microsoftI hate being right some days, but this isn’t one of them. I’m loving being right this time.

The other day I wrote up a post here about Windows Systems Suffering Black Screens After Security Update, and I stated:

What seems odd about this whole report is that the supposed guilty security update was sent out Nov. 10th, but the first reports came in last week from a security firm named Prevx.  Prevx says they have a tool that will fix some instances for users, and at this point Microsoft is simply stating that they are investigating the situation and have no official word on it.

The reason I find this whole thing a bit questionable is how as someone plugged in to the technology world such as I am heard no complaints prior to a third-party company I’ve never heard of suddenly saying they know how to fix it.  True its solution is being provided for free, but the amount of publicity more than makes up for it.  I have heard no independent verifications of something being wrong with the update, and believe me, something like this happens, you’d hear all about it on Twitter.

There is every chance this problem is real, but it does seem a tad odd at the moment.

Well, according to Ed Bott at ZDNet, I was right to say it smelled fishy because it was.

… on Tuesday evening, Prevx backs down completely from the story, publishing a formal retraction and apologizing to Microsoft. Another follow-up post the next day from Prevx CEO and CTO Mel Morris tries to deny any responsibility for the damage. He includes this hilarious bit of understatement: “Regrettably, it is clear that our original blog post has been taken out of context and may have caused an inconvenience for Microsoft.”

What a shock.

What was disturbing about this whole thing (and according to Steven Hodson at Shooting at Bubbles, I deserve the right to pat myself on the back for this one), I was one of the very few tech journalists who called it suspicious.  As Mr. Bott chronicles the whole debacle in his post, he points out time and time again how all of the major tech blogs went nuts reporting it, but yet no one seemed to question it or research it.

While I did look around unofficially online, I admit I did not contact Microsoft.  Why?  Because I fully admit I knew I would get an empty answer with no substance to it, and lets face it, StarterTech isn’t exactly a leading tech blog like the big boys.  If they weren’t getting quotes, neither was I.

What I did do was to use this amazing resource called “the Internet”, perhaps you’ve heard of it?  We are sitting on top of the most powerful research tool ever invented and apparently most bloggers couldn’t be bothered to head to a search engine and do some basic research.  Where were the cries of outrage from users?  Why wasn’t this a trending topic on Twitter?  Where were the Apple Fanboys crowing over their superiority?  Instead what I found was tech blogs writing the same headlines over and over with nary a question in sight as to why we were the only ones talking about it.  Would it have really been that difficult to do a search and go, “Wait a minute … something doesn’t smell right here …”

If the Internet has proven anything, it is that people will not hesitate to complain about the smallest irritation.  Do you really think if black screens had been happening the entire Internet would have been silent about it?  Of course it wouldn’t have been.

So, yes, for once I am going to pat myself on the back for calling this into question from the start, and I echo Mr. Bott’s questioning of the tech blogosphere at large.

At the same time, I join with Mr. Bott for calling for Prevx to be laughed out of the security field.  Honestly, I’d go even further and wonder when the lawsuits will start.  Was this a marketing gimmick?  If so, good job, you’re going to get more press coverage than you know what to do with … and none of it is going to be good.

Categories: Microsoft, Opinion, Windows 7, Windows XP   
 

microsoftIf you’re suffering the black screen update problem that is reportedly striking some Windows systems … you probably aren’t reading this.

Kidding aside, reports have come in that some Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 systems are suffering “black screens of death” for some reason after the latest Windows security update.  Here is the explanation from PCWorld:

Microsoft apparently made changes to the Access Control List (ACL), a list of permissions for a logged-on user. The ACL interacts with registry keys, creating visible desktop features such as a sidebar.

However, the latest patches appear to make some changes to those registry keys. The effect is that some installed applications aren’t aware of the changes and don’t run properly, causing a black screen…

In short: your system may be messed up.

What seems odd about this whole report is that the supposed guilty security update was sent out Nov. 10th, but the first reports came in last week from a security firm named Prevx.  Prevx says they have a tool that will fix some instances for users, and at this point Microsoft is simply stating that they are investigating the situation and have no official word on it.

The reason I find this whole thing a bit questionable is how as someone plugged in to the technology world such as I am heard no complaints prior to a third-party company I’ve never heard of suddenly saying they know how to fix it.  True its solution is being provided for free, but the amount of publicity more than makes up for it.  I have heard no independent verifications of something being wrong with the update, and believe me, something like this happens, you’d hear all about it on Twitter.

There is every chance this problem is real, but it does seem a tad odd at the moment.

Categories: Microsoft, Opinion, Windows 7, Windows XP   
 

sidekick3Microsoft has announced that “most, if not all” data lost in the recent Sidekick debacle is being recovered.

The following letter was issued by Microsoft today:

Dear T-Mobile Sidekick customers,

On behalf of Microsoft, I want to apologize for the recent problems with the Sidekick service and give you an update on the steps we have taken to resolve these problems.

We are pleased to report that we have recovered most, if not all, customer data for those Sidekick customers whose data was affected by the recent outage. We plan to begin restoring users’ personal data as soon as possible, starting with personal contacts, after we have validated the data and our restoration plan. We will then continue to work around the clock to restore data to all affected users, including calendar, notes, tasks, photographs and high scores, as quickly as possible.

We now believe that data loss affected a minority of Sidekick users. If your Sidekick account was among those affected, please continue to log into the T-Mobile Sidekick forum at http://www.t-mobile.com/sidekick for the latest updates about when data restoration will begin, and any steps you may need to take. We will work with T-Mobile to post the next update on data restoration timing no later than Saturday.

We have determined that the outage was caused by a system failure that created data loss in the core database and the back-up. We rebuilt the system component by component, recovering data along the way. This careful process has taken a significant amount of time, but was necessary to preserve the integrity of the data.

We will continue working closely with T-Mobile to restore user data as quickly as possible. We are eager to deliver the level of reliable service that our incredibly loyal customers have become accustomed to, and we are taking immediate steps to help ensure this does not happen again. Specifically, we have made changes to improve the overall stability of the Sidekick service and initiated a more resilient backup process to ensure that the integrity of our database backups is maintained.

Once again, we apologize for this situation and the inconvenience that it has created. Please know that we are working all-out to resolve this situation and restore the reliability of the service.

Sincerely,

Roz Ho

Corporate Vice President

Premium Mobile Experiences, Microsoft Corporation

Oct. 15, 2009

However, never fear, multiple lawsuits have already been filed against all the parties involved in this mess. Is anyone really surprised.

Categories: Cell Phones, Microsoft   
 

microsoft-officeWhile all the news about Microsoft has focused on Windows 7 lately, there is some interesting stuff coming down the pipeline for Office 2010.

Microsoft Office has long reigned as the king of productivity software, but while it has been the primary choice of users for years, Microsoft still had a free option that pretty much everyone wondered why it still existed: Microsoft Works.  Sure it did some things Office did, but it did all of them poorly.  Well, now Works is going to the great software Heaven in the sky, and is being replaced by Office Starter.

The new Office Starter option will come pre-loaded on new computers, and will offer you the chance to use reduced-functionality versions of Word and Excel.  These versions will allow you to create, view and edit documents, but that will be the extent of it.  For as long as you choose to use the Starter version of the software it will be ad-supported.  If you should choose to upgrade to Office Home & Student 2010, Office Home & Business 2010, or Office Professional 2010, you will be able to purchase a Product Key Card that will let you do so.  This will be a card sold in retail stores like all of those gift cards you see now, meaning far less packaging and no need for an actual CD-ROM.  A rather environmentally friendly idea we must say.

The Starter version of Office will only come on new computers, but if you have a current computer and want to try Office, you will be able to download a copy now to do that.  It will also allow you to install it separately from any other version of Office you may already have installed so that you may compare them side-by-side on your system.

Watch out world, it looks like Microsoft may finally be getting more consumer friendly.

Categories: Microsoft   
 

windows 8Windows 7 is so yesterday.

Even though Microsoft isn’t releasing Windows 7 until Oct. 22nd, it seems that the company is already hard at work on Windows 8 and Windows 9.

According to Ars Technica, the first serious hints came out of a software engineer’s LinkedIn profile.  Once he realized people were figuring out that his brief mention of working with 128 bit processing meant Windows 8 was probably going to double the current systems processing power, he took that info out of his profile.

The cat is out of the bag though, and Windows 8 News has even gotten Robert Morgan, the engineer in question to agree to an interview since there is no putting the genie back in the bottle.

Before any one gets too worried though, figured you have 3 -4 years before Windows 8 shows up on store shelves, so if you skipped Vista to wait for Windows 7, don’t go thinking you can wait for the next iteration.

Categories: Microsoft, Windows 7   
 

Internet Explorer logoIf you are using any version of Internet Explorer, you need to apply a security patch immediately.

Microsoft has discovered a previously unknown security flaw in every version of Internet Explorer since 5.01 that will allow hackers to execute remote code on your computer.  In every day terms this means that just visiting a web site with malicious code installed could push a malicious program in to your system and take control of your system, steal personal information, use your system to send out spam emails and more.

Here is what Microsoft has to say about the situation from their security bulletin:

This security update also resolves three privately reported vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer. These vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted Web page using Internet Explorer. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.

This security update is rated Critical for Internet Explorer 5.01 and Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1, running on supported editions of Microsoft Windows 2000; Critical for Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, and Internet Explorer 8 running on supported editions of Windows XP; Critical for Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 8 running on supported editions of Windows Vista; Moderate for Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, and Internet Explorer 8 running on supported editions of Windows Server 2003; and Moderate for Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 8 running on supported editions of Windows Server 2008. For more information, see the subsection, Affected and Non-Affected Software, in this section.

The security update addresses these vulnerabilities by modifying the way that Internet Explorer handles objects in memory and table operations.

Let us stress that this is a CRITICAL UPDATE. Do not waste time, install this update immediately.  If you go and look at the chart they provided, you will see that there is no combination of Windows operating system and Internet Explorer since version 5.01 that is not impacted by this flaw.  (This seems like a good time to yet again mention, just change to a different browser that is more secure from step 1)

Categories: Microsoft, Web Browsing   
 

microsoft-officeIf the rumors are to be believed, this coming Monday could see Microsoft taking the wraps off an online version of its Office software.

People have been wondering where the online version of Office has been for a while now, and if the rumors are to be believed, then we will see the official announcement of the product on Monday at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans.

What does this mean to you as a consumer?  Well, we’ll know more on Monday, but it’s thought that you will be able to synchronize documents back and forth to the online version of the application and your desktop so that no matter which version you choose to use to do your work you will always have the latest version at the ready.

It is fairly obvious this is a direct strike out at Google Documents which has been gaining a small portion of the office application market, but not enough to truly make Microsoft worry.  The thing that Microsoft has to realize is that it isn’t so much the online nature of Google Docs that appeals to people as it is the fact it’s free.  No matter which version of Office you buy, it is an expensive proposition; even if you qualify for the student version, it isn’t cheap.

Seeing as the StarterTech offices currently has 4 laptops and 6 desktops to maintain, buying Office for each and every system was just no longer an option.  On our non-mission critical systems we opted to only use Google Docs to try to save ourselves dropping another load of cash on yet another copy of Office.  Sure Docs isn’t quite perfect, but it gets the job done.

So while it’s nice that Microsoft is finally acknowledging the growing trend of the online computing community, perhaps they should be thinking more about price than features.

Categories: Microsoft, Opinion   
 
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