Here are some news items, tips, and tweaks for Windows Vista.
Windows Vista services that can be disabled One of the most effective ways to secure a Windows Vista workstation is to turn off the unnecessary services. This reference sheet lists all of the Windows Vista services, describes each one’s function, says whether you can safely disable it, and outlines what will happen if you do. The list assumes the machine is running Windows Vista Ultimate (some of the services that are listed won’t be available in other versions of Vista) in a corporate network environment and that the company is not using smart cards.
100 things you should know about Microsoft Office 2007 Don’t have time to sit down and read an exhaustive description of Office 2007′s most significant new features? Take a spin through this collection of “10 things” lists, which provide a concise and targeted view of the biggest changes, surprises, and enhancements in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access.
Shopping for Windows Vista software and drivers We’re just now approaching the five-month mark since Windows Vista was officially released. So it’s at this point that you would expect to find an abundance of software and device drivers on the market that are specifically designed for Windows Vista. Here’s a guide to finding some of those products. A great site to check for Windows Vista drivers is RadarSync.
10 key enhancements in Excel 2007 Given the learning hurdle that comes with an entirely revamped (albeit improved) user interface, Excel 2007 must offer significant enhancements to encourage you to upgrade. Herewith, my top 10. You can download all ten as a PDF here.
Here are the latest news items concerning Windows Vista from Google.
Here are the latest news items about Office 2007 from Google.
Couple of interesting security related stories I wanted to touch on. Google has been picking up the pace recently in being proactive about removing and blocking malicious websites from their search engine, recently they posted a study by them and Provos that said over 450,000 web pages are launching drive-by downloads of malware and another 700,000 web pages that launch downloads of suspicious software. Lots of news articles followed saying that Google said 1 in 10 websites are potentially malicious, lots of them, I thought they were misreading it, but I wasn’t for sure until today when Google launched a security blog saying it was being misreported.
Unfortunately, the scope of the problem has recently been somewhat misreported to suggest that one in 10 websites are potentially malicious. To clarify, a sample-based analysis puts the fraction of malicious pages at roughly 0.1%. The analysis described in our paper covers billions of URLs. Using targeted feature extraction and classification, we select a subset of URLs believed to be suspicious for in-depth investigation. So far, we have investigated about 12 million suspicious URLs and found about 1 million that engage in drive-by downloads. In most cases, the web sites that infect your system with malware are not intentionally doing so and are often unaware that their web servers have been compromised. Source: Introducing Google’s online security efforts
Here is a map of the globe highlighting the worst countries for drive-by downloads, of course most of the sites are in China, Russia, the US and Germany, they are highlighted in red. Orange means medium activity, yellow means low activity and green means no activity.
Should be an interesting read, hope they really keep us up to date, and don’t just use it to react to stuff. Microsoft has released Microsoft Security Advisory (937696), Release of Microsoft Office Isolated Conversion Environment (MOICE) and File Block Functionality for Microsoft Office. Both features are designed to make it easier for customers to protect themselves from Office files that may contain malicious software, such as unsolicited Office files received from unknown or known sources. MOICE makes it easier by providing new security mitigation technologies designed to convert specific Microsoft Office files types, while File Block provides a mechanism that can control and block the opening of specific Microsoft Office file types. The Zero day blog says,
The tool, called MOICE (Microsoft Office Isolated Conversion Environment), can be used in tandem with Group Policy settings to convert documents in legacy (.doc) formats to OpenXML formats, stripping out potentially harmful elements that could pose a potential security risk.
The conversion process takes place in a safe, quarantined sandbox environment, so the user?s computer is fully protected. (See previous blog entry on the MOICE plans). Source: Microsoft releases Office exploit isolation tool
And in a related post, Zero Day describes the latest Monthly Intelligence Report from Messagelabs and says there is a surge in targeted malware against a known Word vulnerability and is suggesting an exploit generator kit may be circulating online.
These attacks increased dramatically since March 2007 from four attacks going to four single recipients to 66 attacks going to 273 recipients in April.
?On first sight, it appears that more than one hacker ring is using this Microsoft Word exploit, and so an exploit generator kit might exist, although this has not yet been found,? said Alex Shipp, senior anti-virus technologist at MessageLabs.
The report said a Taiwanese crime ring called ?Task Briefing? continued its use of Microsoft Office exploits during April, launching spear-phishing attacks with PowerPoint documents embedded in e-mails.
The ring made six attacks this month, sending 61 emails accounting for 10 percent of all targeted e-mails in April, the longest of which lasted 45 hours. In March, the same gang sent 151 emails accounting for more than 20 percent of targeted attacks.
During April 2007, MessageLabs said it intercepted 595 e-mails in 249 separate targeted attacks aimed at 192 different organizations. Of these, 180 were one-on-one targeted attacks aimed at a specific organization. Source: MS Word exploit generator circulating?
The security landscape sure is changing, and if you think you aren’t vulnerable as a person or an agency, your are severely mistaken. The report is available here.
If you have read any of Paul Thurrot’s reviews on any of his sites, you know they are usually detailed, in-depth reviews, and the Office 2007 Review is no exception, as a matter of fact this is part 2 and part 3 will be coming sometime in the future. The short of it, he says upgrade, it is well worth, if you are already a power user, you may have to relearn a few things, but it is worth it, and if you aren’t a power user, the upgrades Microsoft has made will put you well on your way.
Some of the most popular Office 2007 applications–Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and, to a lesser degree, Outlook–have been updated with the new Ribbon user interface (in Outlook, only sub-windows like Mail Message have been updated). These applications have a pleasant graphical sheen of newness about them, but the improvements are not just skin deep. Unfortunately, these new Ribbon-based applications also make the non-updated applications–and, actually, Outlook–look sad by comparison. Once you’ve used the Ribbon, going back to a menus and toolbars-based UI is actually pretty painful. Hopefully, the rest of the Office suite will be updated to the new UI in a future update.
As a writer, Web developer, and heavy email user, I’ve always looked forward to the evolutionary improvements in each new Office release. With Office 2007, the improvements, for the first time ever, are revolutionary and will impact all users. The new Ribbon-based user interface is the key improvement, and will make the power previously hidden inside Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint more readily available and accessible, thus turning a generation of casual Office users into power users. For this reason alone, I strongly recommend that new and casual Office users consider upgrading as soon as possible. The Ribbon is an absolute win for all users, however: Though today’s power users will have a bit of relearning to do, the results will be worth it. If you thought you knew any of these applications inside and out, think again: You’ll be surprised to discover new and interesting functionality yourself. Source: Microsoft Office 2007 Review Part 2: What’s New?
Here is a screenshot, it looks great, I can’t wait to get a copy of it.
Microsoft announced today that they will be adding three new ways to for customers who want to buy, upgrade or license multiple copies of Windows Vista. Windows Anytime upgrade will allow them upgrade their copy of Vista, anytime and anywhere by simply clicking on the option in the start menu, pick the edition you want, and pay for it, of course, you get your key and follow the instructions. Some downloading will definitely have to happen, so probably shouldn’t try it on dialup.
They will make Windows Vista and Office 2007 available for purchase and download in the Windows Marketplace, and here is the kicker, you will be able to get a Family discount when purchasing for multiple pc’s, in fact, it will only be $49.99 for each additional copy. It says on the website that you will have to enter one valid full or upgrade Windows Vista Ultimate key from their retail boxed product, so it looks like you will have to purchase a couple and then get the discount. They linked to a site for more info, but it redirects to the Windows Vista page without any info on the Family discount.
Microsoft Corp. today detailed three new methods for customers looking to buy, upgrade or license multiple copies of Windows Vista, the new operating system that will be available worldwide on Jan. 30. Windows Anytime Upgrade, Windows Vista Family Discount and Windows Marketplace will provide customers with greater flexibility in obtaining the new operating system and will ensure they have the edition of Windows Vista that matches their needs.
?With the consumer launch of Windows Vista so close, we?re excited to announce three new ways to make the purchase and upgrade experience easier than ever,? said Brad Brooks, general manager of Windows Client Marketing at Microsoft. ?These new programs give our customers more flexibility and choice to ensure they get the edition that?s right for them.? Source: Microsoft Unveils New Ways for Consumers to Get Windows Vista
The Windows Vista Team blog has more info, it says that they created the family discount because people complained that it was to inconvenient to upgrade every node on their network. And it looks like you will have to order one copy of Windows Vista Ultimate for every two copies Windows Vista Home Premium you want, unless I am misreading it.
On the Family discount:
Buy a retail copy of Windows Vista Ultimate (full or upgrade version)
Between 30 January ? 30 June, order up to two copies of Windows Vista Home Premium online
Pay only $49.99 for each copy of Windows Vista Home Premium
Valid in North America (US and Canada)
And on the Anytime Upgrade:
Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP) to upgrade from a more basic version of Windows Vista are:
Home Basic –> Home Premium: $79
Home Basic –> Ultimate: $199
Home Premium –> Ultimate: $159
Business –> Ultimate: $139
Source: Multiple announcements today
The Wall Street Journal had a review of Windows Vista today, he said it was the best version of Windows ever, but said it was largely unexciting because you pretty much use it the same as you do Windows XP.
After months of testing Vista on multiple computers, new and old, I believe it is the best version of Windows that Microsoft has produced. However, while navigation has been improved, Vista isn’t a breakthrough in ease of use. Overall, it works pretty much the same way as Windows XP. Windows hasn’t been given nearly as radical an overhaul as Microsoft just applied to its other big product, Office.
There are some big downsides to this new version of Windows. To get the full benefits of Vista, especially the new look and user interface, which is called Aero, you will need a hefty new computer, or a hefty one that you purchased fairly recently. The vast majority of existing Windows PCs won’t be able to use all of Vista’s features without major hardware upgrades. They will be able to run only a stripped-down version, and even then may run very slowly. Source: Vista: Worthy, Largely Unexciting XP Successor Doesn’t Break New Ground on Ease of Use, But It’s Best Windows Yet.
He has posted a video review here.
Microsoft released a security advisory today, Microsoft Security Advisory (929433), a user who opens a malicious document are the only ones who are affected, the preview pane does not trigger this attack.
An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the local user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less affected than users who operate with administrative user rights.
In a Web-based attack scenario, an attacker would have to host a Web site that contains a Word file that is used to attempt to exploit this vulnerability. In addition, compromised Web sites and Web sites that accept or host user-provided content could contain specially crafted content that could exploit this vulnerability. An attacker would have no way to force users to visit a malicious Web site. Instead, an attacker would have to persuade them to visit the Web site, typically by getting them to click a link that takes them to the attacker’s site.
The vulnerability cannot be exploited automatically through e-mail. For an attack to be successful a user must open an attachment that is sent in an e-mail message.
Users who have installed and are using the Office Document Open Confirmation Tool for Office 2000 will be prompted with Open, Save, or Cancel before opening a document. Source: Microsoft
The workaround? Don’t open any untrusted documents. No word from Microsoft yet on whether the patch will be included in next weeks patch Tuesday.
I was just looking to try to get my free copy of Windows Vista again, and, guess what? There are no more free gifts available. I knew I should’ve kept trying dag nabbit, if anyone from Microsoft is reading this, you can still send me a copy for evaluation and a review. Otherwise. ;P
We’re sorry, there are no more gifts available. There are still plenty of things to explore and to learn about Windows Vista. Enter now to learn more! Source: www.powertogether.com
This only means something if you are a volume customer with Microsoft, if you buy licenses in bulk, you can start to get Windows Vista today. For the rest of us, January 30th 2007 is the date. May as well be the date for businesses too I would say, Windows XP has been the best operating system to ever come from Microsoft and few, if any will adopt it in bulk, but there will probably be some testers, like the IT guys who will want a copy to play with and get used to before they have to start supporting it, or maybe some of the upper level guys who want to test stuff before deploying, but for the most part, I would say most businesses will upgrade when they replace their pc’s. At least, that is how I would do it, small groups to start, hopefully some of your more “techie” employees.
Microsoft and computer vendors contend that Vista will make Windows machines more secure, powerful and graphically dynamic, especially when combined with other products Microsoft is releasing simultaneously. Those include new back-end server software for businesses, as well as Office 2007, which brings sweeping changes to widely used programs such as Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint.
But even with all the touted improvements, analysts expect Vista to only gradually emerge, especially in big organizations where upgrading can be a costly, complicated affair. Gartner Dataquest predicts that it will be 2010 before Vista outnumbers the previous operating system, Windows XP, on business computers. Source: AP on Yahoo
In the article, Lenovo says Vista will help their data backup tools, and the article sites the availability of many open source replacements for Vista and Office, but I don’t think any of those tools are ready to put much of a dent among anyone other than highly technical users. A USAToday article on Yahoo says,
The dual launch of Windows Vista and Office is among the most significant by Microsoft in years. The Windows and Office product lines are the software maker’s most profitable, accounting for about half of its $10.8 billion in first-quarter revenue. But neither has had a major upgrade in years. For Microsoft to maintain its cash cows, it is imperative that it persuade a large swath of the hundreds of millions of current Windows and Office users worldwide to shift to the new versions, software analysts say.
“For a fat man, Vista is pretty light on its feet,” says Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, a market research firm that tested Vista. “Even though it is larger and more powerful than XP, it runs better.”
“Most consumers follow the same path: They buy computers when old ones break, when prices come down, or when a lifestyle event triggers the purchase,” Schadler says. Source: USAToday on Yahoo
That’s a good quote, and while Vista may be a lot better than XP, the old saying, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it comes to mind. Microsoft still predicts that this OS will be adapted faster than any other they have had and they expect to sell 2 million copies in the first two years. But, like we’ve said, XP is it’s biggest block to upgrading. Maybe Microsoft should make an interim version of Vista that sucks, like ME did, so it will be easier to get users to upgrade from, hehe, talk about reversal of what you are doing. Who would’ve thought that making better software would make it harder to sell your new stuff.
According to PCWorld, Japan is high on upgrading and may be some of the earliest adopters,
Microsoft Japan has 57 companies that have said they’ll roll out at least one of the three products. The list includes Sharp, Sanyo Electric, McDonalds Holdings Company (Japan), Nikon, Chubu Electric Power, computer game maker Capcom, and trading company Itochu.
Interest from potential users in Japan has been high, according to Huston. Of 5 million downloads and 1 billion user sessions conducted as part of the beta testing for Windows Vista, about 20 percent have been by users in Japan. The country accounts for about 10 percent of the global IT market.
Speaking in Tokyo, Jay Jamison, leader of Microsoft’s Windows business group in Japan, said, “We are hopeful and optimistic that in Japan Windows Vista will be the most successful business OS release of Windows ever.” Source: PCWorld on Yahoo
Later on today, Microsoft will be holding launch events in Munich, London, Paris, Toronto, and New York, to name a few. Hope I can get my free copy of Windows Vista ordered today.
Microsoft has released a press release on their detailing when and how you can watch replays of the webcast of the news conference. News conference at NASDAQ also marks Microsoft?s 20th year as a publicly traded company.
What: Microsoft Corp. will host a news conference and live webcast to announce the availability of the Windows Vista operating system, the 2007 Microsoft? Office system and Exchange Server 2007 for business customers with volume license agreements. Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer will celebrate this historic product launch, which coincides with Microsoft?s 20th year as a publicly traded company, by ringing the bell to open the NASDAQ market.
Who: Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, Chris Liddell, CFO of Microsoft, and executives from Microsoft customer and industry partner companies
Where: NASDAQ MarketSite event at Times Square in New York, 43rd St. and Broadway; a live webcast of the news conference will be available. Source: Microsoft CEO to Kick Off Launch of New Windows, Office, Exchange Products
According to a post on the Windows Vista Team Blog, they have created a virtual launch site, MSnewday, this site has links to the launch keynote, videos of the Microsoft executives, a Partner Showcase illustrating how other companies are preparing for deployment, live footage from the event being held at NASDAQ in NYC, and a forum for discussing business value. Check it out.
This sure sounds too good to be true, but it looks like Microsoft is giving everyone a chance to get a free copy of Windows Vista Business(Ultimate) and Office 2007 Professional. All you have to do is register at the website, www.powertogether.com and participate in three (3) qualifying web casts and/or virtual lab sessions within 30 days to get Windows Vista and the to get a copy of Office 2007.
It says on the website “Windows Vista and Office are great on their own, but with each other, it’s the power of together. Learn how to tap their power.” So, I guess that explains the website name, hopefully the web casts will be something good and useful. Some users have reported they think this is to good to be a Microsoft site and that is probably a phishing site, since it’s not registered to Microsoft, but it looks like it using their name servers, and you do have to login to Microsoft Live. I’m going to login and see what happens.
Added: A post at Channel 9 confirms it, here.
Added: I have officially given up trying for today, I may try later tonight, but I’m getting tired of seing “Sorry, a System Error Occurred”. It says at the bottom of the page, This site hosted for Microsoft by Ascentium, well, I guess they can’t handle being dugg and a bunch of people trying to sign up, I just hope Microsoft rethinks how they do this the next time.
Added: Looks like the posters over at Neowin.net are having trouble too.
When originally asked if they were going to use Office Genuine Advantage to cripple users pc’s, like they are doing with Vista, Microsoft declined to comment. Well, the cat is out, and they are indeed going to force the reduced functionality on users who are suspected of running pirated software. I say suspected because they have had many, many problems and issues with Windows Genuine Advantage, as I originally noted here.
A knowledge base article, released on the 14th of November, Frequently asked questions about the Office Activation Wizard and about reduced-functionality mode in 2007 Office programs addresses this and reveals that they are indeed using reduced functionality mode. For perpetual license products, you can skip product activation 25 times. If you do not activate the product in the allocated number of program starts, the 2007 Office programs start to run in reduced-functionality mode, for Product Trial Program license products they start off running in reduced functionality mode.
When asked last month whether Microsoft was planning to punish alleged Office 2007 pirates by crippling the functionality of their software in the same way that Microsoft is doing with Vista via reduced-functionality mode, Microsoft officials were noncommittal.
But now Microsoft’s intentions are clear: Just as it is doing with Vista, Microsoft plans to incorporate what basically amounts to a “kill switch” into Office 2007. Office 2007 users who can?t or won?t pass activation muster within a set time period will be moved into “reduced-functionality mode,” according to Microsoft’s Knowledge Base article.
“When a program runs in reduced-functionality mode, many commands are unavailable (dimmed). Therefore, you cannot access those functionalities,” the article explains. Some of the limitations of reduced-functionality mode include the following:
- You cannot create new documents.
- You can view existing documents. However, you cannot edit them.
- You can print documents. However you cannot save them.”
There is already a crapload of comments on that blog post, so I assume the Microsoft haters have jumped in and the fun has commenced, but I don’t know that for sure, there could actually be some good comments there. I wonder if the reason they waited until to announce was because of all of the trouble Windows Genuine Advantage has caused?
Microsoft has made it official, Office 2007 is gold and is released to manufacturing.
Microsoft Corp. today announced the completion of the 2007 Microsoft Office system code and confirmed its release to manufacturing (RTM). This gold code milestone concludes the largest Microsoft Office beta program to date, with more than 3.5 million people downloading Beta 2. The unprecedented quantity of feedback from beta testers and customers helped the Office development team effectively validate product quality and optimize performance. Microsoft Office RTM also marks a critical step toward worldwide business availability of the 2007 Office system, Windows Vista? operating system and Exchange Server 2007 on Nov. 30, 2006. To underscore the significance of this new day for business, Microsoft executives will participate in events around the globe, including an event with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in New York. General availability of the products will follow in early 2007.
?We?ve crossed the development finish line, and the team deserves to celebrate,? said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division. ?The 2007 Microsoft Office system RTM completes the most significant improvements to the products in more than a decade. It?s rewarding to be able to send this release off to our customers and help them take the next big leap forward in productivity.? Source: Microsoft
I haven’t checked it in awhile, but it looks like the Office website has been updated as well.
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