Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

What Vista Means to Low-End PCs

Tuesday, August 16th, 2005

One question that people have been asking of late is, what will Windows Vista mean to the low-end PCs that have become so popular. Will a $400 Dell you buy now, next summer, or when ships, run Vista well? The answer is yes, -ish. Microsoft has come up with two terms, Vista-ready and Vista-capable. Vista-ready means that all the features of Vista are supported, and that the OS is expected to perform at reasonable speed. Vista-capable means (in most cases) that you won’t get the nice Vista Aero Glass effects and (in many cases) that the OS might feel a bit pokey. If you were to buy a low-end PC today, last week, or next month, you’re almost certainly going to be able to run Vista, but you will probably be in the Vista-capable category. I haven’t seen any benchmarks available showing performance/usability of Vista Beta 1 on low-end machines, but the discussions of the issue of performance and usability I have seen center around Aero Glass and the UI. Aero Glass requires DirectX 9 support, which in turn requires a relatively recent graphics card. And almost certainly it will require more than a little horsepower behind the graphics card, something that integrated graphics cards probably won’t deliver. In some cases you may be able to drop in a graphics card into your low-end PC, but read the PC’s specs before you buy, many do not include the AGP or PCI Express slots you need to plug in a modern graphics card.

Given the success of low-end PCs in attracting users who may not typically buy PCs or may not typically replace a PC quite so often, it will be interesting to see how PC manufacturers respond. They would much rather sell you a $650 PC over a $400 PC (the margins are worse for them on the cheap PCs), but if it’s $400 or no sale, then I’m sure they’ll continue making models that fit that price point. Some have been suggesting that this new version of Windows will seriously erode the perceived value of these low-end PCs and sneakily draw more and more people into mid-level PCs. It’s a good theory, and there’s probably truth to it. While the main requirement for Vista-ready appears to be graphical, and it can operate without those effects, I’m sure a good marketing expert (or psychologist) could go on at length about the importance of appearance, and how people will feel an uncomfortable gnawing inadequacy knowing their PC doesn’t look as cool as their neighbor’s. It might not affect your father or grandfather and their PC buying, but it’ll probably influence everyone else.

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Worm spreading fast, update your Windows PC!

Monday, August 15th, 2005

Just a follow-up from the previous message, as they predicted worms based on the PnP vulnerability announced and patchable (last Tuesday) via WindowsUpdate.com are spreading. The vulnerability exists in Windows 95, 98, ME, NE, 2000 and XP, but so far the worms appear to target Windows 2000.

Read more here or here.

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Got Windows? Better visit WindowsUpdate ASAP, new worm released

Friday, August 12th, 2005

According to the Internet Storm Center there are already worms in the wild which are based on the exploits resolved in last Tuesday’s critical patches issued by Microsoft. They warn the worm could go critical this weekend. The worms appear to target Win 2K, but the vulnerabilities exist in XP as well.

Check out Slashdot’s coverage.

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WGA Anti-Piracy Hack, part II

Saturday, August 6th, 2005

While the first JavaScript method barely seemed worth mentioning as it would no doubt be easily fixed, this mechanism for bypassing the WGA piracy check might be more difficult for them to stop. Microsoft makes available and allows you to run a program called GenuineCheck.exe as an alternative to the ActiveX-based approach. If you set the GenuineCheck.exe program to run in Windows 2000 compatibility mode it will return a non-pirated code regardless of the actual legitimacy of your copy.

Another way past Windows antipiracy found

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Treo to run Windows Mobile, Not Looking Good for PalmOS

Saturday, August 6th, 2005

In a move sure to surprise many, it appears that the Treo 670 will run Windows Mobile and *NOT* PalmOS (as it always has). Another nail in the coffin of PalmOS? Seems likely. See the evidence of the Treo 670 running Windows Mobile at Engadget.

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First Vista Virus? Not really.

Friday, August 5th, 2005

Ok, this will be a bit more editorial than other posts, if you’re a geek you’ll understand. Sometimes some tech issues just get so badly misreported it’s hard not to get irritated.

On Thursday it was reported on most of the major news sites that the first Vista virus was developed/disclosed. The original source appears to be an F-Secure blog entry which reports about 5 viruses described/included in Austrian virus writing magazine. You can read a bit more about each of the five also on F-Secure’s site. The “virus” is simply a shell script which runs from the Vista equivalent of DOS. The script is written for MSH (Microsoft Scripting Shell) aka Monad. MSH is nothing more than a shell, like DOS with a bigger command set and a better interface (it’s more like any modern UNIX/Linux shell). So, just like you can write a shell script to create a directory, rename a file, launch a program or do practically any other thing (which is the main reason shell scripting exists), surprise, surprise you can write a shell script to spread itself! That’s old news, it’s been done, is being done, will be done. You give someone a shell and they’ll write a shell script which can do bad things. There is no story here. This “virus” doesn’t exploit any weakness in MSH, doesn’t exploit any weakness in Vista. It’s not that you could mail someone a script in an attachment and your e-mail client would let you click on the attachment and poof you’re hosed. It’s not that you will browse a webpage and trigger an MSH script to run. Now maybe vulnerabilities will be discovered that will allow MSH scripts to run in situations like I just mentioned (the years of Outlook Expresses worms are testament to that). And if that happens again, it’s serious, and that needs to be addressed and is worth a news story. But this, this is just stupid! It’s as stupid as running a story about how someone has disclosed that under Vista just by doing 2 mouse click and typing 10 keystrokes your hard drive can be formatted! All you have to do is press “Start”, then choose “Run…” then type “format c:”. Oh the humanity! And Microsoft is doing nothing to stop this set of clicks and keystrokes from wiping out all your data??? (Ok, for you real geeks you know the above wouldn’t work, but you know what I’m saying, volume is mounted/in use, blah blah, and I’m not going to try it now just to check :) ). Anyway, I’m getting off the soap box.

If you’re interested you can read more in the related Google headlines.

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Thinking of Upgrading to x64?

Friday, August 5th, 2005

If you’ve got a 64 bit PC or are thinking about buying one, and are considering installing any of the versions of Windows for x64 then you should probably read this article (though if you’ve been thinking seriously about it you probably know most of what it says).

For those of you who haven’t looked into it, one major problem area for x64 users will be driver support. You can’t use 32 bit drivers on a 64 bit system. And, since x64 is relatively new, driver support is weak. As with any version of Windows there is built-in support for many of the most popular legacy devices, but as you probably also remember if you upgraded from 98 to XP, many of those peripherals we depend on just won’t be supported, not now, and maybe not ever. And with many software packages increasingly using software drivers as part of their design (anti-virus, monitoring, utilities, etc.), you’ll similarly be seeing some of the software you rely upon not working, despite x64s WOW (Windows on Windows) 32 bit subsystem (I’m not 100% sure about this statement, pretty sure, but I could be wrong). If you’re thinking about it just make sure that the peripherals and software upon which you depend are supported before upgrading.

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Microsoft Reissuing Win 2K SP4 Rollup to Fix Problems

Friday, August 5th, 2005

For those of you still using Win 2K (and there are a lot of you) you have probably installed or at least been alerted to Microsoft’s release in late June of SP4. Despite Microsoft’s officially ending non-paid support at the end of June numerous complaints about SP4 have apparently encouraged them to release a new version of it, which will hopefully resolve problems “ranging from incompatibility with third-party security applications to network-printing issues.”

So, if you’ve got Win 2K and haven’t installed SP4, you’re advised to wait until it’s rereleased. And if you have, you probably will want to reinstall with the new one. For more check out eWeek’s coverage of the issue and watch WindowsUpdate.com.

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Mozilla/Firefox Seeking to Profit

Thursday, August 4th, 2005

The Mozilla Foundation, begun in 2003 with money from Netscape (owned by AOL), has now launched a commercial subsidiary aimed at doing things a non-profit just can’t (or shouldn’t) do. It is hoped the move will help the project and its browser reach more users. Their Firefox browser has won many converts over the last year, and now has almost 10% of the market (80 million users) (no small feat, when compared to the availability of pre-installed IE). Read more in Mozilla Goes For More Green.

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Intel Shifting Production Towards Centrino, Away from Desktop and Low-End

Thursday, August 4th, 2005

Later this year you might find it harder to come by lower priced Intel-based PCs. Intel is phasing out production of three of their low-end desktop chipsets in favor of producing more higher-end Centrino chipsets. The change will occur late August, and the shortages could be felt soon after in the form of delays and lack of availability of chipsets for the PCs currently in production. The chipsets being phased out are the 910GL, 915GL, and 915PL. These chipsets are used by the Pentium 4 and Celeron D CPUs. Competing chipset makes SiS and Via are expected to pick up some of the slack, and some market share on the low-end is expected to shift to AMD.

For more, read Intel Shuns Three Low-End Chipsets.

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