Jun 6 2010

Microsoft Introduces Windows Embedded Compact 7 for Tablet Devices

The title pretty much says it all.  Under pressure from iPad and Android tablet competition, Microsoft has recently launched a new version of the Windows 7 operating system software specifically for slate and tablet devices.  We know that the new OS will be called Windows Embedded Compact 7, but other than that, there are not many other details that are known.  It’ll essentially be a compartmentalized version of the Windows 7 OS that can be embedded at the hardware level.

There were several prototype devices running on Microsoft’s new tablet OS at Computex 2010, so its potential developments into a full-fledged tablet OS should be pretty interesting.  We’ll be sure to keep you posted on any developments we hear about.

Via JKOnTheRun.

May 9 2010

Rumor: HP May Release Tablet

Though HP has recently announced that it will not be releasing its iPad competitor, the Slate tablet, another rumor has surfaced concerning a new HP tablet.

The new rumored HP tablet would be called the HP Hurricane and it is scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2010. The problem with the Slate was its operating system: Windows 7 just is not a feasible option at this point. But the operating system would be the Hurricane’s strength: according to industry insiders, the Hurricane would have a WebOS.

One analyst was very excited about the possibility of the Hurricane tablet, saying that WebOS is an excellent choice for a tablet and could make the Hurricane a “killer device.”

The Slate was supposed to have run Windows 7, had an 8.9-inch touchscreen with a 1024 by 600 resolution, and been around $549. It also was supposed to have a 1.6 Ghz Atom processor and 1 GB RAM.

Via AfterDawn.

May 2 2010

Microsoft Kills Courier Tablet

Another potential tablet bites the dust. Microsoft has just recently canceled plans for its Courier tablet. The tablet was first reported about last fall and apparently is not going to become a reality, at least not anytime soon.

The Courier was received positively by the public because it appeared to be rather innovative. But it may be because of this innovation that Microsoft decided to scrap the tablet: Microsoft does not currently have a way of powering this innovative device. Using a phone OS would not work very well for Microsoft because Windows Mobile 6 is just bad and Mobile 7 has not shipped yet. But using a desktop OS would present problems as well: the Courier interface probably would be quite different from that of Windows 7.

Microsoft may be ready for the Courier someday, but not now. For now, it will have to sit back and watch Apple’s iPad get all the attention.

Via InformationWeek, image via Microsoft.

Apr 30 2010

HP Nixes Slate

HP has decided to nix its Slate tablet before even releasing it, according to reports today. HP’s reason for killing off its iPad competitor? Windows 7 does not measure up as a tablet operating system. HP will probably be searching for a new operating system, such as Google’s Android OS, or it could be planning to convert Palm’s webOS to work on tablets. Adapting webOS for tablets would make sense in light of HP’s recent acquisition of Palm.

The demise of the Slate may also have to do with its battery life. Analysts have speculated that with Windows 7 and Intel’s Atom processor, it probably was not getting even close to the battery life of an iPad, which is supposed to be ten hours.

Though Windows 7 has multi-touch support, it is unlikely that it is the best solution for a tablet, even with HP’s TouchSmart software. By abandoning Windows 7, HP has the opportunity to make a better product.

Via the San Francisco Chronicle.

Apr 26 2010

iPad Users on Windows Targeted with Virus

iPad users on Windows computers are being targeted with malware, according to BitDefender. The users have been receiving emails with the subject line “iPad Software Update” that have a link to a page that looks like a legitimate download page where the user can download what is allegedly an iTunes update. However, the download is actually Backdoor.Bifrose.AADY, which opens a backdoor allowing hackers to take control of a system whenever they want. The malware also tries to read the keys and serial numbers of software installed on the computer and logs passwords to the user’s ICQ, Messenger, and POP3 mail accounts.

There are some things Windows users can do to keep themselves safe: most importantly, they should realize that when Apple releases an update, it always releases a lot of documentation pertaining to the update. Windows users should search the Internet for information about their updates and download them from the Apple website (that is, do not click any links—just go directly to apple.com).

Mac users are not affected by this malware. As an Apple fan, my response will probably be pretty predictable: this is yet another reason to switch to Mac.

Via CNET News, image via BitDefender.

Apr 22 2010

Facebook’s Privacy Issues

I’m not going to lie: I really am getting sick of Facebook. The site is seriously a privacy nightmare. Take, for example, Facebook’s notable announcements this week. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, described his vision of the Internet as a web of human relationships with users sharing all sorts of information with one another. Part of the vision is a universal Like button, which lets users let others know that they, well, like something.

The problem stems from the fact that users do not know precisely how much they are sharing and with whom they are sharing such information. And with Zuckerberg’s new vision for Facebook, profile information could be accessible to third-party sites. Facebook’s privacy settings are unclear at best and useless at worst. When the settings were changed six months ago, 65 percent of users kept their profiles public.

Users either do not understand their own privacy settings or simply do not care, both of which are a problem. Of course other companies, such as Google, have had problems with privacy in the past. But as Dan Costa said in his article at PC World, “For Google, having users share private information is a constant risk and an unfortunate side affect of its services, perhaps even a liability. For Facebook, it is a business model.” And personally, I do not want to have anything to do with a company that has such a business model.

Via PC Magazine, image via Facebook.

Mar 28 2010

Pwn2Own Competition Shows No Mercy For Browsers, OSes, or Phones

Up north in Vancouver, the well known computer security conference CanSecWest got off to an impressive start with its famous Pwn2Own competition.  The goal each year is to take down various different platforms to highlight their security holes.  And this year showed that no matter what you run, you probably are not safe.

For example, German hacker “Nils” managed to take down a Windows 7 PC which was running Firefox.   Using a previously unknown hole, he took total control over the PC.  Before this, Charlie Miller managed to take down a Mac OS X machine running on Safari, and Dutchman Peter Vreugdenhil took down another Windows 7 PC using Internet Explorer 8.

Most disturbing, however, was probably the attack against iPhone users. Two Europeans by the names of Vincenzo Iozzo and Ralf Phillipp Weinmann managed to lead an iPhone to a webpage where in 20 seconds the entire SMS database, including previously deleted messages, was stolen.  All of the bugs were reported to the software’s creators by Pwn2Own and won’t be released until they are fixed.

Via ZDNet

Mar 22 2010

IE Takes Hits Across The EU Following Addition of Browser Choice Screen

The European Union won a very decisive victory in the anti-trust case against Microsoft and its integration of Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system.  The greatest spoil of war was of course the Browser Choice Screen.  This gives Windows users in the EU an initial choice of web browser, rather than dropping IE on them without formal consent. Opera has already announced that it has had impressive gains in downloads across Europe.  However, this trend isn’t exclusive to Opera.

Mozilla has also posted steady gains, and anticipates even more when the screen is used on new computers. 200 million computers have already used the system. And Microsoft is feeling the burn: France has seen a 2.5% drop of IE users, Britain had a 1% drop, and Italy had 1.3% drop.  Still, IE holds a massive 62%  market share and it will likely need some time before it is equalized out.

Via Engadget

Mar 20 2010

Opera Making Major Grounds in the EU Due To Browser Selection Screen

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We all remember or at least know of the famous Microsoft anti-trust trials of the late 90s and early 2000s, and of course its result was the creation of the mandatory browser selection screen in the European Union.  At first, there were questions on whether or not it would be truly a useful addition in spreading knowledge about alternatives to Internet Explorer. Common opinion held that people who hadn’t gone through the effort of finding a different browser on their own would simply pick IE and not worry about it.

Opera, however, seems to be reporting results to the contrary.  According to them, a “dramatic uptake on downloads” has occurred, and they have the numbers to back it.  They have experienced a 328% download increase from Poland due to the choice screen, meaning that 77% of the downloads of that country are due to the choice screen.  Across the EU, 53% of their downloads come from the choice screen.  It’s a shame that the US doesn’t have a similar policy.

Via Gizmodo

Mar 18 2010

Nail in XP’s Coffin #4: Microsoft Previews Internet Explorer 9

It is every anti-XP’s fan favorite time of the week: when yet another interesting news tidbit marks the end of Windows XP.  This week it is doubled by the fact that this tidbit it is a hope (and fear) of every anti-IE user of the world.

Microsoft released the test platform for Internet Explorer 9 at MIX 10 yesterday.  Normally, the internet just does a big yawn whenever a new IE is released, as it is just a rehashing of the same old flawed and vanilla browser known as Internet Explorer 6.  Microsoft has known for years that, even amongst non-geeks and home users, it was losing a significant market share, and kept mocking our intelligence with the marginally improved releases of IE7 and 8.  However, a new dawn has risen over Redmond, and for once Microsoft seems to care about being relevant in the browser wars.

Internet Explorer 9 plays a major game of catch-up, implementing many overdue features.  The most notable of these of course is HTML 5.  HTML 5, the supposed godsend for the Internet destined to end the tyranny of plug-ins like Flash everywhere, has been sitting on Firefox, Chrome, and Safari for some time now.  Still, it is good to see Microsoft joining the fray, and it is holding back no punches in updating support for the new web under HTML 5.  It has weighed in on the HTML video wars, showing off H.264 support on YouTube.

Furthermore, they are adding CSS3 support and a brand new JavaScript engine. All of this means Internet Explorer finally is getting a somewhat comparable engine to the other browsers.  It managed to score a relatively impressive 55/100 on the ACID3 test, but that’s a far cry from the 100 of the Webkit browsers and the 97 of Firefox.

Still, IE9 has one ace up its sleeve: Direct2D Acceleration.  That’s right, Microsoft has drastically improved the render graphics quality and performance for IE by using hardware acceleration.  The result is much smoother HTML 5 video viewing and and SVG rendering than the norm of HTML 5 browsers.  There is really no comparison between IE9 and the others for rendering.  However, the cost for this is using drivers that only came into play after Windows Vista. You guessed it: there’s no Windows XP support.  XP has no future in Microsoft’s world, and it probably shouldn’t in yours either.

If you want to play around with the IE9 platform, feel free to go on its website. IE9 isn’t even in the alpha stages yet, and the platform just renders webpages so far and not much else. You have a pop-up box to input URLs and no forward and back buttons.  Still, if you are into web development, it might be worth a look.

Via Gizmodo

Mar 11 2010

Nail in XP’s Coffin #3: Goodbye New Hard Drive Support

I promise our readers, I am not some sort of Windows PR employee, being paid to tell you to upgrade to Windows 7.   At this point, I really don’t care what you switch to, but yet another reason has come up to switch away from the elderly and frail XP.  The BBC has reported that by 2011, modern hard drives will be incompatible with the sectoring scheme in Windows XP.

The issue is that until recently, all hard drives worked on the premise of 512 byte sectors, which are the smallest readable unit on a HDD.  Now part of these sectors would be dedicated to overhead and simply wasted spaced.  The 512 byte scheme was nice for a while, but due to a combination of factors including 64-bit computing and the fact it causes a maximum partition size of 2 TB, it is obvious we need to change them.  So the International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association decided to use 4096 byte sectors as the new standard.

Now this won’t be a problem for many (but sadly not most) of us, as Windows 7, Vista, Mac OS X Tiger or newer, and modern Linux kernels (post-September 2009) already have support for the 4K drives.  However, Windows XP uses the 512 byte pattern hard coded in certain places, so using the new hard drives with it could result in drastic write speed reduction.  Solution: stop using a ten year old OS, because it is time to move on.  Or just don’t ever change your hard drive.  I’m sure it won’t ever fill up.

Via Gizmodo

Mar 10 2010

Seamless Cross-Platforming and 3D Demo On Windows Phone, Windows and XBLA

The iPhone and Apple may currently be sitting as the king of mobile phone gaming, but it has some major competition coming up.  What many gamers and developers had been hoping for seems to have come true: cross-platform gaming is a reality across all of the Microsoft platforms.

At TechEd Middle East, Microsoft’s Eric Rudder showed off a quick Indiana Jones styled platformer demo to the crowd.  The game itself wasn’t all that impressive, a typical 2d walk and jump combination platformer.  What is impressive is the fact that he showed the game first on Windows, then on Xbox, and finally on a Windows Phone 7 device.  Even more impressive, he could access where he saved on one device in another device.  Cross platform coding and gaming will the modus operandi of Xbox Live on WinPho 7.

More recently, Microsoft has showed off XNA 4.0 for WinPho 7, and it evidently is impressive.  It shows off the 1 GHz Snapdragon at task, with full 3D rendering.  While Microsoft hasn’t released video to the public, they did post a few screenshots.  And for a phone, they look nice.  Zune HD users will be sad to know that they will not be making the upgrade from XNA 3.1 to XNA 4.0, probably due to the hardware gap.  Expect the Zune HD2 to be in the same class as the WinPho 7.

Via Engadget

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Mar 8 2010

In Windows XP, Only Hackers Can Hear Your Cries For Help

It should come as a surprise to no one that I have a very low opinion of Windows XP; I still maintain that any other modern OS is better.  It seems like Microsoft’s security bulletins are only looking to further my point.

Latest in the XP Bug Saga: F1, the universally known help key, has fallen victim to malicious hackers on the internet.  Evidently pressing F1 on certain websites in Internet Explorer exposes the user to any code a person seeks to run on their PC.  The detailed security bulletin from Microsoft is as follows:

“The vulnerability exists in the way that VBScript interacts with Windows Help files when using Internet Explorer.  If a malicious Web site displayed a specially crafted dialog box and a user  pressed the F1 key, arbitrary code could be executed in the security context of the currently logged-on user.”

Microsoft’s current advice? Don’t press F1 if a website tells you to.  My advice? Ditch IE and Windows XP. The Internet and web developers around the world will thank you.

Via Gizmodo, image via Wikipedia.

Mar 8 2010

Tablet Competition: Apple vs Microsoft

With only a few weeks remaining before the much anticipated Apple iPad is released, Microsoft is finalizing details on its own “Courier.” Microsoft’s tablet, “a book-like device with two opposing screens,” according to Engadget, will supposedly have handwriting recognition built-in, and a stylus resembling a pen seems to be a primary source of input.

Engadget also claims there will be a built-in camera and a headphone jack as well. It will also serve as an e-book device, similar to the iPad’s own “iBook” app.

There has been no more information concerning pricing for the Courier, but because of the larger amount of features it is rumored to have, it is expected to be more expensive than the iPad

The Courier is to be released prior to the holiday season this year, which means by the time it is released, the iPad will have been part of the tablet market for over half a year—meaning more rumors about future updates, such as cameras on both sides of the device, tethering, and Flash support for Safari could cause possible Courier purchasers to refrain from purchasing until an iPad refresh.

Via Money.Gather

Feb 27 2010

Windows Mobile 6.5.x Pulled Back From The Abyss, Now Windows Phone Starter

I posted an article a week ago stating how the Windows Phone 7 Series would be the end of WinMo 6.5, to the point that I was verbally dancing on its gravesite.  Well, looks like WinMo just got some major life support, and will continue on as Windows Phone Starter.

There were hints of this before WinPho 7’s launch, with rumors of a “Windows Phone Classic”.  Whether or not this is the same as Windows Phone Starter we still don’t know.

What we do know isn’t all that groundbreaking either.  At the new OS’s core is the WinMo 6.5 we love and hate, just stripped down a bit. It is designed to be a cheaper alternative to the WinPho 7 line, targeting emerging markets in developing countries. The name and concept naturally follows Microsoft’s idea for Windows 7 Starter Edition.

However, don’t plan on ever actually getting to use a WinPho Starter phone if you live in the US or the developed world.  Microsoft posted a list of radio spectra that it is planning to support for Starter, and HSDPA 3G stands noticeably absent.  Looks like Microsoft is going to strong-arm carriers and manufacturers into using WinPho 7 in markets they can.

Another missing feature for some versions will be Office Mobile.  If you have a strong hankering for Sense UI WinMo phones, look to your favorite developing nation to buy a WinPho Starter phone.  The rest of us will just have to struggle living in a world where WinMo is being phased out.

Via Engadget.

Feb 18 2010

Windows Phone 7: Microsoft Finally Catches Up

WinPho 7
Once upon a time, there was a highly successful PDA OS known as PocketPC, available in stores during the early 2000s.  People didn’t have mobile internet and fancy ideas such as “the cloud” and “App Stores” didn’t exist.

But then Steve Jobs came along in 2007 and ushered in what is commonly thought of as the “Mobile Web Revolution”.  Smartphones quickly spread, and PDAs began to die.  Microsoft’s response? Repackage PocketPC as “Windows Mobile” (commonly known as “WinMo”), and hope no one would complain. Unfortunately, the tech blogs did complain, and with each WinMo release there was an outpouring of disgust towards the next cruel joke that came from Redmond. Until now; Windows Mobile 6.5 will be the last WinMo version ever, and the crude monstrosity it was is dead.

Normally we don’t focus much on phones, but with the Mobile World Confrence in Barcelona, it is hard to avoid reporting on them. And frankly, the death of WinMo for a new line called the Windows Phone 7  Series is some pretty ground-shaking news in the mobile world.  Windows Phone 7 completely scraps the PocketPC core and instead takes the approach of the Zune HD in terms of user interface.  The result is a lot prettier of an UI, though the resulting effect on the user experience is debatable.

A major element that Microsoft will bring is that it has taken Android and WebOS’s approach of dynamic and live data displaying.  Rather than the iPhone which requires individual apps to access info from sources like Facebook and Twitter, WinPho 7 (I expect the nickname to catch on once we all get sick of saying Windows Phone 7 Series) integrates it all to the “People Hub”. This is what on traditional phones (smart or dumb) is called the “Contacts”.  There are other hubs as well, like Pictures, Games, Music + Video, and Office.

Another weapon in Microsoft’s arsenal is Xbox Live and its integration to WinPho 7. The iPhone has shown that mobile gaming is a very real market, and Apple took advantage of  it without much of a background in gaming. Xbox Live is the world’s largest console gaming community, and there is not much doubt that Microsoft will be using this to turn gaming on phones into more than a simple recreational activity.  Adding a Gamerscore to WinPho games will make it a highly competitive device (it might actually attract real gamers from DS and PSP) and probably cause the major names of the game development world to start investing their money onto this new platform.

Microsoft has killed its old app platform, which was viewed by many as a monstrosity in WinMo 6.5.x. Of course this will naturally cause many unsatisfied developers in the beginning, but it is almost undoubtedly guaranteed that the new API will be vastly better.  Another issue Microsoft will have to face is that WinMo was a heavily corporate OS, with a focus on productivity, while WinPho is essentially a Zune + Social phone, with the productivity getting pushed back.

Microsoft still intends to keep the Office hub, so they will likely not lose much of their consumer-base.  Still, WinPho is a product that may already be too late – it will not even hit the market until Q4 2010.  Whether or not it can save Microsoft’s dismal mobile prospects remains to be seen, but this writer is glad to welcome Microsoft back to 2010.

Via Gizmodo

Feb 14 2010

The XP Patch Nightmare: Why We Should Move On

October 25, 2001 – A Microsoft operating system was released as the Internet revolution entered the everyman’s home.  Only one year after the absolute fiasco known as Windows ME (in a time before Vista was known as possibly the worst operating system of all time), Windows XP was released, and with it came hopes of a new stable Windows OS. Combining the new technologies of ME with the stability of Windows 2000, XP became the world’s number one OS, and sits on that throne to this day. It heralded the modern internet era, and until recently was the OS of choice for OEMs.

Now, we can finally see what a horrible, horrible mistake keeping it alive was.  Since the appearance of a 17-year old DOS exploit, followed by an update that has created countless BSODs and endless reboots, Windows XP looks unlikely to be able to weather the coming years.  Microsoft believes they have discovered the primary cause of the current maladies:

“In our continuing investigation in to the restart issues related to MS10-015 that a limited number of customers are experiencing, we have determined that malware on the system can cause the behavior. We are not yet ruling out other potential causes at this time and are still investigating.” (emphasis added)

People attacked Windows Vista for performance flaws and pricing, but at least Microsoft began to clean up its act regarding internet security with Internet Explorer 7 and the improved Windows Firewall.  User Account Control, a feature Unix systems have had for quite a while, was a step in the right direction (despite its dreadful implementation).  And Windows 7 finally comes with performance improvements and most modern hardware is capable of handling it.

The only market that really had any justification in using XP was netbooks, but even they have moved on to Windows 7 Starter Edition.  While XP may have extended support till 2014, users should realize that they need to upgrade far before that.

There are essentially three routes. If you have anything with higher performance than a netbook, it is safe to move on to Windows 7.  “Vista-capable” PCs should not still have Windows XP on them. It is an insult to their hardware, and these recent episodes have shown that it is no longer safe.

If for some reason you are still using a 800 MHz Celeron with 128 MB RAM, then it is either time to get a new computer (anything from any brand with any operating system circa 2010) or to install Linux.  For the majority of users, the latter seems like too difficult of an option, but Ubuntu is a usable and user-friendly introduction to Linux.

As for netbooks, which is the only platform where new machines still have this abomination,  please get Windows 7 or Linux or even a Hackintosh.  Microsoft has directions for those of you who don’t know how to set up an ISO to install from a USB. And while I am sure there will be many of those hesitant to move forward from XP, I beseech you: at least take this as a wake up call.

Via Engadget.

Feb 8 2010

Windows 8 Dates Leaked Amongst Other Microsoft Things

Windows 8 Release Date

Microsoft, after receiving blistering criticism for the apparent abject failure of Vista, has rebounded and achieved startling sales gains in recent months.  Windows 7 currently holds 10% of the OS market after only 5 months, while Vista has managed to crawl up to 20%.  Stunningly, XP still dominates at 60-70% of users, showing that until recently, most people have been wary of upgrading.

Microsoft is not content to stop here, however: Windows 8 is already in development.  On the MSDN blogs, Chris Green, a former Microsoft employee, posted a chart that shows support dates for current and future products, posted above (dates are in dd/mm/yy). The date to look for is July 1st, 2011, the apparent time of public release.  Of course, if you are like this blogger who participated in the Windows 7 beta, that means you can expect to see what’s coming in a future not so distant.

Microsoft furthermore finally seems to be defeating the scourge that is Internet Explorer 6, arguably deemed the worst web browser of all time.  After multiple security flaws were revealed for Internet Explorer 6 and 7, Microsoft has started to push its first not-despised browser in a long time, Internet Explorer 8, which has finally overtaken IE 6 as the number one browser in the world.

Lastly, expect Windows 7 Service Pack 1 to come out in beta in June and final release in September.  One of the most notable features of SP1 will be out of box USB 3.0 support.

Via DailyTech.

Jan 20 2010

Unofficial Windows 7 Netbook Edition Available to Download

When Windows 7 was still in the works, many in the tech industry were eagerly anticipating a Netbook Edition of the OS. We were dismayed to see that Microsoft had ditched its plans in favor of the crappier Windows 7 Starter. However, it looks like many netbook users’ dreams have come true – a new, tweaked version of Windows 7 has been making its rounds on the Web under the moniker of Windows 7 Netbook Edition.

The OS is a customized version of Windows 7 Ultimate, ditching a lot of extraneous drivers, language packs, and additional features. It’s not made by Microsoft, but it’s expected to run on just about any netbook – even the oldest of the old.

Windows 7 Netbook Edition may be based on a pre-release version of Windows 7, so don’t be surprised if it implodes on you or kicks you out for not having a valid product key.

Via Liliputing.

Jan 12 2010

Windows Mobile 7 May be Delayed Again

Google’s Android OS is becoming so successful that it is stealing the spotlight from Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS. There is strong evidence that the next major release of Microsoft’s OS, Windows Mobile 7, has been delayed yet again. Windows Mobile 7 was supposed to be released this year, but now analysts are saying that there is evidence that it has been delayed until 2011 due to Android’s increasingly popularity with manufacturers. Android is open-source and free to use – a stark contrast to Windows Mobile.

Steve Ballmer’s keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) did not mention anything about Windows Mobile 7. Only the current version of the OS was mentioned. Microsoft may offer more details at the Mobile World Congress next month in Barcelona, but no one is certain if this will happen.

Windows Mobile 7 has already been delayed. It was originally supposed to come out in 2009, but then the release date was pushed to 2010 because Microsoft was allegedly working on some big changes. If Microsoft delays Windows Mobile 7 again, users and manufacturers could become frustrated, if they aren’t already. Still, let’s not get ahead of ourselves – at this point, Microsoft has not confirmed any delay.

Via PC World.

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