Monthly Archives: July 2010

Windows 7 Year in Review

It seems like just yesterday Windows 7 was released to manufacturing. Time flies indeed! I remember my first experience with Windows 7 which was the developer preview build 6801 released at the Microsoft Public Developer Conference in October 2008. Of course, it was still early in the development phase and you didn’t see a lot of the key features we now enjoy in Windows 7. Functionality like the increased performance, enhanced Taskbar, desktop effects, new ways of sharing and enjoying media through HomeGroup networking and a more secure experience that’s positive and informative. Windows 7 is no doubt an exceptional release and will define the PC going forward. A lot has happened since it was made generally available in late October 2009. Its now deployed on over 175 million systems world wide, its driving the growth of 64 bit computing with 46% of PC’s running the 64 bit variant.

Microsoft has continued to light up the Windows 7 experience with value added services such as Windows Live, which consist of Windows Live Essentials and online services such as Live Photos, Live Hotmail and more. The Windows Live Team recently released a preview of the next version of Windows Live Essentials which promises to take even greater advantage of Windows 7.

So what has it been like for me since I upgraded to this release of Windows?

I have been running Windows 7 code since 2008, I upgraded to BETA in January 2009 and then the Release Candidate in May of 2009, I ran these pre-release versions of the OS every day on my systems. Windows 7 during its development was a different type of beta testing, it was more mainstream than past releases. Some would say this was because it was more of a iteration of Windows Vista, but I have to disagree. Windows Vista was architecturally important, and Windows 7 is too, but the difference I am realizing with Windows 7 is the teamwork that took place throughout the industry. Everybody seem to be on the same page from day one. Microsoft’s Hardware and Software partners were more committed and intended to really shape their products and services around this release compared to past releases. Other than the industry support though, I was most excited by the focus on further innovating the user experience, the interaction between user and PC.

User Interface

Windows 7’s new Taskbar is out the gate impressive, I don’t see anything like it on any other other operating system. Taskbar effects such as Thumbnail previews are delightfully implemented with the ability to hover them and see large size previews, you can quickly close them and efficiently navigate the user interface more effectively and intuitively. You can also move around open window buttons on the Taskbar which is a feature users have requested for many years. Also, I like how its so much is easier to control the Notification Area behaviors, you can also quickly access your Network Locations, using the new View Available Networks menu in the notification area. Jump List is another plus of using the Windows 7 Taskbar and Start Menu, the immediate benefits there is the cohesiveness of how the Windows 7 user experience works.

Search results are contextual, HomeGroups makes it easier to find and share information, not to mention the simplicity it ads to task such as networking, you can stream media such as music, videos across your network or leave your PC on and stream the media to your PC at work, so you can always have access to your media library, anywhere.

Lets not forget about the productive features like Aero Peek for quickly viewing the desktop, Aero Snaps for data comparison (this is especially great when you are referencing information, Aero shake to quickly minimize windows in the background. Windows 7 is such a pleasant experience, and it gives you so much control while being simple to use. You are also able to resize gadgets, you have a wide collection of beautiful themes and you can create your own slideshow themes or choose from a wide collection or pre-packaged themes on the Microsoft Personalize Gallery.


Security is always important and its never been more important than now. Windows has a strong market penetration world wide and Microsoft realizes that its a target of many malicious attacks. I have been running Windows on the same desktop since March 2004, upgraded from Windows XP to Windows Vista and now Windows 7. I must say, there is partly a lot of FUD coming from the Open Source community about Windows. I have never had a compromised system running Windows. Yes I do take precautions which every user should do regardless of their OS platform of choice. Windows really has a strong suite of security tools built in, mostly transparent and automated for the end user. The most controversial one that was introduced in Windows Vista that I can safely say is not the case anymore is User Account Control. Microsoft had good intentions when this was introduced in Windows Vista, but the implementation was a bit too aggressive and not intuitive with how it works. In Windows 7, I rarely encounter the UAC prompt over the past year, yes the occasional apps might bring it up during install (Apple iTunes/Adobe Acrobat). Apart from that its been smooth sailing, another lovely improvement, you can customize the UAC experience too, the only option you had in Windows Vista was on or off.

There are a number of improvements throughout Windows 7 where security is concerned, again features such as UAC, Address Space Layout Randomization, Data Execution Prevention are all there along with some new additions such as Stack Protection, Heap Protection and Structured Exception Handler Overwrite. Safe Unlinking prevents pool over-run attacks, which is a common exploit technique that happens when memory (on the heap) is dynamically allocated by the application at run-time and typically contains program data. The exploitation occurs by corrupting the data in a certain way causing an application to overwrite internal structures such as linked list pointers. Safe Unlinking prevents this by performing a Bug Check as an over-run is detected, which will prevent further memory corruption, crashes and errors.

Although BitLocker is still limited to the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows 7, once BitLocker to Go is enabled the device can still be used on any edition of Windows 7 in addition to Windows XP. BitLocker is also easier to install and configure, simply right-click a drive in Computer Explorer and click the ‘Turn on BitLocker’ option on the contextual menu. I noticed though that large devices 2 GBs or more can take a long time to encrypt, so I suggest you don’t do it on a whim. Other improvements include no need for manual portioning or use of third party tools. Windows 7 also creates a hidden partition for BitLocker instead of a new one like Vista.

AutoPlay will no longer support the AutoRun functionality for non-optical removable media. In other words, AutoPlay will still work for CD/DVDs but it will no longer work for USB drives. For example, if an infected USB drive is inserted on a machine then the AutoRun task will not be displayed. This will block the increasing social engineer threat highlighted in the SIR. The dialogs below highlight the difference that users will see after this change. Before the change, the malware is leveraging AutoRun (box in red) to confuse the user. After the change, AutoRun will no longer work, so the AutoPlay options are safe.

You also get full system imaging capability in all editions of Windows 7, so you backup the entire PC to an external hard disk and restore it when needed, (Vista Home Premium, Home Basic and Starter only has backup and restore).


Only one application I have is not working and that’s Mobile Phone Tools, I need to upgrade to a better phone to use latest version 5x release which works on Windows 7. My Motorola C350 is old anyway, had it since 2000, but I have been able to work around it by using the free Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate.

Windows XP Mode is probably the solution a lot of users have been looking for, the seamless experience it provides users running legacy applications along side Windows 7 makes the compatibility story a better one. There is a minor level of complexity involved and at the same time I am disappointed to know this is only an option for certain Windows 7 SKU’s. Since its introduction, Microsoft has removed an initial requirement that the CPU supports hardware assisted virtualization, although it is still recommended, the removal should make it easier for end users who have complex compatibility requirements to embrace it.  Users must also remember that they are running another computer, which requires maintenance just as the physical machine, which includes installing an Antivirus and keeping it up to date along with keeping the OS updated too. I wish the coherence could be a bit more detailed where UI is concerned, such as making the windows of Virtual Applications adapt the Aero Glass window frames, just to match the look and feel of Windows 7. The ability to install legacy applications out of the Virtual Machine would have been a great option I would like to see. It’s a minor complaint considering the boost it gives users to breathe new life into old applications while moving forward with the benefits of Windows 7.

Application Compatibility otherwise in Windows 7 is just great, the majority of applications I had running in Windows Vista continue to function just fine under Windows 7, I have a library of about 108 apps and I have tested everyone to come to a conclusion that Windows 7 has done an excellent job in this respect by bringing your investments forward. The same can be said for hardware devices, my old HP 840c printer works, so does my Canon A520 digital camera, my HP ScanJet 2400 Scanner, iPod Touch, external storage devices. There might be some persons with complex setups, so I can only speak for myself, but most times, all you need to do is go to the manufacturers website download the latest available drivers, you can check Windows Update which does a good job of providing the latest drivers for components such as your video and sound card. One of the experiences I love in Windows 7 is the out of box compatibility, just like Vista, I have one of the cleanest Device Managers, there was basically nothing I had to install after installation. Just on the web browsing, tweeting, blogging and posting on Facebook, listening music right away. Windows 7 delivers a really sophisticated, out of box experience, you gotta give the Windows Team kudos there.

Windows Troubleshooting makes resolving common problems so much easier too, you get up 27 of them with additional ones available for download. Windows 7 is more efficient, if you are using a laptop in direct sunlight, it adjust the brightness for optimal use. There is also better memory management, better use of multiple processors, a feature called trigger loading of services, so you use your hardware and components better. So, things like your network adapter are only in use when you need it or when you are going to play a DVD.


Faster resume from hibernation and sleep, you can customize your Windows 7 installation and remove components you don’t use often, such as DVD Maker, Tablet features. Another feature of Search I love too is it keeps a history recently used queries when you search from explorer, you also see real time high light of key words, you can even create Search Connectors that search your favorite website’s within Windows. Windows 7 really focuses on reducing the amount of mouse clicks required of previous releases. Of course, performance is not just limited to how you interact with the user interface, but there are low level improvements that I definitely appreciate. Today, mobile PCs send energy to parts of the computer when they are not being used, such as sending power to the network adapter when you don’t have an Ethernet cable plugged-in. Windows 7 automatically turns off power to the network adapter when the cable is disconnected and restores power when the cable is connected. Making users aware of the battery life status is key in Windows 7 for a better; the Battery Life Notification Area applet provides prominent, timely information to ensure that you can use your notebook in tight situations where there is no power. You actually realize these benefits when you actually put a laptop to use in real world scenarios and I have to say I have seen it and appreciate it.

Some additional examples of this include reducing the amount of background activities by supporting the trigger-starting of services. Adaptive Display Brightness automatically reduces display brightness after a certain period of inactivity similar to cell phones. Less power is required to watch a DVD because Windows 7 requires less processing power which leads to a more efficient way to spinning the disk, this leads to benefits such as watching a full length movie on a single battery charge.

Going Forward

Like previous year in reviews, I honestly cannot cover everything, some of what I have even discussed here is just a foot note. Windows 7 continues to be an exceptional release one year later. Its success in the market place is a testament to that. Microsoft went through a period where I believe, certain things had to happen to produce this powerful release. Vista’s initial market reception gave it the wrong life long reception it did not deserve, in some ways, Windows 7 is righting that wrong. What does the future hold for Windows 7? Well, this month, Microsoft released the first beta for the first major maintenance update called Service Pack 1 for Windows 7. This update promises to be a minor release in comparison to previous Service Packs for Windows. I have been running it daily since its availability and there is not much to see except for a few small changes here and there (increment of the build number from 7600 to 7601). Microsoft is expected to release a final version some time in the first quarter of 2011. Waiting on Service Pack 1 to upgrade to Windows 7 doesn’t really make much sense, since you have most of what’s in SP1 today through Windows Update. Windows 7 offers a truly immerse, engaging, delightful and powerful experience. Its definitely a pleasure to boot up my computer everyday and utilize its many capabilities, some of which I am still discovering!


Windows Vista Year in Review Windows XP Professional x64 Edition: Year in Review
Microsoft Windows 7 RTM
Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer 8


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Public BETA of Windows 7 SP1 now available

If you are interested in evaluating the first major maintenance update for Windows 7, well here is the opportunity to do so. Please be reminded this is a BETA product and not the final release:

Today, we announced at our annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) the availability of the public beta for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1). As Gavriella Schuster and I have mentioned in previous blogs, SP1 for Windows 7 does not contain any new features specific to Windows 7. However, the new features in SP1 for Windows Server 2008 R2 benefit Windows 7 by providing a richer Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) experience. For Windows 7, SP1 is simply a combination of updates already available through Windows Update and additional hotfixes based on feedback by our customers and partners. For more information on Windows 7 SP1 and new features for Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, I recommend reading this blog post from the Windows Server Division Weblog.

If you are an IT Professional interested in testing Windows 7 SP1, you can download the public beta via the Springboard Series on TechNet where you will find the download as well as other key deployment and support tools. For everyone else, Windows 7 SP1 will be available in the first half of 2011 through the usual channels.

Learn more HERE

If you would like a first hand experience running the beta, you can refer to my freshly posted article discussing the install experience and early impression here

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Introducing Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (BETA)

I am a BETA Nutcase and it seems to be that time of the year where I get to go crazy, with betas for for Microsoft Windows Live Essentials and Windows 7 out, I thought, its time to start playing around with some of these goodies. Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 is the first major maintenance update for the latest Microsoft Windows operating system. It mostly consist of a rolled up collection of updates that have been released for the OS since it went RTM (Released to Manufacturing) in July of 2009. Users should not expect anything new or different with this update, which again are just the same updates you can get today from Windows Update.

Still, many IT environments use Service Packs as a milestone to determine in their own right when its fit to start migrations from a previous version of Windows. This is a old interpretation that is more linked to the days of Microsoft’s HCL (Hardware Compatibility Labs) in the 90’s when you had to carry the book included with your Windows NT Workstation package to determine whether your hardware was ready or not. Also, Service Packs were convenient for a period when all that seem to exist were dial up connections. An IT Pro had to manage deploying updates to hundreds of machines. Microsoft has resolved this since the advent of Windows Update service introduced in Windows 98 which simplifies getting the latest updates for your computer and devices along with having the latest version of Windows on your PC.

Personally, I find the offline Windows 7 SP1 installer very handy for my setup, since my Internet connection is unreliable and I have a few machines to update, if I need to reinstall Windows 7 RTM for some unknown reason, I don’t have to download every single update for the machine. I have managed to work around even such a situation by keeping recent in tip-top shape system images of my system to avoid doing such as thing. System Imaging is now included in all editions of Windows 7 and I find it very handy and convenient.

Today, I just want to take a quick run through of the install experience. My machine is running Windows 7 Ultimate RTM 64 bit with the latest updates, regardless of this, the Service Pack 1 install took about 1 hour to complete. This is the offline installer of by the way. Before I even installed SP1, I made sure I backed up Windows 7 RTM installation as a system image and stored it safely on a external hard disk, you can refer to my article about how to back up your Windows 7 installation if you want to try out SP1. Another important thing I did after backing up and install SP1 was to change the machine name, since your SP1 install can overwrite the RTM install on the backup drive if you decide to create a backup during your testing of SP1 beta.

Setup wizard for Windows 7 Service Pack 1

Accepting the End User License Agreement

The installation started off smooth, but I did encounter one small issue during the initial phase of setup when it was preparing my computer. It seems Microsoft Security Essentials is not compatible when its already installed. So, I had to remove that, reboot, then run the setup again. I was able to reinstall and use Microsoft Security Essentials without any problems. Just to be safe, I downloaded MSE from the web to make sure it’s the latest version and installed it.

Users of Microsoft security utilities should remove them before attempting to install SP1 beta.

So the installation went along its merry way without any issues, and the installer was correct too, it took about an hour to complete, about 45 mins before the restart itself. This might vary depending on factors such as processor and memory speed, also remember that this is still a beta.

Installing Windows 7 SP1 beta

After this portion of installation was complete, the Service Pack installer automatically restarted the computer.

Configuring the Windows 7 SP1 beta on shutdown

After restarting, the Windows 7 SP1 beta boot up experience went through a series of configuration and update of System files, about 103,973. Don’t worry, this process goes by fast.

Updating System Files.

The final phase is another configuration at the Welcome Screen and that was it.

After logging in and reaching the desktop, I was informed that Windows 7 SP1 was installed.

Successful install of Service Pack 1 for Windows 7

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 beta installed (click to enlarge).

There is not really any significant difference, the build number has been incremented from build 7600 to build 7601. Windows Vista SP1 was incremented from build 6000 to 6001 (SP2 to 6002). I do sense a bit of optimization in areas such as Resume from Sleep, although that’s just an unscientific guess. My applications and devices are functioning just fine, able to Bluetooth, and publish this post. So, expect a smooth experience, although its still beta, so if you discover an issue, definitely send it in. If you are using Windows Server 2008 R2 though, which is Microsoft’s Network Operating system, you will see a lot more in new features and functionality such as a Dynamic Memory Manager and Remote FX. Microsoft has not provided any information about when the final release will be available, but I would like to implore again, a lot of what you will see in SP1 is already available to you through Windows Update. Windows 7 RTM today is a great release, so if you have not upgraded to it, its definitely the right time.

Checking out Windows Vista SP2
My Early Preview of Windows Vista SP1 BETA

Virtualization Updates at TechEd

Creating a Backup of your Windows 7 Install

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Windows or Linux – The UK Government takes suggestions

Still on my article tour this week, a new one that I came across touches a topic I discussed earlier this week. Linux! Officials within the UK Government are going to the people seeking suggestion about ideas that could help reduce cost.

To be sure, they are just two among the 60,000 ideas proffered by those who work in the public sector, but just 31 of those were listed on the website for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The two ideas:

8. In terms of spending less – what about migrating the whole of government (the NHS, Education etc) from Microsoft products to Linux and open source software like Openoffice.

28. Annul the government’s agreement with Microsoft to provide software and operating systems (OS) to government departments and switch to open source software and Linux based operating systems. This would reduce costs by: Reducing the need to update hardware in line with new Microsoft OS releases. Linux OS and open source software has a lower whole life cost and is less susceptible to viruses. Support a more diverse spectrum of the IT industry, instead of one corporation; generating additional UK tax revenue.

Read the rest here

There would be no lowering in the total cost of ownership. Moving thousands of desktops from Windows to Linux would be complete chaos. First of all, this is one persons opinion, and it does not represent all persons who are using Windows. One or two persons pet peeve with Windows shouldn’t be the deciding factor. Think about changing a users philosophy of what they probably have known for so many years. The investments you are gonna have to make to train so many users is gonna push the budget way past its limit, Help Desktop support calls will skyrocket (not to mention, you are gonna have to retrain the entire help desk staff or who are experts on Windows and Microsoft technologies). Lets not forget about the custom applications in addition to commercial applications that only work on Windows.

Using open source alternatives does not necessarily guarantee a fulfilling experience, since most Open Source apps are mediocre to their commercial counterparts. A migration would take many years, more money spent and only turn out to be more of a burden to support. Windows is a secure operating system, I have been running Windows for years and have never encountered any malicious code on my systems. Linux has its own security demons, just that its not pointed out in the mainstream press as much as Windows, but it does exist. Windows has a lot of built in proven defenses such as a Standard Administrator, Windows Firewall, ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) which moves around core code on boot up to prevent malicious code from easily attacking the system, kernel patch protection to prevent third party developers from easily patching or injecting code into the Windows kernel, Device Driver Signing to ensure the integrity of your drivers, User Account Control to protect the system from malicious code attacking essential parts of the system, IE includes Protected Mode which sand boxes the web browser from the system, Anti-Phishing Filter, Privacy Mode for handling secure transactions over the web. Windows 7 includes additional features that protect against buffer over flows such as Heap Stack, along with BitLocker Drive Encryption to protect your hard disk if its stolen, you can also protect portable storage devices using BitLocker to Go. When you top this with a free Antivirus utility such as Microsoft Security Essentials, with additional IT implemented protocols and tools such as a hardware based Firewall, I don’t know how you could seriously say Windows is susceptible viruses.

As for the shelf life, I am running Windows 7 Professional on a desktop I purchased in March of 2004, originally came with Windows XP Professional, upgraded to Windows Vista Business. I didn’t have to dump anything, except for probably an upgrade of the RAM which had a factory installed 512 MBs.

If you want, you can even lower the attack surface by customizing your Windows Installation and removing rarely used features, you can even use Group Policy to automatically enforce rules. When combined with technologies in Windows Server such as Direct Access, App Locker, you get an even higher level of security, and this is all transparent to the end user. So again, Windows is secure, its easy to use, people know it. Don’t think because you have Linux you are not gonna have to pay for support either. You are gonna need somebody to implement it properly, set it up, maintain it and support it and that is where commercial distributions such as Ubuntu, Redhat and Suse make their money, which means, you are paying for what you claim you wanted to avoid in the first place, but only you are paying for the support plus the training to get users to use something they are not accustomed to. Don’t bother with no, no name distro either, because thats just more of an ants nest that will surely be a career wrecker. Ultimately, I suspect this will lead either to a failed migration like we have seen in many Government attempts around world, with a ultimate reverse migration back to Windows.

The idea for Linux to Win, Windows has to lose

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Microsoft: Nearly Half of Windows 7 installations are 64 bit

Today Microsoft announced on the Windows Team Blog that Windows 7 is starting the migration to 64 bit ubiquity. The OS which recently hit the 150 million milestone mark has a 46% market share when it comes to its 64 bit variant.

As of June 2010, we see that 46% of all PCs worldwide running Windows 7 are running a 64-bit edition of Windows 7. That is, nearly half of all PCs running Windows 7 are running 64-bit. Compared to Windows Vista at 3 and a half years after launch, only 11% of PCs running Windows Vista worldwide are running 64-bit. With Windows 7, running a 64-bit OS is becoming the norm.

Read more here

My migration to 64 bit started in April 2005 when Microsoft introduced Windows XP Professional x64. It was surprisingly a smooth experience even back then, although I didn’t see the immediate benefits since 64 bit at the time was more of a technically targeted solution for engineers, scientist, large SQL databases and gamers who needed the unique benefits such as the ability address larger amounts of memory than its 32 bit counterpart (Windows 7 64 bit supports up to 192 GBs of RAM while Windows 7 32 bit supports 3.2 GBs). 64 bit Windows Server has seen great successes so much so that its most recent release of Windows Server, 2008 R2 is exclusively 64 bit. Some of the early pain points of running 64 bit Windows have vanished over the past 4 years, I remember basic functionality like contextual menu extensions, or programs that needed to access low levels of the OS such as Anti-virus utilities were initially big blockers for main stream adoption. Back then you still had a lot of applications that were developed to work specifically on older operating systems such as Windows 95, even some programs that were considered 32 bit used 16 bit installers could not work on 64 bit Windows. I remember participating in the Microsoft Windows 64 bit Public Community back in 2005 too along with a fun group of eager enthusiast, really an exciting time.

A lot of credit goes to AMD who in the fall of 2003 introduced the first x86-x64 micro-processor that allowed users to transition smoothly to this new architecture. You could still run your 32 bit applications without having them re-written to work. Unlike previous efforts to bring 64 bit computing to the mainstream such as the Alpha and Itanium for which Microsoft released variants of the Windows OS the x86-x64 extensions really proved to be a way better approach. The mainstream for 64 bit Windows never really started until Windows Vista’s introduction in January 2007. I started testing early 64 bit builds of the OS on my system back in February 2006 when build 5308 was made available. A year later I got a system with 64 bit Windows Vista preinstalled and used it exclusively ever since, I later on got a desktop PC in 2008 with Windows Vista 64 bit which I have since upgraded to 64 bit versions Windows 7. I have never encountered any of the early compatibility issues that some might have experienced when Windows XP Professional x64 came to market in 2005. I still have my main desktop running Windows 7 32 bit, but this a limitation of the processor which can only run x86 instructions, but its running great.

64 bit Windows has pretty much been mainstream for me. I also notice the performance benefits too, the stability and performance of running lots of applications at the same time, such as running a AV scan in the background, watching YouTube, working on documents, chatting, playing music, even gaming (although I am not much of a gamer) or searching across my home network. It opens up so many new possibilities, and the industry is slowly but surely going there. Microsoft recently brought its family of Office applications to full 64 bit compatibility, for an intensive app such as Outlook, you can expect an even higher level of stability and compatibility, number crunchers who work in Excel can also see major benefits when working on larger workbooks. I even notice key benefits when working with the new PowerPoint 2010 and video, especially when reordering a lot of slides, 64 bit came in very handy. Most of the third party applications that are 64 bit still remain in the technical realm, I am hoping Office 2010 will change this and encourage more support from third party ISVs although the majority of 32 bit programs work just fine on 64 bit Windows. Still there are some industry favorites users can find 64 bit versions for, these include Adobe Photoshop CS5, Adobe Premier CS5, Adobe After Effects CS5, AutoDesk AutoCAD to name a few. There are also some key technical benefits when using 64 bit Windows too that were first introduced with Windows XP Professional x64 and Vista 64 bit:

Data Execution Prevention (DEP) – when combined with 64 bit capable processors, it protects your computer against buffer overflow attacks, this additional layer of security used with effective security solutions such as Antivirus utility provides a confident PC experience.

Kernel patch protection – This helps protect against programs that attempt patch the Windows Kernel. It improves the reliability of Windows by helping to disable undocumented and unsupported kernel hooks. Undocumented kernel hooks can cause reliability and performance issues and can add potential security issues to the system as well.

Driver Signing – All kernel mode drivers must be signed on 64 bit Windows 7 systems. Digital signing provides identity as well as integrity for code. A kernel module that is corrupt or has been subject to tampering will not load. Any driver that is not properly signed cannot enter the kernel space and will fail to load.

Certainly, there is no better time to be using 64 bit Windows, even if you are still running legacy applications that work on 32 bit versions of Windows only, then you can start evaluating solutions such as Windows Virtual PC with Windows XP Mode, which allow you to seamlessly run applications designed for earlier versions of Windows on Windows 7 while taking advantage of the current and next generation benefits and transitioning at your own pace.

Are you running 64 bit Windows, if so, what are your thoughts?

Resources: Windows 7 Ultimate 32 and 64 bit Review Windows Server 2008 R2 Review Microsoft Office Professional 2010 Review Microsoft Windows XP x64 Edition: Year in Review

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The Office 2010 Upgrade Strategy and the History of Modern Computing

Sorry for that Title, but I couldn’t find anything more appropriate for what I am about to discuss. I am still browsing the web of course, finding articles of interest. This one I came across on popular Windows Community website NeoWin which host a group of user blogs. I can’t seem to leave a comment on the article, either because of some internal error or the author of the blog is not approving comments at this time.

The author discusses his personal issue with the new Upgrade strategy Microsoft introduced with the release of Office 2010. As you might already know, the company has phased out upgrade packages that are sold at a lesser list price than the full version product. There are a number of factors that contribute to this which I will discuss. You can read the authors entire article here

Microsoft has always been a paradox of sorts. With good software comes an high costs. That is reasonable to a point. To a point. They have always been the villains of the software game and Bill Gates was "Ming the Merciless." They made their first breakthrough by stealing a granular OS from Xerox. Yep! A bit of history that is not well know. Without Bill to kick around, it has lost some of its coolness as THE firm to diss- the seat of evil. I’ve used their OS and Officr forever. I beta tested XP and Vista OS (Whistler and Longhorn) and Office XP(10), 03(11) and 07(12). I opted out of 2010(14) because I was working the PhotoshopCS5 beta. Just when you think MS is cleaning up their act they take "outrageous" to a new level. Frankly, I thought I had seen it all -that they could not longer shock me. I stand corrected. Welcome to Office 2010: The land of no upgrades!

I honestly don’t know what to make of this post. The author sounds more like a confused individual who just wants everything to be free. Microsoft is a business first of all, they make money by licensing software. Although Office 2010 is not a major departure from past releases, its certainly more mature in comparison to Office 2007. Ribbon is customizable, Find and Search dialogs have been converted to Task panes to make it easier to manipulate and edit documents faster. Integration with Windows Live and SharePoint is a whole lot better, features like collaboration between Web apps and Office desktop apps are a great experience, Outlook with its conversation view, better IRM capabilities, Sparklines in Excel for better trends in data, Access features better support for the web, 2010 is definitely a worthy upgrade. PowerPoint is so much better to work with, ability to work on multiple presentations at the same, superior video experience and the ability to publish to DVD and YouTube make it a great upgrade. Not to mention backstage which provides a great document lifecycle management facility to give you better control and management of Office files. This is just the tip of the ice berg, if you want to learn more, read the entire ActiveWin Office Professional 2010 Review here

Now, instead of accusing Microsoft and Bill Gates of stealing software, maybe the author needs to dig deeper into the history of graphical computing. Yes, the GUI did originate at XEROX Parc Research labs in Palo Alto, but Apple also saw early demos of the same thing, Jeff Raskins invited Steve Jobs along with other Apple engineers to take a look at it. Steve Jobs said he saw many things in their early concepts, Ethernet, Networking, the mouse, but it was the GUI that captivated him and he knew that this is the direction computing was heading. Bill Gates also visited the XEROX Parc labs and even bought an Alto for his employees to play with. Obviously this created some inspiration amongst early employees at the Company. Apple in exchange for Company shares asked permission to get further access to the Alto. Guess what, their employees ended up getting inspiration for the Mac GUI with a much better implementation the time.

The fact that Xerox didn’t capitalize on and patent the GUI, it was really a free for all. Xerox felt, the GUI would undermine their main business, which was printing and paper. They didn’t see how the Alto could transform that, and it was really their loss. Employees working on the Alto were fed up too and decided to leave and go to Company’s such as Apple and Microsoft that would encourage their passion and focus on actually bringing these technologies to the mainstream and mass market. That is what Apple and Microsoft did, of course, early efforts were immature, but Apple and Microsoft kept at it until we have what we have today. So, your idea that Bill Gates and Microsoft stole ideas is very not factual and it shows that you only read the surface and skim through the history of computing.

Interesting that MS did a flip-flop on free software for beta tester. They have gotten far less generous over the years to betas. In this case, they need beta tester to aid them in supporting the price jump. Had I participated, I would be disgusted right now as I would know they are trying to leverage us again the market. Keep it in mind, folks.

Beta testing:
Now, you seem to be bitter because Microsoft made it clear at the beginning of the beta program, actually this is a policy they put in place with the release of Office 12 (Office 2007) and other Microsoft beta programs, that they are not obligated to provide any free software or final release of the product at RTM. After the fiasco with Office 2003, the Company did the right thing I believe. Persons were joining the beta program, taking up space, doing nothing for months, not even submitting a bug just to get a free boxed copy of the software. How pathetic is that? The problem was further exacerbated by complaints by persons on the NeoWin forums which I am sure Microsoft employees were reading carefully: – Office 2003 Beta gifts, you can read it.

Another question, did Adobe give you a complimentary copy of  Adobe Photoshop CS5? Nope, I know because I have tested CS3, CS4 and skipped CS5 because of lack of time.

Microsoft saw what people were joining the betas for and decided to make a smart decision and end the practice. 15,000 private testers tested Office 11, come on, even a company with the resources that Microsoft has, it would be a bit of a stretch to give so many persons a complimentary copy. I was lucky enough to be in the top 60 and receive a complimentary copy, along with radio and thank you letter. It wasn’t expected, it was my first Office beta and I just wanted to genuinely participate and provide feedback to help make it a better product, a product I use everyday. To interact directly with the product teams was a great opportunity. Its voluntarily, you "chose" to go either to Microsoft BetaPlace or Microsoft Connect and sign up to provide feedback and accepted the agreement that Microsoft informed you about. Its pathetic you would spend a year or more in a beta program just for a freebie. Might as well mow a few lawns and save up to buy the product or go to a product launch, get some insight into the product and receive a complimentary copy.

All of my colleagues are mad as this will harm their profitability. Professional IT clientele are furious to the point where some I have spoken with-large enterprises-are actively considering Google-Docs or Adobe’s

Nonsense, most Enterprises are already on one of Microsoft’s licensing programs, SA or EA which means they automatically get free upgrades to the latest Microsoft programs along with support and training during their contract. Trust me, they do and its worth it for them, and it works out for Microsoft, future money in the bank as many would describe it. If you are not on EA or SA, then one of the other volume programs which support a minimum of 5 desktops such as Open Volume can also cover Office 2010. Student programs, MSDN AA, DreamSpark, BizSpark and many other ways such as the affordable Office Home and Student make it easy to upgrade to Office 2010. Also, there is a new Office Professional 2010 Academic for $99, of course you must be a registered student to purchase it, but its a great value for a powerful set of applications. Was there anything like that during Office 2007, 2003, XP or 2000? Nope! Also, you don’t need to upgrade the entire suite either, each Office product is sold separately. So if you know you are a heavy Microsoft Word user, just purchase Office Word 2010, works just fine with older versions of Office. If you find it hard to justify the upgrade, Microsoft is not forcing you to upgrade, stick with your version as long as you want. I have come across machines still running Office 97, I went to a Taylor’s shop and was surprised to see Word 6.0 on the machine (Windows 95) and its working just fine for them. Bill Gates once said, you can purchase a license from Microsoft for a particular product and never buy another one. The power is still in the consumers hands and pocket. Office 2000, 2002, 2003 even have a compatibility pack that allows you to open and save files created in 2007 or 2010, so you are not forced to upgrade either.

No upgrade packages:

The Company said they decided to do this based on a number of factors, simplification, people do not purchase upgrades like they use to, reduces production of product boxes that take up precious store real estate, saves the environment, new ways of obtaining Office digitally and Key cards. Microsoft has also made some changes to how Microsoft Office is licensed, instead of one desktop and laptop device owned by the licensee, the EULA now states 2 computers regardless of their form factors. Key cards allow users to purchase additional licenses for Office, it is similar in some ways to the Windows Anytime Upgrade license offered for Windows 7, key cards will permit only 1 installation though compared to purchasing the full boxed package and can also be used to upgrade supported editions of Office to higher edition or convert trial versions to full versions.

Office 2010 is affordable, so that obvious blooper about professional client furious about Office prices is just not true unless that Company is not on an agreement at all which would probably suggest they are happy with their current version. Yes, many businesses these days are finding ways to compliment Office, through mobile solutions and web based products such as Google docs and the new BPOS from Microsoft.

I will surely not renew my Technet subscription as they had made changes to policy on its uses. Check this out if a Technet subscriber. I have to imagine the price of a Technet sub will skyrocket because of this "Office Outrage."

TechNet has always been about non-production use, its for evaluation purposes. If you thought it was about having a loop hole to a whole lot of free non-expiry software, then I am sorry to burst your bubble. The same applies to MSDN in some cases, its about testing your products in a wide range of ways without the limitation of trial products making them as ready as possible for deployment or ready for markets you are targeting.

Try to do the research before spreading misinformation. Yes, I like Microsoft products, I do criticize the Company sometimes when they make mistakes, but your evaluation of Office 2010 pricing is absurd.


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The idea for Linux to Win, Windows has to lose

I am a very open guy, I read many things technology related. I am not boxed in as many would seem to think. 😉 Today I came across this article about ‘The Advantages of using Linux’, the open source operating system. Here is one of the authors points:

* Price
You may already know that you can use Linux free of charge, but since this is one of the most important advantages of using Linux, allow me to explain or should I say convince you further. Using a free operating system means not having to spend for even a dime whenever you do a major upgrade or install a new version of your OS. In addition, most major Linux distributions are pre-loaded with essential applications that are also free such as
office suite, graphics editor, DVD-ripper, and more, so that means you can keep your savings intact. You can also fire up your software or package manager anytime and get more free applications that you want. I’ve been using Linux for several years now, and not having to worry about paying for software is priceless.

Read the entire article HERE

Typically the way a Linux or Open Source user "sells" Linux ironically enough. Read the entire article, because, my responses here are based on this four main 4 main points: Price, Stability, Ease of Use and Efficiency:


Yes its free, but try getting support for it when you do encounter a problem. You either encounter a bunch of elitist, 1999 type persons who either think you should figure it out yourself or should not be using Linux. Linux is not free based on the top 3 commercial distributions, if you want to solve a problem implementing or deploying Linux in your work environment, then you are gonna need to pay for technical support. Ask Redhat or Novell how they make money off their variants of Linux. As for the free apps, usually unsupported and are mediocre in comparison to the commercial counterparts, lacking common features too many to count. When you pay for a commercial OS like Windows, you are paying for technical support and backing behind a proven product, whether from Microsoft or the OEM. The community of Windows users who are more compassionate and willing to help guide a user in the right direction are more willing and eager to help based on my personal experiences. Consumer versions of Windows are supported for up to 5 years, business versions get 10 years of support in addition to extended support which can go up to 14 years. Yes, you pay for it, but it works for you in the long run, look at Windows XP. Is Ubuntu still supporting past releases from 2004, 2005 or 2007, or even 2008? Nope! Look at Fedora, I was so surprised to find out that Fedora 10 which I had running in a VM last year is not supported. Do you honestly believe consumers are interested in hearing, sorry, upgrade to a more recent release? Even if its free, its not something they are interested in "every" 6 months. Yes, Microsoft releases new versions of Windows every 3 years (5 in the case of XP to Vista because of planning, technical and architectural changes – this is an exception for which Windows 7 users are continuing to benefit from.  


Well, when you are on 1.4 billion computers in comparison to less than 1% of the market, then authors of malicious code are more likely to target the largest market share. I personally have never had any viruses on my machine of course, prior to upgrading to Windows Vista in late 2006, I ran Windows XP from March 2004 to November 2006 on my main desktop as a full Administrator and I never got a virus or any malicious software (broad connection, constantly connected). Of course I kept Windows Automatic Updates enabled and always install the latest available updates (hands off), have a security utility installed and kept the automatic updates turned on. To say Windows is insecure is saying human nature is imperfect. It was designed by man, which OS does not have flaws? Its just that those in Linux are pointed out less. With the recent visibility of OS X people are starting to show more issues in that OS which is based on UNIX of which Linux is a derivative.


Maybe that’s because your wife has been exposed to Linux for many years. Linux is easy to use in the sense that Windows NT 3.1 or Windows 3.0 were in the early 90’s. The interface remains illogical and lacks a lot of consistency and professionalism. The layers of toolbars in Gnome provides a clunky experience, KDE’s widget based UI searching for something or trying to be different UI has seemed to turn away many users, in addition to the fact that users have to choose something proves that the ease of use theory of Linux remains up in the air. Windows on the other hand has been very consistent UI wise for the past 15 years, you could even say it has been since Windows 3.0, the philosophy is there. Take a user from 1996 trained on Windows 95 and put him or her in front of a Windows 7 or Vista computer and they would be immediately productive. The new features of course in either Vista or 7 would further enhance their productivity: Instant Search, Jump List, Aero Peek, Live Thumbnails, reliability of NT codebase, media improvements, HomeGroups networking etc.


Well, I have Windows 7 Ultimate 32 bit running on a AMD Sempron 1.6 GHz and 512 MBs of RAM I built back in February 2006. This is around the same specs required by the latest Ubuntu 10.04 to use efficiently. The performance of Windows 7 on that desktop is satisfactory, I can do web browsing, run office applications, listen music, watch YouTube, browse my photo library, import pictures without any problems, its not suitable for Media Center or 64 bit computing, but anybody who is gonna be needing those capabilities are likely to be running the latest and greatest. I am also running Windows 7 Professional 32 bit on my Dell Dimension 8300 I purchased by back in March of 2004. Of course, I had upgraded the factory installed RAM from 512 MBs to 2.6 GBs back in February 2006 when Vista hit beta 2. Hey RAM is cheap, and often that’s what you will need, although Windows 7 works just fine on 1 GBs of RAM. My brother running Windows 7 Professional on his Dell Inspiron 15xx 1.6 GHz Core Duo with 1.2 GBs of RAM, runs it just great, download videos, music, surf the web all the normal media stuff you would expect the average user to do, he does on that laptop he purchased in June 2006. Features I notice in Windows 7 that provide efficient performance include the trigger starting of services, parallelism. Those are just some highlights, so Windows is definitely better than ever. If your idea of ancient is something from 2000 or 2001, well good for you.


The problem Linux still faces and feeling I keep getting from most Linux articles, to sell itself it must bash Windows. It does not sell itself on its own merits. I think its probably also turned away a lot of users who would be willing to try it. Linux has been trumpeting the end of Windows since 1999, yet it has been unable for an OS that has been around commercially since 1995 to make a dent. Excuses used, Microsoft forces OEMs to bundle Windows and Windows is technically inferior. Two of the top OEM’s HP and Dell don’t seem to have a problem preloading Linux, yet the demand for Linux based systems remains anemically low. The idea for Linux to win, Windows has to lose is seriously old now.



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