Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vista: Still Heir to the Throne?

While much of the buzz about Windows Vista in the trade press and among analysts has been negative, a few numbers have popped up that seem to support the beleaguered operating system.

Windows XP has proven to be an unrelentingly popular operating system, but it wasn't always the star of the Windows show. Computerworld in August compiled numbers that showed that XP was running only 6.6 percent of corporate PCs in the United States and Canada in September 2003, almost two years after its October 2001 release. Vista, on the other hand, had an 8.8 percent worldwide enterprise market share at the end of June -- 19 months after its November 2006 release to enterprises -- according to Forrester Research Inc.

Of course, those comparisons aren't strictly apples-to-apples. For starters, the 2003 XP market share is a North American figure, while the Vista number is a worldwide percentage. Beyond that, the XP number originally came from AssetMatrix, a company Microsoft later bought.

Most notably, however, and perhaps most importantly, XP is much older now than its predecessor and primary competitor, Windows 2000, was in 2003. Windows 2000 debuted in February 2000 and was therefore not quite four years old in late 2003 when XP had only 6.6 percent market share. By comparison, XP will turn seven this month -- and, unless drastic changes happen before press time, Vista will still have less than 10 percent of the enterprise market.

In short, XP's market share is unprecedented for an OS of its advanced age.

"XP is the most mature operating system that has ever had 90 percent penetration in business," says Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. "We're now talking about a system that's seven years old, and is still used by a majority of businesses."

That might not be the case forever, though. Forrester, in an August report, stated that Vista was gaining a foothold in the enterprise, and argued: "IT operations folks are at a critical inflection point and should deploy Windows Vista to:
  1. stay current with Microsoft's and independent software vendors' support lifecycles;
  2. help minimize today's security, management and productivity challenges; and
  3. better position your business to eventually embrace 'Windows 7.'"

Related article: So You've Decided to Skip Vista...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Secrets of Sysvol | Migrating Group Policy

You already know that Windows Server 2008 brings a lot of changes. You've probably heard about the product's Read Only Domain Controllers (RODCs), Server Core and fine-grained password policies. There's another factor that almost no one seems to know about: Server 2008 replaces a vital piece of Active Directory. This change is along the lines of replacing the engine in your car as you're driving 70 miles per hour down the highway: If done badly, it could shut down Group Policies and negate your log-on scripts.

Friday, July 11, 2008

20 Things Windows 7 Must Include

Windows Vista, the OS that everyone loves to hate. Despite its enhanced security, improved CPU scheduler and excellent stability, it's still the flawed gem in many critics' eyes. But can Microsoft win back the XP crowd with its upcoming Windows 7 offering? The fact is, they have to.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Adsense Secrets

An interesting site showing you how to start with AdSense, optimize your site and some other tips and tricks.

How To Make More Money With Google AdSense

Google wants a slice of your traffic. And they’re willing to pay big bucks! For those who have been complaining of high traffic and low sales, there’s simply no better way to cash in on those hard-earned visitors to your web pages.

AdSense makes it so easy!

There’s no complicated software to install, no need to scout for affiliates, nothing to buy and no need to even have a merchant account. So…

Why isn’t everybody doing this? More importantly, why isn’t everybody making the most of it?

Check it out!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Firefox 3 Still on Fire, But First Bugs Reported

The new version grabbed a full 4 percent share of the browser market in less than two days, according to Net Applications, a group that specializes in tracking browser usage. Net Applications attributed the stunning start to the fiercely loyal Firefox users, but believes it still has to be considered a remarkable development -- remarkable in that it's difficult for any software company to draw users to its products these days. Putting it in some perspective, Net Applications noted that in the month of May, Apple's Safari had a 6.25 percent share and Opera only had 0.71. Seems another company up in the Great Northwest with another browser has the rest of the market.

Spoiling the fun, however, were the first reports of bugs found in version 3. How critical the newly discovered flaws are has yet to be determined as of this morning. A few blogs reported that one is related to a buffer overflow. Mozilla is reportedly working on a fix.

Nevertheless, the pent-up demand for version 3 is dizzying. According to the Mozilla, downloads peaked at 14,000 per minute on late Wednesday. If you want a distraction from the routine tasks of your day, watch the Mozilla download counter as millions more continue to flock to the site.

Vulnerability Found in New Firefox 3 Browser

It took only five hours from the release of Firefox version 3.0 for a researcher to report a critical vulnerability in the open source browser.

The Zero Day Initiative of TippingPoint Technologies, which received the vulnerability hours after the new browser's June 17 release, said the vulnerability is a critical one that an attacker could exploit to execute arbitrary code on the compromised computer.

The Zero Day Initiative is a clearinghouse program that pays researchers for newly discovered vulnerabilities and passes them to vendors so that they can make fixes or issue patches created before the vulnerabilities become public.

The volunteer Mozilla project developed Firefox version 3, which is the fourth major release of the browser. The project said there are more than 15,000 improvements in the latest version, including a smart location bar, the ability to zoom in on a portion of a Web page, improved security and an integrated tool to manage add-ons. It also requires less memory.

According to TippingPoint, the vulnerability affects version 3.0 and 2.0x of the browser, meaning developers did not introduce it in the new release. It has been reported to the Mozilla project, which is working on a fix.

"Not unlike most browser-based vulnerabilities that we see these days, user interaction is required, such as clicking on a link in e-mail or visiting a malicious Web page," TippingPoint reported.

It is not releasing any other details of the vulnerability until a fix is available from Mozilla. The company will report the fix once it has been released.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Microsoft Windows Guru Tweaks Vista

How bad are the social fractures at Microsoft?

Microsoft Technical Fellow and Windows guru Mark Russinovich couldn't help poking fun at Vista throughout a troubleshooting session he led today at Tech Ed in Orlando.

The question is whether this is just one guy poking fun at an easy target, or whether it's emblematic of a larger problem. I noted the beginnings of this fracture during a visit to Microsoft in early 2007, when the Forefront group seemed miffed at the Vista group for having failed to implement some of the security features in Forefront. And I've observed this kind of subtle sniping since.

Then I attended a handful of sessions at Tech Ed this week, and I got the distinct impression that things have gotten worse and that serious cultural divides are cracking the veneer of the monolith.

But it didn't really sink in until I saw Russinovich speaking this morning, to his usual packed house of acolytes. And keep in mind that Russinovich is one of only 20 technical fellows at Microsoft--an exalted figure with a huge following among IT pros.

His talk was billed as a primer on debugging mysterious problems such as sluggish systems, application crashes and system hangs on Windows. Now, lots of organizations are still running XP and even older operating systems, so his talk could have been construed as addressing those problems on older systems.

But Russinovich made sure everyone knew that he was also talking about Vista, peppering his remarks with well-pointed jibes that had his audience roaring with laughter at the expense of Microsoft's new OS.

Russinovich also devoted almost a quarter of an hour to teaching his audience ways to get around what he obviously considers important lost functionality in Vista.

Explaining how to debug an application crash, Russinovich noted that IT pros need to start by investigating the dump file for clues about misconfigured files or extensions from a plug-in. "Look for extensions in the crash file with WinDbg [a Windows debugging tool]."

This is easy with pre-Vista systems, Russinovich added.

But with Vista, the crash file is dumped unless the Watson servers request the OS to save the data, Russinovich remarked a little tartly. (The Watson servers gather information generated and sent via those dialog boxes that ask if you want to report the problem or not after an application crash.)

Russinovich then explained that you can still save the crash file when using Vista by launching WinDbg, attaching it to the process, and then saving using a .dump command.

Another workaround (from Russinovich's PowerPoint):

Or you can configure Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 to always generate and save a dump file. Create a key named HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Error Reporting\LocalDumps Dumps go to %LOCALAPPDATA%\CrashDumps Override with a DumpFolder value (REG_EXPAND_SZ) Limit dump history with a DumpCount value (DWORD)

IT pros may now have a way around this particular issue, but that's cold comfort to customers wondering how closely to wed their fortunes to Microsoft in the post-Gates era that is about to begin.

It's hardly a secret that Ballmer and Ozzie don't see eye to eye, and a lot of the old guard, like Jeff Raikes, are also following Gates out the door.

As Joe Wilcox noted in January 2007, "Microsoft's evolving management structure [now] puts sales and marketing people at the top of the Microsoft organizational pyramid. Several reorganizations pushed aside or put to pasture many high-level, hard-core technology managers and replaced them with sales and marketing folks."

Microsoft is certainly big enough to take care of itself in the short term, but events (and rivals) are catching up, and it's hard to imagine Microsoft innovating at a fast enough clip to stay ahead of its rivals in a wide range of businesses.

Again quoting Joe, "Cultural clash is maybe inevitable, but its broad impact is still in the early stages."

That was in early 2007. A worsening cultural atmosphere doesn't bode well for Microsoft customers and the experience they may be buying over the next few years.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Deprecated and Discontinued Features in SQL Server 2008

Everybody is waiting for the new features coming with Microsoft SQL Server 2008, but there are some deprecated and discontinued features that we should be aware of. Deprecated features are features found in previous versions of SQL Server that are no longer recommended to be used in newer products, and they are going to be removed from future versions of the server. Discontinued features are those features no longer available in SQL Server 2008. It is important to notice what those features are before migrating to SQL Server 2008.

The deprecated and discontinued features are found in a backward compatibility online document on MSDN. There are several major areas with many compatibility issues:

  1. Database Engine
  2. Analysis Services
  3. Integration Services
  4. Reporting Services
  5. Replication
  6. Full-text Search
Beside those deprecated and discontinued features, there are numerous breaking and behavioral changes in the product in the respective areas. A breaking change might break an application or a script built on a previous version of SQL Server. A behavioral change affects the way features work in SQL Server. It is recommended to consult the documentation before upgrading to SQL Server 2008, or using the Upgrade Advisor, an application which analyses the current installation of SQL Server and generates a report with various issues that need to be fixed either before or after the upgrade.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

GUI for a GUIless OS

Server Core in Server 2008 is a fantastic "new way" of dealing with the administration of the Windows operating system. Eliminating the graphical user interface and streamlining the OS to something just short of an appliance makes this OS more secure and highly tailored for specific functionality.

But, there's a learning curve most administrators will need to overcome to get familiar with this new OS. Managed entirely from the command line, there are a host of tools that most administrators haven't needed to know -- until now. Netsh, reg, netdom, net, slmgr ...

all of these are command-line tools that have been around for a while but don't get a lot of attention from administrators because they're usually overshadowed by their GUI adjuncts.

But with Server Core, there is no GUI, and in many cases there isn't even the processing capability on board to even instantiate a graphical tool. So, if you want to use Server Core, you're stuck learning these new/old commands. Until now.

Over at the Windowmaker's blog, Guy Teverovsky introduces the world the first custom GUI for Server Core's GUIless operating system. For administrators resistant to Server Core because of its command-line learning curve, Guy's tool eliminates much of the initial configuration pain by wrapping it into a graphical interface. \

Need to change IP settings? Click the Networking button. Adding to a domain? Click the Computer Name button. RDP, licensing, display, and firewall settings among others are all wrapped up into this little widget.

I'll admit that I'm impressed. For a GUIless OS, this GUI tool at first blush seems to go backwards from Microsoft's intentions, but it's a great stepping stone if you're not ready to move to a complete command- line basis for all your administrative needs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tips to boost Windows Vista performance

Windows Vista is packed with cool eye candy, handy new features, and improved security. But all this comes at a price -- and many new Vista users are paying that price in the form of decreased performance as compared to Windows XP. Performance issues are the most common complaint I hear from readers who've just installed Vista or bought a new Vista machine, and my own experience shows that the concerns are valid.

Vista Ultimate runs great on my primary desktop computer, a fast Dell XPS with 4 GB of RAM. No noticeable performance problems there. So I expected the same when I bought a new laptop. I loved my little Sony TX model with XP, so I looked to replace it with an almost identical model running Vista Business Edition. It came with 1 GB of RAM (the XP machine has 512 MB), which I thought would be enough. However, I noticed from the beginning that the new computer took minutes to boot up instead of seconds, and running more than a couple of applications at a time slowed things down to an unacceptable level. Running Vista became the hurry up and wait experience that I'd heard about from other users.

I bought another 512 MB of RAM for it, maxing out its memory capacity, and got a 4GB USB drive optimized for ReadyBoost. All that helped some, but it was still significantly slower than its XP counterpart.

That's when I went looking for more ways to improve the performance of my laptop. Here's a look at some of the things that worked -- and some that didn't.

Read the full article here: Tips to boost Windows Vista performance

Monday, May 26, 2008

Microsoft Fights Back From Underdog Status on Search

After vague statements over the last weeks about internal investments that will allow it to compete in search without Yahoo, Microsoft on Wednesday laid out more of its vision for improving on its current "underdog" position in search.

While describing some new search technologies from Microsoft and some future ideas, executives were also cautious to repeat that theirs is a long-term vision that may take a while to spell success for the company. They spoke during an annual get together for advertisers, this year hosted on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Washington.

"I have to say, it's kind of fun to be the underdog," Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates confessed. The company has put an unusual effort toward building the team that's working on search, he said. "We've done more on this to build a great team then on any effort I can remember," he said.

Users should expect to see new features every six months from Microsoft's search group, he said. "We have a long-term commitment," Gates said. The company is willing to experiment, he said.

Wednesday's launch of Cashback represents the latest new feature. When Web users search for a product on Live.com, results may feature a Cashback tag. If users end up buying a product with the tag, they’ll receive money back.

Microsoft expects that the concept will create a whole new business model, though it also expects that it might take some time for it to shake up the industry. "We understand this is a journey. When you change the user experience or business model, it takes time to percolate through to behavior changes," said Satya Nadella, senior vice president of the search, portal and advertising platform group at Microsoft.

Gates pointed out how Cashback is different than existing search advertising methods. "In search, when you get those ads, in a sense you don’t get anything back in return," he said. That compares to other media like TV or radio, where in exchange for advertisements, viewers and listeners get content.

Cashback "gives you a reason why you should use a particular search," he said.

Over 700 merchants including eBay, Barnes and Noble, Sears, Circuit City, Home Depot, Zappos.com, Overstock.com and Kmart have signed up to advertise as part of the Cashback program. "That confirms there is this opportunity for change," Gates said.

Microsoft also showed off search features in beta release based on the company's recent acquisition of Farecast. When Internet users search on Live.com for flights, results will include information collected by Farecast that predict when a traveler can get the best deal on a flight. Microsoft has also used that technology to now offer similar information to people looking for hotel deals.

In addition, Microsoft showed off innovations it has made in video search as well. When users search for videos on Live.com, they see a page of videos and, on the right hand column, options for refining the search. They'll also see a list of other related videos that might interest them. In addition, users can hover over the video with their mouse and the video starts to play. Gates showed off the results for a video search for Tiger Woods in Live.com and compared it to a Google video result for the same topic.

"Make no mistake, we're about having the best search, the best results, so people want to use it for quality alone but also some of these innovations in the business model will excite and drive that," Gates said.

Still, he cautioned that the software required to drive the innovations that Microsoft envisions could take many years and billions of dollars to develop, he said.

While the effort to show off new search capabilities at Microsoft seemed to correlate with the company's recent decision to pull its acquisition offer for Yahoo, none of the executives referred to the ongoing discussions with its search rival. Neither Gates nor Nadella took questions from the conference attendees.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Windows 2008 Exams On Last Leg of Development

Microsoft's Learning Group closes beta testing on several new Windows Server 2008 exams, with release soon after the software launches next month.

Windows Server 2008 rounds the corner toward release at the end of next month. And the Microsoft Learning Group, for its part, has been keeping pace with new exams that are slated to be generally available at Prometric testing centers soon after the software hits shelves. According to blog posts from Trika Harms zum Spreckel, a member of the marketing team in the Microsoft Learning Group, MCPs will see a healthy mix of MCTS and MCITP exams in the weeks to come.

The MCITP: Enterprise Administrator title, on the other hand, requires a bit more network design-based expertise and an understanding of network infrastructure in the context of the enterprise. So, Microsoft makes the bar for obtaining this title a bit higher, with candidates having to pass at least four of the following MCTS level exams: 70-640, 70-642, 70-643 and 70-620 TS: Windows Vista, Configuring or 70-624 TS: Deploying Vista and Office Desktops (70-620 and 70-624 have been available since soon after the release of Vista last year). Over on the Professional level, candidates finally have need to pass one more exam, 70-647, to obtain MCITP nirvana.

Windows 2008 Exams On Last Leg of Development


I was struck by an odd observation this week. Desperately in need of shelf space, I began going through stacks of old books and tossing them or packing them away for storage.

Among the books on NetWare 3 — the first Novell certification I earned — I realized that there isn’t a single thing in them that would be meaningful today; they were tossed. The first Microsoft certification I earned was on Windows 95 and, similarly, those books were tossed because nothing in them has merit anymore. Same story for Cisco and many others.

Then, there was “Inside Unix.” This was a book for which I actually wrote a few chapters in 1993 and was published in 1994. As I looked through this 14-year-old text, it struck me how it still contains much of what you’d need to know to pass a Linux certification today. While Microsoft, Novell, Cisco, Oracle and so many others have updated their products to the point where the exams no longer resemble the originals, Linux — so often the darling of the cutting-edge — still measures expertise in terms of knowing how to work with tools that are just plain old.

Read the full article here: LINUX CERTS AND THE CUTTING EDGE

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

10 things you can do when Windows XP won't boot

When your computer hardware appears to power up okay, but the Windows XP operating system won't boot properly, you have to begin a troubleshooting expedition that includes getting into the operating system, determining the problem, and then fixing it. To help you get started on this expedition, here are 10 things you can do when Windows XP won't boot.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

10 ways to benchmark your Active Directory environment

Active Directory Services is the going standard for account provisioning, basic system management, and DNS authority in most environments. But having some accountability to determine what has changed over time can be a challenge. Here are some strategies for achieving accountability in your Active Directory environment. They'll help supplement your existing strategies, give you an extra dimension for testing, and provide a strong set of data to determine what has changed when you're troubleshooting issues...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Some usefull tech tips

Restoring 'Run as Administrator' for Vista Shortcuts

Question: Why is the "Run as Administrator" option no longer available to me? I've been running Windows Vista as a non-administrator account and have configured some shortcuts on my desktop. Why is the "Run as Administrator" option no longer available to me? Answer: You may have turned off the User...

How to run Windows Update in Firefox

How can I run Windows Update if I'm using Firefox as my browser? You can install the Firefox add-on called IE Tab which will allow you to run Windows Update or other Web sites that are designed primarily for Internet Explorer and don't run properly under Firefox....

Previewing Vista Documents: Look But Don't Touch

QUESTION: Is there a way in Windows Vista to quickly preview the contents of documents and pictures without opening them first in the application? ANSWER: Within Windows Explorer in Vista, you can adjust the view to large icons -- or even extra-large icons -- from the Views menu. However, you...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Macs Vulnerable to Malware? Say It Ain't So!

IT security firm Sophos this week let the cat out of the bag, spilled the beans, and otherwise debunked the widely treasured myth that Macs are invulnerable to malware in its Sophos Security Threat Report 2008 (registration required); released Tuesday. The report said that, among other things, "in 2007 [organized] criminal gangs for the first time arrived at Apple's doorstep with the intention of stealing money." Proof, the firm said, that "hackers are extending their efforts beyond Windows."

Of course, the Mac platform has never been invulnerable to malware of any sort, though since the advent of Mac OS X such malicious code had generally been confined to labs in which researchers played out "what if" scenarios that never came to fruition. Serious crimeware developers simply hadn't bothered with the Mac until late, perhaps for the same reason game developers left the platform alone for so long: The audience was too limited to be worth the effort.


Every year, I hear how Microsoft is under siege, that it just can't compete with fresh new technologies. The Network Computer promoted by Sun and Oracle was going to kill Windows (instead, Windows through Citrix is the OS that drives today's thin clients). Linux was going
take over because it's free (instead, Microsoft decided to integrate with Linux while dramatically improving its own server OS).

And, most recently, Google was to lay waste to every aspect of Microsoft's business (in reality, Microsoft has matched Google app for app so far, despite what inexperienced journalists would have you believe).

Is all this finally catching up with Redmond? Sure. Second quarter earnings only increased some 80 percent compared to the previous year's quarter! The run rate of earnings (not revenue) is almost $20 billion. That's oil company territory.

All areas of Microsoft's business grew. Now, can't we do something about that stock price?