Archive for the ‘Software and Operating Systems’ Category

Windows XP SP3 – time for an exorcism?

I am beginning to think that SP3 was Microsoft’s “killer” app for Windows XP so folks would get frustrated with XP and move to Vista … and at the same time, when they move to Vista, they wouldn’t have too high of expectations.

Looks to me like Microsoft has just proven that Apple definitely does it better! And Microsoft has no room to ever say a word about Linux, ever again!

Talk about a true dog of a Service Pack! Some folks may not be having problems, but some clients have been through h*ll this past week with their haunted XP SP3 systems after the September 2008 Windows Updates.

We had, obviously wrongly, thought we were out of the woods when we were able to get all the updates for the hardware and software in preparation for SP3 and then the SP3 update went very smoothly and worked well for about a month … until the September 2008 Windows Updates turned one client’s set of computers into possessed computers that would all of a sudden decide that their printers were no longer installed, or Outlook or Firefox or Quickbooks. Or just puke when Adobe Distiller tried to convert to PDF.

By last night they seemed to be working OK, but gawd knows what today will bring. I hope they are out of the woods, but there’s no way to be sure till they try to work with them today. I was beginning to think the computers needed an exorcist. And they still might. If so, I sure hope Microsoft made a safe reversal on SP3.

I can not believe they didn’t test these stupid updates better than this! We were so careful and waited at least a number of months before installing SP3 to make sure SP3 wasn’t creating problems after installation before we figured it was safe to install it.

I think like many, we just thought that once you finally were able to get the daggone thing installed Microsoft would do better than this on the updates. Knowing full well that many people depend on their computers for work!

I think this posting at blogcritics pretty much continues to sum up my feelings on it:

I’d like to extend a nice big F-U to Microsoft for releasing yet another product that’s screwing up my computer (pardon my French). Windows XP SP3 has been out for a few months and I haven’t heard about the world coming crashing down as a result, so I figured it might be safe to install. HA! I should have known the clowns in Redmond wouldn’t be able to get this right.

Well, Microsoft, you’ve managed to once again make people skiddish about installing security updates … Thanks for nothing Microsoft.

Well, it turns out it is Mozilla and Apple!

Turns out that the problem I was having regarding speaking text was both Apple And Mozilla.

I went into the Speech section of the System Preferences, and looked at the setting for the keystrokes for speaking text and set it to Control V. Now even though it doesn’t it ‘show’ Speak under Services, Speech, it does now work in Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird and SeaMonkey by highlighting and using the Control V key combo.

Very happy there was a work around for it. 😀 (At least for the Speak Text).

Still need to have Thunderbird be able to print individual Address Book cards; instead of only the complete Address Book. That only changed recently and I don’t like it one bit. Very annoying issue.

Firefox 3 Download Day 2008 Coming Soon!

Download Day 2008

The site link above says, “The official date for the launch of Firefox 3 is June 17, 2008. Join our community and this effort by pledging today.”

But it isn’t available just yet. So when is Download Day?

According to the FAQ, “Download Day will coincide with the general availability of Firefox 3. The clock will start ticking when Firefox 3 goes out the door! We don’t have a definitive date for Firefox 3 yet, but it should be in June.”

So keep an eye out! It could start at any moment!

Next Mac OS X — 10.6 — at WWDC 2008? another big cat? end of PPC?

Well, it makes sense that 10.6 will be announced soon especially with Steve Jobs’ comments to the New York Times regarding major Mac OS X, but at WWDC 2008? Hard to say.

There is also the naming question brought up at Mac360 as well …some say the only big cat left is Lion. But even a cursory look at wikipedia’s big cat page would indicate that Lion isn’t the only one unless you go with strict ‘big cat’ names. A more expansive list also includes things like Cougar, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard and Cheetah (or Puma) (which Apple has been used already and broke the ice for the more expansive Big Cat naming for Mac OS X).

My guess would be Cougar. I would think that would be the most logical choice. Wait to use Lion till they move to an all Intel based Macs and maybe proved their dominance might be a better choice of timing to use “The King” Lion.

And if the RoughlyDrafted magazine/blog article was correct in 2007 about their thoughts on Unraveling the PPC Myth (linked in their Leopard and the History and Future of Mac OS X on PPC article noted above), then it’s not likely going to be with 10.6.

I tend to be leaning toward RoughlyDrafted being right on that score, at least after reading over the history of Apple again in those two articles.

Also, Ars Technica last year also didn’t give any real hope that ZFS would be in 10.5 — maybe have to wait for 10.6, but I don’t think so. Too soon. I think they will wait for the next one, 10.7? or whatever that will be called. Might as well wait to do ZFS when it goes to all Intel Macs makes more sense. Make the major change then.

So, I would say Cougar makes more sense at this time. No Lion King here yet…no MAJOR change to the underpinning….yet.

And really, if the truth be known about Cougars — the Cougars are nothing to sneeze at! And with this description: “This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere,[3] extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America.”?? Doesn’t that sound like the desire of Apple with their next version of Mac OS X? To be the most broadly used Mac OS/computers?

Which also would indicate (to me) that they would not want to ditch PPC just yet either … like the RoughlyDrafted articles indicated.

I really think that Microsoft made that Mistake with Vista. And I really hope Apple will not make that same mistake. But who knows with the Entertainment Cartels whispering in their ears just like they did with Microsoft…

When the dust settles and if the Entertainment Cartels get their big Win (controlling when and where you can view content on every front from TV (HDTV, computers, etc.), and the Major OS makers have totally pissed off their real paying customers, we shall see what happens then. But I think we’ve already had about enough of that as evidenced by this ExtremeTech article entitled, “How the Hollywood Morons Can Beat the Pirates! (Thanks Adam for the link!!)

EDIT: Well, I guess I had a better opinion of Apple than I should have. Apparently, according to MacRumers, who was reporting on an article from Ars Technica, Apple has decided to turn PPC users away now after all. Oh, and it’s Snow Leopard, not Cougar. More like Nuclear Winter. Very unhappy Mac user here. What a crock!

Even seemingly reliable e-mail vulnerable

Even seemingly reliable e-mail vulnerable to [unethical] hackers

“The bad guys are trying billions of random combinations … and finding new ways to break in,” says Gartner tech security analyst John Pescatore.

Crooks use flaws uncovered by fuzzing to create tainted files disguised to fool targeted employees. Earlier this year, individuals at several corporations were targeted to receive e-mail carrying an attached Excel file corrupted via a previously unknown flaw. Clicking on the file opened a worksheet with data relevant to the targeted worker; it also gave the attacker a beachhead to probe deeper into the company’s network. “The victims never really knew,” says VeriSign iDefense researcher Matt Richard, who discovered the attack.

In another attack, crooks installed a tainted QuickTime video file at several porn websites crafted to steal data from eBay and PayPal accounts, according to security firm Intego.

“It’s not just Microsoft,” says Secunia Chief Technical Officer Thomas Kristensen. “Crooks now use many different ways to gain control of computers.”

This is nothing new to many of us, but the fact that USA Today has even posted this article shows how pervasive the problem really is. And how easily people within companies, corporate or home office/small/mid sized businesses are being affected, as well as home users.

Social Engineering is alive and well. And although Windows computers are mainly targeted, no operating system is entirely safe.

However, to limit the problem to simply saying that email is the problem would be a disservice to the public.

With thousands of ordinarily safe websites hacked by unethical hackers, people don’t even have to open a dangerous email to have their computers infected with malicious tools that steal passwords, install keyloggers or other malware in order to take over the computer or spew spam, or open backdoors to pretty much do whatever they want. All behind the scenes. Often going unnoticed unless the computer becomes inordinately slowed to the point that it interferes with what the legitimate user wants to do on their computer.

There is an old saying, curiosity killed the cat … for many today, curiosity killed security, thoroughly.

On the other hand, it is also wisely reported at ImformIT in the article entitled, “Crime, War, and B.S. in the Electronic Universe“,

Unlike Chicken Little (and plenty of people in the media), Michael Kemp doesn’t believe that the sky is falling and our electronic connections will soon evaporate under attack by terrorists, criminals, and [unethical] hackers. But he does warn of a more insidious threat: By pandering to these fears, industry professionals may drive themselves right out of business.

And later in the article,

The U.S. Patriot Act has become a stick with which to beat security researchers and invade personal privacy alike. Also in the U.S., the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been employed to criminalize even legitimate reverse-engineering (thanks to supposed copyright infringement), making a criminal out of Dmitry Sklyarov, and impeding research by cryptographers and security consultants alike. And what has the security industry done about these legal trends? Thus far, not a lot.

There are always AT LEAST two sides to a coin depending on which ‘dimension’ you refer to.

Overall, I think our best intelligence would dictate that we can not be naively clicking on anything that piques our fancy, or be too busy to think through before clicking or opening a file from email or on a website, or make sure that a file in an email truly is from the person we think it’s from, or assume that person has a virus-free computer, and making sure we virus check files with the latest virus definitions before opening them. Period.

We can’t assume, rightly or wrongly, that everything on a website is benign just because the organization is a good one. We have seen in the news that we can’t blindly trust every security site, bank site, sports site, news site, kid’s site, good cause site, etc.

Sometimes we seem to get caught by malware, when we were only doing what seemed reasonable — trusting a known good site.

We need a heads up on what search results appear to be safe and which ones do not appear safe or have some problems like good and bad downloads, or popups, or massive emails sent after visiting a particular site.

There are some really good security tools out there for many of the problems that we might come up against. They may not all be free, but they are available.

Fear is never a good thing. F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) is a big enemy to thinking individuals, communities and governments.

DirectX 10 Hardware Is Now Obsolete

A friend today was telling me about a situation with new video cards, DirectX 10, games like Bioshock that are really frustrating to Gamers.

The copyright holders/developers of Bioshock apparently have an activation revoke tool. And I am sure they are not the only ones!

Most gamers knew that they were waiting for the changes in Vista to make gaming work right in Vista, but I don’t think they expected this!

If you want proof of the abuses of copyright holders and software developers and how they are abusing their place in the world through Vista the Enabler, apparently Bioshock is one to take a peak at.

Say you have a gamer who buys the game. He currently has a GeForce 88xx PCIe video card on a Vista system. He runs Windows Update which in turn installs the new updates for DirectX 10…which apparently shuts off (for no apparent reason) the eye candy the card is fully capable of doing in the game, and had before the update.

Out of frustration, he buys the next version of video card that supports the new updates to DirectX 10 …. for $549!!!

Now he figures he can go back and play Bioshock and really get a great game going! But NO!!!! HE goes back to play Bioshock only to find his activation was revoked for a change in hardware!!!

So after the third time changing hardware, he now has run out of activation credits.

Now he has to purchase the game again.

Then I go to do some searches in Google to see if others are having this type of trouble, and low and behold Slashdot has this: DirectX 0 Hardware is now Obsolete.

DirectX 10 Hardware Is Now Obsolete
Posted by Zonk on Sat Aug 11, 2007 05:41 AM
from the shouldn’t-have-blinked dept.
Windows Graphics Hardware Games
ela_gervaise writes “SIGGRAPH 2007 was the stage where Microsoft dropped the bomb, informing gamers that the currently available DirectX 10 hardware will not support the upcoming DirectX 10.1 in Vista SP1. In essence, all current DX10 hardware is now obsolete. But don’t get too upset just yet: ‘Gamers shouldn’t fret too much – 10.1 adds virtually nothing that they will care about and, more to the point, adds almost nothing that developers are likely to care about. The spec revision basically makes a number of things that are optional in DX10 compulsory under the new standard – such as 32-bit floating point filtering, as opposed to the 16-bit current. 4xAA is a compulsory standard to support in 10.1, whereas graphics vendors can pick and choose their anti-aliasing support currently. We suspect that the spec is likely to be ill-received. Not only does it require brand new hardware, immediately creating a minuscule sub-set of DX10 owners, but it also requires

Lots of very interesting comments at Slashdot on this.

All those folks that said, you don’t know what you are talking about. That I can still do everything on Vista that I could on XP and Win2K … read it and weep.

I kept saying it is not now! It’s later. Vista is the Enabler. The copyright holders and developers will not want to ‘sqeeze’ too hard till they have a decent number of suckers, errrr, users on Vista before ‘squeezing.’

Of course this is really not the first time (see WGA and other DRM issues, etc), but somehow all the other times was some sort of fluke that quietly gets fixed, or oh, that’s just the way it is with Vista. But now things are starting to change for users, eh? How many users will be affected by this do you think?

What say ye, now?

By the way, thumbsup to ID Software and others who create their games for OpenGL so it can be ported easily to other OSes like Mac and Linux/UNIX. And not be hit by this Microsoft operating system centric DirectX lockin crap.

Thanks Charlie for the confirmation so I could go looking for examples of this!

Michael Dell finally gets it about preinstalled Trialware?

Michael Dell apparently said that preinstalled Trialware is costing the company a big hit in the support centers. Duh!

According to the article at ZDNet Blogs: Michael Dell: Anticrapware poster CEO? by Larry Dignan, states;

Dell CEO Michael Dell, speaking in New York City at its Vostro launch, sounded like a man almost ready to rid the world of trialware, which we call crapware. And there’s a good reason for that: Crapware costs Dell money on customer support.

OK, so it’s not exactly that Michael Dell gets it as to why most of us don’t want trialware/crapware on our computers that we buy from Dell, but he does realize it’s having an impact on their customers when an expired piece of ‘crapware’ no longer functions and your images don’t open any longer as they should, or your antivirus won’t update, or you start running out of hard drive space because a huge chunk of it is taken by trialware you never use!?!

Not to mention that much of it phones home, nags you, and some even leave pieces of itself running to monitor your use of their Trialware. And worst of all has taken over default actions for specific file types under the Windows operating system — such as image files. Sometimes those trialware programs take much longer to load a viewer than the standard Windows viewer for images as well…at least till the trial ends and you can’t open your images until you reset the settings for opening specific image file types. Which by the way, most brand new users would not know how to do. So the new users’ images appear to be held hostage by a program that wants their money before they can see their own images/photos again.

Oh, and then when they do a search online for problems opening file, they will likely be taken to another crapware program to install for another round. If they are lucky enough not to end up with some infected malware for their trouble to add insult to injury.

OK … so what you say?

And what about things like gaming centers that install WildTangent and a BUNCH of Internet Online games? Or the AOL or Earthlink or Broadband Offers? Some are just on the system and not installed but are installed the first time you mistakenly click on it.

While we are on the subject of games. Why did BeJeweled become a part of this crap?! And can you still get a copy of BeJeweled that doesn’t include Wild Tangent? Apparently not. Sad! What a great time waster that game was before they moved over to the dark side along with so many other game companies.

And don’t get me started on the monitors HP printers and other devices and image software programs that install Backweb or Backweb Lite. Or the Broadband providers who do the same thing.

The same can be said of so many providers of hardware device drivers/software disk bundled packages for printers, scanners, CDs, sound cards and more. Do they really need to install software to monitor users? Apparently many do. All you have to do is have a firewall that watches for outbound traffic and you’d know that.

Why do these companies think that you want all this CRAPWARE clogging up your brand new PC?

People’s computers are there own. Like any other piece of hardware devices they buy. Companies do not need to be spying on them for any reason. They do not need information on your computer, how many times you played the game.

The surveillance societies — that collectively these types of companies, as well as governments and music and movie companies are trying to create — are not healthy for a human population. As anyone who understands the human mind would tell them. But they don’t ask and don’t care.

Nor do TiVo users, satellite dish receiver owners, and more need to have their remote clicks reported to the mother ship.

But I digress…

Generally speaking, the only people that ‘think’ they want this crap are the brand new computer users who don’t know any better.

And why do the OEMs and other companies do this?

Because it makes them money! And until the CEOs at companies/corporations, like Dell, find that this becomes a customer service center hit for them, they will likely keep doing it.

Because it makes them money they traditionally haven’t listened to their customer base on this. But now it’s affecting them in the pocketbook .. they need larger call centers, or more customer service reps .. it’s costing them money.

The biggest problem is, that even having that crapware on your computer adds registry entries and files you don’t know about or where they are (some in system type folders), that may or may never be removed properly due to poorly done installers/uninstallers. Some make hooks into your operating system itself and are difficult to remove fully.

Nothing like that should ever be installed unless the computer owner specifically wants it on their computer .. and I can’t imagine why anyone would opt-in to have hundreds/thousands of megs of crapware/trialware/crippleware software on their computers that they may not want or need.

If these companies feel the need to make a little money for it to help offset the ‘great’ pricing of the computers, then provide a CD with the shareware/trialware/crippleware on it. Let the people decide whether they want to install them.

AND MOST IMPORTANT, MAKE SURE that the CD notes that these are NOT necessarily paid for full versions – they are to try the program out – that these trial versions may include the ability to phone home, send data over the Internet, track your usage even if anonymously, that they may take over file associations, be difficult to remove, etc., etc.

Let the user decide whether they want that crap on their computers!

What say ye? 😉

Interoperability between OSes

Redhat is trying their level best to talk to Microsoft about interoperability.

Microsoft refuses to meet Redhat there. In eWeek‘s article “Red Hat to MS: Let’s Talk Interoperability,” Microsoft’s Muglia and Redhat’s Cormier have gone back and forth here.

From what I can see, Redhat wants to get interoperability going in a format similar to other hardware and driver standards. Microsoft doesn’t wish to do that at all. They already have a couple feathers in their hat and now it seems as though they think it should be their way or the highway.

For Muglia and Microsoft, it is not that simple. While it is one thing to talk about how open-source technologies could interoperate with Microsoft software, “you have to complete the picture,” he said, adding that Microsoft already supports Red Hat software in its current Virtual Server product.

While Muglia acknowledged that interoperability work could take place without tacking on the IP issue, he is reluctant to do so.

So, thanks again Novell/SuSE and Linspire for nothing. If you all had worked together with each other, to keep the discussion where it should have been, instead of listening to those other voices…interoperability would already be here….you heard it! It would already be here.

As Muglia said, they were reluctant to discuss interoperability without patents coming into play. He acknowledged that interoperability work COULD BE DONE WITHOUT TACKING ON THE IP ISSUE.

Of course it could! And it would have been done by now, if proprietary companies cared even the least little bit for, or respected their customer’s choices! They do not.

It’s never been about ability, it’s always been about proprietary company’s lack of desire to do so.


Trouble in Vista Paradise … paint me surprised

Well, looks like there is trouble in Vista Paradise….paint me surprised.

The WGA nightmare continues with oddball issues with validation even when legitimate programs are install such as the 9Dragon game. I was almost afraid to think about installing software that itself requires validation and how many ways this can go wrong. Especially if like in Ed Bott’s article today, the software apparently makes some system level things that Vista didn’t like….badly! As noted by Ed, some of the blame is with Acclaim, but certainly not all of it. Some of the blame rests rightfully on the operating system vendor, Microsoft. Ed’s picture of the install that ‘appeared’ to go normally with the game.

And it’s not the first time a validation ‘glitch’ (must read for any Vista user or those wishing to upgrade) has happened with Vista (or even XP for that matter). And this certainly is not the first time this was brought by Ed and many others including yours truly and this was months ago. In this article by Ed, he states,

As it turns out, that was just the tip of the iceberg. A quick scan of Microsoft’s Windows Vista Validation Issues forum turns up many similar examples, with users who paid for a retail key being told that their copy is “no longer genuine” and that the key is in use.

And this,

The offenders included PC Tools Spyware Doctor (updating to the most recent version fixes the issue), Trend Micro Internet Security and PC-Cillin Anti-Virus (the issue goes away if you install version 14.56 or later), and nProtect GameGuard.

NOTE: nProtect GameGuard is used in the 9Dragon game noted earlier.

Much more information in Ed Bott’s article. This problem isn’t going away any time soon so those using Vista or thinking of upgrading to Vista, need to be aware of it.

So what are technical newbies getting their first computers, or inexperienced users who maybe for the first time run into this supposed to do about this? How do they get it fixed? How much time do you have to fix it before ‘reduced functionality mode’ kicks in and options are limited drastically?

All that and more are discussed in Ed Bott’s articles listed above, Dwight Silverman’s article, Adrian Kingsley’s article and gallaries (1, 2) and the Microsoft Vista Validation Issues forum.

And what if your kids are using the computer and you are not when this happens? Will they know what to do? Will they realize the ramifications of waiting to tell Mom and Dad about it?

This type of shift in policy, difficulty in fixing problems, and DRM enabling will definitely make me wait for the next version of Windows … as long as they don’t continue this crap in that version. Especially with Steve Ballmer already talking of ‘stepping up anti-piracy measures‘ which can only be bad news for all XP and Vista users!

And things like this from another article by Adrian Kingsley:

Contained in the article is Microsoft’s justification for banning the least expensive versions of Vista (Home Basic which retails for $199 and Home Premium which goes for $239) from being virtualized.

Lately Intel and rival chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. have built virtualization-friendly hooks directly into microprocessors. The goal was to make virtualization work better, but Woodgate [Scott Woodgate, a director in Microsoft’s Vista team] argues that the move created a security flaw — essentially that malicious programs can run undetected alongside an operating system.

Woodgate said Microsoft considered banning virtualizing all versions of Vista entirely. But ultimately, he said, his team decided that the most technically savvy users, or people in companies with tech support, probably could handle Vista in virtualization programs, while home users should be steered away. [emphasis added]


Why the iPhone will change the (PC) world

Why the iPhone will change the (PC) world – article by Mike Elgan (Mike’s List/The Raw Feed) posted on ComputerWorld.

Imagine an iPhone the size of a big-screen TV. That’s the PC of the future.

I really enjoyed reading Mike’s piece on the iPhone and what it might or hopefully will mean to the (PC) World. Thanks to Mike’s List for including it so I didn’t have to wait to see it elsewhere!

Hope you do too. It talks about the big items that changed how things are done by Apple in the past (putting together great technologies and perfecting them) into something that everyone could get their mind around such as the original Apple computer, The Mac, the iPod, and now the iPhone…hopefully.

Steve Jobs did an amazing job at MacWorld promoting the up and coming iPhone, which lit everyone up over the hope of this very cool new product, even if they didn’t want Cingular, or couldn’t afford the iPhone….like me! LOL!

But Apple certainly has had a few big products that changed the way everyone’s way of doing things, even if they don’t use Macs. Not many companies can say that, especially more than once in their company’s life.

Mike talks about the new iPhone UI (user interface) and how this could well be the next new full sized computer interface.

As Mike so elequently states on page 2, “I don’t know about you, but I think 23 years is a long time to wait. I’m fed up and ready for the next radical leap forward in UI technology. You will, too, once you’ve seen the video I link to at the end of this column.” and this, “Tomorrow’s third-generation PC UI has already been invented. All the research is done. In fact, some elements have been independently developed by dozens of geniuses at multiple research centers, each taking a slightly different approach, but all embracing more than one of the major five elements of tomorrow’s UI.”

Like I was saying in my previous piece on the iPhone (basically my article on talking myself out of wanting one and pretty much getting past it since I didn’t particularly want to be locked into a multi-year contract with Cingular and I really can’t afford an iPhone), there is something really special about the iPhone. There was something so special about it that I really wanted one badly the minute I saw it! I think many of us saw that this was the next generation of computer technology and we all wanted to be a part of the first of this new technologies’ uses….at least I did.

Oh, well. Life goes on.

Mike talks about five components of future computers: Multi-Touch, Gestures, Physics, 3-D, Minimization of icons. Mike goes on to say after discussing these items;

Does all this sound familiar? These are the five core elements of the iPhone user interface. And they do not exist together in any other major product.

Mike did a fantastic job on this 4 page article … well worth reading!

The only thing I could have hoped for more from Mike’s article was a reference to Linux and 3-D rendering. Since really Linux (according to a article submission 331 days ago 😉 )had the capability through an add on to the GUI for 3-D first (at least the kind that Vista and Mac OS X will have in it’s next release coming soon).

But the beauty in 3-D was what Mike was really going for here, objects that you can ‘get your mind around’ and your fingers around, are the really cool part of 3-D that hasn’t arrived in operating systems yet, but the pieces to make it happen have been created already! Better than the 3-D in the original Jurassic Park which seems lame by comparison to the description Mike gives. I will have to view the videos on the broadband to see it in action!

I like the future, I’m in it! (thanks to the forward thinking/prophetic Firesign Theatre for that line 😉 )

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