Archive for July, 2015:

Windows 10: Fact vs. fiction

With Win10 slated to drop July 29, we give you the straight dope on support, upgrades, and the state of the bits

It’s a few days before Windows 10 is officially slated to drop, and still, confusion abounds. Worse, many fallacies regarding Microsoft’s plans around upgrades and support for Win10 remain in circulation, despite efforts to dispel them.

Here at InfoWorld, we’ve been tracking Windows 10’s progress very closely, reporting the evolving technical details with each successive build in our popular “Where Windows 10 stands right now” report. We’ve also kept a close eye on the details beyond the bits, reporting on the common misconceptions around Windows 10 licensing, upgrade paths, and updates. If you haven’t already read that article, you may want to give it a gander. Many of the fallacies we pointed out six weeks ago are still as fallacious today — and you’ll hear them repeated as fact by people who should know better.

Here, with Windows 10 nearing the finish line, we once again cut through the fictions to give you the true dirt — and one juicy conjecture — about Windows 10, in hopes of helping you make the right decisions regarding Microsoft’s latest Windows release when it officially lands July 29.

Conjecture: Windows Insiders already have the “final” version of Windows 10

Give or take a few last-minute patches, members of the Windows Insider program may already have what will be the final version of Win10. Build 10240, with applied patches, has all the hallmarks of a first final “general availability” version.

If you’re in the Insider program, either Fast or Slow ring, and your computer’s been connected to the Internet recently, you’ve already upgraded, automatically, to the Windows 10 that’s likely headed out on July 29. No, I can’t prove it. But all the tea leaves point in that direction. Don’t be surprised if Terry Myerson announces on July 29 that Insiders are already running the “real” Windows 10 — and have been running it for a couple of weeks. Everyone else can get a feel for the likely “final” Windows 10, build 10240, by checking out our ongoing Windows 10 beta coverage at “Where Windows stands right now.”

Fact: Windows 10 has a 10-year support cycle

Like Windows Vista, Win7, and Win8 before it, Windows 10 has a 10-year support cycle. In fact, we’re getting a few extra months for free: According to the Windows Lifecycle fact sheet, mainstream support ends Oct. 13, 2020, and extended support ends Oct. 14, 2025. Of course, if your sound card manufacturer, say, stops supporting Windows 10, you’re out of luck.

ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD: What if Windows went open source tomorrow?

I have no idea where Microsoft’s statement about covering Windows 10 “for the supported lifetime of the device” came from. It sounds like legalese that was used to waffle around the topic for seven frustrating months. Microsoft’s publication of the Lifecycle fact sheet shows that Windows 10 will be supported like any other version of Windows. (XP’s dates were a little different because of SP2.)

Fiction: The 10 years of support start from the day you buy or install Windows 10

There’s been absolutely nothing from Microsoft to support the claim that the Win10 support clock starts when you buy or install Windows 10, a claim that has been attributed to an industry analyst.

The new Windows 10 lifecycle and updating requirements look a lot like the old ones, except they’re accelerated a bit. In the past we had Service Packs, and people had a few months to get the Service Packs installed before they became a prerequisite for new patches. With Windows 8.1, we had the ill-fated Update 1: You had to install Update 1 before you could get new patches, and you only had a month (later extended) to get Update 1 working. The new Windows 10 method — requiring customers to install upgrades/fixes/patches sequentially, in set intervals — looks a whole lot like the old Win 8.1 Update 1 approach, although corporate customers in the Long Term Servicing Branch can delay indefinitely.

Fact: You can clean install the (pirate) Windows 10 build 10240 ISO right now and use it without entering a product key

Although it isn’t clear how long you’ll be able to continue to use it, the Windows 10 build 10240 ISO can be installed and used without a product key. Presumably, at some point in the future you’ll be able to feed it a new key (from, say, MSDN), or buy one and use it retroactively.
Fiction: You can get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro from Win7 Home Basic/Premium, Win8.1 (“Home” or “Core”), or Win8.1 with Bing

A common misconception is that you can upgrade, for free, from Windows 7 Home Basic or Home Premium, Windows 8.1 (commonly called “Home” or “Core”), or Windows 8.1 with Bing, to Windows 10 Pro. Nope, sorry — all of those will upgrade to Windows 10 Home. To get to Windows 10 Pro, you would then have to pay for an upgrade, from Win10 Home to Pro.

Fact: No product key is required to upgrade a “genuine” copy of Win7 SP1 or Win8.1 Update
According to Microsoft, if you upgrade a “genuine” copy of Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update, come July 29 or later, Windows 10 won’t require a product key. Instead, keep Home and Pro versions separate — upgrade Home to Home, Pro to Pro. If you upgrade and perform a Reset (Start, Settings, Update & Security, Recovery, Reset this PC) you get a clean install of Windows 10 — again, per Microsoft. It’ll take a few months to be absolutely certain that a Reset performs an absolutely clean install, but at this point, it certainly looks that way.

Fiction: Windows 10 requires a Microsoft account to install, use, or manage

Another common misconception is that Microsoft requires users have a Microsoft account to install, use, or manage Windows 10. In fact, local accounts will work for any normal Windows 10 activity, although you need to provide a Microsoft account in the obvious places (for example, to get mail), with Cortana, and to sync Edge.

Fact: If your tablet runs Windows RT, you’re screwed

Microsoft has announced it will release a new version of Windows RT, called Windows RT 3, in September. If anybody’s expecting it to look anything like Windows 10, you’re sorely mistaken. If you bought the original Surface or Surface RT, you’re out of luck. Microsoft sold folks an obsolete bucket of bolts that, sad to say, deserves to die. Compare that with the Chromebook, which is still chugging along.

Fiction: Microsoft pulled Windows Media Player from Windows 10

One word here seems to be tripping up folks. What Microsoft has pulled is Windows Media Center, which is a horse of a completely different color. If you’re thinking of upgrading your Windows Media Center machine to Windows 10, you’re better off retiring it and buying something that actually works like a media center. WMP is still there, although I wonder why anybody would use it, with great free alternatives like VLC readily available.

Fiction: Windows 10 is a buggy mess
In my experience, Windows 10 build 10240 (and thus, presumably, the final version) is quite stable and reasonably fast, and it works very well. There are anomalies — taskbar icons disappear, some characters don’t show up, you can’t change the picture for the Lock Screen, lots of settings are undocumented — and entire waves of features aren’t built yet. But for day-to-day operation, Win10 works fine.

Fact: The current crop of “universal” apps is an electronic wasteland
Microsoft has built some outstanding universal apps on the WinRT foundation, including the Office trilogy, Edge, Cortana, and several lesser apps, such as the Mail/Calendar twins, Solitaire, OneNote, and the Store. But other software developers have, by and large, ignored the WinRT/universal shtick. You have to wonder why Microsoft itself wasn’t able to get a universal OneDrive or Skype app going in time for July 29. Even Rovio has given a pass on Angry Birds 2 for the universal platform. Some games are coming (such as Rise of the Tomb Raider), but don’t expect a big crop of apps for the universal side of Windows 10 (and, presumably, Windows 10 Mobile) any time soon.

Fiction: Microsoft wants to control us by forcing us to go to Windows 10
I hear variations on this theme all the time, and it’s tinfoil-hat hooey. Microsoft is shifting to a different way of making money with Windows. Along the way, it’s trying out a lot of moves to reinvigorate the aging cash cow. Total world domination isn’t one of the options. And, no, the company isn’t going to charge you rent for Windows 10, though it took seven months to say so, in writing.

Fiction: Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines will upgrade directly to Windows 10

Win7 and Win8 machines won’t quite upgrade directly to Win10. You need Windows 7 Service Pack 1, or Windows 8.1 Update 1, in order to perform the upgrade. If you don’t have Windows 7 SP1, Microsoft has official instructions that’ll get you there from Windows 7. If you’re still using Windows 8, follow these official instructions to get to Windows 8.1 Update. Technically, there’s a middle step on your way to Win10.

Fact: We have no idea what will happen when Microsoft releases a really bad patch for Windows 10

If there’s an Achilles’ heel in the grand Windows 10 scheme, it’s forced updates for Windows 10 Home users and Pro users not attached to update servers. As long as Microsoft rolls out good-enough-quality patches — as it’s done for the past three months — there’s little to fear. But if a real stinker ever gets pushed out, heaven only knows how, and how well, Microsoft will handle it.

Fact: You’d have to be stone-cold crazy to install Windows 10 on a production machine on July 29
There isn’t one, single killer app that you desperately need on July 29. Those in the know have mountains of questions, some of which won’t be answered until we see how Win10 really works and what Microsoft does to support it. If you want to play with Windows 10 on a test machine, knock yourself out. I will, too. But only a certified masochist would entrust a working PC to Windows 10, until it’s been pushed and shoved and taken round several blocks, multiple times.

You have until July 29, 2016, to take advantage of the free upgrade. There’s no rush. Microsoft won’t run out of bits.


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Free tools to find out if your computer is infected with Hacking Team malware

Rook Security offers Milano, a free tool to scan your PC for any possible Hacking Team malware infection. Facebook offers osquery to detect Hacking Team’s Remote Control System on OS X. Lookout has mobile covered and can detect surveillance malware on Android and iOS platforms.

Are you 100% sure your devices aren’t infected by Hacking Team surveillance malware whether that means you might be a target of some government or a victim of some cyber scum-sucker who re-purposed Hacking Team’s malware? Sure Adobe and Microsoft have issued emergency patches in response to the leaked Hacking Team exploits, but wouldn’t it be wise to scan your computer and make sure it’s not infected? Now you can check if your computer is compromised by Hacking Team’s spyware as Rook Security released a free detection tool, dubbed ‘Milano,’ to help individuals and organizations find out if their machines are infected.

Rook Security has been collaborating with the FBI Indianapolis Cyber Task Force over the “malicious and weaponizable” exploits found in the leaked Hacking Team files. To reduce the potential impact to critical infrastructure, they worked together to identify malicious files that could be weaponized. Their objectives were also to “create IOCs and briefs for the affected vendors, clients, critical infrastructure, FBI, U.S. Secret Service, DHS, ISPs and others;” to examine if any clients were impacted, and to “create a capability that can be used to determine if they were compromised by Hacking Team files.”

The newest version of Milano was improved from 40 file hashes to 312 malicious or weaponizable file hashes, Rook Security’s Tom Gorup said yesterday when announcing the release of Milano v1.0.1. The updated IOC’s (Indicators of Compromise) are bundled with the new Milano version. “It is not necessary to download both Milano and the IOC files. We provided both to allow users to leverage this information with any tool in their arsenal.”

Gorup added:
Up to this point we have focused our efforts on a Windows executable and DLL files. We have completed analysis of over 800 windows, exe, and dll files resulting in 312 total executable files tagged as malicious or that have the ability to be utilized to support espionageware.

Additionally, our analysis continues and is focused on Linux and OSX specific files. We have identified 126 files specific to Linux at this point. As we complete the analysis of these files we will be releasing new IOC files, so please check back here on our blog for more information.

Milano features will be enhanced in the “near future” to include “auto OS detection, auto ICO update, and OpenIOC formatted files as an input. Once released, these features will provide Milano with the ability to run as a script with the functionality to identify which operating system is running and search for the OS specific IOC’s. The auto update feature will update the IOC’s it is hunting for every time it executes. This will ensure that future updates of IOC’s will be automatically applied each time Milano is executed.”

You can use Milano to perform a quick scan or a deep scan to find Hacking Team associated files. Hacking Team’s Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) BIOS rootkit is particularly worrisome; it can keep its Remote Control System (RCS) agent installed on its targets’ systems by surreptitiously reinstalling. That’s “even if the user formats the hard disk, reinstalls the OS, and even buys a new hard disk, the agents are implanted after Microsoft Windows is up and running.” Just in case Milano can catch that, a deep scan would seem like the best option even though it takes a while to run.

After downloading and unzipping Milano v1.01, you will see a document with Rook’s Hacking Team data review as well as a folder called “RookMilano.” Open the RookMilano folder to see:

Rook Security
After extracting the Milano file contents, clicking on milano.exe should run the program…unless you are on a 64-bit machine. Rook Security told me the program is for 32-bit boxes, but Windows 8.1. 64-bit users can run the program by using command prompt and changing directories to where milano.exe is

When Milano opens, you’ll see a logo; press Enter. After you see the legal limitation of liability statement, then press Enter again. After you see a limitation of software services as-is statement, press Enter again. Then you are given the option to select “q” for quick scan or “d” for deep scan; select one and then hit Enter. You may be asked if you would like to use the default path for Windows; you can select either yes or no, but if you don’t know then try “y” for yes and press Enter.

As it scans each item, you will hopefully see “file clean.” After the scan is completed, any files that require review will be marked with A for detected via VirusTotal, B for detected via manual analysis, C for from malicious project, or D for undetermined. The results are saved as a text file. If you don’t see any file marked with the above notations, then happy day for it’s all good and clean.
Rook Security’s Milano deep scan results

Rook’s Hacking Team data review includes a table with data from the GitHub HackingTeam Repository; Rook flagged some of the files with a “W” meaning it could be weaponized.

Previously the free surveillance malware detection tool Detekt could find traces of remote control system toolkits created by FinFisher and the Hacking Team. But it was only a matter of time before the spyware was tweaked by the vendors and that tool became obsolete. It would be wise to scan and know for sure that your machines aren’t infected, but if you need convincing to try Milano then consider what Amnesty International said when Detekt was released. “Imagine never being alone. Someone looking over your shoulder, recording every computer keystroke; reading and listening to your private Skype conversations; using your phone’s microphone and camera to monitor you and your colleagues, without you even knowing it.”

If you think that is unlikely, then think again as researcher Collin Mulliner found out the Hacking Team – “scumbags” who “sell to repressive governments”— had taken his open source exploit tools and rolled them into its Android surveillance software which it sold to spy-happy governments worldwide. “I’m pretty angry and sad to see my open source tools being used by Hacking Team to make products to spy on activists,” Mulliner said. In one example, Mulliner pointed at his Android voice call interception tool which Hacking Team took to capture audio such as conversations within earshot of infected Android phones.

Protection from Hacking Team malware for Android and iOS mobile devices
If that makes you concerned about the possibility of your phone being infected with Hacking Team’s surveillance malware, then Lookout sent an email saying its “customers, on both Android and iOS platforms, are protected from all current forms of Hacking Team spyware products.”

Detection of Hacking Team spyware for OS X
Lastly, Facebook released new osquery query packs to detect Hacking Team’s Remote Control System on OS X. “Attackers continue to develop and deploy Mac OS X backdoors. We’ve seen this with Flashback, IceFog, Careto, Adwind/Unrecom, and most recently, HackingTeam. The OS X-attacks pack has queries that identify known variants of malware, ranging from advanced persistent threats (APT) to adware and spyware. If a query in this pack produces results, it means a host in your Mac fleet is compromised with malware. This pack is high signal and should result in close to zero false positives.”


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Patch Tuesday: Not dead yet

Credit: Michael Hiemstra (modified)
In absence of clarity from Microsoft, experts now lean toward Patch Tuesday’s survival after Windows 10’s regime change

Patch Tuesday is not dead.
That’s what experts have now concluded, even though Microsoft will not say straight out if it plans on upending the 12-year practice of providing security patches on the same day each month to everyone.

With Windows 10’s launch only five days away — the new operating system will debut July 29 on previewers’ PCs — the question of whether Patch Tuesday lives and breathes, or will die a sure death, maybe quickly, maybe slowly, still remains officially unanswered.

But security professionals and industry analysts have come to the conclusion that Patch Tuesday will continue, possibly in the same form it has since 2003.

“Patch Tuesday is not going away any time soon,” said Chris Goettl, product manager for patch management vendor Shavlik. “It’s been blown out of proportion.”

“Patch Tuesday” is the label that’s been stuck to the second Tuesday of each month, the day Microsoft has issued its security updates since 2003. (Microsoft prefers the more upbeat “Update Tuesday.”) The practice was begun to make patching more predictable, especially for businesses — the Redmond, Wash. company’s biggest and best customers — who generate the bulk of the firm’s revenue.

Two months ago, Patch Tuesday’s survivability seemed in doubt after Windows chief Terry Myerson said, “We’re not going to be delivering all of the updates to all of these consumers on one day of the month,” when talking about changes to Windows Update under Windows 10.

Observers used that comment to conclude that Microsoft was killing Patch Tuesday and would instead roll out security fixes as soon as they were ready, returning to its pre-2003 practice. Two weeks ago, when Microsoft shipped its July batch, some marked it as the last-ever Patch Tuesday.

Hold the phone, security experts said. While they agreed that Patch Tuesday would be moot for consumers on Windows 10, even in May they were certain it would remain a factor for businesses, although fixes would be available as they exited Microsoft’s testing.

Microsoft hasn’t been any help. This week, it again declined to answer questions about when and how security updates would be distributed to Windows 10 devices.

When asked whether security updates would be offered to all Windows 10 users on the second Tuesday of each month, or issued to all users as the fixes are completed and approved by Microsoft, a spokesman would not address the question. Instead, he said, “With Windows 10, we will deliver ongoing innovations and security updates. Frequency and delivery of updates may vary based upon the update.”

That varied delivery he mentioned would not be any different than the company’s current policy, which at times steps outside the Patch Tuesday schedule to ship rush fixes, or so-called “out-of-bound” updates. It did that just this week when it released an emergency update to all Windows editions.

Asked whether security updates would be packaged within Windows 10’s expected regular tempo of feature and functionality updates — as was an emergency Windows 10 patch distributed July 15 and several more since then — and released to users via the OS’s multiple cadences, dubbed “branches” and “rings,” the spokesman declined to comment. “Microsoft has nothing to share on that at this time,” the spokesman said in an email, using one of the company’s standard lines.

Two months ago, some security pros criticized Microsoft for not being more forthcoming. “Microsoft’s communications have gone to near zero,” said Andrew Storms, vice president of security services at consultancy New Context, in a May interview. “To some degree, that’s part of the reason why everyone is confused.”

Microsoft’s reticence may have exacerbated the confusion, but it largely stemmed from the radical overhaul of the Windows update, upgrade and servicing model. Rather than ploddingly roll out a new OS every three years, Microsoft will continually deliver new tools and functionality, new user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) features and enhancements over the life of Windows 10.

Microsoft has long updated Windows on a regular basis, but only in the form of security patches and bug fixes. They will now be accompanied by more visible improvements. But how the two categories — in Microsoft’s parlance, “non-security” and “security” updates, the former encompassing everything but patches — interact, intersect and overlap, or even if they do at all, is the foundation of the mystery.

Because Microsoft has been feeding off-the-cuff security updates that also include non-security content to Windows Insiders — the people who have opted in to the Windows 10 preview program — many have concluded that that will be the norm for everyone, or at the least, consumers on the “Current Branch” (CB), the earliest-to-get-updates mainstream track that’s the only one available to customers running Windows 10 Home.

“That’s the only cadence that people are seeing right now,” Goettl pointed out.
But there’s no guarantee that how Microsoft ships security updates to the Insider group will be the way it treats the Current Branch. Gabriel Aul, engineering general manager for Microsoft’s OS group, hinted at that possibility Tuesday. “The experience you’re having is because you’re in the Insider program. Not how the rest of the world will experience,” Aul tweeted when a user griped about the barrage of updates to Insider build 10240.

Even with the muddy waters, Goettl remained convinced that consumers would no longer see Patch Tuesday, at least as it’s been known in the past. “Consumers will get things as they come out,” he said today, reiterating his position of May. “They’ll have little choice on it, but that’s okay. Consumers have the least knowledge [about patches] and they shouldn’t be making the decision. Windows 10 will be like the Apple model [for Macs], and that’s in [consumers’] best interest.”

Again, Microsoft has not said as much. Nor has the company laid out how security updates will be presented to businesses. But there, people like Goettl and others were surer of what will happen.

Businesses that rely on the “Current Branch for Business” (CBB) and/or “Long-term Servicing Branch” (LTSB) for non-security updates will continue to see a Patch Tuesday, Goettl asserted. In fact, he argued that it was this critical part of Microsoft’s customer mix that’s calling the shots. “They have forced the course on Patch Tuesday,” Goettl said.

Gartner’s analysts were more aggressive in their belief that Patch Tuesday would remain intact, saying that it would exist for consumer and commercial Windows users. “[Current Branch] does not replace the current monthly security patch program, which will continue to deliver critical security fixes on the second Tuesday of each month,” wrote Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans in a recent report for clients. “Security fixes will continue to arrive each month on Patch Tuesday regardless of which branch you select, although they may arrive even more frequently for those on Windows Update.”

In a follow-up email, Kleynhans said that although Gartner had no inside information, it expects Patch Tuesday to continue.

But Kleynhans, like everyone else, will just have to wait for Microsoft to say how it is. Or isn’t.


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9 reasons not to upgrade to Windows 10 — yet

Excited about the imminent release of Windows 10? You may want to wait.

Windows 10 is just about here — and many users (especially those who have been wrestling with Windows 8) are probably eager to upgrade. But even if you can get it now — the upgrade will be sent first to those who signed up for the Windows Insider beta program and then in “slow waves” to everyone else — you may want to hold off.

Here are nine reasons you might want to put off a Windows 10 upgrade.

1. Your system can’t run it

This may seem obvious, but sometimes it’s the obvious that gets missed. In order to run Windows 10, you need a PC or tablet with a 1GHz processor or faster, 1GB of RAM for 32-bit machines or 2GB for 64-bit machines, 16GB hard disk space for 32-bit machines or 20GB hard disk space for 64-bit machines, a DirectX 9 or later graphics card with a WDDM 1.0 driver and an 800 x 600 display or better. For more details, go to Microsoft’s Windows 10 specifications page.

If your system doesn’t qualify, then you’re going to have to upgrade your hardware before you upgrade your operating system. (Or just buy a new computer with Windows 10 already installed.)

2. You get a year for the free upgrade offer
Windows 7 and Windows 8 users get a free upgrade to Windows 10. But you don’t have to upgrade right away — you have a full year. (The clock starts on July 29, 2015.) So you can upgrade at your leisure and not waste a bright, summer day doing it.

3. You’re using Windows 7
Windows 10 undoes the damage done by Windows 8, an operating system that was built more for touch devices than for traditional PCs. In fact, two of Windows 10’s big improvements over Windows 8 are the addition of a Windows 7-style Start menu and the ability to work entirely on the desktop and ignore the touch-focused Start screen.

So if you currently use Windows 7, you’re already set — you have a Start menu and you work only on the desktop. In short: If you’re happy with the way Windows 7 works, you may want to stay with it.

4. You like Windows 7 desktop gadgets
Windows 7 includes desktop gadgets that do things such as check the weather and stock quotes, monitor your CPU, report about the state of your system, let you listen to streaming radio stations, and check your hard drive speed and the state of your network. They don’t work on Windows 10 and will be deleted when you upgrade. So if you’re a gadget fan, don’t upgrade.

5. Security updates for Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 will be available for years
Microsoft has a habit of pushing people to its latest operating system by ending support for its old operating systems, halting security updates and leaving users potentially open to security threats. If you have Windows 7 or Windows 8, you’ve got years before that happens. Microsoft will keep issuing security patches for Windows 7 until January 2020 and for Windows 8 until January 2023. Even Windows Vista will get security updates until April 2017. So no need to rush.

6. You use OneDrive placeholders
In Windows 8.1, OneDrive placeholders, also called smart files, let you see all of the files in OneDrive, even if the files are located in the cloud and not on your device. When you double-click a placeholder on your PC, the file is downloaded. However, when Windows 10 ships, OneDrive placeholders won’t work because of the upgraded OneDrive software.

Microsoft says it will try to bring OneDrive placeholder functionality to Windows 10 by year’s end. But if OneDrive placeholders are important to you, don’t upgrade until they work with Windows 10.

7. You have old peripherals
The Achilles heel of most new operating systems is handling older peripherals, such as printers and scanners. Microsoft doesn’t always make sure that drivers for vintage devices work with the new operating system — it would take too many development resources. As a result, some of these peripherals won’t work with newer operating systems.

So if you have old favorites with a lot of mileage on them, don’t upgrade right away. Scour the Internet for news of whether they work with Windows 10, and only upgrade to it when you know that they do.

8. You love Windows Media Center
Yes, it’s true — there are some people who are big fans of Window Media Center, which was released way back in 2002 and which is used to play video, music and other media. Microsoft has been trying to kill it off for years, and even disbanded the team responsible for it back in 2009.

The truth is, Media Center was always a nightmare to set up and has been superseded by streaming media services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Spotify, Apple Music and many others. Still, there are die-hards out there who love it — and who will be dismayed to learn that Windows Media Center won’t work with Windows 10. If you’re one of that group, stay away from upgrading.

9. You don’t need the pain of early adoption
No matter how widespread beta testing is for a new operating system, it can’t uncover all the bugs and gotchas. A new operating system hasn’t been tested on every possible piece of hardware, with every piece of software, and with every hardware/software combination. People who upgrade immediately are the guinea pigs. They’re the ones who feel the pain.

If you’d prefer to go with an operating system that’s had enough time for a shakedown cruise, wait another six months before you upgrade.


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Google reports strong earnings, stock jumps 7%

Revenue growth, however, has slowed in recent years

Google’s stock jumped more than 7 percent in the after-market hours on Thursday, after the company reported strong earnings results for the second quarter.

Total income for the period ended June 30 was $3.93 billion, up 17 percent from $3.35 billion in the second quarter of 2014, Google announced Thursday. Excluding certain expenses, Google reported earnings of $6.99, beating analysts’ estimates of $6.71, as polled by the Thomson Financial Network.

The company’s stock was trading at around $620 after Google reported its earnings at the end of trading, up from closing at $579.

Still, Google’s growth has been slowing.

Advances in the Internet giant’s crucial advertising sales have taken a hit the last few quarters. Revenue is still growing, but at a slower rate than in years past, as the company has made new investments in ambitious “moon shot” projects like self-driving cars and Internet balloons in the stratosphere.

The company’s sales for the second quarter were $17.73 billion, up 11 percent, and coming in just shy of analysts’ estimates of $17.75 billion.

But the 11 percent growth rate is the smallest revenue increase reported by the company since 2012.

The company reported mixed results in its ads business. Its paid clicks grew by 18 percent, but the cost-per-click paid by advertisers fell by 11 percent.

The company’s operating expenses, meanwhile, grew by 13 percent, to $6.32 billion.

One concern among investors is that Google is struggling to grow its ad revenue on mobile devices. In comparison to the desktop, ads in mobile search results are smaller, and can yield fewer interactions from users, driving down their price.

Google has tried to attract more users to its ads on mobile by adding more information and functionality to them, like product ratings and store inventory information. Just this week, the company said it was rolling out a new way to let users make purchases directly from the ads in mobile search results.

Google is also competing with a rising number of apps made by other developers built around specific types of searches or online activities. In April, Google made a change to its search algorithm that prioritized sites that had been optimized for mobile. By prioritizing higher quality sites, the effect, dubbed “Mobilegeddon,” was aimed at getting more people to use Google search on mobile.

Google doesn’t break out it’s desktop versus mobile advertising sales. But Google might be making new strides in mobile. In its announcement Thursday, CFO Ruth Porat said mobile “stood out” in the context of the company’s core search results.


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Haven’t migrated from Windows Server 2003 yet? You’re not alone

Missing the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 may not bring immediate dire consequences, but there are good reasons to get off Windows Server 2003 soon.

Millions of CIOs are set to miss the July 14 deadline to migrate away from Windows Server 2003, despite the huge risks to their companies.

As of July 15 the operating system will no longer be supported by Microsoft – meaning that security patches and other updates will no longer be made available to users running the software. Last year the company estimated that there were 24 million instances of Server 2003 running around the world.

Ed Shepley, a solutions architect at migration specialist Camwood, says that while most companies have migrated some of their servers away from Server 2003, only a minority have migrated all of their servers.

“We are not seeing companies making a strategic decision to stay with 2003, but most companies we are talking to are struggling to get the last applications off it,” he says. “They thought that they had time to migrate everything but it has taken them longer than anticipated.”

This tallies with the results of a survey from Spiceworks in March which found that 61 percent of businesses it questioned were still running at least one instance of Server 2003.

Nick East, CEO of managed IT service provider Zynstra, also expects that many of the companies he has been talking to will miss the deadline.

“I think a significant number of organizations have not and will not make the date,” he says. “Probably 30-40 percent of SMBs will be running Server 2003 somewhere in their environment after July 14th.”
Risk rising gradually

The most obvious problem with remaining on Server 2003 is the increased security risk. Companies that are involved in regulated industries or activities also run the risk of falling out of compliance if they run an unsupported operating system, but Camwood’s Ed Shepley says that most of these companies have successfully migrated from Server 2003 already.

But unlike the Y2K problem, which had the potential to cause unpatched systems to fail on the first day of the year 2000, the security risk of running Windows 2003 is likely to slowly rise from a low base over time as more and more vulnerabilities are discovered and remain unpatched.

That means the security risk may not be as acute as some people are suggesting, says Shepley. “I don’t think the risks can be mitigated, but the world won’t end on deadline day,” he says. “After all, we didn’t see Windows XP infrastructure collapse immediately after support for that came to an end,” he adds.

Rob Bamforth, a principal analyst at research house Quocirca, agrees that when support for Windows XP ended, it didn’t result in a tsunami of attacks on machines running the operating system. But he believes running an unsupported server operating system is a greater security risk than running an unsupported client operating system.

“Once a server has been broken into, an intruder can move sideways to other systems on the network so there are potentially greater risks on a server platform than an end user platform,” he warns.
Expensive problems

But aside from security, there are plenty of other things to worry about if you are running an unsupported operating system like Server 2003. For example, most software vendors are only willing to validate and support their software on supported operating systems. That means that by staying on Server 2003 you won’t get vendor support for the applications running on it, and you won’t benefit from any feature enhancements or updates that may make it compatible with other software or services.

That can make it an expensive problem to fix if the application eventually becomes unusable. “The most expensive upgrade to make is the one that is done in a crisis,” says Zynstra’s Nick East. “If you have time to plan you can look at the options and get the best deal. But if you haven’t migrated and you have an outage or a breach then you have to do things in a hurry. That means you have to compromise in terms of agility or technology and you will almost certainly have to spend more money.”

The other side of this coin is that companies may be running an application that may not run or may not be supported on newer operating systems like Server 2008 or Server 2012. But Camwood’s Shepley says that in his experience most vendors are willing to provide companies with free upgrades to versions of their products that support Server 2012. That’s because their support and maintenance costs are lower when customers are running their products on the newest operating system, he says.

Of course, in some cases a newer version of the application may not be available. “If the vendor no longer exists then our recommendation would be to find a functional equivalent and migrate across,” says Shepley. “Or as a stopgap measure you can use a solution like AppZero that wraps your app in a bubble and lets you move it to a new platform.”

Quocirca’s Bamforth says that a common reason that many companies will miss the July 14 deadline is that IT departments have difficulty getting resources allocated to them to do the migration. “Migrating off Server 2003 doesn’t obviously add value to a business so it can be hard to make the case to senior management,” he says.

Other reasons include the following:
Underestimating the scale of the project – including identifying less “visible” servers that may be providing services like DNS and domain control – and therefore the time needed to complete it.

Being too busy firefighting other more pressing IT problems to carry out the migration on time.
Putting the migration off in order to do more exciting projects, or ones that other business departments are demanding and which appear to show bigger business benefits.

But Shepley points out that moving away from Server 2003 can be a significant opportunity for CIOs to cut IT costs and increase efficiency. That’s because most Server 2003 boxes run a single application are therefore highly underutilized, he says. By running these applications on newer operating systems in virtual machines it should be possible to reduce the number of physical servers required significantly, and increase overall server utilization.

“Almost everyone we are working with is moving from physical Server 2003 boxes to Server 2012 running in virtual machines,” he says.

And Zynstra’s East adds that from a business perspective it rarely makes sense to use technology that is obsolete.

“Organizations can get considerable benefit from using a high tech infrastructure,” he says. “There have been considerable advances in software since 2003, so if you are still using Server 2003 then your organization is not benefiting from them.”


 

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iPhone sales are about to explode

A new report from the Wall Street Journal points to iPhone sales exploding over the next few months.

It’s a song and dance that’s become somewhat of a routine: just as analysts believe iPhone sales are on the verge of peaking, new evidence suggests that the iPhone is about to become more popular than ever.

According to a report published on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, Apple recently asked its suppliers overseas to gear up for a production run of about 85 to 90 million iPhone units. By way of contrast, Apple during the build-up to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus release anticipated orders in the 70 to 75 million unit range. In other words, Apple’s iPhone sales during the company’s next refresh cycle could skyrocket by upwards of 28%.

As for what features the iPhone 6s will bring to the table, it’s been widely reported that Apple’s new iPhone models will include a Force Touch display. It remains to be seen, however, how such a feature will translate into real-world usage on a smartphone. As for other features, users can look forward to faster internals, 2GB of RAM, and an improved Touch ID sensor.

Additionally, the Journal adds that the iPhone 6s may come in an additional color to the current lineup of silver, gold, and space gray. While this remains to be seen, some previous rumors on this topic have suggested that Apple is exploring both Rose Gold and Pink color options.

So while Apple Watch sales may be lagging, according to some reports, Apple’s primary revenue generator — the iPhone — appears to be healthier than ever before.
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12 fun, free summer classes for techies

Summer school… for fun
Take a break from your day job and immerse yourself in baseball analytics. Or, escape to alien worlds, soak up superhero culture, and study the science of happiness. MOOCs are an easy way to feed your brain without draining your wallet. This summer, check out some fun, free, tech-friendly options from EdX, Coursera and newcomer Kadenze.

The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture

Comic book legend Stan Lee is teaming with the Smithsonian to explore the history of the comic book and the influence of superheroes.

The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture
Platform: EdX
Institution: Smithsonian
Timing: Starts August 12

Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science
Chefs reveal the secrets behind their culinary creations, and Harvard University researchers explain the science behind the recipes.

Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science
Platform: EdX
Institution: Harvard University
Timing: Starts June 17

Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics
Boston University’s course will cover how data science applies to the study of baseball; the fundamentals of R and SQL; how to compute and communicate statistical analysis of baseball data; and the history of baseball analytics and sabermetrics as a field of study.

Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics
Platform: EdX
Institution: Boston University
Timing: Starts July 7

Psychology of Popularity
University of North Carolina delves into a topic that’s not just relevant to kids and adolescents. Popularity affects adult life, too, and this course aims to explain how the psychology of popularity informs how we behave as adults.

Psychology of Popularity
Platform: Coursera
Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Timing: Starts June 22

Online Jamming and Concert Technology
Stanford University’s upcoming class will teach students how to set up city-to-city and studio-to-studio audio links for near-synchronous musical collaboration. Students will experiment with distributed rehearsing, production, and split-ensemble concerts.

Online Jamming and Concert Technology
Platform: Kadenze
Institution: Stanford University
Timing: Coming soon

Geodesign: Change Your World
What’s the best way to design our built environment? Geodesign brings together people from multiple design and geographic fields to address complex resource and land-use problems. Penn State’s MOOC will introduce participants to the core concepts of geodesign through case studies that showcase how geodesign has worked across the globe.

Geodesign: Change Your World
Platform: Coursera
Institution: Pennsylvania State University
Timing: Starts July 8

Math in Sports
Want to improve your fantasy football picks? Notre Dame’s online course will explain how probability and statistics can be used to analyze sports; how to use equations to model physical systems, such as a golf swing; and how to use ranking theory to help determine team performance.

Math in Sports
Platform: EdX
Institution: University of Notre Dame
Timing: Starts June 15

The Camera Never Lies
Or does it? University of London takes a look at photos and films and how they’ve been used as historical evidence. The course tackles issues of authenticity and manipulation, and examines the place of film and historical adoptions as public history.

The Camera Never Lies
Platform: Coursera
Institution: University of London
Timing: Starts June 22

Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe
This course from Australian National University will cover nine unsolved problems of modern astrophysics, including why the Big Bang happened, how planets form, and where the first stars have gone. It’s the first of four ANUx courses that comprise the university’s first year astrophysics program.

Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe
Platform: EdX
Institution: Australian National University
Timing: Starts June 23

“Dracula” by Stoker: BerkeleyX Book Club
Read, discuss and write about Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic vampire novel, Dracula –which is famous for introducing Count Dracula — in University of California, Berkeley’s EdX book club.

“Dracula” by Stoker: BerkeleyX Book Club
Platform: EdX
Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Timing: Starts August 3

The Science of Happiness
What makes us happy? This MOOC from University of California, Berkeley, teaches the science of positive psychology. Participants will learn research-based principles and practices for a happy and meaningful life.

The Science of Happiness
Platform: EdX
Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Timing: Starts September 8

Alien Worlds: The Science of Exoplanet Discovery and Characterization
Explore the techniques used to discover and characterize the thousands of planets known outside of our solar system. Boston University’s course will discuss how stellar properties affect exoplanet detection techniques and influence planetary formation and habitability.

Alien Worlds: The Science of Exoplanet Discovery and Characterization
Platform: EdX
Institution: Boston University
Timing: Starts June 2


 

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