Windows 7 Released to Manufacturing

Just thought I would pass along this note I just got from Microsoft:

It’s almost here! We’re very happy to tell you that we’ve hit the last big milestone on the way to Windows 7: release to manufacturing. We’re packaging up copies and manufacturers are putting it on new PCs. On October 22, you’ll be able to get the final shipping product. Your feedback has helped us make Windows 7 more reliable, compatible, and manageable-and we’d like to thank you for that.

Microsoft Warns Of a Serious IE Security Hole

Internet ExplorerAs you are probably aware, Microsoft releases security updates on the second Tuesday of each month. However, this week there is a dangerous security hole in Internet Explorer that they’ve haven’t patched yet. This vulnerability is so severe that users are advised to immediately apply a workaround fix.

This particular flaw lets attackers infect the victim’s computers (running Windows XP or Windows Server 2003) after they’ve clicked on a video link in Internet Explorer. The vulnerability allows attacker to run arbitrary code under the same user rights of the local user. The worst part of it is the fact that this is not some theoretical hole; Microsoft clearly states that they’re already aware of malicious hackers exploiting this vulnerability.

If you’re running Internet Explorer under Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, you should go apply the emergency fix, which can be found at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/972890#FixItForMe, right away. The real patch will likely come in seven days, with Microsoft’s regular security update bundle.

Note that this flaw does not exist on Windows Vista or Windows 7. Additionally, this does not apply to users of the Firefox browser on Windows XP. If you haven’t yet tried out Firefox as an alternative to Internet Explorer, you really should.

Windows 7 First Look

Microsoft newest salvo in the operating system wars is out in beta, and if it is any indication of what will come with the final shipping product, then they are aiming for victory. Microsoft Windows 7, note there is no year or name or code letters, is what Windows Vista should have been. It is clean, fast, and stable. It contains all of the visual upgrades that were shoved into Vista, but with stability and speed that is at least as good as XP, if not better.

When Microsoft published the beta of Windows 7 they obviously underestimated how interested people were in their next move. windows7Within hours the servers hosting the files and generating the license keys were overloaded and went off-line. Many pundits thought this was a first sign of bad things to come. But within a day the servers were back on line and offering up the files and keys without problem.

The disk image to install the OS is approximately 2.4 gig – much smaller that the equivalent Vista image. The first thing you notice as you go through the install is how quickly it moves. There are none of the long pauses between questions that seem to make up so much of the time of previous installations. And in fact, there are far fewer of those questions. The Windows 7 installation intelligently inquires of the hardware and makes assumptions so that the user doesn’t have to answer a litany of prompts about hardware and location. These setting can be fully configured once the system is up and running, but the bar to getting to that running state is much lower. Whether on older hardware or virtual machines, the entire installation seems fairly consistent at about 30 minutes in length, and not once did the installation fail.
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Microsoft, Orlando, Disney and LEGO

I am currently down in Orlando, Florida, for the Microsoft Tech-Ed training conference. This is Microsoft’s big once a year convention and educational event. This year they decided to separate the developers from the “I.T. Pros” and it kind of takes the wind out of things a bit. Since it is now in two parts on different weeks everything is a bit smaller and there is less cross-pollination. Also makes me wonder if since we are called I.T. “pros”, does that mean that developers aren’t professional? Wait, don’t answer that. I used to be one and can already tell you the answer!

Anyway, Orlando is warm and the same as always. It is sprawling and ever growing. Also the sheer diversity of cultures, but residents and tourists, is always amazing. You can sit somewhere like the Disney Village Marketplace and hear tons of accents, languages, and speech patterns. And the clothes! Some people just really don’t know how to dress for the weather in the Southern US – much less Florida.

Speaking of Disney Village Marketplace, I always love going to the LEGO Imagination Center with my son. We have been going there together since he was too small to even know what it was. Back then it was my daughter and I who would revel in all the bricks. I will admit it to anyone who cares to listen that I love LEGO. My only regret is that as the time has gone on the store has gone more mainstream and carries less oddball stuff like the trains I love and closeouts from the factory.

Guess I am just a big kid – Disney, LEGO, and toys of all types. It is good to be a dad!

Microsoft Office 2008 for the Mac

Yesterday afternoon I received and installed the newest version of Microsoft Office for the Mac. Since the last version was Office 2004 and this one is Office 2008, you can obviously see that a lot of time has passed between updates. Once installed everything has gone along fine. The interface is a little different as would be expected, but nowhere near as confusing as the new ribbon interface in Office 2007 for Windows. I have used the new Windows version and simply hate it. I can’t find anything. Maybe I would like it if I used it more often, but luckily I don’t have to.Microsoft Office 2008

Back to the Mac side… The two biggest changes that I have encountered so far are the file formats and Exchange integration. Office 2008 uses the new Microsoft Office file formats to store documents. You can recognize these easily because they end in an “x”, for example “.docx” and .”xlsx”. I work in an environment where most people have not migrated to a newer version of Office, so I went into preferences and set my default file save format to the older format.

More important for me is the closer ties Entourage has with Microsoft Exchange. I can finally use Entourage to easily check the free time and availability of other user. This has been something that Outlook users have long been able to do, but Entourage users could not. Whenever I needed to schedule a large meeting and wanted to find the most acceptable time to all, I would have to find a Windows machine and use Outlook. But no more! I can finally do this directly in Entourage.

But, what Microsoft giveth they also taketh away. Yes, the new version of Office has lost the ability to run the VB macros that many companies have created in their documents. So now when I go to fill out my expense report I am going to have to do the final printing on a Windows machine. Or I am going to have to create new version of the form for the new Mac version of Office. What a pain. Luckily I only have a few forms with macros. Other companies that have a lot of those automated forms are going to have a real problem.

As I said, I only installed this upgrade yesterday so I haven’t gotten a chance to run all the applications through their paces. My initial impression though is that if you don’t need the VB macros and your organization does use Exchange, then this is an excellent upgrade. If you use VB macros though, or if you don’t need the Exchange features, then there truthfully may be no reason to switch and in fact there may be compelling reasons not to. You may also want to check out this video review of Office 2008 from the people at The Unofficial Apple Weblog.

On a side note, as I performed the Office install, I notices that my hard drive had a lot less space available than I thought it should. Since the cause wasn’t immeadiatly obvious, I resorted to a great tool that has been a good friend – OmniDiskSweeper from The Omni Group. These are the same people who make such programs as OmniGrapher (for flow charts and such) and OmniOutliner. OmniDiskSweeper basically searches your entire hard drive and then gives you a tree view of it all sorted by size. Looking at this I was able to quickly find some old files, backups, and such that I didn’t need anymore and that were taking up over 30 gig of file space. Freeing up 30 gig of my drive is what I call an immediate return on investment – especially since it is free software. You can pay for a version that lets you delete files directly, but I just use the free version and use Finder to delete the files.

Update: There does seem to be a problem with the installation of Office 2008. It would seem that the Office installer incorrectly sets some permissions on files, allowing a second local user on your Mac, i.e. a user other than the admin user installing the software, to modify the Office apps and some supporting libraries. This, of course, is not a good thing but the Mac Business Unit has posted instructions on their blog to fix this via some Terminal commands. They also promise that an update to Office soon for those who don’t want to muck around in the terminal.