search of the console. It may be Microsoft’s best bet.


Windows 8.1 Ready for Windows 8 Upgrade



Windows 8.1
Windows 8.1

With the biggest enticement of upgrading from Windows 8 to 8.1 being the return of the ill-fated start button, Microsoft has released the upgrade version of software. Navigating to the Windows page will get you to the download link. The only way you will get the download link (at this time) is if you are on a machine with Windows 8 installed. Otherwise it will direct you to a page to upgrade.

Upgrades for Windows 8 are free. If you have Windows 7 or earlier you will have to pay $119.99 for the update. If you want to switch from Home editions to Professional ediction, that will cost $199.99

Of course, 8.1 will also have ability to connect with XBox 360 (and XBox One when released), Skype, file access from anywhere and many more features.

Windows 8.1 also drops us deeper in the rabbit’s hole to a unified OS and forcing us to use the Metro screen more. My biggest gripe on this is programs like Skype, which lost a lot of functionality when the Metro screen upgrade came out.

Windows also took out media center. While I was promised a free upgrade back in Windows 8 (and never got it), the service is now separate from Microsoft and will cost you $99.99 to get it.

Sad.

 


Microsoft retreats: tells customers to get third-party AV software



When Microsoft released its Security Essentials software the company claimed it was all the end-user really needed and, for a time, that was mostly right. But the software suite has not entirely been kept up, and is not compatible with Windows 8, though in that OS, it was still present in the background under the name Windows Defender.

Now the Redmond company has officially given up it seems, as in a recent interview it referred to Defender as “baseline software” and claimed that it would “always be on the bottom” of comparison tests — this after failing multiple ones.

Microsoft Windows 8

Now Microsoft claims to be using Defender, which still comes as part of the OS in Windows 8.1, as more of a research tool. “The company is just sharing its virus tracking findings with the security industry so they can develop better anti-virus programs”.

This is not to say that WD will not continue to be updated every patch Tuesday — it will be. However, the software maker is now recommending users supplement the program with a third-part app.

Several good ones are available, both free and paid, but for the average user,  it’s back to square one, as many do not know that they need such a thing, forget to update it even if they have it or just don’t know enough to stay out of trouble. For the tech-savvy, this is likely not a big deal, as many never used AV before anyway.


Delta Airlines selects Microsoft Surface 2 for electronic charts in cockpit



deltalogoDelta Airlines has decided on the Surface 2, From Microsoft as the tablet of choice for it’s 11,000+ pilots. The new devices will replace the 38 lb flight bag that pilots have lugged around for years. The tablets will contain all the charts, checklists and manuals needed to operate the airliners once the FAA signs off on the idea. (Expected early next year)
surface_logo2
The lighter devices are expected to save the airline $13 million a year in fuel usage and other costs over the heavy flight bags and paper charts. Pilots will be able to access flight and weather information through apps such as FliteDeck Pro and the Weather app. The company also says it may come up with it’s own apps.

microsoft-surface-2

“Delta’s electronic flight bag running on Surface 2 continues the technological strides Delta has been making to give our crews the best tools to keep them flying safely and efficiently,” said Capt. Steve Dickson, Delta’s senior vice president – Flight Operations. “This intuitive device puts key information at their fingertips right when they need it. By eliminating paper, we’ll reduce clutter and minimize time spent looking for flight information allowing our pilots the opportunity for greater situational awareness in the air and on the ground.”

American and United, have bought Apple’s iPad for that purpose. One reason for going with the Surface 2 (according to Capt. Dickson) is “It’s easier to give the pilots separate areas for company and personal use.”

In August, Delta said its flight attendants will get Windows phones to process in-flight sales of food, better seats, and other items.

Here is a link to the press release: Delta to equip 11,000 pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 electronic flight bags


5 things to expect in Windows 8.1



With Microsoft’s latest operating system release drawing closer, many customers are growing excited about what to expect in this update. Windows 8.1 isn’t really a new OS, but its a lot more than just a service pack. The company has attempted to fix many of the issues that have drawn complaints from customers, while also enhancing other features.

Changes are too numerous to detail here, but this is a good time to take a quick glance at five of the more noticeable changes that users can expect to see on October 18.

The Start Button

This is the big one, but beware that I said Button and not Menu. The Button, when clicked, merely takes you to the Start screen. However, there is a bit more functionality hidden within it. Right-click on it and you get a context menu with a number of options. It may not be what people had in mind, but it is better than nothing.

start context menu

Search

The search option is still accessed from the Charms Menu, but unlike before, it no longer takes over your screen. Instead, it simply occupies the space of the Charms menu, and results appear below the search box. It’s a much nicer way of working.

windows 8.1 search

SkyDrive

SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, was a part of Windows 8, as it is part of Office 2013. Now in version 8.1, the service receives a place in the PC Setting menu, allowing for easier control over how it works.

windows-8-1-skydrive

Start Page Images

Windows 8 still allowed users to customize their desktops with virtually any image they wished, but limited the Start screen options to thosen chosen by MicroSoft. Now you can opt to have the image on your desktop carry over to the Start page. If you have images rotating in a theme, don’t worry — Start will keep up with the changes.

windows-8-1-start

Boot to Desktop

With the exception of the Start button, this is probably the most requested feature. Customers can now opt to have their PC go right to the desktop upon bootup. A simple check-mark in a box is all that is required.

boot to desktop

As I said, there is much more to be found in this new operating system, but these are perhaps the biggest and most notable of the changes Microsoft has made.


Ford’s Alan Mullaly Top Contender for Microsoft CEO



Alan-Mulally-Ford

Microsoft has been looking hard at Alan Mullaly, CEO of Ford to take over Steve Ballmer’s role at Microsoft. Other candidates include Stephen Elop (Nokia), Tony Bates and Paul Maritz (Microsoft execs).

While the search is still in its infancy, a CEO like Mulally could definitely change up Microsoft’s vision. He would most likely bring in a lot of the values that has made Ford successful in the 21st century. But is running a car company similar to running a software company?

Microsoft is the 5th top global brand (behind Apple, Google, Coca-Cola and IBM)  – as opposed to Ford, which is 42 in the top 100 (Interbrand). Ford is the 4th top Global brand for automobiles and 2nd in US auto sales.

If Mulally is offered a spot at Microsoft, expect Ford to make a generous counter-offer. Either way, this is a great spot for Alan to be in…


You can now pre-order Windows 8.1



The next generation of Microsoft’s operating system is now less than a month away — Windows 8.1 will be officially released on October 18th, though some customers can get it now thanks to TechNet and MSDN. While most people will have wait for release day, you can at least prepare now.

Today Microsoft has opened up pre-orders for the perceived fix to Windows 8. The new OS, which returns the Start button (well, sort of), will retail for $119.99, while the Pro version will set customers back $199.99.

windows-8-1-start

Those with an existing Windows 8 license will receive a free upgrade upon release. The upgrade adds a Start button (though not a menu), new search and sharing features, Skype for Metro and tighter SkyDrive integration. Other changes are less noticeable — for instance in Explorer you will find that “Computer” is now “This PC”.

If you can’t wait to get your copy then head over to the Microsft Store a place your order now and you should receive the product on day of release.


Surface 2, Surface Pro 2 up for pre-order



surface 2 show

Microsoft held its big New York City event yesterday, unveiling the Surface 2, which will ship later next month, just days after Windows 8.1 makes its official debut. Today, the Redmond-based company begins taking pre-orders for the new tablets, which begin at $499 and range upwards from there.

“This morning we began taking pre-orders via www.MicrosoftStore.com, Microsoft Stores, and through select retailers in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Learn more about the new devices and accessories as well as how to pre-order in your market at www.Surface.com/pre-order“.

Prices have risen back upwards from the original Surface, which has been discounted to $349, and customers must still purchase a keyboard (touch or type) separately to make proper use of the tablet, that is more laptop than anything else.

The stage is set for the release, but customers have sometime to wait for the new hardware, which features the return of the Start button, that went on hiatus in Windows 8. Will you be buying one?