Microsoft Finally Makes Internet Explorer Updates Automatic and Seamless

Internet-ExplorerInternet Explorer users have proved to be extremely stubborn when it comes to updating their browsers. Internet Explorer 6, which was released more than 10 years ago, still commands 8.3% of the market share. Millions of users have clung on to outdated releases in spite of the fact that many modern websites don’t even work on them. One of the main culprits behind the slow adoption rate of newer versions of Internet Explorer has been the update system.

Google automatically and seamlessly updates Chrome whenever a new version is available. Mozilla Firefox and Opera also does the same. However, updating Internet Explorer requires manual intervention. Now, this is finally going to change.

“With automatic updates enabled through Windows Update, customers can receive IE9 and future versions of Internet Explorer seamlessly without any update fatigueissues”, wrote Ryan Gavin, General Manager of Internet Explorer Business and Marketing.

Going forward, Microsoft will be automatically updating users to the latest version of Internet Explorer for their system. Enterprise users and others who don’t want to be automatically updated can use the Automatic Update Blocker toolkits. Users who have declined previous installations of IE8 or IE9 through Windows Update will also not be automatically updated. Browser settings including favorites and search preferences will be retained between updates.

Even this won’t solve the issue completely as Microsoft has refused to support older operating systems in the recent versions of Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer 9 ditched Windows XP, while Internet Explorer 10 will drop Vista compatibility. However, it should at the very least help us in getting rid of Internet Explorer 6 and 7. Microsoft plans to begin the Automatic Update procedure with Australia and Brazil in Janurary, and then move on to the rest of the world.

Patch Tuesday: Microsoft Releases 13 Security Updates for December

security  Yesterday, Microsoft released  13 security updates as part of the monthly patch Tuesday cycle to close 19 vulnerabilities found in their Windows, Office, Internet Explorer and Media Player/Media Center software.

Although they had planned to release 14 patches, the release of one of the updates had to be delayed. The patch in question was intended to close a vulnerability found in the SSL 3.0 and TLS 1.0 and the reason given for delaying the update was that they found an incompatibility during third party tests. The update will be released once the incompatibility issues are addressed properly.

Now coming back to the released updates, three are rated critical and the rest are marked important. All of the critical rated updates patch vulnerabilities that enable Remote Code Execution. A note-worthy update here is the MS11-087, which fixes the bug used by the infamous Duqu worm. Microsoft had earlier released a temporary workaround for this bug along with last month’s security bulletins which simply denied access to the vulnerable T2EMBED.DLL file.

The other updates are for vulnerabilities that enable Remote Code Execution as well as Elevation of Privilege. You can find more details on each of the updates here.

Microsoft has also released a Deployment Priority Guidance to assist customers in deploying the updates which is shown below.

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Make sure that you install these updates as soon as possible in order to make your system less susceptible to attacks.

How to Setup and Run Windows Defender Offline Version

Windows_Defender_iconMicrosoft has added another weapon to its arsenal in its fight against malware: an offline version of the Windows Defender software. The software, which is in beta at the moment, scans and removes various forms of malware like its desktop counterpart. But the advantage of the Offline version is that it can be run from an external media such as a CD or USB drive, even when the OS is not running. This makes it easier to remove certain rootkits and advanced malware which otherwise is difficult to remove when the OS is running. Like the version found in Windows 8, Windows Defender comes with both anti-spyware as well as anti-virus solutions.

Here’s a step by step guide on how to setup and run Windows Defender Offline beta.

1) First, download the 32-bit or 64-bit installer of Windows Defender from here, depending on the version of Windows you have.

2) Once the download is finished, open the installer. Click Yeson the UAC window if prompted. Next, you will see the window  below  . Click Next.

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3) Now select the media, in which you want to install the tool and click Next.

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I recommend installing on a USB drive because, if you install it on a USB drive, you will be able to update the definitions later. If you use a CD/DVD, it will become obsolete pretty soon when new updates are released.

4) You will have to reformat the USB now. Make sure that you don’t have any important data in it before proceeding.

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5) Finally, the installer will download the necessary files (about 215MB in size) and setup the USB drive. Click Finishonce the setup is complete.

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6) To scan your computer, restart your computer with the USB drive connected. Make sure that USB booting is enabled in your BIOS. Once that is set, you can boot from your USB drive. If you have a dual boot setup, you will have to choose the OS to be scanned. Select the desired Operating System and click OK.

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7) Next, you will be taken to the Windows Defender interface. As you can see from the  screenshot  below , it is pretty similar to the Microsoft Security Essentials UI. You can select to do either a Quick Scan, a Complete Scan or even scan specific areas. Just select the desired option and click Scan now.

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To update Windows Defender Offline Tool,

just click the installer you used earlier and it will automatically download and install all available updates.

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Microsoft Releases Fix it Solution for Duqu and Advanced Notification for November Bulletin

Microsoft has released  advanced notification for its November bulletin which will be released on 8th of this month.

This month will see the release of four security updates, of which one is rated critical, two are important and one is moderate. As noted in the table  below  , Bulletin 1 and 2 patches vulnerabilities that enable Remote Code Execution, while Bulletin 3 is for an Elevation of Privileges bug and Bulletin 4 is for a Denial of Service bug.

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Of the four security updates, only Bulletin 3 applies to Windows XP and Server 2003. Bulletins 1, 2 and 3 apply to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Interestingly, newer Operating Systems, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 requires all four updates.

While Microsoft acknowledged zero-day vulnerability in a Windows component the Win32k TrueType font parsing engine – they did not include an update for this in this month’s Security Bulletin. Instead, they have released a Fix It solution which can be used until an update is released.

The vulnerability, which was utilized by the Duqu worm, will allow a hacker to run arbitrary code in kernel mode, thus giving him the ability to install or run software or to view/edit data. The temporary workaround for this vulnerability is to disable access to T2EMBED.DLL. The Fix it solution released by Microsoft just automates this process.

You can download the Fix it solution from here and the related security advisory can be found here.

In order to protect yourself from the zero-day attacks, make sure that you install the above mentioned updates as soon as they are released.

Stay up to date, stay safe.  

Windows 8 Developer Preview and Me

Based on the jungle news and the Windows 8 Developer Preview by Microsoft, we can expect Windows 8 to be released by Q3 in 2012. Start getting used to terms like “Live Tiles”, “Socialite”, “Tweeny”, and “Metro Interface”, to name a few. As it is with all things from Microsoft, this new vocabulary will most probably be assimilated into our lingo soon enough.

This post does not cover a lot of these new terms, but we will have a post on that soon.

Download the Windows 8 Developer Preview

At the Microsoft Build developer conference about a month ago, a demo and deck with the new OS in its current state was presented. Though the Windows 8 Developer Preview is targeted at developers, anyone can download it.

Out with the Old

Windows Vista support ends on April 10, 2012.  Windows XP, the most popular Microsoft OS, will no longer be supported after April 2014.

Use the same Hardware

Microsoft announced that it will maintain the same hardware-requirement level as Windows 7, but  jungle news suggests that Microsoft  may even  try to lower hardware requirements  for Windows 8.

Green is the new Blue

The first thing that struck me was the change in the primary color used in the Windows 8 Developer Preview from blue to a very soothing, hospital-curtain green. It does not scream inspiration at all.

Check the Slide Show  below for a look at this feature.

Faster Boot-Up Time

The Windows 8 Developers Preview boots up in just a couple a seconds. It is a definite improvement from Windows 7.

Microsoft has been quoted saying the following about the Boot-up time.

When it comes to talking about “fundamentals”. We want to start with boot time no feature gets talked about and measured more. We designed Windows 8 so that you shouldn’t have to boot all that often (and we are always going to work on reducing the number of required restarts due to patching running code). But when you do boot we want it to be as fast as possible.

No Start Menu

There is a Start button in the Windows 8 Developer Preview, which takes you to the “Metro Shell”. The Metro UI is believed to be in for a major upheaval. The good news is that if this new UI proves to be unstable or uncomfortable, you can always go back to the Classic Menu option.

Tiles are used very prominently. Personally, I think that Microsoft is trying to bring the tablet and desktop visual experience closer together.

Check the  Slide Show  below for a look at this feature.

Power-Saving for your Device

You can use your device for approximately an additional  hour with the Windows 8 Developer Preview. This may sound unbelievable, but it is completely real. This may be due to the decreased number of memory Read/Writes.  Also, when you are not viewing an application, the application suspends itself automatically. This saves your computing resources, which in turn makes your device consume less power. There is quite an extensive menu for power options too.

Lock Screen is inspired by Bing

A Ctrl + L will no longer be a show for your screen saver alone. Microsoft introduced the concept of a   Lock Screen for the Windows 8 Developer Preview. Why do we need one now? Because the new OS is touch-based.

There is a clear inspiration, from the visual perspective, between Bing and Windows 8 Developer Preview. A look at the Locked Screen can confirm that. Notice the icons for unread e-mail and chat notifications. You can add more widgets to the Lock Screen too.

Check the  Slide Show  for a look at this feature.

Task Manager has a New Look

The Task Manager in Windows 8 Developer Preview has changed, but not too much. It should not be too hard to get around it.

Check the  Slide Show  for a look at this feature.

 Windows Explorer has a New Look too

The new look for Windows Explorer uses the Microsoft Office ribbon. I am not complaining, because I believe that the ribbon is one of Microsoft’s better innovations. However, this look does not match with the green-Metro theme; this is a disconnect.

 Same Old Media Center

The new Media Center is not included in the Windows 8 Developer Preview. The Metro Shell already seems to be a media platform, so it will be interesting to see what the new Media Center brings to the plate.

New BSOD

The  legendary and  feared BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) has a new look. The use of the emoticon does soften the emotions I might have felt otherwise.

Skype and Lync Integration

There is some indication that Skype may be integrated with Microsoft’s Lync communication software.

Ballmer has been quoted saying,

“With the combination of the power of Lync and Skype under the same umbrella, we think we’re going to be able to do even more fantastic things together”

Here is a Slide Show that provides a peek at the Windows 8 Developer Preview.

Images used are from Microsoft-registered Web sites.

Halloween Apps, Wallpapers, Screensavers and Themes

Halloween is celebrated in many countries across the world. While many associate this holiday with ghosts, witches and goblins, a lot of us think it’s just a great time to get together and have fun. If you have a computer, tablet or smartphone, you might want to add something to it that helps you get into the fun Halloween mood. Below are some links to a few of our past Halloween articles and some new stuff as well.

Screensavers

If you enjoy using screensavers on your Mac or Windows computer, you’ll find a nice collection of Halloween screensavers at NewFreeScreenSavers. Here are some screenshots of these great free screensavers. You can download them on the Halloween page.

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Phones

Get Ready For Halloween with Halloween Android Apps  – also with wallpapers, themes, and ringtones.

Halloween Theme for Nokia and Symbian Smartphones

Top 5 Halloween Apps For iPhone/iPad

Computer Wallpapers

Download High Quality Halloween Wallpapers – for the PC, Mac and Linux

High Quality Halloween Wallpapers For Your Desktop or Mac

 

25 Places to Get Creepy Halloween Wallpapers

Web Browsers

Halloween Personas for Firefox  (themes)

Phantom of the Opera: Special Edition Opera Browser for Halloween

Apps, Themes and Extensions for Google Chrome Browser

Even More …

We have even more stuff for you to look over. Just follow this link to a Halloween search of Techie-Buzz.

 

 

 

 

Is WinComm Going to be the New WinTel?

A recent report by Bloomberg states that Microsoft is working with Qualcomm to produce smartphone chipsets in order to drive prices down for Windows Phone devices, so that it can capture a bigger share of the smartphone market.

Currently the cost of producing a Windows Phone device is close to $400, but Microsoft is working with component suppliers to bring it down to $200, so that manufacturers can bring Windows Phone device prices down.

Andy Lees, head of the Windows Phone division said:

“Microsoft works exclusively with Qualcomm to develop chips that power handsets using its system, allowing it to specify technical details to ensure devices run more smoothly. There is currently no plan to work with other semiconductor makers for Windows Phone 7 devices.”

WinTel (Windows + Intel) –> WinComm (Windows + Qualcomm) ?

The first thing that came to my mind when I read this statement, was the WinTel alliance of the last decade. Microsoft and Intel completely dominated the market using monopolistic actions that led to antitrust lawsuits against both of them. Both had near 90% market share in their respective markets at their peak, with negligible competition.

However, the WinTel domination broke off in the early 2000s due to various factors. More recently, Microsoft announced that it would make Windows 8 compatible with both X86 and ARM processors, which further soured the relationship between Microsoft and Intel.

If Windows Phone does take off, we could see it happen again in the form of WinComm (Windows + Qualcomm).

However, it seems unlikely, given the growing popularity of Android and iOS which are already dominating the smartphone landscape, and are unlikely to cede ground any time soon.

Run Android Apps and Games in Windows with BlueStacks

The explosion of Android handsets across different price segments has made developers flock in hordes to the Android ecosystem. The Android Market already has amassed more than half a million apps, and given its growth rate, a million apps doesn’t look very far away. While many of the apps are silly and low quality, there are plenty of gems too. There are several awesome Android apps like Cut the Rope and Pulse that will be a joy to use even on the larger and clunkier form factors. Unfortunately, baring a few exceptions like the Angry Birds, none of the Android apps are available for Windows.

The good news is that a new application called BlueStacks is promising to make running Android apps on Windows really simple and intuitive. BlueStacks App Player supports embedded virtualization, and can emulate the Android platform on Windows running on x86 as well as ARM architecture. BlueStacks also claims to have the technology to emulate Android running on Chrome OS, or even Windows running on Android ARM hardware.

BlueStacks

BlueStacks App Player is essentially a desktop gadget that acts as an Android app launcher. Unlike the official emulator, BlueStacks feels breezy, and runs high-resolution applications in full screen mode. BlueStacks also emulates all the physical buttons including Home, Menu, and Back. Though some of the fun of running touch screen apps is lost while using a mouse and keyboard combo, apps like Pulse still feel useful.

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BlueStacks ships with 10 applications, and it should be able to support up to 26 apps. The official website also claims that you can sync apps through your Android handset using the BlueStacks Cloud Connect app. Unfortunately, I couldn’t manage to download any app from the BlueStacks Channel as well as Android sync. However, BlueStacks is currently only in alpha, and issues are to be expected. The exciting thing is that BlueStacks appears to be optimized enough to be capable of running Android apps fluidly in full screen mode. Undoubtedly, the real test for BlueStacks will be running graphics intensive games and applications; however, BlueStacks has already succeeded in grabbing our attention.

Install Windows 8 Themes and Unlock Hidden Features with BluePoison

The Windows 8 beta release is still a few months away, but that hasn’t stopped enthusiasts from developing nifty apps for it. Earlier, I looked at MetroController and MetroUITweaker, while Amit reviewed Windows 8 Start Tweaker that made it possible to use a custom background (wallpaper) in the Windows 8 Start screen. Today I will look at another tiny Windows 8 application called BluePoison.

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BluePoison has four tabs – Downloads, Unlock Hidden Features, Themes, and Activation. The Activation tab is a vestige of earlier versions and is unnecessary for the Developer Preview. The Downloads tab houses download links for Windows 8 Developer Preview (32 bit and 64 bit), and leaked Office 15 build 2703. My favorite section is the themes section, which houses ten different themes or skins for Windows 8. As far as I have noticed, BluePoison Windows 8 themes change the Start Menu background along with the Logon screen background. Applying themes require a restart, but is otherwise a simple one-click affair. The Unlock Hidden Features tab can be used to toggle Windows 8 Start screen with Classic Start Menu, and enable the hidden Applications folder that houses all the shortcuts displayed on the Start Menu. It can also be used to enable Metro Snap on lower resolutions screens than normally permitted.

Future builds of Windows 8 will in all likelihood offer out of the box personalization options. Until then, BluePoison offers one of the simplest ways theme your Windows 8 desktop. BluePoison is a portable app that can be downloaded from Windows 8 Italia.

[via LifeHacker]

Firefox 7 for Desktop and Android Released!

Yesterday, the Mozilla team has released the seventh version of its popular browser for both desktop and mobile.

On the desktop side, there are not many changes visually. The only visible change is that the http://’ prefix is hidden from the user by default. Most of the changes are internal, and won’t be visible to the end-user. According to the Mozilla developers, the most important change is the reduced RAM usage. The press release states that the new version consumes around 20-30% less memory compared to its predecessor.

Other features include improved start-up and tab loading times, hardware accelerated Canvas to speed up HTML5 based animations and games. The overall stability and security of the new version is also improved compared to its predecessor.

On the mobile side, Firefox for Android has also been updated to version 7. The new version includes improved copy and paste functionality, built0in language detection tool, and WebSockets API. Sadly, Firefox for Android still lacks a major feature Flash support.

The latest version of Firefox can be downloaded from Mozilla.org. Android users can download the latest version from the Android Market.

If you are wondering why Firefox is gaining version numbers so quickly, it is because the Mozilla team has shifted to a new 6-weeks build timeframe. The Alpha build of Firefox 8 is already available for download.