Tag Archives: Windows 7

Find and Read Tons of Free E-Books with FBReader

Do you like to read? I love to read, but I have trouble making time for it. Typically, I’ve always read books, and only recently, have I moved to reading on my laptop or netbook. While using a computer, I wondered why so many people preferred using an e-book reader application. I always found most books in PDF or plain text.

Now I know why. An e-Reader can be your best buddy if it’s a good one. It keeps track of all your books, keeps track of where you are in each book, and it may also help you find more books. That’s certainly the case for FBReader, a free and open source (FOSS) e-book reader.

fbreader-icon As you may already know, besides plain text or PDF, e-books come in many formats. FBReader supports html, chm, plucker, palmdoc, oeb, rtf, tcr, OpenReader, non-DRM’ed Mobipocket, and fb2. It also supports reading from tar, zip, gzip, and bzip2 archives. It also has automatic language and encoding detection, automatic hyphenations, full-screen mode, and screen rotation.

Perhaps the best feature for FBReader is that it’s available for many platforms and operating systems. Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Android, Sharp Zaurus, Siemens Simpad with Opensimpad ROM, Nokia Internet Tablet (Maemo platform), Archos PMA430, Motorola E680i/A780/A1200 smartphones, PepperPad 3, Asus Eee PC, IRex iLiad, UMPC. There’s also a Java version that likely works on a Mac OS.

The FBReader menus and help are available in 13 languages; Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Lithuanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian.

If may have spoken too soon, when I said best feature. I also love the fact that I don’t even have to leave FBReader to go and look for more books. It’s able to search several online libraries and download new books for you. You can even add libraries, as if there wasn’t enough to read already.

Here are four screen shots showing the major functions.

Finding New Books

fbreader-network-library

Looking at Your Books

fbreader-book-lists

Book Cover Art

fbreader-book-cover

Reading a Book

fbreader-book-reading

In Windows, FBReader is offered as a 5MB installer. I found that the program folder can be copied to a flash card or USB drive and used as a semi-portable app as well.

On a final note, there is an active FBReader Group online, which can offer all kinds of help and advice, such as, where to find more cool books.

Download FBReader

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I haven’t been using FBReader long, but I have a feeling it’s going to be one of my favorite apps. The ability to read when I want, on the go, on any PC, and find more books easily is priceless.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)

5GB of Free Online File Storage with CloudDrive

I have more free storage space online than I know what to do with. I have SkyDrive, Google Docs, Dropbox, Ubuntu One, Drop.io and several others. That doesn’t mean I won’t accept more if it’s offered. In 2008, when Adobe offered 5GB of free space online for files, I snapped it up. Their service is called Adobe Acrobat Document Service. All you need is an email address and a password to use it. There was one major problem with it and I have not been using it. Adobe’s service only allows you to upload one file at a time.

Since you can only upload one file at a time, it takes too long to use their service. Most of the time, I use SkyDrive Explorer to upload files when I need cloud storage. This may change since I found a free program called CloudDrive. This freebie app let’s you upload multiple files into your Adobe Acrobat Documents account. Take a look at the CloudDrive application:

CloudDrive-file-listing

CloudDrive looks almost like a regular file window and you’ll have no trouble figuring it out. It allows you to create folders, but I did notice one problem with that. You can’t move files between folders easily. As far as I can tell, you have to download a file and then re-upload it into a different folder.

Other than that, I can’t see much wrong with this application.

[via DownloadSquad]

Download CloudDrive

http://www.driveoncloud.com/ (XP, Vista, 7)

Techie Buzz Verdict:

If you are going to use Adobe’s Acrobat Document Service, you are definitely going to want CloudDrive to help you upload multiple files and folders. CloudDrive is still very new and I’m hoping they’ll add a way to move files between folders soon. CloudDrive has quite a way to go before it’s as easy to use as SkyDrive Explorer or Dropbox.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

How to Restore Default File Types in Vista and Windows 7

registry iconA few weeks ago, I told you how to repair the default image file types in Windows XP. At the time, I wasn’t aware of any utilities that could help you restore file types in Vista or Windows 7. I should have guessed that Ramesh Srinivasan would make good on his word. I had seen an old post which said he’d be working on something to help out.

Why would you need to restore a default file type?

You probably already know that a file type is controlled by the last letters after the dot in a file name. When you install new applications, sometimes the new app takes over the opening of some file types automatically. If you installed a new music player, you might discover that all .MP3 files now open up in the new player. That’s fine if you like the new player, but what if you don’t? You can re-assign the MP3 file type to another player by using the Open Withmenu when you right click on an MP3.

If you want Windows to use the default player that Microsoft had originally chosen for MP3 files, you might have trouble figuring out how to do that. I have found that it’s also sometimes tricky to get the defaults back on image file types. Fortunately, there are a few scripts and utilities that can help.

Using .REG Scripts

Ramesh has a page on his site that helps you restore a few Windows 7 file types to their defaults. He also has a page that lets you restore Vista file types to their defaults. Read the instructions on those pages to use REG (registry) scripts to make the changes.

Here’s a list of the file types that can be changed there:

AUDIOCD, AVI, BAT, BMP, CHM, CMD, COM, DVR-MS, EXE, GIF, HTM, HTML, ICO, INF, IMG, JPE, JPEG, JPG, JS, LNK, MP3, MPE, MPG, MSC, MPEG, REG, SCR, TIF, TIFF, TXT, VBS, WMA, WMV, WSF, XML, XPS, ZIP, FOLDER, DIRECTORY, DRIVE

Using the Unassoc Utility

How To Create and Use System Restore Points

I often create backups of my registry files when I’m getting ready to try out new software. Lately, I’ve been setting System Restore Pointsas well. Why would I do this? Let’s ask Microsoft.

Quote from Microsoft: Every time you download or install a new game, application, or software update, you make changes to your computer. Sometimes that change may make your system unstable. Have you ever wanted to go back to the way it was? With System Restore, you can.(source)

What is a System Restore Point?

System Restore is a Windows feature that takes snapshots of the system files and registry at regular intervals or during important system events. The snapshots are stored as System Restore Points (SRP). If you run into a problem, you can often use a previous SRP to undo many of the changes to your system that created the problem.

It’s not fool proof. Sometimes it didn’t correct the problems I had. Most of the time, it does a good job as long as the Restore Point isn’t very old. Since it seems to be important to use a recent SRP, I often set my own SRP just before installing software. I’ll show you how to do this below.

How to Create a System Restore Point

In Windows XP, use your start menu to go to Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore.

You should see this:

system-restore-point-create-xp

Set the button on Create a restore pointand click Next. At the next screen, you’ll be able to type in a name or description for your restore point.

system-restore-point-name-xp

In Vista and Win7, you can set an SRP just as easily.

Click your Start button, then type restore, then click the entry that says Create a restore point.

create-a-restore-point-win7

Next you’ll see a screen like this:

advanced-system-settings-protection-tab

Click the Createbutton and you’ll get a window that will let you choose a description for the new SRP.

create-a-restore-point-name-win7

How to Use a Restore Point to Recover from a Problem

In WinXP, you can use the Start menu as shown above to find the System Restore settings.

When you get to the System Restore panel, select Restore my computer to an earlier time.

You’ll get a window that will let you select a restore point.

system-restore-select-a-point-xp

Once you have an SRP selected, hit the Nextbutton to start the recovery. You’ll get a screen with some info on it and you’ll have to click Nextone final time. The computer will restart.

In Vista and Win7, you can click the start button and type restore. You’ll need to click the entry labeled Restore your computer to an earlier time.

image

You’ll get a window up that let’s you start System Restore. Then you’ll be able to select an SRP to recover.

system-restore-point-list

Once you have one selected, hit the Nextbutton, and then the Finishbutton to confirm it. Your computer will reboot and hopefully everything will be better.

Conclusion

Now that you have the general idea, don’t forget that setting a System Restore Point could save you time and trouble when you try out new software. If you have any suggestions or questions, be sure to comment below.

Microsoft Pushing for Removal of RC Beta

About thirty minutes ago, I received an email from Microsoft concerning the status of my Windows 7 test beta (screenshot below). It underlined several key ideas, most importantly the annoyances that will be caused to those who do not switch from the RC version to a retail version, or an older OS (XP, Vista).

Microsoft

The key points of this email were:-

  • It is time to replace the RC.
  • Though Microsoft said that the RC will expire in June, 2010, they are going to make your computer nag you consistently for a month (i.e. starting March 1st) before it actually expires.
  • What kind of nagging you ask? Well for starters the computer will automatically shut down after 2 hours of work without saving your work. Second, the wallpaper will change to the static you are using the RC! Give us money and we’ll give you the retail version! Switch before this month! Switch switch switch switch!. Okay, not exactly that but it will change to a persistent black with a message on it.
  • To revert back or upgrade, you need to do a clean installation. A normal installation keeping the files is not possible. As the letter sweetly puts it as with any clean installation, you’ll need to back up your data then reinstall your applications and restore the data.

So it is time to switch to an older version or buy the upgrade if you wish to continue working uninterrupted. I still do not know why Microsoft would start nagging a month before it actually expires. The worst part is that I cannot say much against Windows 7, it is pretty good. If only Microsoft stopped annoying the hell out of us, it would be much better.

How to Speed Up Windows Disk Cleanup

disk-cleanup-icon Cleaning out the junk files on your PC is something you should do on a regular basis. Microsoft has included a file cleaning utility in Windows, and it’s called Disk Cleanup. Running Disk Cleanup will often make your system a little snappier and you can also free up a large amount of used disk space.

You can find the Disk Cleanup utility in the following locations:

WinXP: Start > Program Files > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup

Vista/Win7: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup

disk-cleanup

If you occasionally clean out your unwanted system files using Windows “Disk Cleanup”, you may have seen that the Disk Cleanup utility takes a long time scanning for “Compressed Folders”. I have seen this many times and it makes me impatient every time.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine at work (Bill M), told me that there’s a registry hack to make Cleanup skip the long wait. He was right, I found it using a simple Google search.

Here’s the registry hack (works in XP, so far – have not seen this work in Vista and Win7):

WinXP: Open up the registry editor by clicking the Start Button, then choose Run, type in “regedit” and press the OK button.

Vista/Win7: Hit the Start button and type regeditin the quick search.

Once you have regedit running, find the following location:
“HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows
\CurrentVersion\Explorer
\VolumeCaches\System error memory dump files”

The “Flags” value must be set to “0”.

For 64-bit Windows only:

“HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows
\CurrentVersion\Explorer
\VolumeCaches\System error memory dump files”

The “Flags” value must be set to “0”.

You may not   notice any difference until you reboot, but the next time you use Disk Cleanup, you should notice a substantial decrease in the amount of time it takes.

Find as You Type with Listary

Last year, while trying out some Linux operating systems, I was surprised to discover a cool find-as-you-type feature in the Gnome Nautilus file browsers.

listary-icon While looking for a file, you only had to start typing and a small text box appeared in the bottom right of the window (as shown below).

find-as-you-type-nautilus

At this point I had feature envybecause I wanted to see the same feature built into Windows Explorer. However, I knew that this was not going to happen anytime soon. Windows is traditionally many years behind on cool features that appear in other operating systems.

Last week, I found that my wait was over. As usual, someone saw the need and developed a third-party app which adds this cool feature to Windows. Listary not only reproduces the find-as-you-type feature, it adds even more little time-saving tricks.

Here’s what Listary looks like in Windows 7 (or Vista):

listary-explorer-win7

As you can see, it not only lists the first match as Nautilus does in Linux, it adds a drop-down list with all the possible matches. Another great addition is that it accepts the asterisk and question mark wild-card characters that help you find files quickly.

If you were looking for only JPG files in a folder, you would start by typing *JPG in the window and your matching files would be listed below. To navigate inside the list, you can use the TAB key or the UP and DOWN arrow keys. As each file is highlighted in the Listary search box, the corresponding file in the Explorer window is also automatically shown and highlighted. If a file you wish to open is highlighted in the results box, pressing ENTER will open it.

In addition to working in Windows 7 and Vista, Listary also works in Windows XP, as shown below.

listary-explorer-winXP

Listary is a free program although there is a paid version (Listary Pro) which offers more search features. You’ll find that it’s offered as an 827kb setup file that must be installed. The installation doesn’t spring any surprises on you and you do have the ability to set several options in it.

The most important option is whether to allow Listary to start when Windows does. Listary only takes about 7mb of memory while running and is always shown as an icon in the system tray. Right clicking on the system tray icon allows you to exit the program or change settings.

Download the free version of Listary

[via DownloadSquad]

Techie Buzz Verdict:

Listary has given me the chance to try a feature I’d wished for in Windows. I like how it works and I was also surprised to find that it offers more than similar features in Linux. I can’t complain about any lack in features, because there is a Pro version and I could pay for the additional features if I need them.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5

Windows 7 Update – Microsoft Will Seek and Destroy Pirated Copies

Today on the Genuine Windows Blog, it was announced that Windows 7 will get an update to it’s “Windows Activation Technologies” (WAT). So what is WAT? This feature set was developed to detect if a copy of Windows 7 is “genuine“,  properly activated and has a valid license. In plain English, they want to find out if you have a pirated or cracked copy of Windows 7.

Windows 7 TipsThe new WAT update will detect over 70 “known and potentially dangerous activation exploits“. It may be true that many PCs that have been activated using a crack or hack are infected or at risk of infection. However, Microsoft is plainly stating that this update is mainly for the protection of the users. I have a feeling that there are lots of users who don’t want this protection.

According to the post, this Windows 7 update is “voluntary” and it doesn’t have to be installed. I have to take this statement as the truth, however, I’ve seen plenty of times when I had no choice but to accept updates. Have you ever shut down your PC and then discovered that it’s gone into an automatic update before it shuts down? Who has a choice when this happens?

I’m keeping my hopes up, but I would guess that we are going to see lots of problems stemming from this new update. In the past, any time a change has been made to Windows activations, even legitimate copies of Windows suddenly stop working, or start displaying warnings.

Be sure to post a comment below if you see the new update or experience a problem because of it.

Create a Hyperlinked Notes Database with Tomboy

tomboy-icon I’ve been playing with Linux for a couple of years now. One of the applications on Linux that I’ve grown to use often, is Tomboy. Since I spend most of the day in Windows, I was pleased to find out that the developers of Tomboy have ported it over to Windows (and Mac). I’ll tell you a bit about this app and how to install it on your Windows PC.

What is Tomboy?

It’s a note taking application. However, it blends normal text with links and hyperlinks, such as you see while using a web browser. A link in Tomboy usually opens another Tomboy page. This feature allows you to quickly build a personal knowledge database that’s easy to navigate, organize and manage. Tomboy also allows you to use web links and email links.

Here’s what a Tomboy note looks like:

tomboy-start-here-page

When you need to create a new page in Tomboy, you can either use the “new page” button, or you can create a link using a word or several words in a page. Once you’ve created a link such as “My Personal Info”, every time you type those words into Tomboy, the text automatically turns into a link to the “My Personal Info” page.

Here are some other features of Tomboy:

  • Text Highlights
  • web links & email address links
  • Undo/redo
  • Font styling & sizing
  • Bulleted lists

When you highlight text in Tomboy, a single click can turn it into a link, or you can format the text by using the “Text” menu.

tomboy-text-format

When it’s not in use, Tomboy normally resides as an icon in the system tray. Right clicking on the system tray icon will bring up the main menu. However,   I’ve noticed that sometimes the icon disappears in Windows. Tomboy can still be accessed by using the ALT + F12 hotkey combination to pop up the Tomboy menus.

tomboy-main-menu

Take a look at the following video to get a better idea of how Tomboy works.

.

Installing Tomboy in Windows?

Tomboy requires .NET 3.5 (from Microsoft) and GTK# (from Novel) in order to run. If you are running Windows 7, you already have .NET, but XP users may need to install or update their current .NET.

Dowload GTK# for Windows and install it.

Once you have .NET and GTK# installed, you can download the Tomboy Installer and run it.

Final Note: Tomboy also has the ability to synchronize notes between operating systems and between different computers. I plan on showing you how to do this in a later article.

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I usually don’t care much for applications that have strict requirements such as .NET. In the case of Tomboy Notes, I’m willing to overlook this failing. The ability to work with the same notes when I’m using Windows, Linux or Mac is pretty valuable to me. Many would argue that several online services already allow you to do this from a web browser. Just as many people still like to have a local application to keep their private notes more secure and easier to access. If you need to keep your notes on a local drive, Tomboy can be a flexible choice for you.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Optimize Windows 7 Services with SMART

Windows Operating System has been designed to be suitable for almost anyone and everyone. However, there are always disadvantages associated with the one-size fits all approach. Windows ships with dozens services – many of which common users do not require. Disabling these unnecessary services helps in reducing boot time and increases general system performance.

Over the years, BlackViper has earned a reputation for providing in-depth and accurate advisory on tweaking Windows System services. You can find his excellent guide on optimizing Windows 7 services over here. However, manually tweaking your system can be time consuming. In order to speed up this process TheWindowsClub has released SMART (Service Management And RealEasy Tweaking).

SMART-Tweak-Windows-7-Services-Configuration

SMART automatically optimizes your services configuration in accordance to BlackViper’s guide. You are provided three presets – Safe, Tweaked and Advanced. As the name suggests, ‘Safe’ is intended to work on most PCs and disables only the absolutely useless services. The ‘Tweaked’ configuration takes things to the next level and changes a total of 57 service settings (compared to 19 in ‘Safe’). ‘Advanced’ mode is designed for gamers who seek extreme performance, even at the expense of functionality. This configuration is not recommended unless you know what you are doing. Several features including Wireless Networking, Windows Defender and Windows Update are disabled in this mode.

Techie Buzz Verdict

SMART doesn’t do anything you can’t do manually, but it helps you in getting things done faster. The main reason why you might want to use SMART is that in case things go wrong, you can get back your default configuration with the click of a button. It is also a handy utility to carry while you visit your friends and family during the holidays.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

[ Download SMART for Windows 7 ]

Immunet Protect Offers Side by Side Compatibility with Your Current AntiVirus

When Immunet Protect came out some time last summer, I did a little research on it and then tried it. Immunet is a Cloudbased antivirus program, much like Panda Cloud Antivirus. Here’s how Immunet works, according to the home site:

Imagine for a moment that you could leverage the computers of your friends, family and a worldwide global community to harness their collective security. Every time someone in this collective community encounters a threat everyone else in the community gains protection from that same threat in real time.

I was pleased with the way that it worked and I kept it on my system for several weeks. I soon moved on to try Microsoft’s antivirus. Currently, I am running Antivir, after reading a Techie Buzz article which was titled, Avira Antivirus Is the Lightest Antivirus Software.

Recently, I received notice from TechTracker, that there’s a new version of Immunet available. Here’s the news that made me look at Immunet again.

Version 1.0.25 supports ‘side by side’ installs with over 20 new Anti-Virus products including current versions of AVG, Avira, Mcafee, Kaspersky, Avast and Trend products. It also now supports Windows 7, XP and Vista 32/64-bit installs.

Immunet has been friendly with other antivirus apps from the day it was born. The newest version simply adds more friendsto it’s list. What does this mean for the average user? It means that you can run Immunet all by itself, or you can have additional AV protection if you need it. In my case, I have installed Immunet Protect side by side with my current Avira Antivir.

So far, Immunet and Avira are acting like old buddies, but I’ll keep an eye on them. The extra load on my system seems to be about 24mb of memory and I can handle that. I’m seriously tempted to keep Immunet and dump Avira after reading that Immunet recently ranked higher than Microsoft Security Essentials And Avira In MRG Rogue AV Test.

Since we didn’t show you Immunet in our last article about it, I’ll give you a few screen shots and some more details.

Valentine Theme for Windows 7 From Microsoft

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and what better way to get mushy than by adding a theme to your PC. Microsoft has released a new Valentine’s Day theme called Lacy Hearts for Windows 7.

valentine_day_windows7_theme

The Valentine Day themepack consists of 4 wallpapers and custom sounds. So if you want to spread some love to your PC, go ahead and download the Lacy Hearts theme (direct download).

If you are looking for more Windows 7 themes, take a look at some of the best Windows 7 themes or take a look at a search for the Windows 7 themes. You may also want to download some stunning wallpapers for Windows 7.

Have any Valentine day theme or wallpaper to share with us? Feel free to tell us about them through your comments.

Move Out-of-Focus Windows in Windows 7

If you use a multi-monitor setup, there are chances that you might forget to move the applications windows back to main monitor before disconnecting it. In such cases, when you try to access the window you might now be able to do it as it may still assume that it is on the secondary monitor.

Windows 7 Default Taskbar Right Click

does not have a direct option to move the window back to the main monitor using the taskbar. When you right-click on the taskbar icon you will only see the jumplist and not the regular options.

Windows 7 Taskbar Move Menu

However, if you want to see the other options like Move, Maximize and Minimize, just hold the Shift button while you right click, this will in turn show you the other regular right click options. Once you do that you can easily move the window from the non-existent secondary monitor back to the main monitor using either the arrow keys or your mouse.

Back Up Your Registry in Case of Disaster – ERUNT

registry icon Most of you already know what the Windows registry is and what it does. I’ll tell you about it anyway, just in case you’ve forgotten. The Windows registry is the keeper of all the settings in Windows and many of the programs you install. If something goes wrong in the registry, you can end up with a PC that won’t even boot properly.

In some of the older Windows operating systems, such as Win95, 98 and ME, your PC used to back up the registry every time you rebooted. If you are using Windows 2000, XP, Vista or Win7, this isn’t true. In those older systems, you could restore an older copy of the registry while you were booting up. In the newer systems, you can’t do that.

Many years ago, I ran into a program called ERUNT that solves this problem to some extent. The name stands for Emergency Recovery Utility NT. ERUNT allows you to back up the registry completely and restore older copies of the registry if you run into any problems. It has saved me plenty of headaches over the years.

The ERUNT program is fairly small. The installer is about 772kb when you download it. The installation is fairly standard up to the final option. You will be asked if you want ERUNT to run every time Windows starts. I always tell it No’, but it’s a great safety option.

erunt-autostart-setup

Once installed, you can launch ERUNT from your Start menu, or a shortcut. You’ll see a screen like this.

erunt-in-backup-mode

As you can see, the default location of the backup files is a folder called ERDNT inside the Windows folder. Once you click the OK button to start the backup operation, it actually does it’s job fairly quick.

erunt

Now that you have a backup, what good is it? Let’s use me as an example. I had recently tried out a new image viewer and I didn’t like it after trying it. I tried to uninstall it, and I found out that the uninstall wouldn’t work. The image viewer had changed all of my image file type settings and now there was no way to return them to the original settings.

If I had used ERUNT before installing the image viewer, I’d be able to restore the registry to make all of those changes vanish. Unfortunately, I hadn’t made any backups, and I ended up with far more trouble. Hopefully, I won’t do that again.

To recover the registry from an earlier backup, you need to go to the C:\Windows\ERDNT folder, then into one of the dated backup folders. Once inside one of the date folders, you’ll see the ERDNT.exe file.

erdnt-file

Double click the ERDNT file to launch the restore operation. Once it’s finished, you will be prompted to reboot the PC. During the reboot, Windows will load the backup copy of the registry.

Here’s what I recommend for the use of ERUNT.

• Back up the registry just before installing new programs.
• Back up the registry just before you start a Windows update.
• Back up the registry on a regular basis (like once a week).

ERUNT works in Windows NT, 2000, XP, and I’ve read it also works with Windows 7 and Vista.

When you install ERUNT, it also provides you with a utility called NTREGOPT. This is a registry optimizing tool and supposedly compacts the registry to remove wasted space in it. I don’t use it often, but you may find it useful.

Download ERUNT
http://www.larshederer.homepage.t-online.de/erunt/

Techie Buzz Verdict:

If you want to prepare for disaster, you should always keep full backups of your Windows hard drives. For smaller and quicker backups, you can use ERUNT to back up the Windows registry. It could save you hours of trouble, and I could almost say it’s a must have‘ utility.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

Old Security Flaw, Still Found in Windows 7

Windows is notorious for its poor implementation of security. To prove just that, we have a 17 year old flaw from the Windows NT Kernel which has made its way, even to Windows 7.
windows-security
[ Image via carbonnyc from Flickr ]
This security flaw was reported at this page at NEOHAPSIS. The author of this post Tavis Ormandy also happens to be a Google Security Engineer and the discoverer of this flaw. The flaw is in a module which BIOS service routines in 16 bit applications. This feature was present way back in 1993 and is still present. The computer once hacked by this process is under complete control of the hacker.

In his blog, Ormandy writes,

All 32bit x86 versions of Windows NT released since 27-Jul-1993 are believed to
be affected, including but not limited to the following actively supported
versions:

– Windows 2000
– Windows XP
– Windows Server 2003
– Windows Vista
– Windows Server 2008
– Windows 7

Surprisingly though, there is absolutely no patch available for this flaw. The only possible way to block an attack of this type is to switch off the MSDOS and WOWEXEC subsystems. A possibly better solution to this attack is given as,

Temporarily disabling the MSDOS and WOWEXEC subsystems will prevent the attack
from functioning, as without a process with VdmAllowed, it is not possible to
access NtVdmControl() (without SeTcbPrivilege, of course).

The policy template “Windows Components\Application Compatibility\Prevent
access to 16-bit applications” may be used within the group policy editor to
prevent unprivileged users from executing 16-bit applications. I’m informed
this is an officially supported machine configuration.

The page link above also gives a number of Youtube videos. Ormandy also says, he reported this bug on 12th June 2009 and Microsoft confirmed the receipt of  the bug on 22nd June 2009. Over six months have passed and no action has been taken on this. Moreover, no matter how many patches Microsoft releases, security will still be a far sight for Windows as compared to security on Linux.