All posts tagged ‘Windows’

File Under: Security, Software

Microsoft Gets Ready to Pull the Life Support on Windows XP

That’s the end of the line. Image: Johan Larsson/Flickr

Today marks the first day of the last year of Windows XP’s long and storied life.

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will officially stop supporting Windows XP, meaning there will be no more security updates or other patches. When April 2014 rolls around Microsoft will have supported Windows XP for nearly 12 years.

Should you chose not to upgrade before next year, you will be, in Microsoft’s words “at your own risk” in dealing with security vulnerability and any potential malware designed to exploit them.

According to NetMarketShare, just over 38 percent of PCs connected to the web are still running Windows XP. Given that current XP users have already ignored three OS upgrades, it seems reasonable to assume a significant number of XP diehards still won’t upgrade even now that Microsoft is no longer issuing security updates — all of which adds up to a potentially huge number of vulnerable PCs connected to the web.

NetMarketShare’s OS statistics for March 2013. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Starting around this time next year expect black hat hackers to have a botnet fire sale.

With so many suddenly vulnerable PCs on the web, it’s really only a matter of time before unpatched vulnerabilities are identified and exploited, which could mean a serious uptick in the amount of botnet spam or worse — imagine even a small percentage of those 38 percent of PCs being harnessed for distributed denial of service attacks.

For individual users upgrading Windows XP shouldn’t be too difficult, barring a dependency on software that’s never been updated. If Windows 7 or 8 aren’t to your liking there’s always Linux (I suggest starting with Mint Linux if you’re new to Linux).

Upgrading enterprise and government installations is somewhat more difficult. Microsoft puts the matter quite bluntly on the Windows blog: “If your organization has not started the migration to a modern desktop, you are late.”

The Windows blog post contains quite a few links designed to help anyone looking to upgrade, but at the enterprise/government level it may well be too late anyway. “Based on historical customer deployment data,” says Microsoft, “the average enterprise deployment can take 18 to 32 months from business case through full deployment.”

Windows XP isn’t the only Microsoft product that will be getting the heave-ho this time next year. Internet Explorer 6 on XP, Office 2003, Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 2 (newer service packs of Exchange Server 2010 are still supported) will all be cast adrift. It’s also worth noting that this affects virtual machines as well, so if you’ve got a Windows XP virtual machine for testing websites, well, be careful out there.

File Under: Browsers

Opera Updates 10.5 Beta for Windows, Adds Mac Support

Opera software has released the second beta for the company’s upcoming Opera 10.5 for Windows and the first beta for Mac users.

Mac users can grab the latest beta from the Opera website, the Windows beta 2 release remains, for now, an FTP download.

While the Opera web browser may not have the largest market share, it is the source off many browser innovations. Tabbed browsing got its start in Opera, and the browser was one of the first to broadly support emerging standards like HTML5 and CSS 3.

We took a detailed look at Opera 10.5 when the first beta was released for Windows and found that, aside from some interface design changes, the big news in this release is speed. This is largely due to the inclusion in this release of Opera’s new Carakan JavaScript engine, which boosts the browser’s performance on webapps considerably. Opera 10.5 is noticeably faster than its predecessors and even beat Firefox 3.6 and Google Chrome in our informal testing.

The second beta release is primarily a slew of bug fixes and doesn’t offer much in the way of new features. Still, if you’ve been enjoying the first beta, this release should make the experience a little more stable. And now Mac users can get into the party as well, though 10.5 beta 2 is unfortunately only available for Windows users. Mac users are only caught up as far as Opera 10.5 beta 1.

Also worth mentioning is that native HTML5 video is working in both Windows and Mac version of Opera 10.5 beta. Opera joins Firefox as the second browser to go with the Ogg Theora codec for native web video.

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File Under: Browsers, Security, Software

Firefox 3.6 Beta 3 Gains Security Features, Loses Windows 7 Integration

Mozilla has released a third beta for Firefox 3.6 with more than 90 bugfixes since beta 2, which was released just last week. If you’d like to take beta 3 for a spin, head over to the Mozilla downloads page.

Although beta 3 doesn’t contain any significant new features, it does have some welcome bug fixes and is considerably more stable than the previous betas. There is one feature not found in previous releases — add-ons can now access Firefox’s built-in geo-location features.

Unfortunately for Windows 7 users, much of the Windows 7 integration — like Aero tab previews and jump lists — has been removed. It remains to be seen whether or not those features will make it in the final release or will be postponed for Firefox 3.7.

The good news is that more than half of all add-ons now work with Firefox 3.6, including the recently released Weave update and other popular add-ons like Ad Block Plus and Firebug.

One big change on Firefox’s backend being introduced in beta 3 is a new restriction on how third-party add-ons integrate with Firefox. The Firefox components directory is now off limits to third-party tools. According to the Mozilla Developer Blog, “there are no special abilities that come from [accessing the components directory].”

The move is mainly designed to make Firefox more stable by preventing add-ons from accessing lower level tools that could cause crashes.

As the Mozilla Links blog points out, current Firefox 3.6 nightly builds are labeled as “preb4,” which might mean we’ll see a fourth beta before Firefox 3.6 arrives in final form. If Mozilla continues to crank out new betas every week, look for beta 4 around Thanksgiving with the final release arriving during December.

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File Under: Browsers

Mozilla Readies Windows 7 Support for Firefox 3.6

Mozilla has pushed back the release of the first Firefox 3.6 beta by another week, but when Firefox 3.6 beta 1 does arrive it will include support for several new Windows 7 features. Currently the schedule calls for the first beta of Firefox 3.6 to arrive on October 21, one day before Microsoft’s official release of Windows 7.

If you just can’t wait another week and would like to start testing now, there is a pre-beta build of Firefox 3.6 available with some of the new Windows 7 features included.

The big Windows 7 news in Firefox 3.6 is support for Aero Peek tab previews — the page and tab previews available in the Windows 7 task bar. As with other Win 7 apps, hovering your mouse over Firefox’s task bar icon will pop up previews of all your Firefox windows and tabs, making it quicker and easier to navigate between them.

Also due to arrive when the final version of 3.6 ships is support for Windows 7 jump lists. The jump lists can be accessed by right clicking on the Firefox task bar icon, which gives you access to a list of your most frequently visited websites, buttons to create a new window or tab and the option to “pin” Firefox to the task bar.

Firefox 3.6 will also offer a number of speed improvements for Windows 7 and other operating systems as well, along with support for fullscreen, open source video and more HTML5 and CSS 3 improvements. For more details on what’s coming in Firefox 3.6, check out our coverage of the alpha release.

Firefox 3.6 is expected to ship some time before the end of 2009.

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File Under: Software & Tools

Windows 7 Will be Officially Known as… Windows 7

Win7Microsoft has announced that the next version of Windows, known informally as Windows 7, will be officially named… Windows 7. This marks the first time since Windows 3.1, that actual version number has been part of the name.

While some are mocking the decision, we actually think it’s about time Microsoft ditched the not-so-clever marketing hype and came out with a product whose name actually makes some degree of sense.

We still have no idea what Windows “XP” was referring to and “Vista,” well, who knows — it looks good?

Unfortunately, while we like the change to a simple version number, the number “7″ is a bit misleading. There are several ways you could do the math, but none of them will add up to seven. The kernel is at 6.1 so that doesn’t work, and if you start with Windows 3.1, 95, 98, Me (cringe), 2000, XP, Vista — that’s already seven versions…

Whatever the case, Windows 7 it is. We just hope the release after that is Windows 8.

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