Archive for the ‘ Windows 8 ’ Category


Windows 8 has been out for a while, featuring an interface that’s as cool as it is annoying . . . until you get the hang of it. But, like any computer operating system, it can fall over. Luckily, there is an easy way to solve the cause of most crashes; just call up WinDbg, the Windows debugger; a free tool to diagnose the most common causes of Windows crashes — misbehaved third party drivers.

In W8, the Blue Screen of Death/BSOD has been modified to include a large, simple : ( emoticon and a short message in human (if not very informative) language. (Watch a slideshow version that walks you through any crash.]

Windows 8
The Windows 8 Blue Screen of Death has become the frown of frustration.

Also, Microsoft has made advancements in the dump file creation and management process. While this article focuses on W8, the information applies to both RT and Server 2012. For earlier operating systems, see Solve Windows 7 crashes in minutes or, for XP and 2000, see How to solve Windows crashes in minutes.
About Windows crashes

Operating system crashes are quite different from applications crashes, system hangs or other problems. In most cases, operating systems crash as a protective measure. When the OS discovers that critical devices are failing or that an internal operating system state has been identified as inconsistent because of possible viruses, bad device drivers or even RAM failures, it is generally safer to stop immediately. Otherwise, continuing operations would allow far more serious damage, such as application data corruption or loss.

Two out of three system crashes are caused by third party drivers taking inappropriate actions (such as writing to non-existent memory) in Kernel mode where they have direct access to the OS kernel and to the hardware.

In contrast, drivers operating in User Mode, with only indirect access to the OS kernel, cannot directly cause a crash. A small percentage of crashes are caused by hardware issues such as bad memory, even less by faults in the OS itself. And some causes are simply unknown.

Thanks for the memory dump
A memory dump is the ugliest best friend you’ll ever have. It is a snapshot of the state of the computer system at the point in time that the operating system stopped. And, of the vast amount of not-very-friendly looking data that a dump file contains, you will usually only need a few items that are easy to grasp and use. With the introduction of Windows 8, the OS now creates four different memory dumps; Complete, Kernel, and Minidumps and the new Automatic memory dump.

1. Automatic memory dump
Location: %SystemRoot%\Memory.dmp
Size: ≈size of OS kernel

The Automatic memory dump is the default option selected when you install Windows 8. It was created to support the “System Managed” page file configuration which has been updated to reduce the page file size on disk. The Automatic memory dump option produces a Kernel memory dump, the difference is when you select Automatic, it allows the SMSS process to reduce the page file smaller than the size of RAM.

2. Complete memory dump
Location: %SystemRoot%\Memory.dmp
Size: ≈size of installed RAM plus 1MB

A complete (or full) memory dump is about equal to the amount of installed RAM. With many systems having multiple GBs, this can quickly become a storage issue, especially if you are having more than the occasional crash. Normally I do not advise saving a full memory dump because they take so much space and are generally unneeded. However, there are cases when working with Microsoft (or another vendor) to find the cause of a very complex problem that the full memory dump would be very helpful. Therefore, stick to the automatic dump, but be prepared to switch the setting to generate a full dump on rare occasions.

3. Kernel memory dump
Location: %SystemRoot%\Memory.dmp
Size: ≈size of physical memory “owned” by kernel-mode components

Kernel dumps are roughly equal in size to the RAM occupied by the Windows 8 kernel. On my test system with 4GB RAM running Windows 8 on a 64-bit processor the kernel dump was about 336MB. Since, on occasion, dump files have to be transported, I compressed it, which brought it down to 80MB. One advantage to a kernel dump is that it contains the binaries which are needed for analysis. The Automatic dump setting creates a kernel dump file by default, saving only the most recent, as well as a minidump for each event.

4. Small or minidump
Location: %SystemRoot%\Minidump
Size: At least 64K on x86 and 128k on x64 (279K on my W8 test PC)

Minidumps include memory pages pointed to them by registers given their values at the point of the fault, as well as the stack of the faulting thread. What makes them small is that they do not contain any of the binary or executable files that were in memory at the time of the failure.

However, those files are critically important for subsequent analysis by the debugger. As long as you are debugging on the machine that created the dump file, WinDbg can find them in the System Root folders (unless the binaries were changed by a system update after the dump file was created). Alternatively the debugger should be able to locate them automatically through SymServ, Microsoft’s online store of symbol files. Windows 8 creates and saves a minidump for every crash event, essentially providing a historical record of all events for the life of the system.
Configure W8 to get the right memory dumps

While the default configuration for W8 sets the OS to generate the memory dump format you will most likely need, take a quick look to be sure. From the W8 Style Menu simply type “control panel” (or only the first few letters in many cases) which will auto-magically take you to the Apps page where you should see a white box surrounding “Control Panel”; hitting Enter will take you to that familiar interface.

Once at the Startup and Recovery dialogue box ensure that “Automatic memory dump” is checked. You will probably also want to ensure that both “Write an event to the system log” and “Automatically restart” (which should also be on by default) are checked.

Install WinDbg
System Requirements

To set your PC up for WinDbg-based crash analysis, you will need the following:

• 32-bit or 64-bit Windows 8/R2/Server 2012/Windows 7/Server 2008

Depending on the processor you are running the debugger on, you can use either the 32-bit or the 64-bit debugging tools. Note that it is not important whether the dump file was made on an x86-based or an x64-based platform.

• The Debugging Tools for Windows portion of the Windows SDK for Windows 8, which you can download for free from Microsoft.

• Approximately 103MB of hard disk space (not including storage space for dump files or for symbol files)

• Live Internet connection

Download WinDbg
First download sdksetup.exe, a small file (969KB) that launches the Web setup, from which you select what components to install.

• Standard download.

• Automated download (the download will start on its own):

Space required
Ignore the disk space required of 1.2GB; you will only be installing a small portion of the kit. On my test machine the installation process predicted 256.2MB but only needed 103MB according to File Explorer following installation.

Run skdsetup.exe
Install the Software Development Kit (SDK) to the machine that you will use to view memory dump files.

A. Launch sdksetup.exe.

B. Specify location:

The suggested installation path follows:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\8.0\

If you are downloading to install on a separate computer, choose the second option and set the appropriate path.
C. Accept the License Agreement

D. Remove the check marks for all but Debugging Tools for Windows

What are symbols and why do I need them?

Now that the debugger is installed and before calling up a dump file you have to make sure it has access to the symbol files. Symbol tables are a byproduct of compilation. When a program is compiled, the source code is translated from a high-level language into machine code. At the same time, the compiler creates a symbol file with a list of identifiers, their locations in the program, and their attributes. Since programs don’t need this information to execute, it can be taken out and stored in another file. This reduces the size of the final executable so it takes up less disk space and loads faster into memory. But, when a program causes a problem, the OS only knows the hex address at which the problem occurred, not who was there and what the person was doing. Symbol tables, available through the use of SymServe, provide that information.

SymServ (SymSrv)

Windows 8

From the Windows 8 UI, right-click on WinDbg then select “Run as administrator” from the bar that pops up from the bottom of the screen.

SymServ (also spelled SymSrv) is a critically important utility provided by Microsoft that manages the identification of the correct symbol tables to be retrieved for use by WinDbg. There is no charge for its use and it functions automatically in the background as long as the debugger is properly configured, and has unfettered access to the symbol store at Microsoft.

Running WinDbg

From the W8 UI, right-click on the version of WinDbg you will use (x64 or x86) then select “Run as administrator” from the bar that pops up from the bottom of the screen. You will then see a singularly unexciting application interface; a block of gray. Before filling it in with data you must tell it where to find the symbol files.

Setting the symbol File Path

There is a massive number of symbol table files for Windows because every build of the operating system, even one-off variants, results in a new file. Using the wrong symbol tables would be like finding your way through San Francisco with a map of Boston. To be sure you are using the correct symbols, at WinDbg’s menu bar, select the following:

File | Symbol file path

In the Symbol search path window enter the following address:

srv*c:\cache*http://msdl.microsoft.com/download/symbols

Note that the address between the asterisks is where you want the symbols stored for future reference. For example, I store the symbols in a folder called symbols at the root of my c: drive, thus:

srv*c:\symbols*http://msdl.microsoft.com/download/symbols

Make sure that your firewall allows access to msdl.microsoft.com.

How WinDbg handles symbol files

When opening a memory dump, WinDbg will look at the executable files (.exe, .dll, etc.) and extract version information. It then creates a request to SymServ at Microsoft, which includes this version information and locates the precise symbol tables to draw information from. It won’t download all symbols for the specific operating system you are troubleshooting; it will download what it needs.

Space for symbol files

The space needed to store symbols varies. In my W8 test machine, after running numerous crash tests, the folder was about 35MB. On another system, running W7, and on which I opened dump files from several other systems the folder was still under 100MB. Just remember that if you open files from additional machines (with variants of the operating system) your folder can continue to grow in size.

Alternatively, you can opt to download and store the complete symbol file from Microsoft. Before you do, note that – for each symbol package – you should have at least 1GB of disk space free. That’s because, in addition to space needed to store the files, you also need space for the required temporary files. Even with the low cost of hard drives these days, the space used is worth noting.

• Each x86 symbol package may require 750 MB or more of hard disk space.

• Each x64 symbol package may require 640 MB or more.

Symbol packages are non-cumulative unless otherwise noted, so if you are using an SP2 Windows release, you will need to install the symbols for the original RTM version and for SP1 before you install the symbols for SP2.
Create a dump file

What if you don’t have a memory dump to look at? No worries. You can generate one yourself. There are different ways to do it, but the best way is to use a tool called NotMyFault created by Mark Russinovich.

Download NotMyFault

To get NotMyFault, go to the Windows Internals Book page at SysInternals and scroll down to the Book Tools section where you will see a download link. The tool includes a selection of options that load a misbehaving driver (which requires administrative privileges). After downloading, I created a shortcut from the desktop to simplify access.

Keep in mind that using NotMyFault WILL CREATE A SYSTEM CRASH and while I’ve never seen a problem using the tool there are no guarantees in life, especially in computers. So, prepare your system and have anyone who needs access to it log off for a few minutes. Save any files that contain information that you might otherwise lose and close all applications. Properly prepared, the machine should go down, reboot and both a minidump and a kernel dump should be created.

Running NotMyFault

Launch NotMyFault and select the High IRQL fault (Kernel-mode) then . . . hit the Crash button. Your Frown-of-Frustration will appear in a second, both a minidump and a kernel dump file will be saved and – if properly configured – your system will restart.

Windows 8

When Windows 8 crashes, you see (1) the Frown-of-Frustration in the new BSOD. After restart you see (2) the offer to send crash files to Microsoft. The final screen (3) lists the files that would be sent, displays the privacy statement and asks you for permission to send them.

Over the W8 UI will be a band of blue with the message that “Your PC ran into a problem . . . “. If you click the “Send details” button, Microsoft will use WinDbg and the command “!analyze” as part of an automated service to identify the root cause of the problem. The output is combined with a database of known driver bug fixes to help identify the failure.

Launch WinDbg and (often) see the cause of the crash

Launch WinDbg by right-clicking on it from the W8 UI then select “Run as administrator” from the bar that pops up at the bottom of the screen. Once the debugger is running, select the menu option

File | Open Crash Dump

and point it to open the dump file you want to analyze. Note that WinDbg will open any size dump file; a minidump, kernel dump or complete dump file. When offered to Save Workspace Information, say Yes; it will remember where the dump file is.

A command window will open. If this is the first time you are using WinDbg on this system or looking at a dump file from another system you have not loaded files for before, it may take a moment to fill with information. This is because the debugger has to identify the precise release of Windows then go to SymServ at Microsoft and locate the corresponding symbol files and download the ones it needs. In subsequent sessions this step is unneeded because the symbols are saved on the hard drive. Once WinDbg has the symbols it needs it will run an analysis and fill the window with the results. This will include basic information such as the version of WinDbg, the location and name of the dump file opened, the symbol search path being used and even a brief analysis offering, in this case,

Probably caused by : myfault.sys

which, of course, we know to be true (myfault.sys is the name of the driver for NotMyFault).

WinDbg Error Messages

If WinDbg reports a *** WARNING or an *** ERROR, the solution is usually simple. The following lists the common messages, what they mean and how to resolve them.

*** WARNING: Unable to verify timestamp for ntoskrnl.exe

*** ERROR: Module load completed but symbols could not be loaded for ntoskrnl.exe

This is important. When you see these two messages near the beginning of the output from WinDbg, it means that you will not get the analysis that you need. This is confirmed after the “Bugcheck Analysis” is automatically run, and the message

***** Kernel symbols are WRONG. Please fix symbols to do analysis

is displayed.

Likely causes follow:

• No path/wrong path; a path to the symbol files has not been set or the path is incorrect (look for typos such as a blank white space). Check the Symbol Path.

• Failed connection; check your Internet connection to make sure it is working properly.

• Access blocked; a firewall blocked access to the symbol files or the files were damaged during retrieval. See that no firewall is blocking access to msdl.microsoft.com (it may only be allowing access to www.microsoft.com).

Note that if a firewall initially blocks WinDbg from downloading a symbol table, it can result in a corrupted file. If unblocking the firewall and attempting to download the symbol file again does not work; the file remains damaged. The quickest fix is to close WinDbg, delete the symbols folder (which you most likely set at c:\symbols), and unblock the firewall. Next, reopen WinDbg and a dump file. The debugger will recreate the folder and re-download the symbols.

Do not go further with your analysis until this is corrected.

If you see the following error, no worries:

*** WARNING: Unable to verify timestamp for myfault.sys

*** ERROR: Module load completed but symbols could not be loaded for myfault.sys

Windows 8

WinDbg automatically suggests the culprit as shown.

This means that the debugger was looking for information on myfault.sys. However, since it is a third-party driver, there are no symbols for it, since Microsoft does not store all of the third-party drivers. The point is that you can ignore this error message. Vendors do not typically ship drivers with symbol files and they aren’t necessary to your work; you can pinpoint the problem driver without them.
So, what caused the crash?

As mentioned above, when you open a dump file with WinDbg it automatically runs a basic analysis that will often nail the culprit without even giving the debugger any direct commands as shown in the screen where it says “Probably caused by : myfault.sys”

More information

Getting a little more information about the crash event and the suspect module is easy. Often, all you need is two commands among the hundreds that the rather powerful debugger offers:

!analyze -v

and

lmvm.

A new way to command WinDbg

Normally, you would type in the commands and parameters you need. Things have changed, however, and Windows too. If you take a good look at the WinDbg interface, just below the “Bugcheck Analysis” box, it says “Use !analyze -v to get detailed debugging information” and that the command is underlined and in blue. Yes, it’s a link. Just touch it and the command will be run for you. But, in case you don’t have a touch screen, a mouse will work fine or resort to the traditional method of typing the command into the window at the bottom of the interface where you see the prompt “kd>” (which stands for “kernel debugger”). Be sure to do it precisely; this is a case where syntax is key. For instance, note the space between the command and the “-v”. The “v” or verbose switch tells WinDbg that you want all the details. You can do the same where you see the link for myfault which will display metadata for the suspect driver.

Output from !analyze -v

The analysis provided by !analyze -v is a combination of English and programmer-speak, but it is nonetheless a great start. In fact, in many cases you will not need to go any further. If you recognize the cause of the crash, you’re probably done.

Output from !analyze -v

Windows 8

The !analyze -v command reveals the cause of the crash and the likely culprit.

The !analyze -v provides more detail about the system crash. In this case it accurately describes what the test driver (myfault.sys) was instructed to do; to access an address at an interrupt level that was too high.

Analysis

DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL (d1)

An attempt was made to access a pageable (or completely invalid) address at an interrupt request level (IRQL) that is too high. This is usually caused by drivers using improper addresses.

Under Debugging Details the report suggests that the problem was a “WIN_8_DRIVER_FAULT” and that NotMyFault.exe was active.

Stack dump

An important feature of the debugger’s output using !analyze -v is the stack text. Whenever looking at a dump file always look at the far right end of the stack for any third-party drivers. In this case we would see myfault. Note that the chronologic sequence of events goes from the bottom to the top; as each new task is performed by the system it shows up at the top. In this rather short stack you can see that myfault was active, then a page fault occurred, and the system declared a BugCheck, which is when the system stopped (Blue Screened).

One way to look at this is that when you see a third-party driver active on the stack when the system crashed, it is like walking into a room and finding a body on the floor and someone standing over it with a smoking gun in his hand; it doesn’t mean that he is guilty but makes him suspect No.1.

Output from lmvm (or by selecting myfault)

Knowing the name of a suspect is not enough; you need to know where he lives and what he does. That’s where lmvm comes in. It provides a range of data from this image path (not all drivers live in %systemroot%\system32\drivers.), time stamp, image size and file type (in this case a driver) to the company that made it, the product it belongs to, version number and description. Some companies even include contact information for technical support. What the debugger reports, though, is solely dependent upon what the developer included, which, in some cases, is very little.

After you find the vendor’s name, go to its Web site and check for updates, knowledge base articles, and other supporting information. If such items do not exist or do not resolve the problem, contact them. They may ask you to send along the debugging information (it is easy to copy the output from the debugger into an e-mail or Word document) or they may ask you to send them the memory dump (zip it up first, both to compress it and protect data integrity).

If you have any questions regarding the use of WinDbg, check out the WinDbg help file. It is excellent. And, when reading about a command be sure to look at the information provided about the many parameters such as “-v” which returns more (verbose) information.
The other third

While it’s true that, by following the instructions above, you’ll likely know the cause of two out of three crashes immediately; that does leave that annoying other third. What do you do then? Well, the list of what could have caused the system failure is not short; it can range from a case fan failing, allowing the system to overheat, to bad memory.

Sometimes it’s the hardware

If you have recurring crashes but no clear or consistent reason, it may be a memory problem. Two good ways to check memory are the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool and Memtest86. Go to Control Panel and enter “memory” into its search box then select “Diagnose your computer’s memory problems”.

This simple diagnostic tool is quick and works great. Many people discount the possibility of a memory problem, because they account for such a small percentage of system crashes. However, they are often the cause that keeps you guessing the longest.

Is Windows the culprit?

In all probability: no. For all the naysayers who are quick to blame Redmond for such events, the fact is that Windows is very seldom the cause of a system failure. But, if ntoskrnl.exe (Windows core) or win32.sys (the driver that is most responsible for the “GUI” layer on Windows) is named as the culprit — and they often are – don’t be too quick to accept it. It is far more likely that some errant third-party device driver called upon a Windows component to perform an operation and passed a bad instruction, such as telling it to write to non-existent memory. So, while the operating system certainly can err, exhaust all other possibilities before you blame Microsoft.

What about my antivirus driver?

Often you may see an antivirus driver named as the culprit but there is a good chance it is not guilty. Here’s why: for antivirus code to work it must watch all file openings and closings. To accomplish this, the code sits at a low layer in the OS and is constantly working so that he will often be on the stack of function calls that was active when the crash occurred.

Missing vendor information?

Some driver vendors don’t take the time to include sufficient information with their modules. So if lmvm doesn’t help, try looking at the subdirectories on the image path (if there is one). Often one of them will be the vendor name or a contraction of it. Another option is to search Google. Type in the driver name and/or folder name. You’ll probably find the vendor as well as others who have posted information regarding the driver.
Summary

Bear in mind that the time it took you to read this primer and to configure WinDbg on your system is far more effort than you will need to solve two of three crashes. Indeed, most crash analysis efforts will take you less than one minute. And, while the other third can certainly be more challenging, at least you’ll have more time to try.


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Windows 8’s uptake was stuck in reverse for the second straight quarter as the reputation-challenged operating system fell behind the pace set by Windows Vista six years ago, according to data released Friday.

Web metrics firm Net Applications’ figures for July put the combined user share of Windows 8 and 8.1 at 12.5% of the world’s desktop and notebook systems, a small drop of six-hundredths of a percentage point from June. That decline was atop a one-tenth-point fall the month before, the first time the OS had lost user share since its October 2012 debut.
MORE ON NETWORK WORLD: 10 (FREE!) Microsoft tools to make admins happier

Windows 8 accounted for 13.6% of the personal computers running Microsoft’s Windows. The difference between the numbers for all personal computers and only those running Windows was due to Windows powering 91.7% of all personal computers, not 100%.

While in June Windows 8’s user share came dangerously close to the sluggish uptake tempo of Windows Vista, in July Windows 8’s pace fell below Vista’s for the first time. (Computerworld erred in calling Windows 8’s uptake slower than Vista’s in the early stages of the former’s lifespan based on incorrect comparisons.)

At the point in Vista’s post-release timeline that corresponded to July, the 2007 operating system ran on 13.6% of all personal computers — a larger percentage than Windows 8’s last month — and on 14.3% of all Windows PCs. The latter is the most credible, as it accounts for the slightly-greater dominance of Windows at the time. (When Vista was in its 21st month after launch, Windows powered 94.9% of all personal computers.)

That Windows 8’s uptake performance has not matched Vista’s is important because the latter, widely panned at the time, has earned a reputation as one of Microsoft’s biggest OS failures. By association, then, Windows 8 looks to be the same.

While Windows 8 again lost user share in July, Windows 7 gained another seven-tenths of a percentage point to close the month with 51.2%. It was the fifth straight month that the 2009 operating system has grown its share. The surge has not been surprising, since most industry analysts have said that the recent uptick in computer sales has been due to businesses replacing the now-retired Windows XP with Windows 7.

Windows 7 has grown by nearly twice the amount of Windows 8 in the past six months.

Windows XP’s user share fell half a percentage point in July, accounting for 24.8% of all personal computers, and 27.1% of only those running Windows. The decline came after a month where the aged OS remained flat. In the last six months, XP has contracted by 4.4 points.

Computerworld now projects that Windows XP will still be running between 20% and 22% of the world’s personal computers at the end of 2014.

Another analytics company, Ireland’s StatCounter, had different numbers for Windows. StatCounter’s figures are typically at odds with those from Net Applications because they measure with dissimilar methodologies: StatCounter tallies “usage share” by counting page views to show how active users of each OS are on the Web, while Net Applications estimates “user share” by collating unique visitors, which more closely resembles user base than does StatCounter’s data.

StatCounter pegged July’s Windows 8 and 8.1 usage share at 15%, Windows 7’s at 55.3%, XP’s at 15.2% and Vista’s at 3.5%.

A second straight month of user share decline in Windows 8 put the newest OS behind the post-launch trajectory of the company’s Vista flop. (Data: Net Applications.)


 

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Tutorial on Using Windows 8

Written by admin
December 27th, 2013

Finding things and doing things from the new Windows 8 interface.

The first time I sat in front of the Windows 8 interface, I have to admit I was not thrilled; no Start button, I couldn’t find the control panel, things just weren’t what I was used to. That was over two years ago in the early adopter program for Windows 8, and now when I use Windows XP or Windows 7, I find it very inefficient to “have to click through so many menus” to find and do basic stuff.

The focus of this article is to share with you not simply how to make Windows 8 work like Windows XP/Windows 7 “the old way” (which I will go through and give you tips on how to find stuff and configure stuff to work the old way), but instead to really focus on how to do things better and more easily, effectively helping you shortcut the learning process that makes Windows 8 actually extremely easy and efficient to use.

Note: I’ve made a copy of this Tutorial available in PDF format so you can easily download and print/keep a copy, the PDF is up in my SkyDrive at https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=C99D5C694EA9E532!109&authkey=!ACC7qwl6DQle-SM

First of all, some basic terminology and “old way” of finding things so that I can take you through Windows 8 in a way you have learned how to use Windows. As I’m sure you are aware, Windows 8 no longer has the “Start Button” at the bottom left of the screen. Instead, Microsoft has the “Windows 8 Style Menu” (that they formally called the Metro style menu, until Microsoft was informed Metro Style was copyrighted, so they’re just calling it the Windows 8 Style menu). This is the menu that Windows comes up with.

If you are in the middle of an application (browser, Word, or any other app) and you want to get back to the menu, on a tablet, you press the “Home” button (usually a physical button on the bottom middle of the tablet device) or from a keyboard system, you press the “Windows-key.”

The “start button” for the most part (the thing that gives you access to the Control Panel, shutdown/restart, etc) is called the “Charm” and it pops up on a touchscreen tablet when you swipe your thumb from right to left on the right side of the screen (basically swiping the charm menu out from the right edge and into your screen of view). On a keyboard system, the charm menu pops up when you move the move cursor all the way to the right bottom of the screen.

From the charm menu, you can click on the top most icon (“search”) and it shows you all of your applications installed (this would be similar to doing a Start/All Programs in Windows 7). You’ll see the search bar (circled in red) and on the left you can scroll through all of your apps.

When you search/find the app you want or simply just scroll through the apps off this Charm/Search view, you can right-click the application, and at the bottom of the screen you are given options to Pin to Start, which adds the app to your Windows 8 Style Menu (THIS is a good idea as it puts a shortcut on your main menu screen so that every time you press the Home button or press the Windows-key, your apps show up on the main menu). You can also Pin to Start things like Control Panel, Command Prompt, Run, etc. I usually Pin everything I usually use/access to the Start which makes it easy for me to just go back to the main Windows 8 style menu to launch my apps!

Note: You’ll also see when you right click an app, you can also Pin to Taskbar (this pins to the old Windows 7 style taskbar at the bottom of the “Desktop” screen). I used to Pin stuff to the Taskbar, but now that more and more apps are coming out with Windows 8 menu icons (like Office 2013, SkyDrive, Box.net, Real Player, etc), I no longer find myself working from the older Win7 “taskbar.” This is one of those crutches you can continue to use, or just move into the 21st Century and start using the native Windows 8 menu.

Note: You’ll also see when you right click an app, at the bottom of the screen you can choose to run the app as an Administrator, uninstall the app, find the file/application location. These are helpful “things” we used occasionally in Win7 in the past that you now have shortcuts to run.

Another option off the Charm Menu (when you move your mouse cursor to the bottom right, or swipe your thumb right to left off the right edge of a tablet) is the Settings options (the bottom-most option on the charm) when you click on Settings…

…this is where a LOT of common things are found, such as Control Panel…

…Power (where you choose to shutdown/restart the computer/device), Network (where you select the WiFi connection you want to connect to), Change PC Settings (where you can change other things that are not in the Control Panel like desktop background, the photo you associate to your logon…

…add printers, etc).

Basically click on this Settings place and you’ll get to a lot of things you may normally access for configuration.

Okay, so with the basics under your belt, here’s where you learn to be a Windows 8 person and not a WinXP/Win7 person trying to run Windows 8. Instead of moving your cursor to pop up the charm to then click on Search to then find your application, or instead of moving your cursor to pop up the charm to then click Settings to then go to the Control Panel…you would do one of two things. If you are on a Tablet (or a keyboard-based Win8 device), ADD all of your apps, control panel, etc. to your Windows 8 style menu. It’ll take you a couple minutes to right click and “Pin to Start” all of your apps and utilities, but once they are pinned, you will almost never have to go fiddle with the charm thing. You’ll just press the Home button (on a tablet) or press the Windows key (on a keyboard-based system) and from the menu, click/tap the app and you run the app. To “switch” to another app, press the Home button or press the Windows key and click/tap the other app you want to run. All apps stay in memory; you just “toggle” between apps by simply pressing the Home button or pressing the Windows key to get to your apps.

Note: On a keyboard system, you can still Alt-Tab between apps, so toggling between apps is really easy. No more Start/Programs to get to applications. No need to Charm/Settings/Control Panel to get to the Control Panel if you simply pinned the Control Panel onto your Windows 8 style main menu!

So what happens if you want to access an app that you did not pin to your menu? On a keyboard-based system, at the Windows 8 Menu, just start typing a few letters of the app or function you want to do, and the “search” starts working immediately. For example, at the Windows 8 menu, if I start typing the letters n-o-t-e-p, the search bar will appear in the upper right and it’ll zero in on the Notepad application on the left.

Assuming the app is highlighted on the left, just press the Enter key any time and it’ll launch that app, no key clicking, nothing extra. If it pops up several apps with n-o-t-e-p, then either keep typing to zero in on “the app” you want and press Enter to launch, or you can arrow around/tap-touch/click on the app name on the left side to select “the app” you want. Fiddle with this, but effectively this is a very quick way to launch apps that may not be on your Windows 8 menu (yet).

If I start typing w-o-r-d, if I have Microsoft Word on the system, it’ll show me Word, or e-x-c-e-l will give me the option of launching Excel. Or even things like p-r-i-n-t-e-r will pop up under Settings the option for me to “Add a Printer,” or n-e-t under search settings will show me options like “Connect to a Network.”

Between Pinning things to Start and simply typing a few letters of something, I can launch apps, run utils, add printers, and do things on a Win8 system FASTER than what I thought was super efficient in WinXP or Win7. This was the trick to making Windows 8 easy to use.

Now that you have the navigation thing figured out, go to the Windows Store and download “apps” for your most common things you do, so things like there are Box.com apps, Acrobat reader apps, Picture viewers, Real Media Player app, etc.

Note: When you are in the store looking for apps, as much as you can scroll through the “Popular” apps or “Top free” apps it shows you on screen, if you wanted to “search” for an app to download, it’s not intuitive how to search for an app. The way to search for an app is when you are in the Store, pull up the “charm” thing (move mouse to the bottom right, or on a tablet, swipe your right thumb right to left to have the “charm” menu on the right side pop out and then use the “search” function in the charm). So just as you “searched” your apps earlier in this blog to find stuff on your local computer, when you are in the Store app and do a search, it’ll now search for apps in the Store (ie: searching for Acrobat, or Box, or Alarm Clock, or USA Today or the like).

When you install the app, it shows up on your Windows 8 Style menu. Simply clicking the app launches the application. However, from your Windows 8 Style menu, you might want to move your most commonly used apps to the left side of your menu so they are visible to you more frequently when you pop up the Windows 8 menu. To move the app with a mouse/keyboard, just click and hold down the mouse button down and “drag” the app to the left. On a touch tablet, you touch the app with your finger and then slide the app “down” and then to the left. This took me a while to figure out as I logically tried to push the app with my finger and immediately drag to the left which would tend to just launch the app. The trick is to touch the app with your finger, drag down a bit, then to the left to move it around! Move any non-commonly used apps from the left side over to the right side so they are out of your way.

Many times apps take up two spaces on the menu. I hate that. I’d rather have all of my apps as the small 1-square wide icon. All you do is right-click the app icon and at the bottom it’ll show you “larger” or “smaller” to make the icon a different size. Some have this option to make small icons larger. Oddly, you cannot tag multiple icons and make them all “Smaller” at the same time, you have to right click and “make smaller” one by one. It takes a few seconds to do, but buys you back more real estate on your Windows 8 menu to get more apps 1 click away to run. (Note: if you have a touch tablet, some of these first time configurations are BEST off doing with a mouse. I would usually plug a USB mouse into my tablet and run through some of these basic right-click configuration things, or drag/drop icon things as it is a LOT faster with a mouse. Everything “can” be done with your finger on a touch screen; it’s just not as efficient if you have a lot to configure/setup).

When you are in a Windows 8 app, you likely find there are no application configuration options, settings, things you can do with the app that you have in Windows XP or Windows 7 apps might have found as Tools/Options, or Options/Settings. With Windows 8, apps typically DO have configuration settings, you just have to know how to find them. Here’s the trick, app settings are in the Charm/Settings on Windows 8. Launch and sit in the Windows 8 application, and then with a touch tablet, swipe your right thumb from right to left off the left edge of the tablet screen, and press Settings; with a keyboard system, move your mouse cursor to the bottom right to pull up the Charm menu, then click Settings. With the Charm/Settings exposed, you’ll see configuration settings for that app!

Also, when you are in a Windows 8 application, there are frequently more options when you “swipe down” from the top of the tablet, or “swipe up” from the bottom of the tablet screen (or on a keyboard-based system, you position your mouse cursor at the top of the screen where a bar appears, or you move the mouse cursor at the top of the screen and right-click). As an example, when I’m in the Internet Explorer in Windows 8 and want to have the Address Bar appear, or I want to switch between IE “tabs”, things like the below pop up and give you additional application options…

For applications on your Windows 8 menu, there’s also this thing called “Live Tile,” in which the icon changes screens, like the way the CNN news live tile shows you the latest news and flips through things, or the Photos “Live Tile” flips through your pictures. You can turn Live Tile off (again, right click the icon, choose to turn Live Tile on/off). I find it annoying to have the thing flip through stuff when I don’t remember what icon is what, but it’s really your call.

To flip through running apps, you can Alt-Tab from a keyboard-based system, or from either a mouse or touch tablet, move the cursor to the upper left hand corner and little tiles of the running apps show in the left margin of the screen. You can right-click and “close” any of those running apps. I used to close apps all the time as I’m old school and after running an app and don’t need it anymore, I close it. But after a while, I just leave the apps running. They don’t take up processing power and with 4-8GB of RAM in my systems these days I have plenty of memory. Every now and then I reboot my device/tablet/system but on occasion, and I will run my finger to the upper left and choose apps to close.

And a hidden thing in the bottom left corner of the screen is a “start”-type button thing that when right clicked will show you a list of common tasks like Event Viewer, Disk Management, Command Prompt, Task Manager, Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Run, etc. It’s sometimes helpful to use that, although these days with most stuff on my Windows 8 Menu or I just type a few letters, I don’t bother with these various other menu things, but just FYI…

Logging Out of a system is done by click on your name from the Windows 8 Style menu as shown in the Figure here:

To shutdown or restart the computer, you can navigate the menus (like Charm, Settings, Shutdown), or what I did was create a Windows 8 style menu “app” that I simply click that’ll shut down my computer. You effectively create a “shortcut” on the “desktop” and then you “Pin to Start.” That’ll add the shortcut to your Windows 8 menu. Here’s what it looks like:

1) From the Windows 8 menu, click Desktop to switch to the old Windows 7 style desktop
2) Right click on the desktop and choose New | Shortcut
3) When prompted for the Location of the item, enter in c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe /p as shown below, then click Next
4) For the name of the Shortcut, type in something like Shutdown, then click Finish
5) Right click on the shortcut that is on your desktop and choose Pin to Start

You now have an icon on your Windows 8 menu that allows you to shutdown your system with a single click.

You can change the command syntax in #3 above to restart the computer by making that c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe /r or /h at the end (instead of /r) will hibernate a system.

Oh, and one more thing – so once I tricked out my Windows 8 menu with all of the icons I wanted, how do I transfer my icons, menu items, etc. to other systems? Microsoft came out with this thing called the User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) that is the new generation of “roaming profiles.” However, unlike roaming profiles of the past where EVERYTHING was moved from system to system whether you wanted it or not (ie: registry settings, apps, icons, junk on your desktop, etc), with UE-V profiles, you can specifically just note to “roam” your Windows 8 menu. Microsoft did a case study on my organization’s experience with UE-V [link download].

More information on UE-V is available on the Microsoft site. UE-V isn’t free; it’s part of what Microsoft calls its Desktop Optmization Pack (MDOP) that includes a bunch of other tools like RemoteApp, App-V (application virtualization), VDI, etc. Any case, you might find your organization owns MDOP as part of the Software Assurance for Windows client licensing, and if so, explore UE-V where you can roam your Win8 menu from your desktop, to your laptop, to your tablet, to your VDI guest session, to your Remote Desktop (terminal server) guest session, etc.

Hopefully, this is a place to start. I REALLY fought the whole Windows 8 menu thing for a long time, even filed several “bug reports” during the early adopter program noting that the whole Windows 8 menu was a major “bug,” although with a bunch of these tips and tricks I’ve noted in this article, I think you’ll find this whole Windows 8 menu thing to actually be a LOT easier to use and definitely faster than having to fiddle through a bunch of menus.

Questions and Answers
As the “comments” section below has gotten pretty massive, I wanted to create a little index of some of the more helpful questions/answers that people have asked about (and I have answered). Scroll down to the appropriate Comment/Reply below for more info:

Having Windows 8 “forget” the WiFi passcode and WiFi default connection so you can re-enter in a new key or choose a different WiFi default connection (see response to posting from “Sara” from January 5, 2013)
Accessing POP3 email from Windows 8 (see response to post from reedfunchap from January 4, 2013)
Re-associating Windows 8 with a new email / logon / local account without having to restore the whole new system (see response to post from catey44 from January 1, 2013)
Difference between a Windows 8 Store “App” and downloading an app from a vendor’s site (see response to post from Scott Schulte from January 1, 2013)
Disabling the “Charm” from popping out all the time see response to post from Jesse A Vasquez from December 23, 2012)
Adjusting the timezone in Windows 8 (see response to post from Sabir Ali from December 17th-ish, 2012)
Choosing a different “response” when a device is plugged into a system, ie: setting a new default action for a device (see response to post from Ken Reynolds from early December 2012)
As I respond to “comments” with information of value, I’ll continue to add the info in here for a quick summary…

Several other postings I’ve done on Windows Server 2012, Exchange 2013, Intune, System Center, etc. Just click the Next Article or Previous Article buttons on this blog post to get to other articles I’ve covered, or click here to see a listing of all of the various blog posts I’ve done over the years. Hopefully this information is helpful!


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Internet Explorer (again) needs fixes; recent Windows XP vulnerability not addressed

Microsoft is wrapping up the year’s Patch Tuesday bulletins next week with 11 more fixes, pushing the total for 2013 to 106, up from last year’s total of 83.

Five bulletins ranked critical all hold the potential for enabling remote code execution on victimized machines and affect a wide range of platforms including most versions of Windows, Windows Server, Internet Explorer, SharePoint and Exchange.

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The patches will include a remedy for the .TIFF zero day vulnerability, a flaw in Microsoft Graphics that leaves Microsoft Office and Lync apps and Windows open to attack. Common exploits of the vulnerability include a Word file containing a malicious .TIFF image that leads to the attacker gaining control of the machine with current user rights. “In this vulnerability, an attacker needs to convince a user to preview or open a bad TIFF image for exploitation,” says Paul Henry, a forensics and security analyst for Lumension. “Because we know persuading users to click isn’t always that hard to do, a patch for this one is definitely welcome.”

The problem and exploits in the wild were discovered last month, but Microsoft didn’t deem it worth an out-of-band fix.

All the critical bulletins save one require restarts, so scheduling the patches will be a chore. “Be careful and have a rollback plan in case the patches break your custom environment,” says Tommy Chin, a technical support engineer for CORE Security.

RELATED: Microsoft’s $100k hacker bounty sounds great but has a lot of loopholes

Another critical bulletin this month addresses a vulnerability in all versions of Internet Explorer from 6 through 11. “It is best to patch the ones that require restart quickly, since the vulnerable code is already loaded in those scenarios,” says Chin. “Definitely patch Windows and Internet Explorer first.”

A bulletin affecting Microsoft Exchange does not require a restart but warrants attention, says Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek. “Bulletin #5 is a server-side bulletin for Microsoft Exchange and will probably include the new Outside In library from Oracle that was released during October’s Critical Patch Update,” he says, referencing an Oracle update that included fixes for middleware in Outside In Technology, versions 8.4.0, 8.4.1. Outside In provides tools to access and control content in unstructured file formats.

One of the less severe bulletins, ranked important, should still be a high priority, says Kandek. “Bulletin #6 is for Microsoft Office and is only rated important, but it will still deserve your full attention due to the Remote Code Execution possibilities, most likely through file format vulnerabilities,” he says.

A vulnerability in Windows XP discovered last week is not being addressed in this wave of patches. “This is perhaps another reminder that end of life is now just four months out for Windows XP and users still running it should move to a current generation operating system sooner rather than later,” Henry says.

Windows 8.1 networking cheat sheet

Written by admin
November 4th, 2013

Windows 8.1, Microsoft’s update to Windows 8, went public this month. Along with new features, apps, and improvements to usability and security, 8.1 brings changes to the networking features. Though the connection process is the same as prior Windows versions, there are significant differences in how you manage and view network connection settings and status details. Whether you’re in IT or an average end user, here’s what you need to know about the changes and new features.

Connecting to networks
Connecting to a wireless network remains the same as in Windows 8: select the network icon in the system tray, choose a network, optionally select whether to set the network to automatically connect, and select Connect.

Enter network security key
Then it will prompt you to enter the network security key (or to push the WPS button on the router) if using WPA/WPA2-PSK (Personal) security. And like before, the first time you connect it asks you if you’d like to enable sharing and network discovery of the computer or device to others on the network, which again has been rephrased.

User name/password
When connecting to a network with WPA/WPA2-Enterprise (802.1X) security it will prompt you for a username and password, which is now integrated into the network pane instead of on a separate pop-up dialog box. Plus there have been changes to how it prompts you for the server certificate validation. If the server certificate of the RADIUS server hasn’t already been trusted by the computer/device you’re connecting, a prompt will be shown verifying if you want to connect and allows you to view only the certificate’s thumbprint.

Editing network connection properties
In Windows 7, you could open the network list and right-click a network name to access its properties and status. In Windows 8, you could right-click a network name to access the connection properties, turn sharing on or off, forget the network, and enable or disable the new metering and data usage features.

Right click the network icon
But now in Windows 8.1, you can’t right-click the network names at all. But you still have the Network and Sharing Center, easily accessible by right-clicking the network icon in the system tray and clicking Open the Network and Sharing Center.

Access the network connection
On the Network and Sharing Center you can access the network connection status by clicking the connection’s name to bring up the network connection status dialog. Then, click the Wireless Properties button to access or change the network connection and security settings. Or click the Properties button to access or change the adapter properties. To manage the new network metering and data usage features and to enable/disable sharing for a network you must bring up the PC Settings app in Windows 8.1: open the Settings charm (slide along right of screen or press Win + I), click Change PC Settings, click Network, and select the network name.

Changing network priorities and deleting networks
Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft removed the Manage wireless networks link from the Network and Sharing Center. Instead the OS automatically manages the priority of wireless networks for you. For instance, when you connect to a new network and it’s set to auto-connect, Windows places it at the top of the priority list. However, you still have some control over the network priorities on the Wireless Network Properties dialog. For each network profile you can still identify whether it should automatically connect when within range and if Windows should look for and connect to other (better) networks while connected.

Deleting a wireless network profile
In Windows 8, you could still delete a network profile by right-clicking its name on the network list and selecting Forget this network. But in Windows 8.1 you can’t even right-click on the network names anymore. Furthermore, there’s no way to delete or forget network profiles via the GUI; you must use the CLI. Starting with Windows 8.1, to delete wireless network profiles or to make changes to network profiles when that particular network isn’t within range you must use the Netsh commands. To get started open a PowerShell or Command Prompt window and use the following examples:

Configuring Advanced Sharing and HomeGroup settings
In Windows 8, Microsoft added HomeGroup settings to the PC Settings app, which remain in Windows 8.1 but are under the Network section now. In the desktop environment you still have the HomeGroup and Advanced Sharing settings, accessible via the Control Panel or the Network and Sharing Center, with very little differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

Connecting to a Workplace
Among the many enhancements in Windows 8.1 are some features to help with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environments. Workplace Join offers an easier way for users to connect their PCs and mobile devices to the domain network. Plus it gives IT admins more granular control over the corporate resources users have access to while giving them some device management/enforcement control.

Work Folders
Work Folders is another feature debuting in Windows 8.1. Basically it’s a company-hosted version of a cloud storage service like SkyDrive or DropBox. It adds native syncing of user files on their PCs and mobile devices to their storage on the corporate network. This provides a backup of their files in case of loss/theft and lets them access files via other devices. This syncing can be done with or without the devices being connected to the domain or via Workplace Join. And IT admins have the ability to remotely wipe these synced files, for instance if an employee loses the device or leaves the company.

How to use metered connections and track data usage
In Windows 8, Microsoft introduced the data metering and usage features to help you reduce and track data usage when on wireless connections that have data caps, like 4G and other mobile broadband connections. You could easily enable or disable metering and data usage tracking by right-clicking a network on the list. However, in Windows 8.1 you can’t right-click networks and must configure these via the PC Settings app: open the Settings charm (slide along right of screen or press Win + I), select Change PC Settings, select Network, and select the network name.

Viewing data usage
When a network is set to show data usage you’ll see the estimated usage (in MBs or GBs) on the network list after you select that particular network name. And with the improved Task Manager Microsoft introduced in Windows 8, you can view the estimated data usage of particular applications as well. When a network is set as a metered connection it can limit some non-critical downloads and Internet activity to help reduce data usage. For instance when enabled Windows Update won’t download updates (except for critical security patches) and third-party apps won’t download or transfer unnecessary data either.

Create a Wi-Fi Hotspot via Mobile Broadband Tethering
One major addition is the ability to enable wireless Internet sharing of mobile broadband (3G/4G) connections. Similar to the tethering or Wi-Fi hotspot functionality of some smartphones and tablets, you can enable it so other Wi-Fi devices can connect to your Windows 8.1 computer or device to receive Internet access.

New place for proxy server settings
In previous versions of Windows, you changed proxy settings via the Connections tab of Internet Explorer’s Internet Options dialog. This still exists in Windows 8.1, but now proxy settings are also available in the Network section of the PC Settings app as well. Open the Settings charm (slide along right of screen or press Win + I), select Change PC Settings, select Network, and select Proxy. It includes most of the same automatic and manual proxy settings found in the Internet Options dialog, with the exception of being able to set different proxy addresses for particular protocols.

Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer—keep up with his writings on Facebook. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service, and On Spot Techs, a…


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Windows 8 has been out for a while, featuring an interface that’s as cool as it is annoying . . . until you get the hang of it. But, like any computer operating system, it can fall over. Luckily, there is an easy way to solve the cause of most crashes; just call up WinDbg, the Windows debugger; a free tool to diagnose the most common causes of Windows crashes — misbehaved third party drivers.

In W8, the Blue Screen of Death/BSOD has been modified to include a large, simple : ( emoticon and a short message in human (if not very informative) language. (Watch a slideshow version that walks you through any crash.]

The Windows 8 Blue Screen of Death has become the frown of frustration.

Also, Microsoft has made advancements in the dump file creation and management process. While this article focuses on W8, the information applies to both RT and Server 2012. For earlier operating systems, see Solve Windows 7 crashes in minutes or, for XP and 2000, see How to solve Windows crashes in minutes.

About Windows crashes

Operating system crashes are quite different from applications crashes, system hangs or other problems. In most cases, operating systems crash as a protective measure. When the OS discovers that critical devices are failing or that an internal operating system state has been identified as inconsistent because of possible viruses, bad device drivers or even RAM failures, it is generally safer to stop immediately. Otherwise, continuing operations would allow far more serious damage, such as application data corruption or loss.

[HELP IS ON THE WAY: Where to go for help with Windows crashes]

Two out of three system crashes are caused by third party drivers taking inappropriate actions (such as writing to non-existent memory) in Kernel mode where they have direct access to the OS kernel and to the hardware.

In contrast, drivers operating in User Mode, with only indirect access to the OS kernel, cannot directly cause a crash. A small percentage of crashes are caused by hardware issues such as bad memory, even less by faults in the OS itself. And some causes are simply unknown.

Thanks for the memory dump

A memory dump is the ugliest best friend you’ll ever have. It is a snapshot of the state of the computer system at the point in time that the operating system stopped. And, of the vast amount of not-very-friendly looking data that a dump file contains, you will usually only need a few items that are easy to grasp and use. With the introduction of Windows 8, the OS now creates four different memory dumps; Complete, Kernel, and Minidumps and the new Automatic memory dump.

1. Automatic memory dump
Location: %SystemRoot%\Memory.dmp
Size: ≈size of OS kernel

The Automatic memory dump is the default option selected when you install Windows 8. It was created to support the “System Managed” page file configuration which has been updated to reduce the page file size on disk. The Automatic memory dump option produces a Kernel memory dump, the difference is when you select Automatic, it allows the SMSS process to reduce the page file smaller than the size of RAM.

2. Complete memory dump
Location: %SystemRoot%\Memory.dmp
Size: ≈size of installed RAM plus 1MB

A complete (or full) memory dump is about equal to the amount of installed RAM. With many systems having multiple GBs, this can quickly become a storage issue, especially if you are having more than the occasional crash. Normally I do not advise saving a full memory dump because they take so much space and are generally unneeded. However, there are cases when working with Microsoft (or another vendor) to find the cause of a very complex problem that the full memory dump would be very helpful. Therefore, stick to the automatic dump, but be prepared to switch the setting to generate a full dump on rare occasions.

3. Kernel memory dump
Location: %SystemRoot%\Memory.dmp
Size: ≈size of physical memory “owned” by kernel-mode components

Kernel dumps are roughly equal in size to the RAM occupied by the Windows 8 kernel. On my test system with 4GB RAM running Windows 8 on a 64-bit processor the kernel dump was about 336MB. Since, on occasion, dump files have to be transported, I compressed it, which brought it down to 80MB. One advantage to a kernel dump is that it contains the binaries which are needed for analysis. The Automatic dump setting creates a kernel dump file by default, saving only the most recent, as well as a minidump for each event.

4. Small or minidump
Location: %SystemRoot%\Minidump
Size: At least 64K on x86 and 128k on x64 (279K on my W8 test PC)

Minidumps include memory pages pointed to them by registers given their values at the point of the fault, as well as the stack of the faulting thread. What makes them small is that they do not contain any of the binary or executable files that were in memory at the time of the failure.

However, those files are critically important for subsequent analysis by the debugger. As long as you are debugging on the machine that created the dump file, WinDbg can find them in the System Root folders (unless the binaries were changed by a system update after the dump file was created). Alternatively the debugger should be able to locate them automatically through SymServ, Microsoft’s online store of symbol files. Windows 8 creates and saves a minidump for every crash event, essentially providing a historical record of all events for the life of the system.

Configure W8 to get the right memory dumps

While the default configuration for W8 sets the OS to generate the memory dump format you will most likely need, take a quick look to be sure. From the W8 Style Menu simply type “control panel” (or only the first few letters in many cases) which will auto-magically take you to the Apps page where you should see a white box surrounding “Control Panel”; hitting Enter will take you to that familiar interface.
 


Make your way to Control Panel in W8.

The path to check Windows 8 Memory Dump Settings, beginning at Control Panel, follows:

Control Panel | System and Security | System | Advanced system settings | Startup and Recovery | Settings

Once at the Startup and Recovery dialogue box ensure that “Automatic memory dump” is checked. You will probably also want to ensure that both “Write an event to the system log” and “Automatically restart” (which should also be on by default) are checked.

Install WinDbg
System Requirements

To set your PC up for WinDbg-based crash analysis, you will need the following:
• 32-bit or 64-bit Windows 8/R2/Server 2012/Windows 7/Server 2008
Depending on the processor you are running the debugger on, you can use either the 32-bit or the 64-bit debugging tools. Note that it is not important whether the dump file was made on an x86-based or an x64-based platform.
• The Debugging Tools for Windows portion of the Windows SDK for Windows 8, which you can download for free from Microsoft.
• Approximately 103MB of hard disk space (not including storage space for dump files or for symbol files)
• Live Internet connection

Download WinDbg

First download sdksetup.exe, a small file (969KB) that launches the Web setup, from which you select what components to install.
• Standard download.
• Automated download (the download will start on its own):

Space required
Ignore the disk space required of 1.2GB; you will only be installing a small portion of the kit. On my test machine the installation process predicted 256.2MB but only needed 103MB according to File Explorer following installation.

Run skdsetup.exe

Install the Software Development Kit (SDK) to the machine that you will use to view memory dump files.

A. Launch sdksetup.exe.

B. Specify location:

The suggested installation path follows:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\8.0\

If you are downloading to install on a separate computer, choose the second option and set the appropriate path.

C. Accept the License Agreement

D. Remove the check marks for all but Debugging Tools for Windows
What are symbols and why do I need them?

Now that the debugger is installed and before calling up a dump file you have to make sure it has access to the symbol files. Symbol tables are a byproduct of compilation. When a program is compiled, the source code is translated from a high-level language into machine code. At the same time, the compiler creates a symbol file with a list of identifiers, their locations in the program, and their attributes. Since programs don’t need this information to execute, it can be taken out and stored in another file. This reduces the size of the final executable so it takes up less disk space and loads faster into memory. But, when a program causes a problem, the OS only knows the hex address at which the problem occurred, not who was there and what the person was doing. Symbol tables, available through the use of SymServe, provide that information.

SymServ (SymSrv)

From the Windows 8 UI, right-click on WinDbg then select “Run as administrator” from the bar that pops up from the bottom of the screen.

SymServ (also spelled SymSrv) is a critically important utility provided by Microsoft that manages the identification of the correct symbol tables to be retrieved for use by WinDbg. There is no charge for its use and it functions automatically in the background as long as the debugger is properly configured, and has unfettered access to the symbol store at Microsoft.

Running WinDbg
From the W8 UI, right-click on the version of WinDbg you will use (x64 or x86) then select “Run as administrator” from the bar that pops up from the bottom of the screen. You will then see a singularly unexciting application interface; a block of gray. Before filling it in with data you must tell it where to find the symbol files.

Setting the symbol File Path
There is a massive number of symbol table files for Windows because every build of the operating system, even one-off variants, results in a new file. Using the wrong symbol tables would be like finding your way through San Francisco with a map of Boston. To be sure you are using the correct symbols, at WinDbg’s menu bar, select the following:

File | Symbol file path

In the Symbol search path window enter the following address:

srv*c:\cache*http://msdl.microsoft.com/download/symbols

Note that the address between the asterisks is where you want the symbols stored for future reference. For example, I store the symbols in a folder called symbols at the root of my c: drive, thus:

srv*c:\symbols*http://msdl.microsoft.com/download/symbols

Make sure that your firewall allows access to msdl.microsoft.com.

How WinDbg handles symbol files
When opening a memory dump, WinDbg will look at the executable files (.exe, .dll, etc.) and extract version information. It then creates a request to SymServ at Microsoft, which includes this version information and locates the precise symbol tables to draw information from. It won’t download all symbols for the specific operating system you are troubleshooting; it will download what it needs.

Space for symbol files
The space needed to store symbols varies. In my W8 test machine, after running numerous crash tests, the folder was about 35MB. On another system, running W7, and on which I opened dump files from several other systems the folder was still under 100MB. Just remember that if you open files from additional machines (with variants of the operating system) your folder can continue to grow in size.

Alternatively, you can opt to download and store the complete symbol file from Microsoft. Before you do, note that – for each symbol package – you should have at least 1GB of disk space free. That’s because, in addition to space needed to store the files, you also need space for the required temporary files. Even with the low cost of hard drives these days, the space used is worth noting.

• Each x86 symbol package may require 750 MB or more of hard disk space.

• Each x64 symbol package may require 640 MB or more.

Symbol packages are non-cumulative unless otherwise noted, so if you are using an SP2 Windows release, you will need to install the symbols for the original RTM version and for SP1 before you install the symbols for SP2.

Create a dump file

What if you don’t have a memory dump to look at? No worries. You can generate one yourself. There are different ways to do it, but the best way is to use a tool called NotMyFault created by Mark Russinovich.

Download NotMyFault
To get NotMyFault, go to the Windows Internals Book page at SysInternals and scroll down to the Book Tools section where you will see a download link. The tool includes a selection of options that load a misbehaving driver (which requires administrative privileges). After downloading, I created a shortcut from the desktop to simplify access.

Keep in mind that using NotMyFault WILL CREATE A SYSTEM CRASH and while I’ve never seen a problem using the tool there are no guarantees in life, especially in computers. So, prepare your system and have anyone who needs access to it log off for a few minutes. Save any files that contain information that you might otherwise lose and close all applications. Properly prepared, the machine should go down, reboot and both a minidump and a kernel dump should be created.

Running NotMyFault
Launch NotMyFault and select the High IRQL fault (Kernel-mode) then . . . hit the Crash button. Your Frown-of-Frustration will appear in a second, both a minidump and a kernel dump file will be saved and – if properly configured – your system will restart.


When Windows 8 crashes, you see (1) the Frown-of-Frustration in the new BSOD. After restart you see (2) the offer to send crash files to Microsoft. The final screen (3) lists the files that would be sent, displays the privacy statement and asks you for permission to send them.

Over the W8 UI will be a band of blue with the message that “Your PC ran into a problem . . . “. If you click the “Send details” button, Microsoft will use WinDbg and the command “!analyze” as part of an automated service to identify the root cause of the problem. The output is combined with a database of known driver bug fixes to help identify the failure.

Launch WinDbg and (often) see the cause of the crash
Launch WinDbg by right-clicking on it from the W8 UI then select “Run as administrator” from the bar that pops up at the bottom of the screen. Once the debugger is running, select the menu option

File | Open Crash Dump

and point it to open the dump file you want to analyze. Note that WinDbg will open any size dump file; a minidump, kernel dump or complete dump file. When offered to Save Workspace Information, say Yes; it will remember where the dump file is.

A command window will open. If this is the first time you are using WinDbg on this system or looking at a dump file from another system you have not loaded files for before, it may take a moment to fill with information. This is because the debugger has to identify the precise release of Windows then go to SymServ at Microsoft and locate the corresponding symbol files and download the ones it needs. In subsequent sessions this step is unneeded because the symbols are saved on the hard drive. Once WinDbg has the symbols it needs it will run an analysis and fill the window with the results. This will include basic information such as the version of WinDbg, the location and name of the dump file opened, the symbol search path being used and even a brief analysis offering, in this case,

Probably caused by : myfault.sys

which, of course, we know to be true (myfault.sys is the name of the driver for NotMyFault).

WinDbg Error Messages
If WinDbg reports a *** WARNING or an *** ERROR, the solution is usually simple. The following lists the common messages, what they mean and how to resolve them.

*** WARNING: Unable to verify timestamp for ntoskrnl.exe

*** ERROR: Module load completed but symbols could not be loaded for ntoskrnl.exe

This is important. When you see these two messages near the beginning of the output from WinDbg, it means that you will not get the analysis that you need. This is confirmed after the “Bugcheck Analysis” is automatically run, and the message

***** Kernel symbols are WRONG. Please fix symbols to do analysis

is displayed.

Likely causes follow:

• No path/wrong path; a path to the symbol files has not been set or the path is incorrect (look for typos such as a blank white space). Check the Symbol Path.

• Failed connection; check your Internet connection to make sure it is working properly.

• Access blocked; a firewall blocked access to the symbol files or the files were damaged during retrieval. See that no firewall is blocking access to msdl.microsoft.com (it may only be allowing access to www.microsoft.com).

Note that if a firewall initially blocks WinDbg from downloading a symbol table, it can result in a corrupted file. If unblocking the firewall and attempting to download the symbol file again does not work; the file remains damaged. The quickest fix is to close WinDbg, delete the symbols folder (which you most likely set at c:\symbols), and unblock the firewall. Next, reopen WinDbg and a dump file. The debugger will recreate the folder and re-download the symbols.

Do not go further with your analysis until this is corrected.

If you see the following error, no worries:

*** WARNING: Unable to verify timestamp for myfault.sys

*** ERROR: Module load completed but symbols could not be loaded for myfault.sys


WinDbg automatically suggests the culprit as shown.

This means that the debugger was looking for information on myfault.sys. However, since it is a third-party driver, there are no symbols for it, since Microsoft does not store all of the third-party drivers. The point is that you can ignore this error message. Vendors do not typically ship drivers with symbol files and they aren’t necessary to your work; you can pinpoint the problem driver without them.
So, what caused the crash?
As mentioned above, when you open a dump file with WinDbg it automatically runs a basic analysis that will often nail the culprit without even giving the debugger any direct commands as shown in the screen where it says “Probably caused by : myfault.sys”

More information

Getting a little more information about the crash event and the suspect module is easy. Often, all you need is two commands among the hundreds that the rather powerful debugger offers:

!analyze -v

and

lmvm.

A new way to command WinDbg
Normally, you would type in the commands and parameters you need. Things have changed, however, and Windows too. If you take a good look at the WinDbg interface, just below the “Bugcheck Analysis” box, it says “Use !analyze -v to get detailed debugging information” and that the command is underlined and in blue. Yes, it’s a link. Just touch it and the command will be run for you. But, in case you don’t have a touch screen, a mouse will work fine or resort to the traditional method of typing the command into the window at the bottom of the interface where you see the prompt “kd>” (which stands for “kernel debugger”). Be sure to do it precisely; this is a case where syntax is key. For instance, note the space between the command and the “-v”. The “v” or verbose switch tells WinDbg that you want all the details. You can do the same where you see the link for myfault which will display metadata for the suspect driver.

Output from !analyze -v

The analysis provided by !analyze -v is a combination of English and programmer-speak, but it is nonetheless a great start. In fact, in many cases you will not need to go any further. If you recognize the cause of the crash, you’re probably done.

Output from !analyze -v

The !analyze -v command reveals the cause of the crash and the likely culprit.

The !analyze -v provides more detail about the system crash. In this case it accurately describes what the test driver (myfault.sys) was instructed to do; to access an address at an interrupt level that was too high.

Analysis

DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL (d1)

An attempt was made to access a pageable (or completely invalid) address at an interrupt request level (IRQL) that is too high. This is usually caused by drivers using improper addresses.

Under Debugging Details the report suggests that the problem was a “WIN_8_DRIVER_FAULT” and that NotMyFault.exe was active.

Stack dump
An important feature of the debugger’s output using !analyze -v is the stack text. Whenever looking at a dump file always look at the far right end of the stack for any third-party drivers. In this case we would see myfault. Note that the chronologic sequence of events goes from the bottom to the top; as each new task is performed by the system it shows up at the top. In this rather short stack you can see that myfault was active, then a page fault occurred, and the system declared a BugCheck, which is when the system stopped (Blue Screened).

One way to look at this is that when you see a third-party driver active on the stack when the system crashed, it is like walking into a room and finding a body on the floor and someone standing over it with a smoking gun in his hand; it doesn’t mean that he is guilty but makes him suspect No.1.

Output from lmvm (or by selecting myfault)

Knowing the name of a suspect is not enough; you need to know where he lives and what he does. That’s where lmvm comes in. It provides a range of data from this image path (not all drivers live in %systemroot%\system32\drivers.), time stamp, image size and file type (in this case a driver) to the company that made it, the product it belongs to, version number and description. Some companies even include contact information for technical support. What the debugger reports, though, is solely dependent upon what the developer included, which, in some cases, is very little.

After you find the vendor’s name, go to its Web site and check for updates, knowledge base articles, and other supporting information. If such items do not exist or do not resolve the problem, contact them. They may ask you to send along the debugging information (it is easy to copy the output from the debugger into an e-mail or Word document) or they may ask you to send them the memory dump (zip it up first, both to compress it and protect data integrity).

If you have any questions regarding the use of WinDbg, check out the WinDbg help file. It is excellent. And, when reading about a command be sure to look at the information provided about the many parameters such as “-v” which returns more (verbose) information.

The other third

While it’s true that, by following the instructions above, you’ll likely know the cause of two out of three crashes immediately; that does leave that annoying other third. What do you do then? Well, the list of what could have caused the system failure is not short; it can range from a case fan failing, allowing the system to overheat, to bad memory.

Sometimes it’s the hardware
If you have recurring crashes but no clear or consistent reason, it may be a memory problem. Two good ways to check memory are the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool and Memtest86. Go to Control Panel and enter “memory” into its search box then select “Diagnose your computer’s memory problems”.

This simple diagnostic tool is quick and works great. Many people discount the possibility of a memory problem, because they account for such a small percentage of system crashes. However, they are often the cause that keeps you guessing the longest.

Is Windows the culprit?

In all probability: no. For all the naysayers who are quick to blame Redmond for such events, the fact is that Windows is very seldom the cause of a system failure. But, if ntoskrnl.exe (Windows core) or win32.sys (the driver that is most responsible for the “GUI” layer on Windows) is named as the culprit — and they often are – don’t be too quick to accept it. It is far more likely that some errant third-party device driver called upon a Windows component to perform an operation and passed a bad instruction, such as telling it to write to non-existent memory. So, while the operating system certainly can err, exhaust all other possibilities before you blame Microsoft.

What about my antivirus driver?
Often you may see an antivirus driver named as the culprit but there is a good chance it is not guilty. Here’s why: for antivirus code to work it must watch all file openings and closings. To accomplish this, the code sits at a low layer in the OS and is constantly working so that he will often be on the stack of function calls that was active when the crash occurred.

Missing vendor information?
Some driver vendors don’t take the time to include sufficient information with their modules. So if lmvm doesn’t help, try looking at the subdirectories on the image path (if there is one). Often one of them will be the vendor name or a contraction of it. Another option is to search Google. Type in the driver name and/or folder name. You’ll probably find the vendor as well as others who have posted information regarding the driver.
Summary

Bear in mind that the time it took you to read this primer and to configure WinDbg on your system is far more effort than you will need to solve two of three crashes. Indeed, most crash analysis efforts will take you less than one minute. And, while the other third can certainly be more challenging, at least you’ll have more time to try.


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As I wrote last week I have been on a quest for a new laptop. I quickly realized that convertibles were not yet ready for primetime in my price range (sub $1,000), so instead I decided that I would get a touchscreen model to fully utilize the Windows 8 interface. Finding the perfect machine for me took a lot of shopping, reading and testing, but I am happy to report I have a new machine that will hopefully last me for the next 18 to 24 months. I bought a VAIO Fit 14. Why did I choose this one? Let me tell you.

My VAIO sports an i7 Intel Core CPU, it has 8GB of RAM, a 750GB (would you believe I wrote MB at first and then realized I was using 2001 specs) traditional hard drive and an 8GB SSD. It also has a DVD-RW drive and a slick 14-inch touchscreen. The screen sports a 1600×900 HD display with an Intel HD 4000 on-board graphics system. It also has USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, Ethernet, wireless and an SD card reader. The keyboard is the Mac-like chicklets with backlighting. The computer is housed in a slick brushed aluminum case. Taken in total, it is a really nice package.

While the size is not quite netbook or as small as some of the other Ultrabooks I looked at, it is much smaller than my previous Toshiba 15.6-inch screen model. The brushed aluminum gives it a rich, solid look. The keyboard is a pleasure to type on compared to my mushy Toshiba keyboard.

Most of all, the touchscreen is a pleasure. I have used a tablet and my Samsung Galaxy S4 has a big screen, but using Windows 8 on a screen this size is really nice. The live tiles are really live. But just scrolling web pages with your finger is a hell of a lot easier than using a mouse or touchpad. I really like the ease of touchscreen and don’t know if I will ever be able to go back to a mouse or touchpad. It is a game changer. Before you knock Windows 8, you really need to play with it on a touchscreen to appreciate it.

With the touchscreen I am using the tile interface much more than my desktop, compared to my previous Windows 8 machine. I also have downloaded several apps from the still underpopulated Windows app store.

This is the third time I have loaded a Windows 8 machine up with all of the software I use. By now I am pretty good at it. It only took me most of the first night I had the machine and it was fully loaded. Using Windows Office 365, which you can install on up to 5 machines, is great. I gave my old machine to my wife and leaving Office on there while installing it on my new machine still leaves me with three more installs. I didn’t get any extra software on my laptop. Besides Windows 8 it came with some Sony software for movies and sound, but that was about it.

I bought my new laptop in a Sony store. Yes, that is right, the Sony store in the mall. I looked at all of the computer-type stores around town, looked online, but at the end of the day the Sony store had the best selection of Sony machines and the prices were the same as online and even cheaper than what I saw in the computer stores. In many of the computer stores they were showing older models that were a little cheaper, but the Sony store had the newest models at a good price. I was able to get mine for $999.99. Right at my $1,000 dollar limit.

I have been using it now for about four or five days. I love it. I know a lot of people knock Sony for not coming up with anything groundbreaking since the first Playstation or the Walkman before that, but Sony is the original Apple. Its products are designed well, the quality is evident throughout, and they just look nice.

I was hesitant because I remember when VAIOs were plagued with problems. But the reviews that I have seen recently seem to be very positive for the most part. At this point I would give the machine a high recommendation.

For me, though, the clincher was the reaction of other geeks. When they saw the machine, I got lots of oohs and aahhs. They liked using the touchscreen and really liked the look of my new computer. Already, two of my friends have said they are going out to get the same one.

I would have liked a total SSD drive, but I need more than the 128GB that comes in this class of machine. A friend of mine recently bought a laptop with twin 512GB SSD, but it set him back a pretty penny and it was not a touchscreen. For me, this hybrid of a traditional big HD with a small SSD works just fine.

So, now that I only paid a thousand dollars for my laptop, I have $500 set aside for my tablet. My HP Touchpad is beyond repair. I think the hard drive gave out or something. Anyway, I almost bought the new Sony tablet, but chickened out when I read a review that said it was slightly slower than some of the leading players in its class. So my quest for the next tablet goes on. But my search for the perfect laptop is over for now anyway.


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Drumbeat of leaks leads to high expectations for upgrade, but pricing, form factor and apps need attention, too

Microsoft’s failure thus far to significantly spark PC and tablet sales with Windows 8 has put high expectations on an expected 2013 refresh of the OS, dubbed “Blue.”

But changes to the operating system’s feature set, tweaks to its user interface (UI) and modifications to some of its subcomponents are actually solutions to minor problems, analysts said. They point to more important issues like pricing and positioning, app shortages and enterprise reluctance as beyond the scope of an upgrade.

Microsoft has said little of Blue, the code name for the first Windows 8 upgrade, reportedly to ship this summer or fall, as well as the moniker for the company’s faster-paced development and release schedule. It’s only acknowledged the code name and touted what it’s called a new “continuous” update strategy for Windows on desktops, tablets, servers and smartphones.

For example, last week Microsoft’s CFO Peter Klein used the “Windows Blue” label, and added, “With Windows 8, we are setting a new, accelerated pace for updates and innovations.”

Several long-time Windows watchers, including Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Paul Thurrott of Supersite for Windows and Tom Warren of The Verge, have been tracking leaked builds of Windows Blue — which may be named Windows 8.1 — and describing its changes in detail.

The constant barrage of news, minor in each instance but cumulative over time, has many setting high expectations for Blue. “There are high expectations for Blue,” agreed J.P. Gownder, an analyst with Forrester Research. “It’s positioned as a much bigger release than a service pack, because it will augment the core products.”

Microsoft’s service packs, the historical form of its interim updates between new Windows editions, have included few feature changes, instead limiting themselves to collecting bug and security fixes released previously.

Windows 8 is not in danger of dying, analysts stressed, but many of them called the focus on UI changes and small-to-medium enhancements and additions misplaced. Microsoft has bigger fish to fry.

“I look at Windows 8, no matter how many iterations it goes through, as a transitional product,” said Michael Silver of Gartner. “Windows 8 is very transitional. It has lots of rough edges where the desktop and touch interfaces didn’t integrate. But the hardware is transitional, too. Really, 2013 is sort of a lost year for Microsoft and Windows.”

Future processors from Intel, including the Clover Trail and Bay Trail upgrades to its Atom architecture, will be necessary, said Silver, to put enough power and long-enough battery life into Windows tablets.

Others cited different problems Microsoft faces.
“First of all, price is a major issue,” said Peter King, an analyst who focuses on tablets for U.K.-based Strategic Analytics, in a Thursday interview. “Clearly the market wants cheaper tablets. Everyone’s ASPs [average selling prices] are declining, Android’s most of all. Windows tablets’ [ASPs] are too high.”

Microsoft does plan on addressing price this year. “We are working closely with OEMs on a new suite of small touch devices powered by Windows,” Klein said during an earnings call with Wall Street a week ago. “These devices will have competitive price points, partly enabled by our latest OEM offerings designed specifically for these smaller devices, and will be available in the coming months.”

Analysts heard the line “latest OEM offerings designed specifically for these smaller devices,” as confirmation that Microsoft will lower the price of Windows to computer and tablet makers, or provide rebates on their license purchases.

“When Microsoft conceived this [Windows 8 and Windows RT] project in 2010, tablet prices were high,” said King. “But the world’s changed very quickly. The trend is towards smaller, cheaper tablets.”

Fewer than half of the tablets expected to ship in 2013 will sport screens larger than 8 inches, King said, echoing other forecasts by the likes of IDC.

Microsoft, in other words, aimed at quickly-disappearing target with its demand for 10-in. screens for Windows 8 and Windows RT devices, and now must scramble to shift gears.

Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, saw an alternative reason why Windows Blue, although perhaps welcome, isn’t enough to markedly move the meter for Microsoft.

“Windows 8 sucks because Windows 8 apps suck,” said Cherry, not mincing words. “And there’s nothing in all these rumors of Windows Blue or Windows 8.1 that tells me that apps will be easier to write or that will result in better apps.”

Microsoft’s apps tally — those touch-centric programs that run in Windows RT and in Windows 8’s “Modern”-style UI — are far behind that of those for Android and iOS tablets. More important, experts have said since the October 2012 launch of Windows 8, is the lack of high-quality, must-have apps necessary to make Microsoft-powered tablets or convertible device competitive with devices relying on rival operating systems.

Cherry strongly argued that until Microsoft can solve the apps problem, nothing else it does will really matter.

“Everyone’s obsessed with the look of the thing. What do I care about a Start button in Windows 8 if I spend all my time on the desktop? It’s the lack of good applications [that's hurting Windows]. And from what I can tell, developers aren’t going to get anything from Blue. I don’t see anything about apps getting better.”

To prove his point, Cherry pointed to the apps Microsoft has created for Windows 8 and Windows RT, such as the “Mail, Calendar, People and Messaging” app.

“If that’s the best Microsoft can do, if that’s what they come up with, with their resources, it’s no surprise that there’s not a [third-party] app worth a darn,” said Cherry.

Rather than tout its new, faster release cadence, Microsoft should instead tell developers what it will do to help them make top-notch apps. Without those, Cherry questioned the entire Windows strategy. “Make a statement of intentions on development,” he urged Microsoft. “Tell developers, ‘We’re going to get you all the assistance and all the documentation you need, we will create apps that are so full-featured that they will inspire you to write great apps.'”

Microsoft may be able to solve the pricing, form factor and app problems these analysts see as critical to Windows’ transition from a desktop OS to one that works equally well on touch-enabled tablets. None are counting the company out.

Continuing coverage: Windows 8
“Never assume that the first iteration will succeed,” said King of Strategic Analytics. “For a small company, a failure could be disastrous, but for Microsoft, as large as it is, it’s just a hiccup.”

“I don’t think this is Microsoft’s last shot [at Windows 8 success],” said Forrester’s Gownder of Blue. “Microsoft has made missteps with Windows 8, but they did the same with Windows Vista. And they moved on. They have an established position in the market, and a lot to offer. They’ll get there.”

Gartner’s Silver may not have been that optimistic — “Blue isn’t going to save Windows or PCs,” he said in an interview earlier this week — but like Gownder, he conceded that Microsoft has more than one chance of making Windows 8 palatable to consumers and enterprises.

“They’d better have multiple iterations of Windows 8, because its attempt so far to blunt the affect of tablets on PC sales was pretty minimal,” Silver said. “Microsoft is right in looking toward the next release, admitting it make mistakes. At least it’s a step in the right direction.”


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Windows 8 Update: transition from Android to Windows Phone made easier
Also, iPad keyboard/cover to rival Surface, 8-inch Windows 8 tablet

UPDATE: Microsoft has delayed availability of its Switch to Windows Phone app until sometime next week.

Microsoft figures customers will be more likely to switch from Android smartphones to Windows 8 phones if it makes it easier to find the same or similar apps for their new phone as were on their old phones.

Microsoft is introducing Switch to Windows Phone, an application that finds identical or replacement applications for Windows Phone 8 in the Windows Store to replace their old Android apps.

The new application, which is being released today, is not available for iPhones.
Switch to Windows 8 inventories all the applications on the Android phone and sends that inventory to the Microsoft SkyDrive cloud. When customers log in to the same SkyDrive account from the Switch to Windows 8 app loaded on their Windows Phone 8, the app finds the same set of applications. If there are no exact replacements, the app recommends similar ones, according to Guru Gowrappan, executive vice president for products at application search firm Quixey.

Quixey supplies the apps-search engine within Switch to Windows 8. The engine uses descriptions of apps, reviews of apps, trouble reports about apps and other metadata it gathers from the Web to recommend substitute applications to users, Gowrappan says. The goal is to make them as close as possible to matching the app on the Android phone.

In the case of Switch to Windows 8, the Quixey search engine goes through the 135,000 Windows Phone 8 applications in the Windows Store seeking direct matches – such as the Windows Phone 8 Facebook app to replace the Android Facebook app – or to find applications that perform as close to the same function as possible, he says.

The search engine can also look for applications based on what customers want to do. So a customer could enter “cook Italian food” into the engine and would get a list of apps such as Tuscan Chef and Italian Video Recipes.

Sprint Zone and Sprint Digital Lounge use Quixey’s engine to find apps as does ask.com for searching Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry applications.

Keyboard for iPads mimics Surface
Logitech is selling a thin, fabric-covered keyboard/cover for iPads that give the Apple tablets similar functionality to Microsoft’s Windows 8 Surface tablet/laptops.

Called FabricSkin Keyboard Folio, the keyboards attach magnetically to iPads and flop down to convert from being a cover to being a keyboard. The device includes a prop to hold the screen at a slant for better viewing when typing. It can also fold over to allow use of the iPad as a tablet.

At $150, that puts iPads with keyboards on a price par with some models of Surface tablets with keyboards.

Some differences: Surface supports Office applications and a file system, something iPads lack. Surface draws power from the computer battery; FabricSkin Keyboard Folio has its own rechargeable battery. The Surface keyboard communicates with the tablet via direct electrical connection; FabricSkin Keyboard Folio uses Bluetooth.

8-inch Windows 8 tablet
Acer is coming out with an 8-inch tablet running Windows 8 if a leaked photo is to be believed.
Windows 8
The photo here was posted by the site minimachines.net but taken down at Acer’s request.


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QUESTION 1
You work as a senior developer at Certkingdom.com. The Certkingdom.com network consists of a single domain named Certkingdom.com.
You are running a training exercise for junior developers. You are currently discussing the use of
the Queue <T> collection type.
Which of the following is TRUE with regards to the Queue <T>collection type?

A. It represents a first in, first out (FIFO) collection of objects.
B. It represents a last in, first out (LIFO) collection of objects.
C. It represents a collection of key/value pairs that are sorted by key based on the associated
IComparer<T> implementation.
D. It represents a list of objects that can be accessed by index.

Answer: A

Explanation:


QUESTION 2
You work as a developer at Certkingdom.com. The Certkingdom.com network consists of a single domain named Certkingdom.com.
You have written the following code segment:
int[] filteredEmployeeIds = employeeIds.Distinct().Where(value => value !=
employeeIdToRemove).OrderByDescending(x => x).ToArray();
Which of the following describes reasons for writing this code? (Choose two.)

A. To sort the array in order from the highest value to the lowest value.
B. To sort the array in order from the lowest value to the highest value.
C. To remove duplicate integers from the employeeIds array.
D. To remove all integers from the employeeIds array.

Answer: A,C

Explanation:


QUESTION 3
You work as a senior developer at Certkingdom.com. The Certkingdom.com network consists of a single domain
named Certkingdom.com.
You are running a training exercise for junior developers. You are currently discussing the use of a
method that moves the SqlDataReader on to the subsequent record.
Which of the following is the SqlDataReader method that allows for this?

A. The Read method.
B. The Next method.
C. The Result method.
D. The NextResult method.

Answer: A

Explanation:


QUESTION 4
You work as a developer at Certkingdom.com. The Certkingdom.com network consists of a single domain named Certkingdom.com.
You have received instructions to create a custom collection for Certkingdom.com. Objects in the
collection must be processed via a foreach loop.
Which of the following is TRUE with regards to the required code?

A. The code should implement the ICollection interface.
B. The code should implement the IComparer interface.
C. The code should implement the IEnumerable interface.
D. The code should implement the IEnumerator interface.

Answer: C

Explanation:


QUESTION 5
You work as a senior developer at Certkingdom.com. The Certkingdom.com network consists of a single domain named Certkingdom.com.
You are running a training exercise for junior developers. You are currently discussing the use of LINQ queries.
Which of the following is NOT considered a distinct action of a LINQ query?

A. Creating the query.
B. Obtaining the data source.
C. Creating the data source.
D. Executing the query.

Answer: C

Explanation:


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Windows 8 Update: 50k apps now in Windows Store

Written by admin
March 27th, 2013

Also: Windows RT gets dissed, iPads beware Windows 8

There are now more than 50,000 Windows 8-only applications available in the Windows Store, a big jump from when Windows 8 launched, but a far cry from what the company projected just before the launch.

According to the website MetroStore Scanner, the store has 50,341 apps on the shelves, finally reaching that number over the weekend after more or less growing steadily at 10% per month since last October. There was a spike in December perhaps as part of the Christmas rush.

ANALYSIS: What if Windows 8 flops?
But back in October Microsoft predicted it would have an inventory of more than 100,000 by the end of January, and now nearly two months later has just half that has materialized.

It’s bad news for Windows 8 and Microsoft because by the company’s own admission applications designed for the touch-friendly operating system are essential for attracting customers to it. Compelling apps mean more converts.

Getting apps has proven a challenge, with the latest enticement being an offer of $100 to developers for every Windows 8 app they get placed in the Windows Store up to 10. They can reap the bounty for an additional 10 Windows Phone 8 apps in the Windows Phone Store. “Offer good only to the first 10,000 qualified applications published in the Windows Store and/or Windows Phone Store, or until the end of the promotional period, whichever comes first,” Microsoft says.

That’s $1 million Microsoft is ponying up to stimulate apps development in this promotion alone. That doesn’t include the cost of developer trainings and a generous royalty agreement for the most popular applications.

While 50,000 apps is a benchmark, it’s coming too late for it to be considered a positive benchmark.

Jettison Windows RT?
Meanwhile, Microsoft is using the same Windows Store stats to defend Windows RT, the hardware/software platform based on ARM chips that runs a light version of Windows 8 and can handle only Windows Store Modern applications.

Windows RT came under fire recently from IDC, which suggested Microsoft dump the package. It is intended to compete with iPads, but hasn’t made strong inroads so far. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows planning told CNET that “as the number of apps grow in the store, that value promise only gets stronger.”

That value promise was based on a narrow set of circumstances. “Let’s say you drop that PC in a pool. Well, you get a new one and then you just redownload [the apps],” he told CNET. “That’s the kind of model people are used to with a phone or tablet today. I can maintain all the apps in the [Microsoft] store and reset with a single switch. So, on Windows RT, the user experience stays consistent over time.”

iPads beware
Despite the attack on Windows RT, the full Windows 8 software that supports any app that runs on Windows 7 is getting praised as an operating system for tablets.

Moor Insights and Strategy says in a whitepaper that Windows 8 tablets offer more than one advantage over Apple’s tablet. “Enterprise IT can and are deploying iPads but are doing so at an increased cost, time and complexity than PCs,” the paper says.

These tablets are PCs only without the keyboard, and so have a the manageability of a laptop with the touch centricity of Windows 8. The Intel Clover Trail processor gives the devices performance per watt that is comparable to that of the iPad, the paper says. “Through the combination of Intel Clover Trail and Windows 8, HP, Dell and Lenovo have created tablets that take the best the consumer elements of the iPad and adds to it enterprise features IT wants in their next generation tablets,” it says. “Enterprises should immediately evaluate the latest enterprise tablet offerings from HP, Dell and Lenovo and make their decisions on future deployments incorporating those additional options.”

Acer likes Windows 8
Acer President Jim Wong had some nice things to say about Windows 8 tablets recently during a financials conference call.

According to StreetInsider.com, Wong expects sales of tablets in general to pick up over the course of 2013.

According to the website, “More importantly, Wong said that momentum in Microsoft Windows 8 devices has been improving. Acer Chairman J.T. Wang echoed the sentiment during the company’s conference call, saying that Microsoft “has done some good things finally” to revitalize the Windows ecosystem.”


 

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IDC: Windows 8 a factor in lower 2012 PC sales

Written by admin
March 6th, 2013

IDC: Windows 8 a factor in lower 2012 PC sales
Better acceptance of Windows 8 could help a PC rebound later this year

The final numbers are in showing that PC makers shipped fewer machines last year than in 2011, and Windows 8 is among several factors being blamed by IDC for the decline, which is expected to continue this year.

Looking back IDC found that in 2012 total worldwide shipments of PCs was down 3.7%, including desktop and portable PCs.

The trend was worse in mature markets — the U.S., Canada, Western Europe and Japan — with a dip of 4%. Emerging markets — Asia/Pacific, Latin America the Middle East and Africa — were down 1.4%.

Limited interest in Windows 8 led last year to a dismal fourth quarter, IDC says in its latest Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Volume dropped 8.3% in Q4 2012 compared to Q4 2011, wiping out a potential bump during the normally robust holiday sales quarter, IDC says. That’s the largest drop ever recorded for a holiday season.

IDC described the reception of Windows 8, which launched in October, as “underwhelming.” Also contributing to the slow fourth quarter were tight IT budgets and a continuing poor world economy.

Hurting the potential lift that Windows 8 might have provided was the lack of components for touchscreen devices — the type of machine Windows 8 was designed to work best on. That makes the touchscreen devices that are available seem expensive compared to non-touch devices, IDC says.

Still, Windows 8 could help PC sales rebound somewhat late this year, says Rajani Singh, a research analyst at IDC. “IDC expects the second half of 2013 to regain some marginal momentum partly as a rubber band effect from 2012, and largely thanks to the outcome of industry restructuring, better channel involvement, and potentially greater acceptance of Windows 8,” he says. But it still won’t be enough to register growth; IDC projects worldwide PC sales in 2013 to drop another 1.3%.

The end of support for Windows XP should force more PC upgrades later this year as well, which could help bolster shipments later in 2013, Singh says.

The study doesn’t include tablets because they aren’t the functional equivalents of PCs, but their popularity among consumers helps siphon off dollars that otherwise might be spent on PCs, says Loren Loverde, vice president for Worldwide PC Trackers at IDC. “Growth in emerging regions has slowed considerably, and we continue to see constrained PC demand as buyers favor other devices for their mobility and convenience features,” Loverde says.

Long-term shipments of PCs shows better but still modest growth, the report says, projecting a 9% increase between 2012 and the end of 2017.


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Windows 8 Update: Supply-challenged Surface Pros to go on sale in 6 more countries
Also: Windows 8 upgrade rumored for summer, more Windows 8 ads queued, deals on Windows 8 machines

Microsoft has run out of Windows Surface Pro tablets twice in a month but is forging ahead with plans to make them available in six more countries.

According to today’s Surface blog the six countries are Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan. The Surface Pro and Surface RT will be available there “in the coming months.”

With luck the supply of the machines will be better in these countries than it has been in the U.S. and Canada, where Microsoft has run out of Surface Pros twice. Microsoft hasn’t spelled out the reasons for the shortages.

“We are focused on meeting demand in current markets for Surface Pro and are working super hard to get new inventory into retail but recognize demand exists in other countries as well,” the blog post says. “We are committed to working with our retail partners to ensure we are delivering a great experience in the above mentioned countries for our customers.”

More promos
“Microsoft is about to embark on a second wave of Windows 8 client hardware promotions and user education,” according to a Computerworld article from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The story quotes Christopher Flores, director of communications for the Windows client division, who was interviewed at the show, where Microsoft is said to be keeping a low profile but meeting with partners off-site.

This new promotional wave might have something to do with the launch this week of Office 365, which has been redesigned for the touch capabilities that are such a key part of Windows 8. Demonstrating new Office features that Windows 8 supports better than Windows 7 might move some customers to accelerate their decisions to adopt the new operating system.

Windows Blue
Rumors have swirled for weeks that Microsoft is working on Windows Blue, the next iteration if its operating system. If the company follows past release patterns, this won’t be the major transformation that Windows 8 was. More likely it will represent what might be called a service pack in earlier Windows operating system releases.

There’s even a projected date for when Windows Blue (that’s just a code name) will reach the release-to-manufacturer stage: June 7, according to a post on a Chinese-language site that was discovered by Mary Jo Foley.

The site, Win8China, doesn’t attribute where it got its information, but seems to assert that Windows Blue will become the commercial version by the end of the summer. It’s hard to tell exactly from the translation of the site provided by Google Chrome.

Here’s how the translation reads, in part: “The development cycle time RTM version completed in the mid-term of 2013 (the beginning of the end of June -7), MSDN and other users will then use the priority, and then in August it will be open to all Win8 user upgrade download, as well as pre-installed into the new devices inside a PC, Tablet PC, laptop, ultra-extreme.”

Windows 8 tablet discount
Best Buy is knocking $100 off any Windows 8 touchscreen laptop, which in some cases represents an 18% discount.

Some people have linked the sale to the rumored availability of Windows Blue this summer, leading them to conclude that Best Buy is trying to unload current Windows 8 machines before the new version makes them obsolete.

Or the chain might have overstocked Windows 8 tablets and wants to clear its inventory. Or it might be getting ready to stock up on newer hardware due out later this year that blends features of tablets and laptops.

Windows 8 for dunking
Speaking of new hardware, Fujitsu is coming out with a Windows 8 tablet that can sit in a tub of water for half an hour and still work when it gets out.

It’s called Arrows Tab Q582/F and is on display at the Mobile World Congress. It costs about $1,350 to start.

Here’s how Fujitsu describes it: “With the terminal cap and slot cap tightly closed, IPX5 and IPX8 water resistance features protect the tablet from water damage. IPX5 designation indicates that the tablet can normally function after being sprayed with water from a nozzle with a diameter of 6.3 mm at a rate of 12.5 liters per minute from a distance of approximately 3 meters for a period of at least 3 minutes. The IPX8 designation indicates that the tablet will function normally after being immersed in room-temperature tap water to a depth of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. When the terminal cap and slot caps are tightly closed IP5X dust resistance features protect the tablet from dust damage. IP5X indicates that the tablet can be left in an environment with dust particles with a diameter of 75 µm or less for 8 hours and still function and remain safe to use.”

Windows 8 Pro mobile phone
A company called i-mate says it is coming out with a mobile phone that runs the full Windows 8 Pro operating system. That’s Windows 8, not Windows Phone 8.

When it comes out later this year, it can be purchased with a docking kit that hooks the device into a desktop phone, monitor, keyboard and mouse. The kit includes a tablet driven wirelessly by the phone, which is called Intelegent.

As a standalone, Intelegent costs $750; with the kit, $1,500 and the company hopes to launch the products this summer.

All of this is according to a column in the Seattle Times.

A company spokesman says an i-mate team is at Mobile World Congress this week and couldn’t do an interview. “The i-mate Development Inc. team is busy at Mobile World Congress. We’ll reach out if they become available at a later date,” he spokesman says in an email.

The spokesman also says the Seattle Times column is accurate on details about the phone.

It will be interesting to see whether this device actually comes into being, what its battery life will be (driving an Intel Clover Trail processor) and whether the company can line up service providers that will support it.


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Why I abandoned Windows Phone 8

Written by admin
January 7th, 2013

I recently acquired a Nokia Lumia 920 to experiment with Windows Phone 8. But a few weeks in, I’m already back to my Android-based device.

A few months ago, I forced myself to switch to Windows 8 on my desktop system (and laptop) and ended up liking the operating system very much. Once I got used to the quirks and garish look of the new Start screen and learned many of the shortcuts built into Windows 8, I found myself enjoying the operating system and was more than pleased by its myriad of enhancements and performance improvements.

I initially made the switch to Windows 8 because I wanted to fully immerse myself into the OS before formulating any strong opinions. Considering how much I ended up liking Windows 8 on my desktop, I thought I would conduct a similar experiment with my smartphone. For the last few years, I have been deeply entrenched in the Android ecosystem and have experience with a multitude of devices. I enjoy installing custom ROMs on the devices and have experimented with countless apps and utilities. At this point my smartphone is an integral part of my day-to-day computing, and I’ve grown fond of a handful of apps and the convenience of always having my inboxes and access to the web in my pocket.
I picked up a [Windows Phone 8-based Nokia Lumia 920 and was initially impressed. The hardware itself is excellent. The Lumia 920’s camera is top notch. The device is obviously well-built. The screen looks great, and navigating through Windows Phone 8 was smooth as silk. At first, my Android-based device (currently a Samsung Galaxy Note II) remained my daily driver. I kept the Lumia 920 handy until I felt I was comfortable using its email client, browsing the web. But eventually I customized the Start screen to my liking and got a good feel for what Microsoft and Nokia were trying to accomplish with the phone. I installed only a couple of apps and got comfortable with them too.

After a couple of weeks and a good initial impression, I decided to dive in head-first and make the Lumia 920 my daily device. At first, I was happy with the decision. I dug the Live Tiles and the Lumia 920 never lost its luster; it’s a great phone.

But as I started to install more and more apps and dig deeper into the Windows Phone App Store, I was regularly disappointed. There seemed to be three kinds of apps available for Windows Phone 8:

Apps specifically designed for the OS that showed signs of greatness
Quick-and-dirty ports of apps obviously designed for other platforms
Kludges that were nothing more than wrappers for mobile websites

The apps designed with Windows Phone 8 in mind were mostly great. I especially liked the IMDB app, which blows away its counterparts on other mobile platforms. The Facebook app was also very fast and responsive, but it wastes a TON of screen real estate with larger-than-necessary fonts in the navigation menu and wasted white space in the feed. There were times when I could only see a single post in my news feed because of all the wasted screen real estate. I’m not sure what the app developers were thinking with that one.

Then there were the obvious ports that just didn’t look right on Windows Phone 8. One in particular, Words with Friends, comes to mind. I know it’s an older title and games aren’t a necessity, but I enjoy playing Words with Friends; it’s a nice break in the day. Anyway, fonts (like the one used to display the score) were nearly illegible and the game is just plain broken. As of a couple of weeks ago, you couldn’t use words with the letter “Z” and the main screen wouldn’t update when it was your turn. You’d think with the amount of complaints logged in the app store someone at Microsoft would fix the game, but no such luck.

And then there’s apps like YouTube, which seem to be little more than wrappers for the YouTube mobile site. Minimal effort was put into optimizing the app for Windows Phone 8, and it shows.

As you probably guessed by now, my little experience was a failure. I’m back to my Android device and don’t plan to give Windows Phone 8 another try for a few months. If Microsoft wants people to give Windows Phone 8 serious consideration, they’ve got to get serious about offering quality apps for the platform. It’s not just about the number of available apps, it’s about the quality, and at this point in time Windows Phone 8 trails in both departments.


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Windows RT users happy with the device, so far

Written by admin
December 22nd, 2012

Despite an unending stream of FUD being hurled at the Surface tablet, people who have bought it seem pretty enamored with their purchase, according to reviews piling up on BestBuy.com and Staples.

Microsoft launched the Surface tablet in its retail stores, all 65 of them, before expanding to Best Buy (1,900 stores total) and Staples (1,400 stores) earlier this month.

So far, sentiments for the device are fairly positive. On Best Buy’s website, the Windows RT tablet sports a 4.7 out of 5 rating, based on 28 customer reviews. Only one customer was unhappy with the device and rated it one out of five stars.

“No Outlook so not full MS Office, all other tablets have version of word, excel, and powerpoint, so very disappointing,” wrote customer gates77. He liked screen customization, but also noted “Battery life wasn’t to [sic] good and typecover isn’t as good as some logitech keyboards. Can’t load any of my windows 7 programs.”

The most popular feature about Surface RT seems to be Windows 8. “Windows 8 runs like a charm, the Windows Apps Store is growing by the day and I am able to use all my favorite apps such as iHeartRadio, NY Times, USA Today, Kayak, Netflix, Endgadget, eBay, ESPN…” wrote Cricketer from New York on Staples.com.

“The live tiles are a great innovation,” wrote Philipm785 of Atlanta. “They provide genuinely useful information without having to launch the apps and the multiple sizes and custom groupings that can be easily scrolled and zoomed are way easier to get around than the multiple screens of tiny uniform icons you get on iOS.”

The hardware is also receiving kudos. “It’s a perfect laptop replacement for those who don’t need lot of processing power. Don’t wait for the surface pro. The battery life is all day,” wrote desiboy of New York on BestBuy.com.

“I gave away my Android tablet after using this for a while,” wrote MZach of NC. “The keyboard and touchpad are unobtrusive but there when you need them and the keyboard has cursor keys!”

Even people giving 5-star reviews have complaints, include volume output, the “primitive” email app, lack of apps and x86 support, Flash support in IE10, and the price itself.

It’s encouraging to see, but I’m actually not totally surprised. Early adopters tend to be enthusiasts. As it moves beyond the early adopter stage and away from Microsoft enthusiasts into the mass market, that score will drop as more cons pile up. We’ll see what people say when the much more expensive x86 models arrive next year.

 


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Is Windows 8 really a sitting duck for malware?

Written by admin
December 7th, 2012

A report claims so, but given Microsoft’s attempts to harden the OS, that seems dubious.

A new report released by the security firm Websense Security Labs claims Windows 8 will become one of the top three most-hacked platforms in 2013 because of its newness and Microsoft’s efforts to encourage development for the radical new platform.

Yeah, that didn’t make sense to me, either.

It took a chat with the folks at Websense to make, er, sense of what they were saying, but I do see their point. With a new operating system on the market that will hopefully gain significant ground and Microsoft attempting to woo developers like never before, there’s lots of potential for exploit.

“Microsoft’s efforts to produce an extremely developer friendly platform will be embraced by the cybercriminal community, and vulnerabilities will be exploited,” the company said in its 2013 Security Predictions. “If they deliver on their promise, the rate of threat growth on Microsoft mobile devices will be the highest.”

That’s a big “if.” Android, another platform Websense sees as a major target in 2013, is far more insecure. But in the case of Windows, there is, for lack of a better word, an installed base of malicious code and talent who know their way around Windows operating systems, and they are going to bring that to bear on Windows 8.

They will try to get around security systems that have been tightened up. Good luck with that. BitDefender recently ran tests on Windows 8 and found that a system with just Windows Defender, which is hardly a suitable security program, stopped 85% of the malware samples used in the tests.

The bad guys aren’t just about code; they understand how people write code and how malware works. So it’s not just malware samples, it’s accumulated and applied knowledge that they bring to Windows 8, says Websense. And given the common code between PC Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, malware could easily move across platforms.

The other two platforms that will be big targets in 2013 are also mobile operating systems: Android and iOS. According to the firm, Android will be targeted because of its open nature. Websense expects attack techniques used on the desktop platform to continue to migrate over to Google’s operating system.

iOS should be a lot more stable due to its closed nature. However, with the growing popularity of iOS devices in professional environments, IT should consider this a prime platform for targeted attacks, Websense said. And most malware that does exist for iOS targets jailbroken phones.

Websense made seven predictions for 2013, most of them centered around cybercriminals attacking mobile devices. You can find the entire report, in PDF format, here. Free registration is required to view it.

 


 

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Tutorial on Using Windows 8

Written by admin
November 29th, 2012

The first time I sat in front of the Windows 8 interface, I have to admit I was not thrilled; no Start button, I couldn’t find the control panel, things just weren’t what I was used to. That was over two years ago in the early adopter program for Windows 8, and now when I use Windows XP or Windows 7, I find it very inefficient to “have to click through so many menus” to find and do basic stuff.

The focus of this article is to share with you not simply how to make Windows 8 work like Windows XP/Windows 7 “the old way” (which I will go through and give you tips on how to find stuff and configure stuff to work the old way), but instead to really focus on how to do things better and more easily, effectively helping you shortcut the learning process that makes Windows 8 actually extremely easy and efficient to use.

First of all, some basic terminology and “old way” of finding things so that I can take you through Windows 8 in a way you have learned how to use Windows. As I’m sure you are aware, Windows 8 no longer has the “Start Button” at the bottom left of the screen. Instead, Microsoft has the “Windows 8 Style Menu” (that they formally called the Metro style menu, until Microsoft was informed Metro Style was copyrighted, so they’re just calling it the Windows 8 Style menu). This is the menu that Windows comes up with.

If you are in the middle of an application (browser, Word, or any other app) and you want to get back to the menu, on a tablet, you press the “Home” button (usually a physical button on the bottom middle of the tablet device) or from a keyboard system, you press the “Windows-key.”

The “start button” for the most part (the thing that gives you access to the Control Panel, shutdown/restart, etc) is called the “Charm” and it pops up on a touchscreen tablet when you swipe your thumb from right to left on the right side of the screen (basically swiping the charm menu out from the right edge and into your screen of view). On a keyboard system, the charm menu pops up when you move the move cursor all the way to the right bottom of the screen.

From the charm menu, you can click on the top most icon (“search”) and it shows you all of your applications installed (this would be similar to doing a Start/All Programs in Windows 7). You’ll see the search bar (circled in red) and on the left you can scroll through all of your apps.

When you search/find the app you want or simply just scroll through the apps off this Charm/Search view, you can right-click the application, and at the bottom of the screen you are given options to Pin to Start, which adds the app to your Windows 8 Style Menu (THIS is a good idea as it puts a shortcut on your main menu screen so that every time you press the Home button or press the Windows-key, your apps show up on the main menu). You can also Pin to Start things like Control Panel, Command Prompt, Run, etc. I usually Pin everything I usually use/access to the Start which makes it easy for me to just go back to the main Windows 8 style menu to launch my apps!

Note: You’ll also see when you right click an app, you can also Pin to Taskbar (this pins to the old Windows 7 style taskbar at the bottom of the “Desktop” screen). I used to Pin stuff to the Taskbar, but now that more and more apps are coming out with Windows 8 menu icons (like Office 2013, SkyDrive, Box.net, Real Player, etc), I no longer find myself working from the older Win7 “taskbar.” This is one of those crutches you can continue to use, or just move into the 21st Century and start using the native Windows 8 menu.

Note: You’ll also see when you right click an app, at the bottom of the screen you can choose to run the app as an Administrator, uninstall the app, find the file/application location. These are helpful “things” we used occasionally in Win7 in the past that you now have shortcuts to run.

Another option off the Charm Menu (when you move your mouse cursor to the bottom right, or swipe your thumb right to left off the right edge of a tablet) is the Settings options (the bottom-most option on the charm) when you click on Settings…

…this is where a LOT of common things are found, such as Control Panel…

…Power (where you choose to shutdown/restart the computer/device), Network (where you select the WiFi connection you want to connect to), Change PC Settings (where you can change other things that are not in the Control Panel like desktop background, the photo you associate to your logon…

…add printers, etc).

Basically click on this Settings place and you’ll get to a lot of things you may normally access for configuration.

Okay, so with the basics under your belt, here’s where you learn to be a Windows 8 person and not a WinXP/Win7 person trying to run Windows 8. Instead of moving your cursor to pop up the charm to then click on Search to then find your application, or instead of moving your cursor to pop up the charm to then click Settings to then go to the Control Panel…you would do one of two things. If you are on a Tablet (or a keyboard-based Win8 device), ADD all of your apps, control panel, etc. to your Windows 8 style menu. It’ll take you a couple minutes to right click and “Pin to Start” all of your apps and utilities, but once they are pinned, you will almost never have to go fiddle with the charm thing. You’ll just press the Home button (on a tablet) or press the Windows key (on a keyboard-based system) and from the menu, click/tap the app and you run the app. To “switch” to another app, press the Home button or press the Windows key and click/tap the other app you want to run. All apps stay in memory; you just “toggle” between apps by simply pressing the Home button or pressing the Windows key to get to your apps.

Note: On a keyboard system, you can still Alt-Tab between apps, so toggling between apps is really easy. No more Start/Programs to get to applications. No need to Charm/Settings/Control Panel to get to the Control Panel if you simply pinned the Control Panel onto your Windows 8 style main menu!

So what happens if you want to access an app that you did not pin to your menu? On a keyboard-based system, at the Windows 8 Menu, just start typing a few letters of the app or function you want to do, and the “search” starts working immediately. For example, at the Windows 8 menu, if I start typing the letters n-o-t-e-p, the search bar will appear in the upper right and it’ll zero in on the Notepad application on the left.

Assuming the app is highlighted on the left, just press the Enter key any time and it’ll launch that app, no key clicking, nothing extra. If it pops up several apps with n-o-t-e-p, then either keep typing to zero in on “the app” you want and press Enter to launch, or you can arrow around/tap-touch/click on the app name on the left side to select “the app” you want. Fiddle with this, but effectively this is a very quick way to launch apps that may not be on your Windows 8 menu (yet).

If I start typing w-o-r-d, if I have Microsoft Word on the system, it’ll show me Word, or e-x-c-e-l will give me the option of launching Excel. Or even things like p-r-i-n-t-e-r will pop up under Settings the option for me to “Add a Printer,” or n-e-t under search settings will show me options like “Connect to a Network.”

Between Pinning things to Start and simply typing a few letters of something, I can launch apps, run utils, add printers, and do things on a Win8 system FASTER than what I thought was super efficient in WinXP or Win7. This was the trick to making Windows 8 easy to use.

Now that you have the navigation thing figured out, go to the Windows Store and download “apps” for your most common things you do, so things like there are Box.com apps, Acrobat reader apps, Picture viewers, Real Media Player app, etc.

Note: When you are in the store looking for apps, as much as you can scroll through the “Popular” apps or “Top free” apps it shows you on screen, if you wanted to “search” for an app to download, it’s not intuitive how to search for an app. The way to search for an app is when you are in the Store, pull up the “charm” thing (move mouse to the bottom right, or on a tablet, swipe your right thumb right to left to have the “charm” menu on the right side pop out and then use the “search” function in the charm). So just as you “searched” your apps earlier in this blog to find stuff on your local computer, when you are in the Store app and do a search, it’ll now search for apps in the Store (ie: searching for Acrobat, or Box, or Alarm Clock, or USA Today or the like).

When you install the app, it shows up on your Windows 8 Style menu. Simply clicking the app launches the application. However, from your Windows 8 Style menu, you might want to move your most commonly used apps to the left side of your menu so they are visible to you more frequently when you pop up the Windows 8 menu. To move the app with a mouse/keyboard, just click and hold down the mouse button down and “drag” the app to the left. On a touch tablet, you touch the app with your finger and then slide the app “down” and then to the left. This took me a while to figure out as I logically tried to push the app with my finger and immediately drag to the left which would tend to just launch the app. The trick is to touch the app with your finger, drag down a bit, then to the left to move it around! Move any non-commonly used apps from the left side over to the right side so they are out of your way.

Many times apps take up two spaces on the menu. I hate that. I’d rather have all of my apps as the small 1-square wide icon. All you do is right-click the app icon and at the bottom it’ll show you “larger” or “smaller” to make the icon a different size. Some have this option to make small icons larger. Oddly, you cannot tag multiple icons and make them all “Smaller” at the same time, you have to right click and “make smaller” one by one. It takes a few seconds to do, but buys you back more real estate on your Windows 8 menu to get more apps 1 click away to run. (Note: if you have a touch tablet, some of these first time configurations are BEST off doing with a mouse. I would usually plug a USB mouse into my tablet and run through some of these basic right-click configuration things, or drag/drop icon things as it is a LOT faster with a mouse. Everything “can” be done with your finger on a touch screen; it’s just not as efficient if you have a lot to configure/setup).

When you are in a Windows 8 app, you likely find there are no application configuration options, settings, things you can do with the app that you have in Windows XP or Windows 7 apps might have found as Tools/Options, or Options/Settings. With Windows 8, apps typically DO have configuration settings, you just have to know how to find them. Here’s the trick, app settings are in the Charm/Settings on Windows 8. Launch and sit in the Windows 8 application, and then with a touch tablet, swipe your right thumb from right to left off the left edge of the tablet screen, and press Settings; with a keyboard system, move your mouse cursor to the bottom right to pull up the Charm menu, then click Settings. With the Charm/Settings exposed, you’ll see configuration settings for that app!

Also, when you are in a Windows 8 application, there are frequently more options when you “swipe down” from the top of the tablet, or “swipe up” from the bottom of the tablet screen (or on a keyboard-based system, you position your mouse cursor at the top of the screen where a bar appears, or you move the mouse cursor at the top of the screen and right-click). As an example, when I’m in the Internet Explorer in Windows 8 and want to have the Address Bar appear, or I want to switch between IE “tabs”, things like the below pop up and give you additional application options…

For applications on your Windows 8 menu, there’s also this thing called “Live Tile,” in which the icon changes screens, like the way the CNN news live tile shows you the latest news and flips through things, or the Photos “Live Tile” flips through your pictures. You can turn Live Tile off (again, right click the icon, choose to turn Live Tile on/off). I find it annoying to have the thing flip through stuff when I don’t remember what icon is what, but it’s really your call.

To flip through running apps, you can Alt-Tab from a keyboard-based system, or from either a mouse or touch tablet, move the cursor to the upper left hand corner and little tiles of the running apps show in the left margin of the screen. You can right-click and “close” any of those running apps. I used to close apps all the time as I’m old school and after running an app and don’t need it anymore, I close it. But after a while, I just leave the apps running. They don’t take up processing power and with 4-8GB of RAM in my systems these days I have plenty of memory. Every now and then I reboot my device/tablet/system but on occasion, and I will run my finger to the upper left and choose apps to close.

And a hidden thing in the bottom left corner of the screen is a “start”-type button thing that when right clicked will show you a list of common tasks like Event Viewer, Disk Management, Command Prompt, Task Manager, Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Run, etc. It’s sometimes helpful to use that, although these days with most stuff on my Windows 8 Menu or I just type a few letters, I don’t bother with these various other menu things, but just FYI…

Logging Out of a system is done by click on your name from the Windows 8 Style menu as shown in the Figure here:

To shutdown or restart the computer, you can navigate the menus (like Charm, Settings, Shutdown), or what I did was create a Windows 8 style menu “app” that I simply click that’ll shut down my computer. You effectively create a “shortcut” on the “desktop” and then you “Pin to Start.” That’ll add the shortcut to your Windows 8 menu. Here’s what it looks like:

1) From the Windows 8 menu, click Desktop to switch to the old Windows 7 style desktop
2) Right click on the desktop and choose New | Shortcut
3) When prompted for the Location of the item, enter in c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe /p as shown below, then click Next

4) For the name of the Shortcut, type in something like Shutdown, then click Finish
5) Right click on the shortcut that is on your desktop and choose Pin to Start

You now have an icon on your Windows 8 menu that allows you to shutdown your system with a single click.

You can change the command syntax in #3 above to restart the computer by making that c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe /r or /h at the end (instead of /r) will hibernate a system.

Oh, and one more thing – so once I tricked out my Windows 8 menu with all of the icons I wanted, how do I transfer my icons, menu items, etc. to other systems? Microsoft came out with this thing called the User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) that is the new generation of “roaming profiles.” However, unlike roaming profiles of the past where EVERYTHING was moved from system to system whether you wanted it or not (ie: registry settings, apps, icons, junk on your desktop, etc), with UE-V profiles, you can specifically just note to “roam” your Windows 8 menu. Microsoft did a case study on my organization’s experience with UE-V [link download].

More information on UE-V is available on the Microsoft site. UE-V isn’t free; it’s part of what Microsoft calls its Desktop Optmization Pack (MDOP) that includes a bunch of other tools like RemoteApp, App-V (application virtualization), VDI, etc. Any case, you might find your organization owns MDOP as part of the Software Assurance for Windows client licensing, and if so, explore UE-V where you can roam your Win8 menu from your desktop, to your laptop, to your tablet, to your VDI guest session, to your Remote Desktop (terminal server) guest session, etc.

Hopefully, this is a place to start. I REALLY fought the whole Windows 8 menu thing for a long time, even filed several “bug reports” during the early adopter program noting that the whole Windows 8 menu was a major “bug,” although with a bunch of these tips and tricks I’ve noted in this article, I think you’ll find this whole Windows 8 menu thing to actually be a LOT easier to use and definitely faster than having to fiddle through a bunch of menus.

Several other postings I’ve done on Windows Server 2012, Exchange 2013, Intune, System Center, etc. Just click the Next Article or Previous Article buttons on this blog post to get to other articles I’ve covered, or click here to see a listing of all of the various blog posts I’ve done over the years. Hopefully this information is helpful!


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Learning curve, satisfaction with Windows 7 cited by experts

Widespread Windows 8 adoption by businesses is years away, primarily because it is so different from Windows 7 that the learning curve for end users will be a nightmare, experts say.

Gartner says in a report coming out later this week that 90% of enterprises will bypass wholesale deployment of Windows 8 at least through 2014.

A desktop consultant to businesses says he doesn’t expect to recommend Windows 8 to customers for a year or two. “There’s nothing for the task worker that Windows 8 is going to improve on,” says Pete Lee, Engagement Manger of SWC Technologies, a software development and desktop consulting firm in Oak Brook, Ill., which is a Microsoft Gold Partner.

The difficulties stem from the many small ways Windows 7 differs from Windows 8, says Georges Khairallah, a network specialist at the Chino Valley Unified School District in Chino Valley, Calif., who has been using Windows 8 for weeks to administer his network. While the differences didn’t affect him adversely, he thinks they would have a crippling effect on end users.

“It’s going to be traumatic, I think,” he says, “especially if the organization doesn’t have an excellent training program for users.”

That doesn’t mean the new operating system won’t have immediate niche applications that make it worth deploying to certain segments of employees, particularly among mobile workers and in cases where navigating by touchscreen is important, Lee says.

He thinks there are good reasons for certain types of jobs to be supported by Windows 8, and he can see Windows 8 being deployed more widely in businesses with large sales and marketing staffs that are mobile.

The operating system could prove valuable to remote and traveling workers who in addition to doing work on portable Windows 8 machines would use them for personal business and entertainment as well. The Windows 8 machine could serve the purpose of a business laptop as well as a notebook for work and a personal tablet used for messaging, music, games that would otherwise call for a separate device, he says.

He could see a business deploying Windows 8 for such workers while keeping Windows 7 on traditional desktops to avoid training as well as the costs of deploying new operating systems and the hardware upgrades that it might require.

Lee says he plans to suggest Windows 8 in work environments where many workers share the same machine, such as in laboratories where many technicians need to access data or libraries where patrons search for books. The touchscreen would be convenient for such tasks and wouldn’t eat up space that would be needed for keyboards and mice, making for a less cluttered work area, he says The touchscreen aspects of the operating system are not well suited to corporate desktops, he says. Deploying Windows 8 with full functionality would require touchscreen monitors but wouldn’t improve productivity of workers who use traditional desktops, and the monitors alone represent a heavy investment, he says.

Deploying Windows 8 without touchscreen and having users work in traditional desktop mode would be an unwarranted expense that would gain minimal new functionality, he says.

Compounding the problem is that many enterprises are still deploying Windows 7 as an upgrade from Windows XP, which Microsoft stops supporting next spring. Khairallah says his organization is in the midst of that and it hasn’t been easy. “Going from XP to Windows 7 was horrible,” he says.

He says it makes more sense to wait for Windows 8 to be sold with home computers and let workers get used to it. “Let them have the learning curve on their own time and after that start deploying it slowly,” he says. “I really don’t see it going mainstream right away,” he says.


 

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More than 1,000 devices certified for Windows 8 starting at less than $300.

Windows 8, Microsoft’s bold new operating system, officially debuted this morning at a coming out party in New York City highlighted by a display of the wide variety of devices on which it can run – from PCs to tablets to hybrids to laptops to notebooks.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says Windows 8 embraces so many different devices that it redefines the PC by giving what had been considered limited or specialized devices the full functionality of traditional desktops with the addition of touchscreen support.

“Windows 8 shatters perceptions of what a PC now really is,” he says. “It pushes the limits of what a PC is.”

Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows division, heralded the improved performance of Windows 8 devices over Windows 7 and touted the wide range of new hardware that will support it, starting at less than $300.

He says that vs. Windows 7, battery life is 13% longer and boot time is 36% faster – and that’s running it on a PC certified for Windows 7. With Windows 8 the improvements are even greater, he says.

While the operating system is designed for touch, Sinofsky says it works equally well on machines with keyboard and mouse, and any application that runs on a certified Windows 7 machine will also run on Windows 8.

Sinofsky also promoted so-called “modern” applications that are designed to take advantage of the touch user interface and that are available via the Windows Store, an online market that opens at the same time Windows 8 becomes available.

A separate version of Windows 8 called Windows RT runs only on ARM processors to promote battery life and to enable smaller, thinner, lighter devices, he says. These devices only support modern applications; traditional Windows 7-supported apps will not run.

The idea is that Windows RT will only run applications that have been approved by Microsoft and that are downloaded from the Windows Store. Microsoft also controls updates, with the idea that over time security and performance of the machines will remain high, he says.

While the Windows Store has thousands of modern applications ready to go, the inventory pales compared to the hundreds of thousands available for Apple iOS or Android devices. But Sinofsky claims there are more applications in the Windows Store than there were in any similar application store when it opened.

Microsoft staffers demonstrated a wide range of Windows 8 machines including desktops, all-in-ones, tablets, convertibles, hybrids, laptops and notebooks. One device from Asus that was highlighted at the press conference has a detachable keyboard that contains a separate battery that extends the life of the system to 18 hours. It’s also available with a 4G wireless service from AT&T.

MICROSOFT SURFACE
Microsoft mentioned its own Surface devices that compete with its partners’ machines, but downplayed their importance. One was pulled off a shelf holding a half dozen other devices built by Microsoft partners and demonstrated briefly in between descriptions of other portables.

Surface represents Microsoft’s foray into selling the accompanying hardware — a bold design of a thin tablet with an add-on tropical colored cover that doubles as a keyboard to turn the device into a notebook.

There are two major versions of Surface – Surface Pro and Surface RT. Surface Pro is based on x86 processors and carries the full Windows 8 operating system that can support traditional applications as well as modern applications designed specifically for Windows 8 and catering to its touch centricity.

Later during the launch press conference, demonstrations of machines made for Windows 8 showed how a touchpad on a laptop could be touched and swiped with the same gestures that would be used on a touchscreen, and Windows 8 would respond.


Windows 8 was also significant in the redesign of Office applications, the latest versions of which are optimized for touch, Sinofsky says.


 

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Microsoft takes income hit prior to Windows 8 launch

Written by admin
October 19th, 2012

Microsoft takes income hit prior to Windows 8 launch
Microsoft experienced a rough quarter, with a 22 percent decline in net income and an 8 percent decline in revenue

Facing a sluggish PC market and deferring revenue from sales of its upcoming Windows 8 OS, Microsoft reported US$4.47 billion in net income for its first fiscal quarter of 2013, a 22 percent decline from the same period a year earlier.

The company reported revenue of $16.01 billion for the quarter that ended Sept. 30, an 8 percent decline from last year. This figure fell short of what many analysts had expected the company to generate for the period. A poll from Thomson Reuters found that analysts, on the average, expected the company to earn around $16.42 billion in revenue for the quarter.

The company had generated $1.36 billion of revenue from customers who already purchased copies of Windows 8 and the next version of Microsoft Office, but Microsoft did not include this income because these products have not been released yet. With these sales factored in, Microsoft revenue would be approximately the same as it was for the same quarter in the previous year.

In the statement that accompanied the earnings announcement, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein attributed the slack in revenue to a slowdown in the demand for PCs due to the pending Windows 8 launch, while noting that other sectors of Microsoft continued to perform well.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer did not address the slump in sales in the statement, but characterized the quarter as the end of an era for Microsoft, with the company focusing on building new products, such as Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, that would address shifting market needs.

“The launch of Windows 8 is the beginning of a new era at Microsoft,” Ballmer stated. “Investments we’ve made over a number of years are now coming together to create a future of exceptional devices and services, with tremendous opportunity for our customers, developers, and partners.”

It has been a busy quarter for Microsoft. The company released the newest edition of its operating system for servers, Microsoft Server 2012, in September. In July it released a preview of the next version of its office productivity suite, Microsoft Office 2013. Most importantly, next week Microsoft will launch its next-generation operating system, Windows 8, which was designed to work on both traditional computers as well as on tablet devices, including the company’s own Surface tablet.

For the quarter, the Windows division posted revenue of $3.24 billion, a 33 percent decrease from the same period of the prior year.

The Server and Tools business generated $4.55 billion, an 8 percent increase from the same quarter in the prior year. SQL Server and System Center in particular were strong sellers. The Microsoft Business Division generated $5.50 billion in first-quarter revenue, a 2 percent decrease from the prior year period. It too was affected by pre-sales deferrals, as the company deferred reporting revenue of Microsoft Office 2013. The company noted that some products in this division, such as SharePoint and Exchange, drove double-digit revenue growth.

Online Services enjoyed a 9 percent increase in revenue, to $697 million, thanks to ad revenue in search. The Entertainment and Devices Division, which manages the company’s Xbox gaming and multimedia console, posted revenue of $1.95 billion, a decrease of 1 percent from the same period in the prior year.

Financial analysts covering Microsoft seemed to be most concerned about how the shifting PC market would affect future sales of Windows, to judge from the questions they asked during an investor teleconference call held after the release of the financial results. How will the proliferation of new form factors for computers — tablets, convertibles, all-in-ones — alter the usually predictable sales of the Windows OS?

Microsoft positioned Windows 8 as an OS that can encompass this wider market. This OS, unlike competitors such as iOS and Android, can offer a single unifying experience across different devices.

“The exciting thing about Windows 8 is that it really redefines what people think about devices, and how they think about devices,” Klein responded. “Up until now, [customers] have been forced to choose between PCs and tablets, and make trade-offs of what they get. With Windows 8, you can get whatever you want at whatever price you want.”

The adoption process of Windows should continue unabated, Klein said. Enterprise rollouts are steady, and Windows XP will reach end of life in a year-and-a-half, which will spur demand for the new OS.

The weakening demand for Windows over the past three months was due to a number of seasonal and situational factors, Klein explained. OEMs spent the past quarter letting their stock of Windows 7 machines dwindle in anticipation of new Windows 8 machines. Economic sluggishness around the globe — and in Europe in particular — slowed sales as well.

“It’s a summer quarter, I don’t know if I would read too much into one period,” added Frank Brod, Microsoft’s chief accounting officer, who also was on the investor call.

 

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