Microsoft Issues Fix It for Internet Explorer Zero Day Vulnerability

A few days ago, we reported a new vulnerability in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer that could allow an attacker to execute code remotely on an affected PC. The vulnerability had been spreading fast and had been added to free attack tools used by hackers.

Microsoft has now issued an interim solution in the form of a Fix It tool which can be downloaded from here. In a blog post published today, Microsoft’s Yunsun Wee says that the tool is a one click solution that will protect users right away and that it will not hinder user’s web browsing in any way. You wont have to reboot your computer as well.

Microsoft will be releasing an out-of-band security update, MS12-063 this Friday to close the vulnerability. The update will be rated critical and will address the zero day vulnerability (Security Advisory 2757760) along with four other remote code execution issues. Users who downloaded the FixIt solution need not uninstall it before installing the update.

If you have automatic updates enabled, the update will be installed automatically and if you don’t, make sure that you install the update so that your computers are not vulnerable. Also, I highly recommend installing the FixIt solution right now to prevent any zero day attacks.

Microsoft Wants You To Subscribe To Office 2013

Microsoft’s plans to offer Office 2013 as part of Office 365 have been known for quite a while; how the products will be priced and offered was still unknown. Yesterday, Microsoft shared their strategy for getting Office 2013 to the users and Microsoft has prepared itself for a new connected and multi-PC environment. As mobile apps and web apps have started giving Office some competition and drastically change user habits, Microsoft had to come up with a new model to keep Office’s prices down for existing customers and attracting new ones.

Microsoft is probably among the first companies to offer a largely used product to a non-enterprise customer through the Software as a Service model. The subscription method brings with it a baggage of terms and conditions, what you can and cannot do; it’s complicated. Microsoft on their part has done a lot to un-complicate this part; here’s how:

(I’m using the chart by The Verge, since it’s one of the simplest I’ve come across.)

The thing about this chart as pointed out by veteran Ed Bott is, Microsoft has made it very uneconomical for users to buy the traditional boxed packages. Here’s why:

Traditional Box pack: (Home & Student–No Outlook)

1 license: $140 (3 years cost=$420)

Also, Microsoft no longer offers the buy 1 pack & use on 3 devices, which means for 3 years: 3×420=$1,260

Subscription: (There is no Home & Student, but Home & Student Premium)

1 subscription gives you 5 licenses with SkyDrive Premium, Outlook, Skype benefits at $99/year. So for 3 years, all this comes at $300 for 5 PCs.

Opting for the standalone boxes now makes no sense at all. Most of users get Office bundled with Windows on our new PCs, I believe OEMs will start offering 1 year free subscriptions with new PCs which might reduce licensing costs for OEMs and ensure customers stick to Office 2013.

Microsoft Advertising Introduces Bing Ads and Yahoo! Bing Network

Microsoft has announced rebranding of adCenter to Bing Ads and the launch of Yahoo! Bing Network, formerly known as Search Alliance.

Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance was born two years ago and reaches 151 million people today. The network includes the reach and benefits of Yahoo! Search and Bing partner publisher sites. Earlier this year, Microsoft brought all advertising marketing programs from Microsoft Advertising to the Bing umbrella. The latest announcement is a step in the same direction of streamlining a single digital advertising platform.

Bing Ads is a reimagined and improved way for managing campaigns on the Yahoo! Bing Network. Along with the rebranding, the platform has introduced a new Import Campaign feature which allows advertisers to import their search campaigns from Google Ad Words into Bing Ads. This will give their campaigns greater visibility and reach beyond just one search platform. Also, the new Editorial Exceptions feature will help advertisers resolve any editorial disapprovals during and after the ad submission process. With ongoing enhancements to the Bing Ads Editor tool, advertisers have an additional resource for tracking performance and identifying growth opportunities.

The Yahoo! Bing Network represents 70% of all searchers in the US, 20% of which are unique to the Yahoo! Bing Network. According to a comScore report quoted by Microsoft, searchers on Yahoo! Bing Network in the U.S. are likely to spend 24% more than the average searcher, and likely to spend 5% more than Google searchers.

A Brief Look At Microsoft’s Touch Mouse Lineup

From the very moment that Microsoft lifted the curtain and revealed Windows 8 at the D9 conference last year up to now, quite a lot of people have been arguing about just how easy the new Metro-infused user interface — one that is rather gesture-heavy and designed primarily with touch in mind — will be to use with a keyboard and mouse.

Whether you’re using peripherals or your fingers, there will always be a bit of a learning curve with Windows 8 due to its relatively gesture-heavy nature compared to the likes of iOS. There are things that you can do with pretty much every corner and side of the screen, and this isn’t a necessarily bad thing. After spending some time using the OS, I became rather well-acquainted with it.

However, as I’ve discovered with OS X Lion — an OS that, on a smaller scale, has also thrown a few touch paradigms into the mix — using a touch-enabled mouse and/or trackpad really enhances the experience. Simple things such as the ability to swipe to go back/forward on a website, tap with two fingers to access Mission Control and see all of your windows, switch spaces with the flick of two fingers, or scroll both vertically and horizontally save time and make using the OS more intuitive and fun.

That being said, I decided to request Microsoft’s entire lineup of touch-enabled mice for review: The Microsoft Touch Mouse, Explorer Touch Mouse, and Arc Touch Mouse to get a feel for their existing approach to touch peripherals.

Before I proceed, however, I need to clarify something. The only “touch” support that the latter two mice have to offer is with scrolling. Not a bad thing, though, as they’re still decent mice; the Arc Touch is awesome from a mobility standpoint, for one. But labeling them as touch mice is pretty misleading as most normal people associate touch with gesture support, and not just a better scrolling experience.

The Touch Mouse actually lives up to its name, however, and offers an assortment of gestures to help users better interact with Windows 8 on their PCs, where the keyboard and mouse still reign as the preferred input method.

Read on for thoughts on using the Touch Mouse in Windows 8, along with general thoughts on the other two mice.

Touch Mouse


So, here it is: Microsoft’s flagship touch mouse. With a sleek and ergonomic design that makes it comfortable to use — as with most Microsoft peripherals — the touch-sensitive zone is denoted by Xs and dots that also add a pleasant texture to the mouse. Taking a page from Apple’s playbook, the mouse is technically just one giant button, though you can still easily right-click. If you’re not accustomed to this from using Apple mice, you may find it a bit unusual at first.

Having just one button isn’t the issue at hand, however. The problem lies with the actual clicking experience, which feels stiff and unusual. In some cases, right clicks just didn’t seem to register. If, in the next iteration of the mouse, they address this issue, it’ll be much more enjoyable to use.

The mouse communicates with your PC through a USB nanotransceiver that’s easy to lose, so, for safekeeping, it is recommended that you store it in the slot at the bottom of the mouse. The Touch Mouse also utilizes Microsoft’s BlueTrack technology, allowing it to perform well on an array of different surfaces.

I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the Touch Mouse’s non-touch functionality; the real reason behind this post are the touch gestures offered by this device, after all.

Back in July, Microsoft announced that some new gestures were made available on the Touch Mouse, designed specifically for Windows 8. To recap, here they are:

  • A one finger swipe will allow you to move side to side or up and down, shifting content on your screen.
  • Two finger movements manage apps, allowing users to display Windows 8 charms, switch through open apps and show app commands.
  • Three finger movements will let you zoom in and out.
  • Thumb gestures navigate backward and forward through apps.

As you can see, there’s certainly a cornucopia of gestures that make Windows 8 more intuitive to use when the keyboard and mouse are your primary forms of input. However, that’s useless if the gestures fail to work at all; the mouse often has trouble properly recognizing gestures. It may even misinterpret certain gestures — for example, I may try to gradually scroll down the page, but it would misinterpret it as a flick and sentence me to the very bottom of whatever I was reading — or miss them completely.

If they work out the kinks of this mouse with the clicking experience and gestures, I would definitely recommend it to add to the Windows 8 user experience. However, until then, I can’t say that I recommend purchasing this mouse.

Arc Touch Mouse


Next up, we have the aptly named Arc Touch Mouse, which is explicitly designed for portable, on the go use. When called upon for use, it springs into action and assumes a curved arc position which turns the mouse on, flattening and turning off once the user is finished. While the design, pictured above, may initially look peculiar, the mouse is actually surprisingly ergonomic and enjoyable to use. The area where your palm rests is comprised of a comfortable, soft material — which, unfortunately, is a magnet for dust — while the button area is a glossy plastic.

Now, in terms of touch functionality, what this mouse has to offer is the ability to use your finger to scroll. You may flick, glide, or tap to navigate and scroll through a page. The coolest bit about the scroll area on this mouse — which lies in between the two buttons — is that it gives back tactile feedback in response to your scrolling. Given that there is no actual scroll wheel in that area, this certainly simulates the feeling of one in a much more satisfying fashion.

This mouse doesn’t work with your PC using Bluetooth, though. Instead, a USB nano transceiver is offered, which you can magnetically store at the bottom of the mouse for safekeeping, as pictured above.

The Arc Touch Mouse is rather awesome, and if you’re someone who owns a laptop and frequently takes it with you everywhere you go, or if you travel frequently, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s both portable and usable.

Explorer Touch Mouse


Finally, we have the Explorer Touch Mouse. Like the Arc Touch Mouse, it’s compact and designed for portability, though it’s arguably less portable; while small in size, it cannot be flattened for storage when not in use. Nevertheless, it should still be sufficient for most travelers to carry around and pack. The mouse is also pretty lightweight, thanks to the plastic that it’s made out of. Unfortunately, due to this same reason, the mouse lacks a sense of build quality and sturdiness, but I suppose that the weight advantage outweighs this issue, given its objective to be a very portable mouse.

Like the former two mice, this one communicates with the PC through a USB nanotransceiver and uses BlueTrack tracking technology. And, like the Arc Touch Mouse, it lacks more complex gesture supports.

However, it does offer some pretty nifty scrolling functionality. The mouse supports four-way directional scrolling by using just your finger, and that delightful tactile feedback that we all know and love is given off as you scroll. I find it interesting how four-way scrolling isn’t present on the Arc Touch, which has a scrolling area that closely resembles that of the Explorer Touch Mouse.

If the unorthodox form factor of the Arc Touch mouse doesn’t satisfy the grasp of your palm, and you’re more interested in a regular — but relatively minuscule — portable mouse, than this is the one for you.


Given Windows 8 and the importance of using new gestures to navigate its UI, I was really hoping that the Touch Mouse would come through and be the one, but I’m unable to look past the stiff clicking and frequent misinterpretation of gestures to properly recommend it. However, I’m confident that Microsoft is aware of these issues and will fix them in the next revision of the mouse. Provided this does happen, I’d have no problem wholeheartedly recommending it as an excellent companion to Windows 8.

The real winner in this review has to be the Arc Touch mouse. It’s unique and surprisingly comfortable to use, given its anorexic form factor. You can “flatten” the mouse when you’re not using it, allowing for maximum portability while on the go. And, on top of being portable and pleasant to use, the tactile feedback you receive when scrolling is also a nice touch.

The Explorer Touch Mouse was okay, but nothing really stood out to me about it. But, for those of you who do like smaller mice like it and want a Microsoft hardware product with tactile four-way scrolling and Bluetrack, then you’ll like it a lot.

To learn more about each of these mice, check out the Microsoft Hardware website.

Microsoft’s Modern Logo

Those following Microsoft know 2012 is probably Microsoft’s biggest year with the company updating pretty much their entire product range. In addition to new features, Microsoft is giving the products a cohesive face lift. Previously known as Metro, the UI has spread like a virus within the company and is now part of all the products.

One of the major changes with Windows 8 was the product’s new logo. The 4 colors that have become popular due to Windows have been replaced with a single Blue color. Similarly, Office has a new logo too. (Personally, I find the Office logo way cooler than the Windows 8 logo.) Today, Microsoft has unveiled their new brand identity. After 25 years, Microsoft has a new logo:

A few thoughts on the logo:

  • It’s Metro
  • This is the first time Microsoft has the iconic Windows flag as part of the logo (previously it was always just the word Microsoft)
  • As Abhishek Baxi points out, Microsoft gets the 4 colors while Windows is a single color
  • Oddly, the Microsoft logo is a square facing front, Xbox is a circle facing front while Windows and Office are squares facing left
  • The 4 colors seem to have been dulled down, they just don’t seem that bright

The logo is simple and the 4 colors that have been synonymous with Microsoft, given that it makes a lot of sense for Microsoft to adopt it. And giving it the Metro Modern treatment signifies the new look of all Microsoft products.

Janet Tu at Seattle Times broke the story.

Dell Discusses Plans To Launch Windows 8 Tablets, Isn’t Worried About The Surface

When Microsoft announced the Surface, they didn’t just want to make a high-quality piece of hardware that’s intended to make Windows 8 shine. They also did so to push otherwise sloppy OEMs to step up their game and develop equal — if not better — devices that are both exceptional in quality and innovative. With the exception of Acer, OEMs have been largely positive about the Surface. Dell is joining Lenovo and HP in making generally neutral/positive comments about the device, while also stating during an investor’s call that they have plans to release Windows 8 devices of their own throughout the fourth quarter and into next year.

Here’s what Senior VP Brian Gladden had to say about it:

“As you think about Microsoft entering the space, clearly, as we think about it, we’ve spent time talking to Microsoft and understanding sort of how they’re thinking about it. There clearly are opportunities for us, as Windows 8 comes through, in having differentiated products. And I think at the same time they have announced the Surface product that would be in the space, we will have products in there, and I think you’ll see a diverse set of offerings that take advantage of what Windows 8 brings to market.”

As you can see, they’re generally neutral about the Surface, unlike Acer, whose executives have been pretty bitter and negative about the device in public statements. Here’s the tidbit in which Gladden mentions Dell’s plans to launch Windows 8 devices:

“You’ll see new Windows 8 ultrabooks, all-in-one tablets and converged devices in the fourth quarter and headed into next year.”

The form factors that he hints at in this comment are interesting. I’m curious to find out what the “converged” devices look like, and how they differ from the all-in-one tablets. Perhaps they’re Galaxy Note-esque devices, which lie somewhere in between a tablet and a phone?

Microsoft Announces $79.99 Xbox 360 Essentials Pack, Lowers Kinect Price

With the holiday season on the horizon, Microsoft will be doing some special things for their flagship entertainment device to boost sales and value for consumers. They have announced that the price of the Kinect has been permanently lowered to $109.99 in the US, with other permanently reduced prices taking effect throughout North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific regions where the device is sold. And, come October 4th, the price will also be permanently reduced in Australia and New Zealand.

The second Xbox-related tidbit is that Microsoft will be selling a bundle of essential Xbox 360 accessories at a lower cost than purchasing each item at a standalone price. Aptly dubbed the Xbox 360 Essentials Pack, the bundle includes the following for the relatively low cost of $79.99:

  • Xbox 360 Controller
  • Media Remote Control
  • HDMI Cable
  • Three-month long Xbox LIVE Gold Membership

Microsoft claims that, by purchasing the bundle, you will save $55 on these items.

The permanently reduced Kinect price should certainly help entice more Xbox 360 buyers to purchase the accessory, while the bundle will act as a convenience — and means of saving money — to new Xbox buyers and current owners alike.

Microsoft Opens Up Registration For Discounted Windows 8 Upgrade Price

Microsoft has announced that registration for that Windows 8 upgrade offer they announced in May has now opened up. Basically, if you purchased or will purchase a qualifying Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013, you can purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for the low cost of $14.99 USD, which you can redeem as soon as Windows 8 is generally available on October 26.

To get the $14.99 upgrade price, simply register on the Windows Upgrade Offer website after registering. Go through the wizard — while having the product key of the Windows 7 install that came with the PC handy — and you’re good. Then, starting on October 26, promo codes will be sent out via email with purchase instructions, where you can then redeem your Windows 8 license for the low cost of $14.99. During checkout, the price may still be listed as $39.99, but once you get to the order confirmation page, you will be able to enter in your promo code which will then drop the price accordingly.

You’ll have until February 28, 2013 to register.

It’s definitely not a bad deal, and it’s awesome to see Microsoft offering Windows 8 to consumers at such an affordable cost. So, unless you’re waiting for a Windows RT (or Windows 8 Pro) tablet, you don’t have to wait until general availability to purchase a new PC.

The $199 Surface and Windows 8 RT OEMs

Microsoft’s entry into computer hardware has changed the game. The move has seen reactions across the spectrum, from excitement to about time to are they insane. The decision is very interesting for the simple reason that Microsoft will be competing with the strength of the Windows ecosystem—the OEM partners.

While Microsoft has been rather quite about the Surface and Windows 8 RT, the company’s VP for Ecosystem and Planning team penned down an article detailing the progress made by Microsoft and its hardware partners. Most of the article is information we already know rolled into one, however, the highlights are:

  • Dell, Lenovo, Samsung & Asus will be introducing Windows 8 RT tablets
  • Windows 8 RT battery life:
    • HD Video Playback—8 hours to 13 hours
    • Connected Standby—320 hours to 409 hours
    • Weight—520g to 1200g (iPad is 662g)

Toshiba’s omission from the list of WIndows RT OEM partners caught the attention of several Microsoft reporters and as it turns out, the company blames delays in obtaining parts.

Adding to the Windows 8 RT news, Engadget cited an anonymous source and claimed Microsoft’s Surface tablet’s starting price will be as low as $199. The rumor got several thinking about how this could be possible. One theory doing rounds is Microsoft will offer the Surface at a subsidy with subscriptions to Xbox Music, Office 365 as a way to lock the user into Microsoft’s ecosystem and make up for the drastically low Surface price.

The Surface will be available only through the Microsoft Store and the company already has this subscription-based low-cost model implemented for the Xbox 360—another Microsoft Store exclusive.

Given the Nexus 7’s $199 price-tag and Apple’s inevitable iPad Mini or iPad Air, offering Surface at this insane price of $199 might help Microsoft move these tablets into the market while the OEM partners do their best.

Windows 8 Now Available for MSDN/Technet Subscribers

Earlier this month when Microsoft made Windows 8 available to hardware partners they announced 15th August would be when some end users can get their hands on the final version of Microsoft’s latest & greatest. MSDN and TechNet are two subscriptions offered by Microsoft with TechNet focused towards the IT crowd and MSDN targeted at developers. The subscriptions give enthusiasts and people vested in the Microsoft ecosystem early access to Microsoft at huge discounts.

Over the years TechNet & MSDN have become economical means of getting legal copies of Windows, (at one point subscribers had 10 keys with 5 activations). Unfortunately, Microsoft wasn’t too pleased since these keys could be resold. The ToS for MSDN/TechNet say the builds/keys can’t be used in a production environment legally and they have drastically reduced the number of keys available for a user. Anyhow, for enthusiasts, TechNet/MSDN are still the best bet to get early access to Microsoft products, legally.

Starting today, MSDN/TechNet subscribers can download Windows 8 and Windows 8 Enterprise:

We will share a first look in the coming days.