Microsoft’s update from Windows 8 to 8.1 was released in April, but I still encounter PCs that are stuck on Windows 8. And I do mean stuck. Windows 8 is a dead-end: Microsoft will not provide security patches for Windows 8. Users must update to Windows 8.1 to receive security patches. If you haven’t updated from Windows 8 to 8.1, I recommend that you do so now.
Unfortunately, at least 50% of the time, the update from Windows 8 to 8.1 is a royal pain. Problems range from existing anti-virus programs blocking the update to stalled downloads. It’s a huge download of about three gigabytes, so aborted updates can consume hours each time you must restart the update. I like the detailed step-by-step instructions in About Technology‘s How to Update to Windows 8.1. If the update’s download stalls for hours, I recommend the steps in this article: Fix: Your Windows 8.1 install couldn’t be completed error. (If the net stop bits command refuses to execute, you can run services.msc in the Run box, and stop the Background Intelligent Transfer Service from within the Services window.)
If your update fails, you may need to remove the ‘USB Bluetooth’ device from within Windows’ Device Manager and re-try the update.
This painful update procedure (roughly equivalent in magnitude to going from the original Windows XP to Service Pack 1, but far more trouble-prone) is just more proof that Windows 8 is a disaster.
This week I felt the downside of relying upon cloud-based services. Sometime between Monday and Tuesday night, Microsoft Office 365’s hosted Exchange email service stopped accepting IMAP and SMTP client logins for at least several hours.
The service seems to have failed multiple times during 24 or more hours. I subscribe to Microsoft’s Office 365’s SharePoint and Exchange services. I didn’t notice that my email clients couldn’t connect to their Exchange servers at outlook.com until Tuesday afternoon. At first I suspected that the security parameters within my Android email client had been damaged. (I’ve seen this before. Why does this happen? I don’t know.)
If you emailed me recently and haven’t received a reply, please re-send your message.
Microsoft admitted that their servers had gone offline for several hours. They intend to pay any penalties as defined in SLAs (service level agreements) with subscribers.
Bill Gates his own self walks us down memory lane in the first of a series of 26 short YouTube videos that document the history of Microsoft.
It’s fun to watch the older clips, but I soon tired of the undiluted public relations effort. It presents a one-sided view of Microsoft.
What about Bob? No, I’m not referring to the Bill Murray movie. I’m referring to Microsoft Bob, the “friendly interface” that Microsoft introduced c 1995. It flopped. Its product manager? Melinda French, who subsequently married Chairman Bill.
There’s no mention of Microsoft’s dark side, which began from day one. Microsoft BASIC, copyrighted by Microsoft, was a port of Dartmouth BASIC, whose source code was in the public domain. MS-DOS 1.0 was not written by Microsoft. MS-DOS 4.0 was a disaster. Windows Millennium was worse.
The strongarm sales tactics of Gates and Steve Ballmer (Microsoft’s Ringo Starr) aren’t mentioned, nor is the conspiracy by Gates and Ballmer to dilute the shares of co-founder Paul Allen when he fell seriously ill.
Watch the documentary, but remember that it’s essentially a long-play Microsoft advertisement.
When Nortel (née Northern Telecom) went belly up, its assets went up for auction. Microsoft bought a block of more than 600,000 IP addresses from Nortel for $7.5 million. A consortium comprising Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, Sony, and Ericsson was high bidder at $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio. Google bid, but lost to the consortium.
That consortium has named itself Rockstar and become a NPE (non-practicing entity – a polite term for “patent troll”). On its website www.ip-rockstar.com, it calls itself “an intellectual property (IP) licensing company”. It has sued Google, Samsung, et al for patent infringement by Google’s Android operating system. The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas — the favorite venue for patent trolls.
Android really bugged Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs. According to biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve swore,
I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.
The majority of the industry press disagrees with Steve:
Apparently Rockstar consists of a handful of ex-Nortel software people, who’ve spent the last 18 months diligently looking for patent infringements. Rockstar itself has few assets aside from its patents, and is clearly acting as an agent for its principals. The existence of Rockstar seems to allow Microsoft, Apple, et al to disavow knowledge of the dubious dirty work done by patent trolls . . . while still doing the dirty work of patent trolls.
I’ve used Winamp as my primary Windows-based MP3 player since 2001. It’s a terrific program, published by Nullsoft. Its Shoutcast streaming network is loaded with thousands of shoutcast “stations”, which stream everything from west African JuJu music to public safety radio scanners.
AOL bought Winamp and Shoutcast when it acquired Nullsoft in 1999. Last week AOL announced that it intends to kill both Winamp and Shoutcast at the end of 2013.
I’m very fond of Winamp and Shoutcast. Others agree with me: Winamp Petition Emerges as Microsoft Considers Purchase. The latest rumor is that Microsoft is negotiating a Winamp/Shoutcast purchase from AOL. I hope that Winamp and Shoutcast survive, either in open-source form or <hard swallow> as Microsoft properties.
One of my fave Shoutcasters is Beyond The Beat Generation. It streams 1960s garage bands, 24/7. Not one-hit bands. No-hit bands. Maybe they were headliners in Binghamton or Portland, but they were unknown elsewhere. It’s a Hammond B3, fuzzbox, tremelo, and echo festival. Quality varies.
I’ve recommended and used Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) for several years. I prefer it to McAfee and Norton antivirus programs. Recently, Microsoft, in a long tradition of muddled corporate communications, has hinted that the quality of and future for MSE is uncertain. They’ve also hinted that updates for MSE on Windows XP may cease when they quit supporting Windows XP next April.
I’ve not seen a clarification from Microsoft. For the moment, I’m recommending that clients remain with Security Essentials. That recommendation may change. In the meantime, like the authors of the following articles, we’re left guessing:
Within the last few months, Microsoft updated its Windows Update service so that to update Windows XP, the user must have Windows XP service pack 3 installed. Service packs 2 and 1 will not update via Windows Update. (I know — update of service packs 1 and 2 worked until recently, but Microsoft broke Windows Update. Maybe this is one way of encouraging XP users to update to Windows 7 or 8.)
Windows Update doesn’t report the cause of its refusal to work.
I like the philosophy expressed by http://www.ifixit.com: stuff should be repairable, and users should have free access to repair information for their stuff. The site’s goal is ambitious. It provides illustrated maintenance and repair information for everything from automobiles to cell phones.
Some modern handheld devices, including Microsoft’s Surface and Apple’s iPad tablets, aren’t designed for ease of repair. Quite the opposite. By gluing in their batteries, their manufacturers exhibit disdain for society and environment. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries in such devices might have a lifetime of 1.5 to 2 years, so it makes sense to allow the owner to change the battery in a device that might enjoy a 4 or 5 year useful lifetime. Otherwise, when their batteries die, these devices are likely to become landfill.
The iPad Air and Surface Pro 2 teardowns show just how service unfriendly these designs are. The ifixit people rate these tablets a 1 or 2 on a repairability scale of 0 to 10. In my opinion, this makes them poor designs, despite their other virtues.
It appears that Steve Ballmer’s impending exit from his Microsoft CEO position was initiated by the board of directors — not Steve. In 2011’s Whither Microsoft? article, I proposed that Microsoft’s board split its CEO into a triumvirate, since it was obvious that Steve was in over his head. He’s been a great sales manager, but that’s where his strengths end.
Today, it might make more sense to split the company into market segments — maybe an enterprise products division and a consumer products division. Its enterprise business has marched from victory (MS-Exchange) to victory (Sharepoint, Office 365) throughout the last decade. Microsoft’s other product areas (except Xbox) have stumbled from flop (Vista) to mis-step (Windows 8).
Reports are that Bill Gates, still chairman and Microsoft’s largest shareholder, has been spending more time on campus lately. Don’t be surprised to see a breakup of some sort at Microsoft. Either they’ll break up the company, or the CEO’s position.
Microsoft plans to discontinue support for Windows XP in April, 2014. What does that mean for most Windows XP users?
In general, I don’t recommend upgrading a Windows XP computer to Windows 7 or 8. (One reason: Windows 7 requires twice as much memory as XP and its Aero interface requires more CPU horsepower.) Wait until your Windows XP PC fails, and then replace it with a new PC with Windows 7 or 8 already pre-installed on it. (If your new Windows 8 PC lacks a touch screen, you’ll prolly want to install Classic Shell or Start8, so that it works like Windows 7.)
Yesterday Twitter and Microsoft added multifactor authentication, which is a good thing for the security of users. Microsoft has used the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)’s RFC-6238 time-based one-time password algorithm, which is also a good thing. I’m not sure what method Twitter chose.
Two-factor authentication, in addition to requiring a traditional static password, requires a time-sensitive password to authenticate a user. This may be delivered via a cellphone. With RFC-6238, new time-sensitive passwords are created every 30 seconds.
The beauty of RFC-6238 is that it’s a standard that’s well-documented and tested. Google already uses RFC-6238, so you can use Google Authenticator for Android to log into your Microsoft Accounts, and vice versa. Because they also use RFC-6238, you can use Google Authenticator to log into Dropbox, Facebook, Bitcoin, WordPress, et al.
Let’s hope that more websites that store our data hop aboard the RFC-6238 multifactor authentication train.