Archive for July, 2005

Premium Versions of Office & Windows Announced

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

Ok, here’s a slightly pointless story since it’s so light on details, but apparently Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer announced that there will be “premium” versions of Office 12 and Windows Vista. None of the articles I’ve seen indicate what (features) exactly would make these versions premium, nor any sort of price. But, as one article quite reasonably points out, if “regular” Office is already $400 a copy, then the cost will certainly be a good bit higher than that (though perhaps it would be a yearly renewal model instead of a one time major version purchase).

And here’s one article on this subject.

IE 7 Coming to XP

Friday, July 29th, 2005

It looks as though Microsoft will be releasing IE 7 for Windows XP later this year. This differs from the original plan which was to have it only included with Vista. The beta (which was also included in the Beta 1 of Vista) is now also separately in the hands of testers.

Some important features (which either exist now or will exist) include:
- various security improvements (most in code, but also including an anti-phishing feature similar to what’s in the new Netscape browser)
- tabbed browsing (like Mozilla, Maxthon, Opera, Netscape, and Firefox)
- RSS 1.0/2.0 and Atom 0.3 (like Mozilla and the others)
- search field to the right of the URL field (like Mozilla and the others)
- and more?

There are some helpful screenshots of IE 7. Also here’s an article discussing IE 7 with comparisons to Firefox/etc.
Almost all the articles we’re linking to are Microsoft/Windows related.

All in all it doesn’t appear that IE 7 breaks any new ground with this release, so much as it catches up to all the other browsers which have continually released updates/improvements. But, that said, on some level it’s only a browser, and as long as the rendering is improved (from a performance, standards, and security standpoint) then that’s enough for me. I can rely upon thirdparties to add features. The best example of this (in my experience/opinion) has been Maxthon which adds to IE far more than IE 7; it even allows you to use IE or Mozilla for rendering page content (which the Netscape browser does too, though their approach is I think primarily related to security/compatibility).

And, a minor note since some have inquired. We do intend to feature more general interest (non-Microsoft) articles/etc. We are about more than just Microsoft/Windows. The reality, though, is that 99%+ of our users are Windows users looking for Windows drivers, so Microsoft/Windows stories are extremely relevant to most people here, and therefore will always make up most of the news we post. But, we also do want to be inclusive. We at DriverGuide are by no means exclusively Windows users. Our staff daily use Linux, FreeBSD, OSX, and Windows. So, don’t forget if you’ve got news you think we should post, let us know!

Vista Screenshots

Thursday, July 28th, 2005

For those of you who can’t get the Beta 1, various sites are putting up the screenshots, including full size screenshots of the main features on Microsoft.com.

How many Windows services can you turn off? Answer: All of them!

Thursday, July 28th, 2005

There’s an interesting blog by Mark Russinovich from Sysinternals in which they demonstrate and describe a way to shut down all Windows services (well, not all processes, but all services). This doesn’t mean your system will be very useful, it won’t, not hardly, but it’s still a useful read. To find out which services you can turn off to improve performance/boot time while not crippling your system, check out BlackViper’s list of services.

If you’ve never visited the SysInternals site you really should check it out. Those guys are amazing. They have long produced some of the best freeware utilities for technically minded Windows users. We use them regularly. Their freeware offerings include:

- Process Explorer (as Word is to Notepad, Process Explorer is to the built-in Task Manager) Ever wondered what process had a handle open to a file on a removable drive you’re trying to remove? You can search for the process in Process Explorer. Ever want to see which DLLs are loaded by which application? This will show you.
- Ever wanted to watch and see what file operations or registry operations a program is generating? Use their Filemon and Regmon respectively.
- Want to know which network connections are open? Tcpview will tell you.

There are literally dozens more applications and mini-applications they’ve made available. Most are free, they do have a couple of apps which have a professional version they sell.

Windows Vista Now in Beta!

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Microsoft’s next Windows version is now in beta and being distributed to the testers. This release, called “Beta 1″, is going out to about 10,000 official technical beta testers (selected people from the IT/developer community) and soon another 500,000 who are members of the Microsoft Developer Network and Microsoft TechNet.

Some of the Vista features missed the cut for Beta 1. Among the ones that made it: the visually stunning Avalon (their new graphics display engine) is included (with their new Aero theme), the new virtual folder system which allows grouping of data by customizable meta information is included in Explorer, also included are new account restrictions and a new group that drives users into using accounts with less than administrator rights (to combat malware, spyware, viruses, etc. by restricting the ability of processes run at the current user’s level).

For more info, check out this article PC World: Windows Vista Beta Program Begins

Microsoft Requiring Piracy Scan Before Downloading Updates or Other Software

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

If you are concerned about your privacy and its potential invasion by companies seeking to enforce their rights, you should read about the recent changes over at Microsoft. Microsoft now requires you to consent to an inspection of your PC before it will allow you to download product updates or products (critical patches do not appear to be included). This appears to be separate and apart from the scanning they do as part of a visit to WindowsUpdate.com (which presumably now also checks for pirate keys in applications beyond merely Windows). Read the article for more on the nature of the data examined, some of it will surprise you.

Microsoft swears the inspection poses no privacy danger, that your data is anonymous, that they won’t contact you as a result (of having pirated software of theirs), that you will be able to get a discount on the real product if yours is pirated, and that they even give you the free product if you give the details on who sold you the bogus copy. That all sounds reasonable and non-threatening, but whether or not that is entirely the truth is unknown and to some degree unknowable.

In the minds of many this will set a dangerous precedent, one which Trusted Computing will carry even further (though differently).

The Globe and Mail article on this topic:Bill Gates will be frisking you with a simple point and click

MS Vista: Trademark problems? And what is in Vista anyway?

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

The name “Vista” has been seen by some as not fully thought out. There are a number of companies named Vista and many which have products which are. While none are operating systems, it seems likely that there could be some legal wrangling. A nice article on the topic is to be found on the Washington Post.

Wondering what’s in Vista? C|Net has a helpful article on it.

See a file’s Trust Rating from search results!

Monday, July 25th, 2005

Driver/firmware search results now include a display of the file’s Trust Rating. Look for it on the right side, below each download link. If you want to learn more about what the Trust Rating is, you can read more about it, and most importantly click the actual rating, which will take you to that file’s trust report.

Vulnerability in Windows USB Drivers Allows Admin Access

Sunday, July 24th, 2005

Slashdot linked to this article on eWeek which describes a buffer-overflow vulnerability that would allow a person with physical access to your machine (enough to plug in a USB device) to get admininstrator access to it.

According to the article, there are a number of standard drivers built-in to Windows known to have buffer-overflow vulnerabilities. A user who wants access to a Windows 2000 or XP machine could program a USB memory stick to pose as a device with the driver vulnerability. This will trigger the loading of the flawed driver (as a system level user) and open up the system for the buffer-overflow exploit.

Read the article for more about this issue and what can be done about it.

Next Windows is ‘Vista’ (was code named ‘Longhorn’)

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

The official name for the next version of Windows is out, and it’s Vista. Microsoft’s tagline in the announcement video is “Clear, Confident, Connected: Bringing clarity to your world.” So, no more Longhorn (it was just a code name anyway).

Microsoft’s Announcement

You’ve probably heard something about this next generation Windows. You can read a bit about it at PC World by going here and here.