Heads-Up on end of support for Windows XP and Office 2003

WinXPOFfice2003Well with the great run that Windows XP has had in being if I’m not mistaken the longest supported Windows Operating System. Windows XP has been a superb version of Microsoft’s Windows franchise, however even thought its still loved by many end users and corporate users, its now a bit long in the cyber-tooth! and support is to end on April 8th 2014.

“It means you should take action. After April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates.

Running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in your environment after their end of support date may expose your company to potential risks, such as:

  • Security & Compliance Risks — Unsupported and unpatched environments are vulnerable to security risks. This may result in an officially recognized control failure by an internal or external audit body, leading to suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organization’s inability to maintain its systems and customer information”

Microsoft has not been quiet about the end of life (EoL) time-line for Windows XP and Office 2003 as the EoL has already been extended a few years back, so that companies could start their migration to a newer version of Windows or Office so that they could still feel confident in Microsoft still supporting these two with security updates.

So what can you do to get ready for the end of support for these two products, while this information is predominantly aimed at business users, it serves well for home end users also. Below are some links that should help you plan for this date.

End of Support Information also has a link to the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, which can help companies plan a migration.

Windows 7 Application Compatibility List for IT Professionals

Windows 7 Moonlight themes

I like a good theme on my Windows desktop and Microsoft have some new ones based around moonlight below.

New Themes

“Ooh, ooh, ooh, what a little moonlight can do to you! Yes, but how about a LOT of moonlight? This free theme for Windows 7 features brilliant full moons, hazy winter moons, and moons rising dramatically over castles, mountains, cityscapes, and rock formations. Not recommended for werewolves.”

Download from HERE

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

windows-8-logoWell its now here and I have to be honest while I do not think the Metro UI will appeal to many and certainly not to businesses (Microsoft will have to release a patch to restore the Start Menu UI for these users) its a very good OS.

Its very good on low powered laptops or netbooks as I have it installed on my Samsung N110 Netbook and clean install was 20mins from USB stick and all drivers ok apart from needing to revert to an older Intel GME graphic driver to take advantage of 1280×768 resolution as without this you cannot open the Metro Tile apps without being at 1280×768 resolution.

WIN8 001

I did take my netbook into work this week and the IT tech who works in our dept (Jeff) was impressed and to impress him is a good signal of a great OS, as we looked past the UI of Metro and looked more at the backend apps and Task Manager is superb a tool for troubleshooting. The app for SkyDrive impressed us both and it may need the ability to allow multiple accounts as well as possibly the ability to auto sync the File Versions backup to SkyDrive. 

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The ability to backup to not only a portable USB drive or another Hard Drive (HDD) on your PC is great, but also is the option to use a network drive and setting up a network between PCs is really now easy, in fact so easy you don’t need the family geek to help you out.

Win 8 007

Storage Spaces allows you to use a pool of HDDs, to save your files too so backup is seriously covered in Windows 8.

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The boot up of my netbook to usable status was with Windows 7 about 2 mins, with Windows 8 its 20 seconds!! yes I said 20 seconds, with really great battery usage.

I was massively impressed at the driver location and installing for hardware as I have a HP Envy 100 Network printer I turned it on to test how the install of a network enabled printer would be but by the time I got back to the Windows 8 PC from switching on the printer the driver had already loaded…. impressed was I!

Wireless connectivity is improved in the management of as you can now see how much data you have used, good for those on a limited data contract as you can use the Metered option, you also have taken from mobiles the Airplane option to turn off Wifi and Bluetooth.

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Task Manager is really improved into what now can be used more and more as a troubleshooting tool, not only does it now give you a great graphical representation of the applications usage, it will highlight high CPU, Ram using applications which will make spotting issues easier. It will also allow you to look at App history to see what applications may having been causing any issues.

WIN8 004 WIN8 003

You can also manage start-up via Task manger now as it will let you know what impact a start-up program is causing on your PCs boot up.

You can download applications (apps) from the Windows Marketplace which is the same type of thing that I have for my Windows 7 Phone, it looks like it may be a great PC version of the Windows Phone Marketplace, Apple Store and Android Store but for PC.

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I really love the main feature which is that if you use the login option of using your Microsoft Passport ID (email and password) then you have the ability to share data from multiple PCs and a Windows 7 Phone so items like email addresses, calendar items are shared between devices. 

Windows 8 has many great features that many will like when they look under the skin so to speak, I think this is a great OS even at this early stage so it can only get better, it will not appeal to all in the Metro UI look but that is a debate for a later date.

DO remember that if you install this Consumer Preview version that it is not a finished product and should be classed as beta and only installed on a spare PC or Virtual Machine and not a production or main household PC as in some cases not everything as in hardware and software will work normally as your current Windows version does.

Download from HERE  and do download the Product Guide HERE

Windows Compatibility Centre

Windows 7 boxThe Windows Compatibility Centre is a great first port of call if you wish to find out if one of your old software applications works with Windows 7 (the current Windows Operating System) be that 32bit or 64bit, the database of a vast array of software and hardware is listed.

WCC001

From the about on the Windows Compatibility Centre site.

“While you could sift through old installation CDs or hunt around on the web for the hardware drivers or software updates you need, we aim to make it easier. That’s why we offer a central place where you can get the drivers and updates you need to get up and running quickly.

Each product has a details page which shows its compatibility status with Windows 7. Links under the compatibility status will take you directly to a download page for the device driver or software upgrade you need. Additional links on the left side of the page go to the manufacturer’s or publisher’s homepage, support site, and contact page. For compatibility information on 32-bit versions of Windows 7, click the 32-bit tab at the top of the page”

Personally I do find it very helpful as I get asked a lot “does this software work with Windows 7” well while I’m very good and have a great memory, I cannot know everything that is compatible or not, so this site is a great one to link to, for case in point, security software is good starting point and you can just click the Security icon on the home page and you get a list of what has been tested and what is compatible or not.

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You will find a vast array of topics from Communications to Developer Tools to Hardware. So if you ever need to check if hardware or software is compatible with Windows 7, then do check this great resource out first as well as the manufacturers site.

Windows Compatibility Centre

Windows Defender Offline Beta

virus_alertsWindows Defender Offline Beta, is an application you can add to USB, CD, DVD to allow you to boot to the USB, Disk and see if the application can remove any malware that is causing your PC not to start. While this is a beta and beta’s are programs in development its a great option to the fight against malware for any PC tech.

“Sometimes, malicious and other potentially unwanted software, including rootkits, try to install themselves on your PC. This can happen when you connect to the Internet or install some programs from a CD, DVD, or other media. Once on your PC, this software might run immediately, or it might run at unexpected times.Windows Defender Offline Beta can help remove such hard to find malicious and potentially unwanted programs using definitions that recognize threats”

Download from HERE (both 32bit and 64bit versions available) and FAQ HERE

Microsoft issue court papers to UK Retailer Comet over fake Windows CDs

With Comet being a struggling electrical retailer in the UK, its a bit of a surprise to me today to read that they had ordered around 94+ copies of a Windows CD to help restore customers PCs in the event of a bad crash or issue. It was more surprising as most of these if not all of these original manufacturer PCs (as in HP, DELL, ACER, TOSHIBA etc) all come with a restore CD/DVD, a Restore Partition or the option to build your own Restore CD/DVD anyways.

“Microsoft is suing struggling retailer Comet over claims its shops sold “fake” Windows CDs to customers.

The electronics chain allegedly pirated 94,000 copies of Vista and XP recovery discs in a factory in Hampshire.

It is then said to have sold the media to people purchasing Windows-loaded PCs and laptops from its retail outlets across the UK.

Microsoft’s worldwide anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting associate general counsel David Finn said: “As detailed in the complaint filed, Comet produced and sold thousands of counterfeit Windows CDs to unsuspecting customers in the United Kingdom.

“Comet’s actions were unfair to customers. We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products – and our customers deserve better, too.”

In a statement, Comet said it had received legal advice but held the view that the production of recovery discs did not infringe Microsoft’s intellectual property.”

So this was in effect a money making scheme as I mentioned earlier the option is there from the original maker who is licenced to allow you to create these restore disks.

I just think someone high up in Comet was trying to make money for the struggling company and thought this was a good quick scheme to have the sales people push a restore disk to new buyers, without thinking it through too well.

It will be interesting to see how the court case goes, as if it goes to court Microsoft do have deep pockets to protect Intellectual Property and if Comet wish to settle out of court it will still cost them a fair few pounds, and for a company that does not have the capital.

Read full story and watch video HERE at Sky News

Stop your PC going to sleep with Insomnia

Insomnia is a great little free application written by David Anson from Microsoft that when run stops your PC going into sleep and while I know that you can set the Power Options in Windows to stop your PC going into sleep, there are times when that is just a hassle to always do.

insomnia

Most applications like media players, CD/DVD Burners etc. do stop the PC from going into sleep, but there are many applications that don’t, so with Insomnia you just run it when you need too and it stops any application form putting Windows into sleep.

Download from HERE                                                                                                                     works with Windows XP, Vista & 7 both 32bit and 64bit versions

Digital Janitor

SoftwareI like really neat small applications like this that just make your PC life that little bit easier, and Digital Janitor is one such application. Do bare in mind that this is a beta so not the final release of the application but as a starting point I think its well worth an install and test.

“Digital Janitor is an application specialized in sorting files. To use it, you have to insert the rules on which the sort will be performed and press a button. Within seconds the folder that you wanted to sort is clean, and all the files are in the right place.

Example:You have the following files in a folder: “Text File.txt”, “Another Text File.txt”, “Word Document.doc”, “Another Document.otd”, “Image.jpg”.
You set the following rules:

  • All text files (*.txt) go to C:Text Files
  • All files that contain “Document” in their description go to C:Documents
  • All images (*jpg) go to C:Images

After selecting the folder that you want to sort, press the “Sort” button and the files will be automatically moved to their place!”

I thought Digital Janitor would come in handy for me as a way to in one scenario to move files that I save that are updates or new applications to install on all my PCs as I have a network shared folder setup, so this would be a way to automatically copy these new apps or updates to the shared folder. Well it works very well in this instance, so I see no problems in setting up many sort options.

DigitalJanitor 001 DigitalJanitor 004

The option to sort music may interest many who have large collections of music.

DigitalJanitor 002

Download from HERE                                                                                                                   works in XP/Vista/7 and needs at least .NET Framework 2.0 and Windows Installer 3.1

Microsoft Update KB2524375 to Block Fraudulent Certificates

Privacy 001This update is one you will wish to make sure you have installed, its purpose is to block a set of Certificates that had the digital signature of Comodo as the Certification Authority on them, this could have lead to users going to an unsafe or spoofed website, which had been exploited.

Mozilla the makers of Firefox Browser have also updated Firefox to take into account of these fraudulent certificates, so do update that browser to the latest version.

Microsoft is aware of nine fraudulent digital certificates issued by Comodo, a certification authority present in the Trusted Root Certification Authorities Store on all supported versions of Microsoft Windows. Comodo advised Microsoft on March 16, 2011 that nine certificates had been signed on behalf of a third party without sufficiently validating its identity. These certificates may be used to spoof content, perform phishing attacks, or perform man-in-the-middle attacks against all Web browser users including users of Internet Explorer.

The following domains are affected by the certificates:

  • login.live.com
  • mail.google.com  
  • login.yahoo.com (3 Certificates)
  • login.skype.com
  • www.google.com
  • addons.mozilla.org
  • Global Trustee

You should have already been offered this update over the last few days via Windows Update, but if you have not then run Windows Update or you can visit the download site of KB2524375  – Microsoft Security Advisory: Fraudulent Digital Certificates could allow spoofing HERE (just choose your Windows version and download and double click the file to install)

Read the full text of the advisory HERE

If you wish to double check to see if you have this update already, just open up Windows Update and click Update History, then look down the list for KB2524375, if you have it then you are ok, if not go to Windows Update or download from the link posted earlier.