CyberNewsChum: Windows, Facebook, and the Internet of Things

userpic=cyborgIt’s been a busy week both at work and at home. Articles have been accumulating, but there are a few theme groupings to get out of the way before we get into the stew. So, for an appetizer, here’s a collection of interesting articles dealing with computer related news chum:

  • Microsoft Continues the Push to Win10. Microsoft is continuing its push to get everyone to upgrade to Windows 10 (ref: “I Think I’ll Wait to Wash the Windows“). The latest salvo is a warning from Microsoft that Windows 7 is unsafe. What do they mean by that? Here’s the answer, from the horses, umm, mouth:

    Speaking to Windows Weekly, Microsoft Marketing chief Chris Capossela explained that users who choose Windows 7 do so “at your own risk, at your own peril” and he revealed Microsoft has concerns about its future software and hardware compatibility, security and more. “We do worry when people are running an operating system that’s 10 years old that the next printer they buy isn’t going to work well, or they buy a new game, they buy Fallout 4, a very popular game, and it doesn’t work on a bunch of older machines,” Capossela stated.

    The real meaning came out in his next sentence, where he stressed it is “so incredibly important to try to end the fragmentation of the Windows install base” and to get users to a “safer place”. Translation: They want everyone on Windows 10 so they can control the ecosystem and have that captive market like Apple has.

  • When You Need to Upgrade Windows. There is a time that you really must upgrade your windows: If you are running the original Windows 8, not Windows 8.1.  If you don’t upgrade original Windows 8 to 8.1 or 10, security patches stop this week. Security patches are critical. The problem is that Microsoft doesn’t make the upgrade easy, hiding it in the Windows Store. Here’s how to install the Windows 8.1 upgrade. To help you more, here’s a tutorial.
  • Deprecating Old Internet Explorer. Here’s another push to get you to upgrade: Microsoft has stopped support of older versions of IE except the latest for each supported OS. Beginning next Tuesday, January 12, Microsoft will officially retire Internet Explorer versions 8, 9, and 10 for most Windows operating systems, according to a Microsoft support page. Internet Explorer 11 will be the only officially supported version of the browser for Windows 7, 8.1, and 10. The only exception will be Windows Vista users, who will stick with Internet Explorer 9. Vista’s mainstream support ended more than a year before IE11 rolled out. The unpopular OS is almost up for retirement anyway. It reaches the end of its extended support phase in April 2017. After that, Vista will be unsupported just like Windows XP.
  • Lastpass Upgrade. This week, Lastpass announced an upgrade to Version 4.0. Even though Password Managers have some risk, I still recommend them. They move you to using longer and more complex passwords, but store them in such a way that they can’t be easily exploited. There are visual candy upgrades, but the most important thing is a new feature: Emergency Access. This lets users designate trusted family, friends or colleagues to have access to their password vault in the case of an emergency. They’ve also improved the Sharing Center. The new LastPass Sharing Center is one central location that allows users to easily manage and share passwords in a secure, encrypted way. Whether partners need to share logins for the mortgage and paying bills, or aging parents need to share important logins with their family, the Sharing Center keeps the passwords in sync for everyone. Users can manage who has access to shared accounts and have the option to remove access at any point.  Alas, I’m still waiting for them to update my Firefox plug in.
  • Facebook News Feed. Here’s a really interesting, but long, article on how the Facebook news feed algorithm works and how you can manipulate it. I still miss the days of Livejournal, where I could easily catch up chronologically with what all my friends were doing. I can see Facebook’s problem with doing that as the number of status updates and shares, combined with the number of friends, has grown exponentially. Really an interesting read.
  • Internet of Things. Do you really need that connected refrigerator? Here are two great articles that make clear the cybersecurity risks of the Internet of Things.

    The first talks about how as the IoT grows, security is being left in the dust. It is like the early days of the Internet. At its fundamental level, the Internet of Things (IoT) are devices that connect to the internet. They can be anything from data-guzzling devices that monitor your physical activity, smart thermostats that monitor the outside air and adjust your home temperature accordingly, or appliances that can think on their own and order groceries while you’re at work. The problem: all too often, device manufacturers have the same problem: they’re thinking too much about the product, and not enough about security. Once an adversary gets a toehold in your network onto an IoT device, it can then exploit its trusted access to do things even more nefarious.

    Like what, you ask. Here’s where the second article comes into play. Consider ransomware in the IoT. Since anything with a computer for a brain and an Internet connection is vulnerable to a virus, hackers with lofty ambitions can go after a wide range of devices. Conjure up that laundry list of “Internet of Things” gadgets: smartphones, fitness bands, smartwatches, fridges and ovens, smart locks, thermostats. Imagine your phone refusing to work when you need it, your refrigerator threatening to defrost your food, your house refusing to heat or cool, your smart locks refusing to let you into your house… or letting someone else in. As opposed to disabling attacks, the ransomware attack threat is only going to continue to grow… especially as it can lie latent until triggered.



Windows 10 Periodic Reminder

userpic=toshibaNo, this isn’t a nudge for you to install Windows 10. Rather, it is a reminder that I’m collecting all Windows 10 articles that are of interest to me in my post: “I Think I’ll Wait to Wash the Windows“. If you are using or considering Windows 10, you should look at that post. As for me, I’m still waiting. I’m still seeing reports of various problems with the Toshiba A665 and Windows 10. I think I’ll wait until I have some concentrated time to take the risk — most likely between Christmas and New Years.


Technology on the Poop Deck: Banner Ads, Microsoft, and iPods

userpic=cyborgEverytime we get a quarter of the poop deck clean, some RSS feed comes along and makes a mess, leaving us to swab it again. Here are some technological arrrrrr-ticles that will soon walk the plank:

Music: The Sammy Davis Jr. Show: “Sam’s Song” (Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin)


Chips In The Stew: Technology News Chum

userpic=verizonIn my continuing quest to work down the saved links, here are a collection of links associated by the fact that (a) they are related to technology (and perhaps cybersecurity), and (b) they were interesting to me. Note also that I’ve added some links to my post on Windows 10.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite operating system, Android. Here are some Android related articles:

Let’s now look at Windows and other software:

  • Evernote. Evernote is a wonderful note-keeping software than runs on your phone and your PC. Here’s how to make it more secure.
  • Libre Office.  I think in the battle of Free Office Suites, LibreOffice has won. Here’s an interesting article from a LibreOffice developer on the lesson’s learned from its success. [ETA: And if you still use OpenOffice, here’s why you should ditch it and move to LibreOffice]
  • Firefox. Although Firefox has improved greatly, it still sneaks in stuff. In this case, it is prefetching (or at least, pre-building the TCP connection) when you hover over links. Here’s how to stop the behavior.
  • Thunderbird. No article here, just some shared experience. We recently switched over to Office 365 and Exchange 365 at work. In the Lotus Notes era, I was lucky enough to have a Notes IMAP server, and happily used Thunderbird. It was a pain for calendar entries, however, saving the ical file and reloading it into Google Calendar. Here are some things that make my life easier — perhaps they will help yours. First, install the Exquilla Plug In. It is $10 a year, and allows Thunderbird to talk Microsoft Exchange. You’ll need the Outlook Web Address, and you’ll need to make the change in the URL they show. Next, at least temporarily, install the Manually Sort Folders extension. This allows you to move your Exchange account to the top and set it as the default. You can disable it when done. You should be prompted to turn on the Lighting calendar. After you have done so, add the addon Provider for Google Calendar. You can now add a new calendar and link it it to your Google Calendar. Remember to synchronize whenever you start up Thunderbird. Although you can’t accept events directly into the Google Calendar, you can accept them into your local calendar, and then drag them to Google. [EDITED TO ADD: An Update: Nevermind. This seemed to be working at work… until it wasn’t. There appears to be an interaction between Lightning and Thunderbird that causes it to (a) keep losing the folder pane, and then (b) keep crashing on startup. I had to disable Lightning and the Google Calendar Provider. Sigh.]

One last useful article: What to do when a CD or DVD is stuck in the drive.


I Think I’ll Wait to Wash the Windows

userpic=compusaurUnless you’ve been  hiding under a rock (or perhaps an apple), you’re probably aware that Windows 10 dropped and is available to install. As to why it is numbered Windows 10, given that it follows after Windows 8.1, the answer is simple: stupid programmers. Yup. You probably remember Windows 4, Consumer Edition? This was the version that followed after Windows 3.1, and ran on top of DOS. Microsoft, in their wonderful style of naming conditions, called that version Windows 95, and its successful successor was Windows 98. Application software tested for this by, you guessed it, testing for the string  “Windows 9”. Now there is hopefully none of the code from the Windows on DOS branches left in the OS (except perhaps for the start button), but those applications are out there: and Microsoft didn’t want to break them. Thus the jump from Windows 8 to Windows 10 (because presumably there are no Windows 1.0 applications still running).

[In case you’re curious, Windows 10 is not from the Windows on DOS branches: it’s lineage traces back to Windows NT 3.5, which begat Windows NT 4.0, which begat Windows 2000 (NT 5.0), Windows XP (NT 6.0), Windows 7, Windows 8 (and 8.1), and now 10. Windows-on-DOS died with Windows ME.]

In any case, Windows 10 was officially released yesterday, and for a year (until 29 July 2016) it is available as a free upgrade for anyone on a home edition of Windows 7 or greater. There’s a little Windows icon where you can reserve your copy and everything. All of the early adopters are downloading like crazy. The reports are that Windows 10 is a pretty good product (Ars Technica, TechspotNewsweek), but they are also noting that if you don’t need it immediately…. it’s probably worth waiting a month or two for problems and patches to settle down. Then again, there are good reasons to stay on Windows 7.

I would tend to agree. There have already been a number of problem reports, from odd installation problems to problems with too many items in the new start menu. I’m also leery of how upgrades vs. clean installs work: I want to see some actual reports from users in the field that Windows 7 actually upgraded well, and all applications still were in the right places and ran. That will take some time.

However, all the news is coming out now, so I figured I’d do a post to help me keep it in one place. Feel free to comment with useful articles of your own. This is the stuff that interests me:

[ETA 150731: PCWorld has also published a superguide bringing together all their articles. Note that many of the links they have are also linked above.]

So what are your thoughts? Did you upgrade from Windows 7? What do you think of Windows 10 on  a former Windows 7 machine (for the record, I’ve got an intel Core i3, 2.4 GHz, with 4GB (3.80 available) memory. The other Windows 7 laptop is an i5 processor. The old XP print server is an AMD Athelon 64 3200 with 160GB disk and 512MB memory (I think the HP has more memory, perhaps 2GB)). (XP issue is OBE: We installed a Dlink Printer Server card instead.) Have you upgraded an XP era machine, and was it worth it? What installation problems did you run into? What do you think of the new OS?