Posts Tagged ‘ Microsoft ’

Who’s upgrading to Windows 10?

Written by admin
August 20th, 2015

In the three weeks since the new OS’s debut, Windows 8.1 users have been the most willing to migrate

Windows 8.1 users have been half again as likely to upgrade to Windows 10 as their compatriots running Windows 7, data from a Web metrics vendor showed today, confirming expectations about who would upgrade first to Microsoft’s new operating system.

The ascension of Windows 10’s usage share has largely come at the expense of Windows 8.1, according to measurements by Irish analytics company StatCounter. Of the combined usage share losses posted by Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 since the last full week before Windows 10’s July 29 launch, 57% has been attributed to Windows 8.1 deserters.

Windows 7, meanwhile, contributed 37% of the losses by the last three editions, and Windows 8, 6%.

The disparity was not unexpected: Most pundits and analysts figured that users of Windows 8.1 — like Windows 7, eligible for a free upgrade — would be first in line to dump their existing OS and migrate to the new. The changes in Windows 10, including the restoration of the Start menu and windowed apps, were most attractive to Windows 8 and 8.1 users, experts believed, because their removal had been widely panned.

Simply put, Windows 7 users, who were more satisfied with the OS Microsoft gave them, would be less motivated to upgrade. That’s been proven out by StatCounter’s early numbers.

But there were recent signs that Windows 7 users have begun jumping to Windows 10 in numbers nearly equal to Windows 8.1.

During the week of August 10-16, the difference between the declines in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 was the smallest it’s been since Windows 10’s debut. In that week, Windows 7 lost 0.55 percentage points of usage share, only slightly less than the 0.64 percentage points given up by Windows 8.1. The week before — August 3-9 — the gap between the two was much larger: Windows 7 lost 0.95 percentage points, while 8.1 declined by 1.42 points.

StatCounter’s data also illustrated just how important Windows 7 conversions will be to Windows 10’s ultimate success — as Microsoft has defined it, that would mean 1 billion devices running the operating system by mid-2018. Even if it coaxed every Windows 8 and 8.1 user into upgrading, Microsoft would be looking at a usage share of less than 21% for Windows 10. It must convince large segments of Windows 7’s base to migrate as well.

That may require modification of the Windows 10 pitch, perhaps with less talk about the return of the Start menu, say, and more about enhanced security. Working against Microsoft are a plethora of Windows 10 behaviors, particularly its mandated updates and the concurrent loss of control over what reaches customers’ devices and when. That has raised hackles among the traditionalists who stuck with Windows 7.

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Microsoft explains timing of Windows 10 updates

Written by admin
August 15th, 2015

Windows 10’s staggered timetable will kick off by early December

If Microsoft follows through on its announced plans for updating and upgrading Windows 10 after the new OS launches in two weeks, it will issue the first update no later than the end of November or early December, then follow with three more in 2016, repeating with a trio each year following.

Lather, rinse, repeat.
The update churn will result in a near-constant patter about upcoming updates and upgrades — Microsoft itself isn’t sure which of those terms apply, using both interchangeably — for customers to digest.

Microsoft has left those customers guessing on answers to a slew of questions about Windows 10 refreshes, ranging from how long the updates and upgrades will appear free of charge to how substantial those changes will be. But it’s talked about the schedule, pulling back the curtain in small jerks.

Here’s what’s known about the timetable and what’s still unknown — or in the infamous words of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the “known unknowns” — as the July 29 release date looms.
Updates will come every four months

According to a Microsoft-hosted webinar in late April, Windows 10 will receive updates about every four months, or three times a year.

It’s likely that Microsoft won’t hew to a set schedule, as does Mozilla, which rolls out a new edition of Firefox at almost-sacrosanct six-week intervals. Microsoft could trim the time between updates or extend the timeline, depending on whether it’s satisfied with the quality and composition of the new build, or even on external factors, like the calendar.

If Microsoft wanted to present a newer Windows 10 for the end-of-year holiday sales season, for example, it would like to have that on new devices no later than mid-November, meaning a release — or, at least, finished code — in October.

Such flexibility is not guaranteed: We simply don’t know because Microsoft won’t say, or doesn’t know itself.

But on average, expect to see updates/upgrades spaced out every four months.

The first update will appear before year’s end

Four months from the July 29 launch date would be November 29, close to the start of winter in the northern hemisphere.

Although that date may not be set in stone, it’s clear that to make good on its promises Microsoft must roll out a finished first update/upgrade before year’s end.

That alone will be a record for the company: The previous shortest lag has been the six months between Windows 8.1 (launched Oct. 17, 2013) and Windows 8.1 Update (April 8, 2014).

Consumers as guinea pigs get the first update

The first update/upgrade will be primarily, perhaps exclusively, for consumers, delivered to devices running Windows 10 Home by default via the Windows Update service. Microsoft is calling that update cadence or track “Current Branch” (CB), part of the new release lexicon the Redmond, Wash. company’s invented.

Those running the more advanced Windows 10 Pro can also adopt the consumer-speed CB track. People most likely to do so are the power users, enthusiasts and work-at-homers with a Pro edition, as companies — which also widely deploy the various Windows’ Professional or Pro SKUs (stock-keeping units) — will probably play it conservative and instead take updates from the Current Branch for Business (CBB) after they have moved to Windows 10 Pro.

Not everyone on CB will get the first update at the same time
Microsoft has provided some update flexibility (its take) or complicated matters (the cynic’s view) by segmenting each “branch” into “rings.” The latter is a second release timing mechanism that lets customers receive a branch’s update as soon as the build is approved via a “fast” ring, or delay the update’s arrival using a “slow” ring.

Rings on the CB were confirmed only this week by Terry Myerson, chief of the company’s OS and devices division, and may number more than the two: Again, Microsoft’s not elaborated.

The Windows Insider preview program, which will continue to run after July 29, has put devices into the slow ring by default; Microsoft may or may not do the same with the CB.

The one certainty is that not everyone on the CB will get the update immediately. “Some consumers just want to go first. And we have consumers that say, ‘I’m okay not being first,'” Myerson said on Monday.

Most business PCs won’t get the first update until the Spring of 2016
Because Microsoft will be using its Insider participants, and more importantly the millions of consumers running Windows 10, as testers, it will not release builds to businesses at the same time as those on the Current Branch.

With the four-month stretch between updates/upgrades and the automatic delay built into the Current Branch for Business (CBB), customers on the latter will not receive the first build until next year: On a strict schedule, that will be at the end of March or beginning of April 2016.

Microsoft’s doing it this way, it’s said, to produce more bug-free code to its most important users, businesses. Microsoft figures that the four months will shake out more bugs so that those running Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise will get a more stable update with a correspondingly lower risk of something breaking.

Users of Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise can stick with the old way of managing updates — using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or another patch-management product — or go with the new Windows Update for Business (WUB), an analog to the consumer-ish Windows Update service.

Those on WUB must deploy a given build within four months of its release or Microsoft will shut off the patch spigot: That means CBB users applying updates/upgrades with WUB must have the first build on their devices by approximately Aug. 1, 2016.

Businesses can delay the first update only so long

Microsoft’s not giving anyone a choice: Either take the updates and upgrades or face a security patch drought. (The one exception: Windows 10 Enterprise.)

The longest delay allowed for CBB will be eight months from a specific build’s release to the branch, or 12 months after the same build has hit the consumers via the CB.

Customers using WSUS or another Microsoft (or third-party) patch management solution must have the first build deployed no later than late November, early December 2016.

Microsoft has talked about rings on the CBB since the May announcement of Windows Update for Business, but as with rings on the CB, details remain muddled. How long the slow ring follows the fast, for instance, is unclear.
Only Windows 10 Enterprise can ignore the updates and upgrades

The only Windows 10 edition that can pass on the constant updates and upgrades is Enterprise, the SKU available solely to organizations that have a volume licensing agreement tied to the annuity-like Software Assurance (SA) program.

The branch available only to Windows 10 Enterprise, dubbed Long-term Servicing Branch, or LSTB, mimics the traditional way Microsoft has handled its OS: Only security patches and critical bug-fixes will reach systems on the LTSB.

Every two to three years, Microsoft will create another LTSB build, integrating some or all of the feature changes released to CB and CBB in the intervening time, then offer that to customers. They will have the option to move to that build — it won’t be mandatory — and can skip at least one build, passing on LTSB 2 (or whatever Microsoft names it), then years later adopting LSTB 3 with an in-place upgrade.

The code released on July 29 will be considered LTSB 1, Microsoft has said, so a second, optional LTSB won’t appear until 2017 at the earliest.
By December 2016, there will be multiple update/upgrade builds being used

The staggered releases Microsoft plans will create a situation where multiple builds are in use at any one time, each by a segment of the Windows 10 device population.

Come December 2016, Microsoft will have issued its fourth build to the CB, and the third to the CBB. But there will be some still using the second build (those on the CBB managing updates with WSUS).

Analysts, however, have largely discounted fragmentation as a factor, arguing that while the delays offered to businesses on the CBB may be disruptive, Windows 10 will ultimately be a more uniform ecosystem than the current mix of vastly different editions of Windows.
What Microsoft gets out of this stretched, staggered release schedule

Microsoft may pitch the Windows 10 update and upgrade schedule as all about customers, but there’s something in it for the company, too.

“Rings will be more about controlling the rate at which the updates flood out into market,” said Steve Kleynhans, an analyst at Gartner, in a recent interview. “With potentially a billion devices … eventually … getting an update, you need some level of flow control or else you could crush your servers and a large part of the Internet. By using rings, Microsoft can stagger the release over the period of days or weeks.”

In fact, the entire cadence, not just the rings, can be envisioned as Microsoft’s way of reducing stress on its update servers. Although the second build for the CB — slated for late March-early April 2016 — will coincide with the launch of the first build for the CBB on Computerworld’s timeline, it will not be a surprise if Microsoft staggers the two by launching first one, then the other.

Microsoft is clearly concerned about server load and the possibility that something could go awry: It’s not releasing the free Windows 10 upgrade to all eligible customers on July 29. Instead, it plans to give the several million Insiders the code first, then gradually trigger upgrades on others’ devices in an unknown number of “waves” that could run weeks or months.

The company will also control demand for the upgrade another way by silently downloading the bits in the background to eligible PCs and tablets, then notifying them on its own schedule that the upgrade is ready to process locally.

It may do the same with later updates and upgrades, Kleynhans speculated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if under the covers Microsoft uses a separate ring for each week after an OS is released, or maybe even one for each day immediately after it is out,” said Kleynhans. “But these will be mostly invisible to users and really isn’t all the different from the way some updates roll-out today.”
The naming problem

Computerworld has used generic place holders to identify the various update/upgrade releases Microsoft will distribute to Windows 10 — “first build” and “LTSB 2,” for instance — because Microsoft hasn’t talked about how it’s going to name each build.

That will have to change.

“Another factor that Microsoft has yet to discuss is how it will identify each update,” Kleynhans said. “We know that the OS will be called Windows 10 regardless of what updates have been delivered and installed…. But as for identifying the state after each update, we don’t know if Microsoft will stick with the build number, as it has during the preview program, opt for a simplified numbering scheme — something similar to the build number but without the holes in the numbering scheme — go back to point identifiers [like] Window 10 v 10.1 and Windows 10 v 10.2, [as] Apple does with OS X, or maybe use something more date oriented [such as] ‘Windows 10, July 2016.’ There will have to be something to help developers understand what they are facing in the field.”

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A Linux user tries out Windows 10

Written by admin
April 3rd, 2015

I did the unthinkable – left Linux behind and lived in the Windows 10 technical preview as my primary computing environment. Here’s what I learned.

Every now and then, it’s nice to break out of your bubble, to really get outside your comfort zone and see how things are “on the other side of the fence.”

I love Chinese food. Could eat Chinese food every day of the week. But, once in a while, it’s a good idea to mix things up. You know. And order a pizza.

This is that time for me. Only instead of Chinese food, it’s Linux. Instead of pizza, Windows 10 (Technical Preview). That’s right. I’m a full time Linux user, and I just spent a few days trying to live in the preview edition of Windows 10.

One thing should be emphasized right off the bat: this is not a review of Windows 10, and it is not a list of every feature of the system (there are other articles for that). This is a Linux advocate taking some time out to see how things work in the upcoming major release of Windows and seeing what he can learn from that experience. Are there things Windows 10 does better than Linux, which we in the Linux world should take some cues from? (Every system has advantages, right?)

It should also be noted that I am focusing entirely on desktop functionality. I tested the Windows 10 Technical Preview on a Dell M3800 (which was previously running Linux) and a VirtualBox virtual machine (with 8GB of RAM dedicated to it).
See also: 9 Linux distros to watch in 2015

In other words: no tablets were harmed in the making of this article.

Really, I’m asking (myself) two questions here:
Is there anything awesome in Windows 10 that Linux can learn from?
Are there enough awesome things in Windows 10 that I, as a Linux user, am missing out on by not running it as my primary operating system?

Let’s dive in to the areas I think are most noteworthy for helping to answer those questions. If I leave a feature out, it’s likely because it was just not relevant to those two questions.

Windows playing catch up
There are two noteworthy new features in Windows 10 that many Linux desktop environments have possessed for years (nay… decades): Virtual Desktops, and effective, tiled window management.

I mention this because it shows that Microsoft is paying attention and implementing some excellent features found in competing systems. Sure, in the case of Virtual Desktops, Microsoft is a good four decades behind its competition… but better late than never, right?

The implementation of this feature in Windows 10 is completely, absolutely, 100% adequate. You start out with a single “desktop” and can add new desktops one at a time. Application windows can be moved between desktops, desktops can be removed… everything that you would expect. It doesn’t feel quite as polished and smooth as the implementation in, say, GNOME Shell. But it’s an acceptable first attempt at catching up with the Linux world.

Likewise, the improvements to window layout and management are nice. Called “Quadrant Snap,” it’s basically the ability to “snap” open windows to a “quadrant” of the screen. It’s been updated in Windows 10 to be a bit more flexible – for example, one window can take up the whole left half of the screen, with the right half containing three windows stacked vertically, each taking an equal amount of vertical space. It’s similar in many ways to the functionality of many of the tiling window managers out there, such as xmonad or awesome.

Nothing mind-blowing here, but good features that we’ve been enjoying on Linux since before the first episode of Friends was a gleam in Jennifer Aniston’s eye.

Windows taking the lead

Perhaps that should read “Taking the lead… with caveats.”

There are two areas where I feel Windows 10 is doing things that are better (or at least in a more ambitious way) than what we’re doing on Linux. Unfortunately for Microsoft… they’re not really nailing these features as well as they need to.

The first is “Cortana.” This is to Microsoft what Siri and Google Now are to Apple and, well, Google – a sort of personal information search service with some support for natural language input and voice recognition.

In Windows 10, this functionality is interfaced with a little search box that sits right next to the Start menu (more on that below). Voice dictation is an excellent feature of any system. As is voice synthesis. And, heck, having a central spot to see things like your to-do list for the day, weather, traffic, etc… that’s all quite handy.

Unfortunately, in my testing, Cortana was just not fun to use. And I’m not bashing it for lack of functionality (this is still a “Technical Preview” of Windows 10, after all) or bugginess (though it was plenty buggy). My issue with this feature is that using it to do just about anything was significantly slower than using a mouse, keyboard, or touchscreen to accomplish the same tasks.

For a great demonstration of how maddeningly inefficient Cortana can be, see this video from the WinBeta folks. Take note of how long it takes him to set a simple reminder alarm. This experience seems to be the norm.

You see? It has amazing potential… but if it’s no fun to use, it doesn’t much matter.
The second feature that is almost fantastic (emphasis on “almost”) is the Windows Store.

It is exactly what the name implies. It’s a software store, in much the same vein as the Google Play store or the Ubuntu Software Center. The design is fine – easy enough to search and navigate (many similarities to Google Play here).

But, and this is a big “but”… there’s simply not a lot of software available, as it’s limited to “Metro” style applications (read: not classic Windows software). This takes what could be an amazing feature and makes it rather…meh.

Right about now you may be wondering why I included this feature as an area where Windows 10 is “taking the lead” over Linux. And that is because the majority of Linux distributions lack a solid software “store” experience. Even the Ubuntu Software Center leaves a lot to be desired. It’s rather slow, has a very limited selection of software for purchase, and what’s there isn’t overly easy to discover.

If Microsoft were to open up the “Windows Store” to applications built for classic “Windows”…this would be a very handy feature. And I see no reason why they couldn’t do exactly that. Though, as it stands, I’ll stick to my declaration of “meh.”

Windows not doing as much as I thought
Which brings me to two features that were simply underwhelming, the ones that had been outed rather heavily and which I expected to be the shining examples of the quality and innovation of Windows 10: the new Start Menu and support for ultra-high resolution displays.

First, let’s talk about the new Start Menu.
In Windows 8, Microsoft killed the Start Menu – that simple, nested menu that let you find and launch applications (a paradigm used in operating systems since the days of the Pharaohs). Microsoft opted instead for a full-screen display of animated tiles, which, as every four-year-old can tell you, was both annoying and stupid.

In Windows 10, the Start Menu is back… kind of. There’s no more full screen of animated tiles (Windows users dodged a bullet, there). But what Windows 10 has now isn’t all that much better. Other than the fact that it’s not, technically, full screen.

The new Start Menu bears little resemblance to what you might remember. On the left side of the Start Menu is a list of all of the software on your PC. In alphabetical order. With no categories. Have a lot of applications installed? Too bad for you, because that list is going to get crazy long.

On the right side of the Start Menu you’ll find the grid of animated squares that you had hoped were burned alive. No. That’s not fair. This is an improvement. In Windows 8 you had a full screen of squares that accomplished nothing… in Windows 10 the Start Menu is simply filled with those squares – and is, hence, annoyingly larger and stupider-looking than it should be.

Luckily, the good folks at Microsoft provide a “full screen” button that makes this new Start Menu take up the entire screen. For those moments, I suppose, when you feel you could be more annoyed by the Start Menu… if only it took up your entire field of view.

The second feature to let me down, HiDPI support, really let me down in a big way.

I used the Dell M3800’s 4k screen (3840×2160) and, based on the noise Microsoft has been making about support for upwards of 8k screens (!!!), I expected the experience to be awesome right out of the gate.

It wasn’t. (It’s not the fault of the M3800’s screen…which is gorgeous.)
In order to make most applications usable – on that high of a resolution on a smaller screen, text and buttons can quickly become unusably small – I had to set the DPI scaling in the control panel fairly high. And even then, things weren’t all roses and candy bars. (Is that an actual saying? “Roses and candy bars”? Probably, right? Hell with it, I’m sticking to it.)

Toolbars in some applications became distorted and unusable. Text in other applications became jagged and funky-looking. Other times, things simply became pixelated and ugly. (To be completely fair, sometimes the DPI scaling worked excellently well. But only sometimes.)

Windows 10 isn’t alone in having issues with HiDPI screens.

MacOS X, last time I used it, had similar problems with many applications. Admittedly, this was several years ago, so that may have changed. I tend to not use Apple products. I respect myself too much for that.

And many Linux desktop environments encounter similar difficulties. GNOME Shell and Ubuntu’s Unity, for example, both handle scaling to those ultra-high resolutions fairly gracefully… until you start using software that isn’t bundled with the environment itself. Then all hell can break loose – buttons too small to click, mismatched text sizing within a single application, all sorts of shenanigans.

The fact that Microsoft is touting this HiDPI functionality so highly, yet not really providing anything more interesting than what Linux has had for a few years, is rather – what’s the word I’m looking for – meh-worthy.

“Meh” seems to be a running theme in Windows 10. Which is quite the opposite of “awesome.”

Did I answer my own questions?

Having a good-looking software store is pretty critical. And that’s something still lacking in non-Android Linux-based systems right now. Even Ubuntu could use some serious improvements in its software store experience.

Am I missing out on anything by not running Windows 10 as my primary operating system?

Short answer: No.
Long answer: Are you kidding me? I couldn’t repartition that drive fast enough and re-install Linux.

But I’m glad I spent the time in Windows 10 Technical Preview. Maybe when the final version of Windows 10 ships, I’ll take it for another spin to see what they’ve improved. The reality is that, for being a “Technical Preview,” this was fairly stable and quite peppy. Not Linux-levels of peppy, mind you. But not bad, either. Not “awesome,” but not bad.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hide in my bunker and hope that the steel-reinforced doors can keep the Windows fans at bay.

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The updates are aimed at companies that choose to run SQL Server on a virtual machine on Azure

Microsoft has added automated backup and patching for SQL Server databases running in virtual machines on its Azure cloud, in a bid to simplify management and improve reliability.

As enterprises move more and larger IT systems to the cloud, advanced management functionality is becoming increasingly important to keep systems up and costs down. And step by step, service providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft are adding new features to streamline management processes.

The latest improvements from Microsoft are aimed at keeping SQL Server backed up and secure in a more convenient way when running the database in virtual machines on Azure.

Organizations that want to run SQL Server on Microsoft’s cloud can either buy the database as a service or install it on a virtual machine that’s then deployed on Azure.

Choosing the latter option lets organizations migrate existing applications to the cloud with minimal changes and build more customized systems. But it also means they have to manage the databases themselves.

Using the automated backup feature, administrators can configure a scheduled backup on SQL Server 2014 Enterprise. With a few clicks in the Azure portal, they can control the retention period, the storage account for the backup, and the security policies of the database.

The automated patching allows administrators to define the maintenance window directly from the Azure portal. The SQL Server infrastructure-as-a-service agent will configure Windows running on the virtual machine with the preferred maintenance settings, including the day for maintenance, the start time of the window and the proposed duration.

Many customers have told Microsoft that they would like to move their patching schedules off business hours. This feature lets them do exactly that, the company said in a blog post on Thursday.

Last year Microsoft published an article that described the different options for running SQL Server on Azure, including when virtual machines are preferable over the service and vice versa.


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Commercial cloud revenue more than doubled, but consumer software sales were disappointing

Cloud services like Azure and Office 365 were once again the stars in Microsoft’s quarterly earnings report, with revenue from those products more than doubling from a year earlier.

They helped lift Microsoft’s overall revenue by 8 percent last quarter, to $26.6 billion, the company said Monday. That was higher than analysts had expected.

But restructuring costs and a tax adjustment led to a drop in profits. Microsoft posted net income of $5.86 billion for the quarter, which ended Dec. 31, down nearly 12 percent year-on-year. That was equivalent to $0.71 per share, matching the estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

“Our commercial cloud services delivered triple-digit revenue growth for the sixth consecutive quarter,” CFO Amy Hood said on a call to discuss the results. “Office 365 continues to be priority for CIOs, as both existing and new customers move to the cloud,” she said. “This transition accelerated with 45 percent of our renewal seats in Office moving to the cloud this quarter.”

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 tablet performed well, and revenue from the company’s Surface hardware climbed 24 percent to pass $1 billion for the first time. The XBox platform struggled, however. Revenue fell 20 percent, or $703 million, thanks to lower console shipments and the transition from Xbox 360 to Xbox One, Microsoft said.

Microsoft generated $2.3 billion in revenue from a business that didn’t exist only a year earlier: phone hardware. Were it not for Nokia’s old business, Microsoft would have been a poorer performer last quarter, at least in terms of sales.

The company’s Devices and Consumer Licensing segment looked bleak, with Microsoft reporting $4.2 billion in revenue from consumer licenses — a 25 percent drop over the year-ago quarter. Licensing revenue includes money from OEMs for the Windows operating system, as well as license revenue for Windows Phone, consumer editions of Office 2013 (as opposed to the subscription-based Office 365 Home Premium), and intellectual property for consumer products.

Although Microsoft’s cloud performance stole much of the attention, lurking not far behind was Windows 10 — especially, how its offer of one free subscription year to upgraders will impact future revenue.

Windows 10 will create opportunities for further monetization down the road, CEO Satya Nadella said.

“Overall, I think the most strategic objective for us is to get developer momentum with Windows 10, and that’s where we’re focused with a lot of different actions,” he said.

“One is the one unified developer platform — I think that’s perhaps the most strategic piece of Windows 10, along with the unified Store,” he said. Coupled with the upgrade offer, he said, “we are creating a great opportunity for every developer to write these universal Windows applications.”

Forthcoming changes to the Windows 10 Desktop will enable these universal apps, on all platforms, to be more “naturally discoverable” on the most used part of Windows — which he acknowledged was the Desktop, not the Start Screen.

But it was the cloud products that stole the day. The creation of premium tiers for some of Microsoft’s cloud services was a key contributor to increasing profits this past quarter, Hood said. As Nadella explained, the premium tiers now available for Office 365, Enterprise Mobility Suite, and Dynamics CRM have helped turn all three categories into high-growth businesses.

When customers deploy applications and other virtual services on top of Azure, he said, it gives Microsoft the opportunity to attract further business. A company might build a mobile front end on their Azure app using Azure Mobile Services or Media Services, for instance.

The way Microsoft builds its hosting infrastructure helps keep the cost of hosting thos services down, Nadella said. It has one common infrastructure for Office 365, XBox Live and other services. “We don’t have different infrastructures for these different services,” he said.


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Microsoft has yet to provide a solution for customers who can’t connect to Microsoft Update to install last week’s out-of-band patch KB 3011780

The causes of the problem remain cloudy, but the symptoms are quite clear. Starting on Nov. 18, some Server 2003, Windows Home Server 2003, and Windows XP SP3 machines suddenly refused to connect to Microsoft Update. As best I can tell, Microsoft has not responded to the problem, not documented a workaround, and is basically doing nothing visible to fix it.

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(Keep in mind that, although Windows XP is no longer supported, Security Essentials updates for XP still go through Microsoft Update, and all old patches for XP are still available — when Microsoft Update is working, anyway.)

The main TechNet thread on the subject says the error looks like this:

The website has encountered a problem and cannot display the page you are trying to view. The options provided below might help you solve the problem.

Error number: 0x80248015

There are also lengthy discussions on the SANS Internet Storm Center site and on the MSFN site.

Some people have reported that simply setting the system clock back a couple of weeks and re-running the update bypasses whatever devils may be lurking. For most, though, that approach doesn’t work.

Alternatives range from deleting the C:\WINDOWS\SoftwareDistribution folder to running wuauclt.exe /detectnow to chasing chicken entrails. Some of the fixes work on some machines, others don’t.

Poster Steve on the SANS ISC thread noted an important detail. On machines that get clobbered, when you look at the files C:\WINDOWS\SoftwareDistribution\ AuthCabs\ and C:\WINDOWS\SoftwareDistribution\ AuthCabs\ you see a suspicious entry:


That just happens to coincide, more or less, with when Microsoft Update started to fail.

I looked at a couple of machines that are still working fine, and the file on them has this entry:


The file has the 2014 <ExpiryDate>.

I have no idea why the file on some machines has the 2014 date, while others have the 2018 date. But this may be the telltale sign differentiating machines that can still connect to Microsoft Update from those that don’t.

Poster b3270791 on the MSFN thread has a solution that seems to work, but it involves replacing the muweb.dll file on the broken machines with an earlier muweb.dll file downloaded from the Internet. While that approach doesn’t exactly exhibit world-class security best practices, it does seem to work.

Does anybody at Microsoft give a hang, with XP already officially out to pasture and Server 2003 due to follow it to the glue farm on July 14, 2015?

Server 2003 admins have been twiddling their thumbs for a week, unable to install that out-of-band patch.

XP users are affected, too, but who cares? Microsoft’s making good on its promise to deliver Security Essentials updates to XP customers. If the customers can’t install them, well, that’s just one of those nasty implementation details, you know.


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Big tech firms back Wi-FAR for remote broadband

Written by admin
August 7th, 2014

802.22 standard, approved in 2011, promises low-cost broadband for remote areas

Google, Microsoft and Facebook are cranking up an emerging wireless technology known as Wi-FAR to help reduce the digital divide in remote and unconnected regions of the world.

Wi-FAR is a recently trademarked name from the nonprofit WhiteSpace Alliance (WSA) that refers to the 802.22 wireless standard first approved by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) in 2011.

The standard shares the underused TV band of spectrum called whitespace to send wireless signals, typically over distances of six to 18 miles in rural and remote areas. It has a theoretical download speed of more than 22 Mbps per TV channel that serves up to 512 devices, according to the WSA. That could result in speeds of about 1.5 Mbps on a downlink to a single device.

While such speeds are far slower than for the gigabit fiber-optic cable services that Google and AT&T are building in some U.S. cities, the speeds could theoretically begin to compete with some 3G cellular speeds, although not 4G LTE speeds. For an impoverished or sparsely populated region where businesses and schoolchildren have little Internet access, Wi-FAR could be a godsend when used to link base stations (typically found at the ground level of cell towers) in a distributed network.
Students in South Africa
Students at the University of Limpopo in South Africa use laptops connected to the Internet using Wi-FAR wireless technology. (Photo: Microsoft)

About 28 million people in the U.S. don’t have access to broadband, while globally, about 5 billion people, nearly three-fourths of the world’s population — don’t have broadband Internet access, said Apurva Mody, chairman of both the WSA and of the 802.22 Working Group.

“This is cheap Internet access and there are dozens of trials underway, with Google in South Africa, Microsoft in Tanzania and other continents, and even Facebook’s interest,” Mody said in an interview. “You have 1.2 billion people in India who need cost-effective Internet access. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for Wi-FAR.”

Wi-FAR will be cheaper for access to the Internet than LTE and other wireless services. The lower cost is partly because Wi-FAR works over unlicensed spectrum, similar to Wi-Fi, which allows network providers, and even government entities, to avoid paying licensing fees or needing to build as many expensive cell towers, that can cost $50,000 apiece, Mody said. “The prices for Wi-FAR service will be very small, perhaps less than $10 per month per household.”

The 802.22 technology can be low cost because the whitespace spectrum is shared with conventional users, including TV stations on UHF and VHF bands. Thanks to sophisticated databases that track when a whitespace channel will be in use in a particular region, a cognitive (or smart) radio device can determine when to switch to another channel that’s not in use. Testing in various Wi-FAR pilots projects, many of them in Africa, is designed to prove that Wi-FAR devices won’t interfere with other existing users on the same channel.

“We have yet to have an interference problem,” said James Carlson, CEO of Carlson Wireless Technologies, a Sunnyvale, California-based company that is working with Google on two six-month trials of 802.22 in the UK, among other areas. The company completed a successful trial with Google serving students in South Africa in 2013. Carlson, in an email interview, said the company is working with five database providers, noting that the “prime purpose of the database is to protect the incumbent spectrum user.”

Whitespace spectrum sharing, coupled with the use of the databases, is generally called dynamic spectrum allocation technology. In January, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved Carlson’s RuralConnect TV whitespace radio system for use with a Spectrum Bridge TV whitespace database, effectively bringing the first dynamic spectrum sharing product to market.

In the U.S., RuralConnect is authorized for use in the UHF TV band, running from 470 MHz to 698 MHz. The FCC opened up the band in 2010.

At the time, Carlson said the FCC’s approval would give a boost to global efforts to use whitespace technology. “Providing connectivity to underserved populations worldwide is more than an interest to us,” he said in a statement. “It’s our corporate mission.”

RuralConnect will get competition from products in other companies, including Redline, Adaptrum and 6Harmonics, Carlson said. In addition to other providers, Google has built a whitespace database that Carlson is testing.

In all, Carlson Wireless has piloted dozens of whitespace projects, and expects to start its largest yet for 30 base stations and 5,000 users near New Delhi in the next six months, Carlson said.

“India is the next big boom for online needs, and the rural areas are not getting [Internet service] with [typical] mobile systems,” Carlson said. “So they are choosing to go with the TV whitespace because the UHF band is almost all vacant in rural areas and 600 MHz propagation is superb.”

While Carlson has been working with Google, Microsoft separately announced in June a whitespace pilot project at the University of Limpopo in South Africa. It is part of a Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative to help ignite economic development in Africa.

In May, Microsoft and Facebook joined with SpectraLink Wireless to announce a whitespace project for students and faculty at universities in Koforidua, Ghana. That project brought the number of nations where Microsoft has whitespace pilots to 10 countries on four continents.

In the Microsoft and SpectraLink partnership, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab team will lead efforts to better understand how TV whitespace spectrum can support wireless Internet users, according to a statement.

Microsoft and others believe that TV whitespace technology will best work in combination with Wi-Fi and other low-cost wireless technologies. While much of whitespace technology is focused on building specialized bridge hardware for use in base stations, Mody said some companies are developing fixed wireless 802.22 routers, similar in appearance to Wi-Fi routers, that will be placed inside of homes.

Microsoft also spearheaded the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, which Google and Facebook joined last November. The alliance is exploring many uses for whitespace spectrum, including Internet of Things device connectivity.

Craig Mathias, an analyst and wireless consultant for The Farpoint Group, said 802.22 devices may compete against or complement a number of other technologies, including cellular and Wi-Fi.

“802.22 is not a pipe dream, but so far there’s not a lot of evidence of its success,” Mathias said in an interview. “It does make sense. The rate of innovation in wireless is so high that you hear something exciting every week. But not all wireless standards are successful in terms of having [successful] wireless products.”

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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.
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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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Just because BYOD has become normal operating process in most workplaces doesn’t mean the practice has stopped up causing dispute for IT.

Take San Francisco-based law firm Hanson Bridgett LLP, for example, whose attorneys perform legal work in the healthcare business and must adhere to the federal HIPAA and the HiTech Act standards, amongst others. According to the firm’s IT director Chris Fryer, that income the Apple and Android smart phones and tablets that its attorneys use need to be managed so that the business data on them is encrypted and can be wiped if wanted. But no one wants to interfere with the personal data on those privately owned mobile devices.

“We run just the business data and leave the rest alone,” says Fryer. That’s done by using mobile-device management (MDM) software from Good Technology and its “containerization” part so that the business apps and data on every machine is encrypted and cordoned off from the individual data.

But as much as Fryer has establish the Good Technology MDM to be effectual, there are still hurdles, he says. Each MDM vendor’s APIs for containerization need to be supported in the mobile apps, which is not always the case, he says.

“It’s an imperfect word,” says Fryer, noting that lack of standards in MDM and mobile apps combined with the plethora of MDM vendors — by some counts there are more than 150 — has made this a tough terrain.

In addition, Fryer points out his law firm relies on Microsoft Office applications to prepare complex legal documents. But Microsoft didn’t launch Office for iPad until late March, and in a way that’s tied to a subscription for Microsoft 365 cloud service. Fryer is watching how that will unfold. “We’re trying hard to edit documents on an iPad,” says Frye. “We want to make sure that will happen in a container.”

Fryer says there also can be issues with how e-mail clients work with MDM.

“Some MDM vendors allow you to use the native e-mail client,” says Fryer. “You can put up Google mail and also your corporate e-mail for that.” But Frye says the Good Technology containerization requires the use of Good’s email component to securely control e-mail, which can be problematic to end users accustomed to something else.

All of these challenges mean that despite the positive experience that the law firm has had with Good’s MDM technology, there’s still cause to keep an eye out for something new. Many businesses are up for trying new BYOD security possibilities for e-mail and calendaring.

First United Security Bank, based in Alabama, has long been in the practice of making sure any desktop e-mail with sensitive data is encrypted when sharing with business partners. That’s done with the ZixCorp e-mail encryption service that lets pre-authorized senders and receivers encrypt and decrypt e-mail.

Now, about two dozen employees have received approval for BYOD use, says Phillip Wheat, CIO at First United Security Bank. But these BYOD-approved employees must add the Zix Mobile App 1.0 to their personal Apple or Android device. This allows them to view e-mail attachments but not save attachments to their mobile devices. Wheat says this eliminates the need to have to remotely wipe an employee’s device if it’s lost or stolen.

Several security vendors are coming up with ways to extend their basic product or service to accommodate BYOD security. Dell is tying BYOD security controls to its SonicWall E-Class Appliance by introducing enterprise mobility software for Google Android or Apple iOS. This Dell software, called Secure Mobile Access 11.0 with Mobile Connect App, lets the IT manager set up a way to selectively apply customized VPN controls only to the corporate apps, not the employee’s personal apps. Dell is looking at adding the Windows mobile platform.

Jay Terrell, chief technology officer for Fulton County in Georgia, is a SonicWall customer who may start using this BYOD mobility approach. But he adds the county is still working on devising a BYOD strategy as it migrates off corporate-issued BlackBerries primarily to Android use. In the past, the county has allowed some limited BYOD use if the employee consents to use AirWatch MDM software.

However, not all organizations are migrating off BlackBerry. In fact, parts of the Australian government, for instance, are adopting the BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 for mobility, with a big emphasis on BYOD, because of its secure multi-platform containerization technology, called BlackBerry Secure Work Space for iOS and Android. In March, this BlackBerry containerization technology received the U.S. government’s Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 certification issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Gary Pettigrove, chief information officer at the Australian National Audit Office, which has 350 employees, is supporting BYOD for over 50 staff members and expects to have more than 200 in BYOD mode later this year. User preference in BYOD dictates the technology choices, but users must allow their personal devices to be managed for security purposes by the IT group.

“The IT team controls the BlackBerry service and fleet through a central administration portal,” says Pettigrove. “No one can join the service without first submitting their handset for configuration and setting up BlackBerry’s Secure Work Space. This is containerization, application-wrapping and secure connectivity options, allowing us to secure and control employees’ iOS and Android devices via the BES10 administration console.”

Pettigrove says BYOD is clearly benefiting staff productivity and employee satisfaction. It also appears to be helping reduce technology costs.
BYOD and network-access control

What might be surprising to some is how Microsoft actively supports a BYOD program that doesn’t deny employees any choice of mobile computing device, including smartphones and tablets from Apple and Android.

BYOD on a large scale was a decision made a few years ago to “embrace what’s coming” in terms of worker preferences and productivity, says Bret Arsenault, chief information security officer at Microsoft. Today, about 90,000 devices are “personally owned” by Microsoft employees and used for business purposes, including email and document editing. But it’s not that just anything goes with BYOD, Arsenault emphasizes. “Security is not an afterthought.”

Microsoft does mandate encryption and can extend a wipe capability to corporate data through use of its own service, Windows Intune. “We’re effectively securing the data — segregating and protecting the data on the device when it’s not owned by the business,” says Tim Rains, Microsoft directory of Trustworthy Computing. Microsoft uses Intune across the enterprise, testing out new features before they’re generally available.

According to Arsenault, the Microsoft BYOD strategy involves “certifying a set of capabilities, not the device.” Through the certificate-based Intune agent software, Microsoft can set limits related to a PIN timeout policy and manage the key that provides access to encrypted data. Education and training on use of BYOD in business is also an element in all this. “It’s the base minimum,” he notes.

But BYOD is not usually accorded the same level of trust as corporate-issued devices. And BYOD is subject to specific network-access controls on the Microsoft enterprise network which is set up under a model called “variable user experience” based on the identity of the device and the location, says Arsenault. In this, Microsoft recognizes security levels tied to on-network, off-network, wireless and Internet. Sometimes BYOD users don’t get the same access as they might with a corporate-issued device, depending on the sensitivity of the resource.

Gartner analyst Lawrence Orans says it’s a common security practice associated with BYOD to set up policies for mobile-device management based on network-access control. But one of the challenges in all this is that the various MDM vendors have specific partnerships with specific NAC vendors and when you pick NAC, “you’re also picking the MDM. If you pick the MDM first, you also limit the NAC partnership,” he points out.

The big players in NAC, including Cisco, ForeScout and Aruba Networks, each have several partnerships with MDM vendors, typically partnering with the MDM vendor to create integrated NAC and MDM client software. But there are a lot more MDM vendors than NAC vendors, Orans points out, advising enterprise IT managers to choose carefully if they’re supporting NAC, too.

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The company suffers in comparison to the same period last year, but sales of tablets and Windows help it beat expectations

Microsoft’s profit dropped and its revenue was almost flat in its third fiscal quarter, during which the company replaced Steve Ballmer with Satya Nadella as CEO.

Revenue came in at US$20.40 billion, down slightly from $20.49 billion in the same quarter last year. Net income was $5.7 billion, or $0.68 per share, down from $6.1 billion, or $0.72 per share.

However, Microsoft’s revenue matched the forecast of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters and exceeded their earnings-per-share estimate by $0.05. Sales growth for tablets and Windows helped Microsoft’s results.

On a pro forma basis, which excludes certain one-time items, revenue increased 8 percent and earnings per share rose 5 percent.

“I sum up this quarter in two words: execution and transition,” Nadella said on a conference call to discuss the results. “We delivered solid financial results and we took several steps to reorient Microsoft.”

Nadella was appointed CEO in early February, before the quarter was halfway through, and sounded upbeat on his first earnings call since taking over.

He said the results reflect Microsoft’s strengths and opportunities in a “mobile-first, cloud-first world,” a phrase he has used constantly since becoming CEO.

Keeping the staff and products focused on that idea is one of his priorities, he said on Thursday.

Asked on the call if any significant strategy changes are in the works, Nadella didn’t mention any particular area but said his philosophy is to have the company on a continuous cycle of planning and execution, and to revise plans as frequently as needed based on the market.

“We’ve picked up the pace on asking the hard questions,” he said.

Nadella said he was particularly satisfied with the adoption of Microsoft cloud services, which he considers key for the company’s long-term outlook.

He cited recent moves to boost the Office and Windows franchises, such as the launch of Office for the iPad, the update to Windows 8.1, the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade and the decision to license Windows for free to hardware vendors making smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than 9 inches.

The shift from PCs to mobile creates opportunities for Windows and Office, according to Nadella, but requires a different approach to licensing, pricing and technology.

“We are committed to ensuring that our cloud services are available across all device platforms that people use. We are delivering a cloud for everyone on every device,” he said.

The Devices and Consumer division’s revenue grew by 12 percent to $8.30 billion, while gross margin fell 1 percent to $4.71 billion. Some highlights were a 4 percent revenue increase in Windows OS sales to hardware vendors, and a 50 percent increase in Surface tablet revenue, to $500 million.

Windows sales to hardware vendors weren’t uniform. The regular consumer version of Windows saw revenue drop 15 percent, while Windows Pro, which ships with business PCs, posted a 19 percent gain. Microsoft attributed that growth to strong sales in developed markets and in enterprises, and higher penetration in small and midsized businesses.

Microsoft also highlighted that Office 365 Home, the subscription-based version of Office for consumers, ended the quarter with 4.4 million subscribers, almost 1 million more than in the previous quarter, and that Bing’s search ad revenue went up 38 percent.

Despite that spike in search ads, total online ad revenue was up only 16 percent, crimped by a 24 percent drop in display ad sales.

Revenue for the traditional Office suite, sold via perpetual licenses, rose 15 percent, thanks primarily to sales in Japan. Combined with Office 365 Home sales, revenue for those consumer-focused versions of Office increased 28 percent. Microsoft cited the April 8 end-of-support deadline for Windows XP for spurring sales of Windows and Office.

The Hardware segment of the Devices and Consumer division had revenue growth of 41 percent, reaching $1.97 billion and driven by Xbox and Surface. Microsoft sold 2 million Xboxes during the quarter, and the Xbox business had revenue growth of 45 percent.

The Commercial division’s revenue rose on a pro forma basis by 7 percent to $12.23 billion, and gross margin rose 6 percent to $9.91 billion. The division’s performance was helped by a more-than-100-percent revenue increase from Office 365, the cloud and subscription suite of server and desktop productivity applications for businesses, and by a 150 percent hike in revenue from the Azure cloud platform services. Overall, the Commercial division’s cloud revenue more than doubled.

Other highlights from the Commercial division include an 11 percent revenue increase in Windows volume licensing for business customers and “double-digit” revenue growth for on premises collaboration and communication server products Lync, SharePoint and Exchange, as well as for the SQL Server database and Windows Server OS. Taken together, on-premises server products had a revenue increase of 10 percent. Revenue from traditionally licensed Office was up 6 percent.

Microsoft estimates that about 90 percent of enterprise desktop PCs worldwide now run either Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Overall gross margin rose 3 percent during the quarter to $14.5 billion, while operating expense grew 2 percent to $7.5 billion. Microsoft expects to include in its next quarterly report the impact of its $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia’s devices business.


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Microsoft created a virtual assistant, made Windows free on small devices, and brought back the Start button – but it’s still playing catch-up

This has been a big week for Microsoft, with a flood of new announcements and changes of direction. Along with its Build conference, new CEO Satya Nadella has made a number of moves designed to reverse the public perception that the company is an aging also ran in the technology races.

The changes include
Rolling out its new Cortana digital voice assistant
Announcing that Windows would be free to manufacturers of devices with small screens
Coming out with “universal” Windows technology that helps developers build apps that run on multiple versions of Microsoft’s operating system
Reviving the popular “Start” menu for Windows 8.1

Though some of those moves are more important than others, they’re all good things. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll be enough to solve Microsoft’s problem of being seen as your father’s technology vendor. Here’s why:

Consumers vs. IT
As noted above, Microsoft’s issues right now revolve around how the company is perceived by consumers, and it’s unlikely that these initiatives will be enough to change those perceptions. While all useful, none of them are truly new. Instead, they’re playing catch-up to existing products and services from Microsoft’s competitors, perhaps with incremental improvements, or acknowledgements that previous Microsoft strategies simply weren’t working out.

Technology professionals will welcome these changes, but the IT community isn’t where Microsoft’s problems lie. In my experience,, enterprise IT generally likes and trusts the company. Microsoft’s challenges lie in convincing fickle consumers that it’s as cool and innovative as Apple and Google. I can’t imagine these moves being exciting enough to do that.

Better, but not better enough
While initial reports suggest that Cortana is a credible or even superior alternative to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, the fact remains that other companies pioneered the voice assistant idea. Cortana would have to be light-years better than its already-in-place rivals to truly give Microsoft a significant advantage.

Similarly, making Windows free for mobile devices may help spark more device makers to adopt the platform, but it’s not like it will make an immediate difference to consumers. Besides, Android is already free to license. Once again, Microsoft is playing catch up.

Universal Windows app development may pay off with more app choices in the long run, but it’s a pretty geeky concept for most end users. Finally, bringing back the Start menu will ease the transition to Windows 8 for some holdouts, but let’s face it, the cool kids aren’t really interested in desktop Windows at this point.

Put it all together and you’ve got a collection of tweaks and that could change the substance of what Microsoft does, but won’t dent the way most people think of the company.

More, please!
Still, there’s a big ray of hope here. The fact that Microsoft was willing and able to make these changes could signal that more are on the way. If Microsoft can keep shaking things up and continue to show that things really are different now, eventually people will begin to notice and perhaps change their minds about the company. And then it truly won’t be your father’s Microsoft any more.


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New CEO Satya Nadella comes out swinging on ‘cloud first, mobile first’ strategy

As expected, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today hosted a press conference where the company unveiled Office for iPad, breaking with its past practice of protecting Windows by first launching software on its own operating system.

CEO Satya Nadella expounded on Microsoft’s ‘cloud first, mobile first’ strategy today as his company unveiled Office for iPad as proof of its new platform-agnosticism.

Three all-touch core apps — Word, Excel and PowerPoint — have been seeded to Apple’s App Store and are available now.

The sales model for the new apps is different than past Microsoft efforts. The Office apps can be used by anyone free of charge to view documents and present slideshows. But to create new content or documents, or edit existing ones, customers must have an active subscription to Office 365.

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Microsoft labeled it a “freemium” business model, the term used for free apps that generate revenue by in-app purchases.

Today’s announcement put an end to years of speculation about whether, and if so when, the company would trash its strategy of linking the suite with Windows in an effort to bolster the latter’s chances on tablets. It also reversed the path that ex-CEO Steve Ballmer laid out last October, when for the first time he acknowledged an edition for the iPad but said it would appear only after a true touch-enabled version had launched for Windows tablets.

It also marked the first time in memory that Microsoft dealt a major product to an OS rival of its own Windows.

“Microsoft is giving users what they want,” Carolina Milanesi, strategic insight director of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said in an interview, referring to long-made customer demands that they be able to run Office on any of the devices they owned, even those running a Windows rival OS. “The connection to Office 365 was also interesting in that this puts users within Microsoft’s ecosystem at some point.”

Prior to today, Microsoft had released minimalist editions of Office, dubbed “Office Mobile,” for the iPhone and Android smartphones in June and July 2013, respectively. Originally, the iPhone and Android Office Mobile apps required an Office 365 subscription; as of today, they were turned into free apps for home use, although an Office 365 plan is still needed for commercial use.

Talk of Office on the iPad first heated up in December 2011, when the now-defunct The Daily reported Microsoft was working on the suite, and added that the software would be priced at $10 per app. Two months later, the same publication claimed it had seen a prototype and that Office was only weeks from release.

That talk continued, on and off, for more than two years, but Microsoft stuck to its Windows-first strategy. Analysts who dissected Microsoft’s moves believed that the company refused to support the iPad in the hope that Office would jumpstart sales of Windows-powered tablets.

Office’s tie with Windows had been fiercely debated inside Microsoft, but until today, operating system-first advocates had won out. But slowing sales of Windows PCs — last year, the personal computer industry contracted by about 10% — and the continued struggles gaining meaningful ground in tablets pointed out the folly of that strategy, outsiders argued.

Some went so far as to call Windows-first a flop.

Microsoft has long hewed to that strategy: The desktop version of Office has always debuted on Windows, for example, with a refresh for Apple’s OS X arriving months or even more than a year later.

Microsoft today added free Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for the iPad to the existing OneNote.

On his first day on the job, however, Nadella hinted at change when he said Microsoft’s mission was to be “cloud first, mobile first,” a signal, said analysts, that he understood the importance of pushing the company’s software and services onto as many platforms as possible.

Nadella elaborated on that today, saying that the “cloud first, mobile first” strategy will “drive everything we talk about today, and going forward. We will empower people to be productive and do more on all their devices. We will provide the applications and services that empower every user — that’s Job One.”

Like Office Mobile on iOS and Android, Office for iPad was tied to Microsoft’s software-by-subscription Office 365.

Although the new Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps can be used free of charge to view documents and spreadsheets, and present PowerPoint slideshows, they allow document creation and editing only if the user has an active Office 365 subscription. Those subscriptions range from the consumer-grade $70-per-year Office 365 Personal to a blizzard of business plans starting at $150 per user per year and climbing to $264 per user per year.

Moorhead applauded the licensing model. “It’s very simple. Unlike pages of requirements that I’m used to seeing from Microsoft to use their products, if you have Office 365, you can use Office for iPad. That’s it,” Moorhead said.

He also thought that the freemium approach to Office for iPad is the right move. “They’ve just pretty much guaranteed that if you’re presenting on an iPad you will be using their apps,” said Moorhead of PowerPoint.

Moorhead cited the fidelity claims made by Julie White, a general manager for the Office technical marketing team, who spent about half the event’s time demonstrating Office for iPad and other software, as another huge advantage for Microsoft. “They’re saying 100% document compatibility [with Office on other platforms], so you won’t have to convert a presentation to a PDF,” Moorhead added.

Document fidelity issues have plagued Office competitors for decades, and even the best of today’s alternatives cannot always display the exact formatting of an Office-generated document, spreadsheet or presentation.

Both Milanesi and Moorhead were also impressed by the strategy that Nadella outlined, which went beyond the immediate launch of Office for iPad.

“I think [Satya Nadella] did a great job today,” said Milanesi. “For the first time I actually see a strategy [emphasis in original].

“Clearly there’s more to come,” Milanesi said. “It was almost as if Office on iPad was not really that important, but they just wanted to get [its release] out of way so they could show that there’s more they bring to the plate.”

That “more” Milanesi referred to included talk by Nadella and White of new enterprise-grade, multiple-device management software, the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS).

“With the management suite and Office 365 and single sign-on for developers, Microsoft is really doing something that others cannot do,” Milanesi said. “They made it clear that Microsoft wants to be [enterprises’] key partner going forward.”

Moorhead strongly agreed. “The extension of the devices and services strategy to pull together these disparate technologies, including mobile, managing those devices, authenticating users for services, is something Microsoft can win with. It’s a good strategy,” Moorhead said.

“This was the proof point of delivering on the devices and services strategy,” Moorhead concluded. “And that strategy is definitely paying off.”

Office for iPad can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store. The three apps range in size from 215MB (for PowerPoint) to 259MB (for Word), and require iOS 7 or later.

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According to leaked screenshots and secret sources, Microsoft will scrap ‘Metro’ and roll boot-to-desktop as the default in the Windows 8.1 update coming in March.

If you hated the Live Tiles presented as the default on the Windows 8.x Start screen, then Microsoft allowed users to tweak the setting in Windows 8.1 to bypass the “Metro” interface at boot and instead boot to desktop. But boot-to-desktop will be the default, according to leaks from Microsoft insiders and screenshots of the upcoming Windows 8.1 update. Rumor has it that the update will roll out on Patch Tuesday in March.

The Russian site Wzor first posted leaked Windows 8.1 test build screenshots showing the change enabled by default.

Leaked Windows 8.1 test build, no more Metro Start screen, boot to desktop as default
Then Microsoft insiders, or “sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans,” told The Verge that Microsoft hopes to appease desktop users by bypassing the Start screen by default, meaning users will automatically boot straight to desktop. “Additional changes include shutdown and search buttons on the Start Screen, the ability to pin Windows 8-style (“Metro”) apps on the desktop task bar, and a new bar at the top of Metro apps to allow users to minimize, close, and snap apps.”

Of course, Microsoft continues to lose millions upon millions of customers to iOS and Android. That desperation is likely what drove Microsoft to force a touch-centric operating system on customers. If customers can’t easily use a Windows OS on a traditional desktop, then Microsoft hoped its “make-them-eat-Metro” strategy would force people to buy its tablet to deal with the touch-based OS. For Microsoft, it was like killing two birds with one stone. But despite the company’s “One Microsoft” vision, we’re not birds and we don’t like having stones thrown our way.

Microsoft claimed that telemetry data justified the removal of the Start button in Windows 8, and then its return in Windows 8.1. That same telemetry data shows “the majority of Windows 8 users still use a keyboard and mouse and desktop applications.” The Verge added, “Microsoft may have wanted to push touch computing to the masses in Windows 8, but the reality is that users have voiced clear concerns over the interface on desktop PCs.”

“Microsoft really dug a big hole for themselves,” Gartner’s David Smith told Gregg Keizer, referring to the Redmond giant’s approach with Windows 8. “They have to dig themselves out of that hole, including making some fundamental changes to Windows 8. They need to accelerate that and come up with another path [for Windows].”

Back in December, NetMarketShare stats showed that more people were still using the hated Windows Vista than Windows 8.1. January 2014 stats showed Windows 8.1 on 3.95% of desktops with Vista on 3.3%. Despite Microsoft warning about the evils of clinging to XP, and the April death of XP support, Windows XP, however, was still on 29.23%. Many people still hate Windows 8, which may be why the company plans to jump to the next OS as soon as possible.

Microsoft plans to start building hype for “Windows 9” at the BUILD developers’ conference in April. The new OS is supposedly set to come out in the second quarter of 2015. While it seems wise for the company to want to ditch the hated Windows 8.x as soon as possible, Microsoft had better to do something to encourage developers as the expected boot-to-desktop change will mean folks won’t see the Metro apps on the Start screen.

Windows 8.1 update leaked screenshot of test build
According to the test build screenshot, Microsoft is urging people to “switch to a Microsoft account on this PC. Many apps and services (like the one shown for calendar) rely on a Microsoft account to sync content and settings across devices.” Note that “sign into each app separately instead” is “not recommended” by Microsoft. Of course, setting up a Windows 8 computer without it being tied to a Microsoft email account was “not recommended” either…but it can be done with about any email address or set up as a local account tied to no email address. If you use SkyDrive, aka the newly dubbed “OneDrive,” then why not just log in when you need it?

Trying to keep its developers “happy,” may be part of the reason Microsoft does not recommend signing into your Microsoft account on an individual app basis. Sure there’s still the Windows Phone Store, but some people complain that the Windows Phone Store is full of junk and fake apps. Of course, since Windows 8’s dueling tablet-PC interface was a flop, perhaps Microsoft will follow Apple’s lead and come up with a separate OS for tablets. That move might help out Microsoft and developers; without developers, there’s no apps. Without good apps, even a new OS for tablets won’t help Microsoft from continuing to decline and falling into the abyss of irrelevancy.


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The Syrian Electronic Army hacked all of Skype’s social media accounts and accused Microsoft of helping the government spy and monitor our email.

It’s said there is no rest for the wicked, and New Year’s Day had Skype social media managers scrambling to scrub evidence of being hacked off of its Skype blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts. That evidence was planted by the Syrian Electronic Army and accused Microsoft of spying for the “governments.”

After the SEA’s attack, Skype sent out a pair of tweets to its 3 million Twitter followers, warning:

Hacked Skype tweet warns against using Microsoft products

Skype tweet stop spying on people

Those Skype tweets were deleted and then replaced with this tweet: “You may have noticed our social media properties were targeted today. No user info was compromised. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

The SEA also hacked the Skype blog:

Skype blog, Facebook, Twitter hacked by Syrian Electronic Army

Hacked Skype blog says don’t use Microsoft products

These posts were mirrored on Skype’s Facebook page before quickly being deleted.

Skype Facebook hacked posts removed

Then reporter Matthew Keys tweeted this screenshot “proof” of the Skype hack sent to him by the SEA.

Screenshot Skype hack

The SEA also tweeted Steve Ballmer’s contact information along with the message, “You can thank Microsoft for monitoring your accounts/emails using this details. #SEA”

Although the SEA has successfully hacked many major companies, the Skype hack seems to be referring to Microsoft’s alleged cooperation with the NSA. Microsoft denied providing backdoor real-time access, but revelations provided by Edward Snowden indicated that the NSA can successfully eavesdrop on Skype video calls. Although Microsoft vowed to protect users from NSA surveillance, the Redmond giant “forgot” to mention Skype in its promises.

As security expert Graham Cluley pointed out, “Chances are that Skype didn’t read my New Year’s resolution advice about not using the same passwords for multiple accounts.”

In fact, Skype seems to have disregarded its parent company’s advice. Microsoft’s Security TechCenter has a post regarding “selecting secure passwords.” Regarding “Password Age and Reuse,” it states:

Users should also change their passwords frequently. Even though long and strong passwords are much more difficult to break than short and simple ones, they can still be cracked. An attacker who has enough time and computing power at his disposal can eventually break any password. In general, passwords should be changed within 42 days, and old passwords should never be reused.

Skype itself has a few password “rules” such as:

A password must:

Be at least 6 characters and not longer than 20 characters.

Contain at least one letter and one number.

Not have any spaces.

Not contain your Skype Name (case insensitive).

Not be a part of Skype Name (case insensitive).

Your password also cannot contain any of the following words:

1234, 4321, qwert, test, skype, myspace, password, abc123, 123abc, abcdef, iloveyou, letmein, ebay, paypal.

However, after the Skype hack gave Microsoft a black eye with spying accusations, it’s a pretty safe bet that whoever controls Skype social media will no longer resuse the same password to protect all of the company’s accounts. And if you reuse the same password on different sites, it would be a great 2014 resolution to change all your passwords, keep them in a password safe, and make sure you don’t use the same one for multiple sites.


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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!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,, 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 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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Hyper-V V3 resources can be aggregated into clusters, and through the use of new VHDX sharable disk stores, can create islands internally — or for cloud-hosted purposes, external clouds whose resources should be opaque to other cloud components. We were not able to successfully find constructs to test the opaque nature of what should be isolated clouds, but rudimentary tests seemed to prove isolation. The VHDX format can also be dynamically re-sized as the need arises; we found that the process is fast, although during that period, disk and CPU resources can peak until the modification is over. Heavy CPU/disk-imposed limitations thwart resizing by slowing it.

We also tested Hyper-V and 2012R2 IPAM and Microsoft’s SDN successfully under IPv4 (other limitations prevented heavy IPv6 testing). Software defined networks (SDN) cross a turf that is divided in many organizations: virtualization and network management teams. Network management staff have traditionally used IPS, routing, switching and infrastructure controls to balance traffic, hosts, even NOC hardware placement. SDN use means that what were once separate disciplines are now forced to work together to make things work inside the host server’s hypervisor, where the demarcation was once where the RJ-45 connector meets the server chassis.

IPAM allowed us to define a base allocation of routeable and/or non-routeable addresses, then allocate them to VMs hosted on Hyper-V hosts or other hosts/VMs/devices on our test network. We could in turn, allocate virtual switches, public private or internal, connected with static/blocked and sticky DHCP. Inter-fabric VM movements still require a bit of homework, we found. Using one IPAM is recommended.

[ALSO: Windows 8.1 cheat sheet]

What we like is that the SDN primitives and IPAM can work well together, with well-implemented planning steps. We could create clouds easily, and keep track of address relationships. A Microsoft representative mused over the spreadsheets that carry IP relationship management information in many organizations, calling it crazy. We would agree, and believe that hypervisor or host-based IPAM is a great idea. If only DNS were mixed in more thoroughly — and it’s not — we’d be complete converts to the concept. We found it very convenient nonetheless, although errors were more difficult to find when they occurred, such as address pool depletions. Uniting networking and virtualization/host management disciplines isn’t going to be easy.
The Bad News

We found head-scratchers and limitations. We found several initial foibles installing the operating system on bare metal to what should be generic hardware. We were able to overcome them, but warn installers that they’ll need to consider that Windows 2012 and especially R2 might require updated server BIOS firmware to UEFI-compatible, as happened with our Lenovo ThinkServer and HP DL 380 Gen8 servers. When Windows 2012 R2 can’t install (R2 or Hyper-V V3-R2), we received an inarticulate flash of an error message. We actually took a video of it to capture that there was a problem with ACPI — and not UEFI. The turf between platform providers and OS/hypervisor makers is still real and strong, but Microsoft isn’t alone, as we’ve incurred driver/platform mysticism with VMware and Oracle, too.

We found the Hyper-V role cannot be re-instantiated. This means that no hypervisor on top of a hypervisor. Microsoft claims that there has been no customer demand for this, but it also imposes a limitation. Although running a hypervisor atop a hypervisor seems silly, there are cases where it’s useful. One role often cited is in production test labs, and another where Microsoft’s SDN is used — Hyper-V V3 must always be the base layer talking to the metal and silicon of a server, precluding other schemes direct access to the metal and therefore impeding other SDN schemes.

The Azure Pack uses the same Hyper-V infrastructure as Windows Server 2012 R2. Microsoft offers a sample of what other third party providers may offer in the form of services and ready-to-deploy pre-built appliances. We were reminded of what TurnKeyLinux started several years ago, in terms of usable appliances built from Linux substrates. There isn’t a huge variety of appliance samples available, but what we tested, worked — full WordPress websites that were ready for skins and customizations.

A Service Bus, actually message bus, connects components in the clouds serviced by the Azure Pack and Hyper-V. The Service Bus connects Microsoft-specific API sets, after a framework “namespace” is created. Communications can be subscribed and published to the framework and its members in the namespace talk via REST, Advanced Message Queueing Protocol/AMQP, and Windows instrumentation APIs. The Service Bus reminds us of products like Puppet, Chef, and others in the Linux world, communicating in a stack-like framework for rapid deployment and ease of VM and infrastructure fleet management.
Windows 8.1

Where Windows 8.1 is upgraded on Windows 7 or Windows 8 platforms, the upgrade was fast and made no mistakes. Windows XP can be run atop Hyper-V or in a Type 2 hypervisor application, but we didn’t test this, as we’ve retired Windows XP completely and we hope that readers have, too. Like Windows 8.0, 8.1 can use the latest version of Hyper-V V3 as a foundation, so that other OS versions can be used on the same host hardware, with resource limitations to guests or 8.1, SDN, IPAM, and other Hyper-V features.

The Windows 8.1 UI is initially identical to Windows 8.0, but with the addition of a desktop icon that can be touched/chosen to be optionally or subsequently a resident resource more familiar to XP and Windows 7 users. We found it’s also possible to boot directly to an Apps screen that allows apps to be easily chosen, although not with the same vendor topical drop-boxes that Win XP and Windows 7 might be used to. If there are many applications, the screen must be scrolled. Windows XP/7 users who have accumulated many dozens of applications might be scrolling frequently as long lists of applications can fill many screens.

We found more UI customization choices, and discovered we could make very busy combinations of Live Tiles. It’s possible to insert RSS feeds into tiles where supported, allowing what we feel is an addicting amount of information available within just a handful of tiles, and the appeal of moving tiles combinations on tablets to suit differing use situations. Apps that use “traditional” windows are easier to manage, and users can now move multiple windows adjacent to each other (especially handy on multiple monitors) without having snap behavior crater their placement choices, as occurred in 8.0 and even Windows 7 editions.

Desktop/notebook users have now taken second seat to tablets in this upgrade, and some of the hoped for bridges to Windows 7-ish look-and-feel are missing as we found the 8.1 changes more easily demonstrated on tablets. However, mouse or touch sweeps are more customizable, although consistencies can be imposed in Group Policy. If you’re looking for the familiar Start button, you’ll still need to garner it from a third party app provider. Microsoft, like Apple and Google, would really prefer that you obtain Start Buttons and other third party applications from Microsoft’s online store, which is far more filled with new, familiar, and diverse applications than when Windows 8.0 was released. You can still install from “unauthorized” sources if preferred or forbid that if you’re draconian or simply worried about security.

Recent changes to 8.1 in terms of speed weren’t dramatic, in our subjective analysis. Windows 8.1 uses Server Message Block V3/SMB3 features when connecting to Windows 2012+ network resources that allow several features, including SMB Encryption, SMB traffic aggregation for speed, and TPC “signing” for ostensibly trustable, ostensibly non-repudiating host and client relationships. We say ostensibly, as we’re unsure of a comprehensive methodology to test these, and therefore, have not.

Microsoft has been very busy. Windows Server 2012 R2, while a strong operating system update, is perhaps more about Hyper-V V3 and Azure Pack, and represents a trend towards platform strengthening on Microsoft’s part as platform flexibility starts to replace the operating system as the functional least common denominator for applications infrastructure. Towards these ends, Hyper-V now controls more of the network than the operating system, more of the storage connectivity and options then the operating system, and more of the application availability and administrative control nexus than ever before.

For its part, Windows 8.1 is now the client-side of the experiences rendered by web access, and client/cloud-based services, which become increasingly location-irrelevant where persistent connectivity is available. The Windows 8.1 release comes in fewer forms than Window 8.0, which comes in fewer forms than Windows 7. The shrinking forms betrays that the versions must now be synchronized across a wide variety of platforms, from traditional desktops and notebooks, to tablets, phones, and VDI/Desktop-as-a-Service platforms. More attention to this variety of user device in Windows 8.1 also includes attention paid to criticisms of the seemingly lurching change from former Windows UIs to the tiled interface of Windows 8.

Windows as a client is no longer like the old leaky Windows, but it’s approachable in a more familiar way. Whether the 8.1 client changes can re-enamor disaffected users, and roll with new competitive punches, remains to be seen.
How We Tested Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1

For Windows Server 2012 R2, we tested the RTM version downloaded from the MSDN website. We deployed and tested the DataCenter version on both bare metal servers from HP (DL580G5, 16core, iSCSI, Dell (Compellent iSCSI SAN and older Dell servers), and Lenovo (ThinkServer 580 with 16 cores, 32GB) and various hypervisors. Windows 2012 R2 installed basic operations successfully atop VMware vSphere 5.1 and 5.5, Oracle VirtualBox 4.2, aforementioned Hyper-V V3, and Citrix XenServer 6.2, and we found much flexibility and a few servers that needed the aforementioned firmware upgrades for Hyper-V or 2012 R2.

Windows 8.1 was tested on a Microsoft Surface Pro, Lenovo T530 notebooks, and as virtual machines, upgrading from Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8.0 Enterprise versions, as well as fresh installs on UEFI the T530 notebooks hardware.

Testing was performed between the Lab (Gigabit Ethernet switched infrastructure) connected via Xfinity Broadband to our NOC at Expedient/nFrame in Indianapolis (Gigabit Ethernet switched infrastructure with 10GB links on Extreme Switches, connected via a GBE backbone to core routers, Compellent iSCSI SAN, with numerous hosts running VMware, XenServer, BSD, various flavors of Linux, Solaris, in turn connected to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure Cloud).


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Microsoft has long planned on one store to bind them, and that is now getting closer.

Microsoft’s cross-platform strategy is no secret. Much of the same code found in Windows 8.1 is also in Windows Phone 8, including the kernel. So it stands to reason that, in time, apps should be easily portable between platforms, especially WP8 and Windows RT.

Well, Microsoft is continuing that effort. The company just announced it is creating a unified developer registration experience for the two platforms. The site has nothing to do with the developer end; it handles the business side of things. The idea is to make it easier for developers who want to create apps for both Windows and Windows Phone by giving them one point of registration instead of two.

Under the new registration program, Windows Phone developers will have access to the Windows Dev Center, which handles PC and tablet sales, for no additional cost. The same works both ways, as Windows developers now have access to the Windows Phone Dev Center for no additional cost. In both cases, the developer uses the same Microsoft Account to log in on either site and has access to both Centers.

So, existing developers can now submit apps to both stores at no additional cost under one Microsoft account while new developers can register under just one account. The registration fee is a very modest $19 for an individual developer and $99 for a company account. Developers already registered for both stores will receive a code via email this month for a free one-year renewal when their existing registration is up for renewal.

The process of submitting apps will remain slightly different due to the differences in platforms, but Microsoft aims to have a single submission process as well. And of course, there is the effort to make one developer platform, so apps can be generated across the board from a single code base. But, one thing at a time.

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A decade after it started, Microsoft excels at addressing security concerns when compared with its competitors

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the debut of Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday program, through which it would regularly issue fixes to its software on the second Tuesday of every month. It had been possible to check for updates via the Windows Update application in Windows XP, but now Microsoft was actually going to push out fixes.

Steve Ballmer introduced Patch Tuesday at the Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans in October 2003. “Our goal is simple: Get our customers secure and keep them secure,” Ballmer said in a statement. “Our commitment is to protect our customers from the growing wave of criminal attacks.”

RELATED: Microsoft finally patches gaping IE exploit with Patch Tuesday update

Patch Tuesday brought order to the patching process but allows network administrators to plan for network-wide upgrades ahead of time, since Microsoft would put out an alert the Thursday before Patch Tuesday to say what was coming. Microsoft always had to be judicious in how much information it released ahead of time because it didn’t want to tell the bad guys where it found a problem.

The day after the patches are pushed out, Microsoft holds a live chat, usually at 11 am Pacific time, to discuss the fixes.

In addition to Patch Tuesday, there has been the occasional Super Patch Tuesday, where Microsoft issues optional and non-security updates. Plus, if a really bad exploit is found, Microsoft has been known to ship what are called out-of-band patches.

It’s also had to issue patches of patches, because sometimes things get fouled up. Just this past August Microsoft had to recall six patches because they introduced new problems that, in some cases, rendered the PC unusable.

In 2008, Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Exploitability Index, which told people how severe the exploit was and whether or not an IT manager should rush out the fix. While most of us just update on patch day without a second thought, some people do actually have to be careful that the fix doesn’t break their existing apps.

At the same time, Microsoft introduced security-related programs to share early information with partners to help coordinate efforts to protect them from attacks in the wild before they become widely known. The program also provides additional information and guidance to help customers evaluate risks and prioritize the deployment of Microsoft security updates.

Critics have accused Patch Tuesday of being a gift to hackers, because if they have an exploit that isn’t fixed in one month, they have a full month to exploit it with their malware. Also, by issuing so many fixes at once, Microsoft tells the bad guys where the bugs are. They very well might rush out malware to exploit the hole in PCs that are slow to patch. This led to the term “Exploit Wednesday.”

All of this is true; and Microsoft has on a few occasions let Patch Tuesdays go by with big exploits unpatched. But compared to the track record of other firms, Microsoft is on top of things. Apple has had several instances in the last few years where exploits went for many months before being fixed. It doesn’t have a structured patch cycle like Microsoft does.

And then there’s Oracle. Since inheriting a complex and often-buggy piece of software in Java when it acquired Sun Microsystems, Oracle has been very sluggish in responding to Java problems. The result of Oracle’s flat-footed responses is that Java is the top target for hackers, according to a report from security software developer F-Secure (PDF).

Java is so insecure that 95 percent of all exploit attacks can be found in five security flaws, four of which are in Java (the fifth is a Microsoft True Type font exploit). The best thing you can do to secure your infrastructure is turn off Java, F-Secure says. That’s sad, especially given that Oracle has a huge investment in Java-based products. You’d think it would move heaven and earth to secure Java.

You can see by the fact that most exploits are in apps, browsers and Java that the company has hardened the OS significantly. Patch Tuesday isn’t flawless or without its share of problems, but it did force Microsoft to move a lot faster in addressing its problems, certainly faster than Apple and Oracle.

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Windows 8 brushes up against 10% user share mark

Written by admin
October 2nd, 2013

In the last two months, Microsoft’s newest OS has added 3.5 points to its share of all computing devices powered by Windows

Windows 8 powered almost 10% of all devices running Microsoft’s OSes last month, even as its uptake pace slowed, according to analytics company Net Applications today.

Meanwhile, Windows XP’s decline continued as customers, prodded by the upcoming April 2014 support deadline, again ditched the veteran operating system in droves.

Windows 8’s user share of all computing devices running Windows, a tally that includes Windows 8.1, the update slated to ship in two weeks, jumped to 9.8% in September, Net Applications said. The 1.4-point gain was down from the record one-month increase set in August, but nearly double the OS’s 12-month average.

The August-September surge of Windows 8 may have been driven by sharp back-to-school sales of touch-based notebooks, which accounted for a quarter of all sales from June 30 through Sept. 7, the NPD Group said last week.

About one out of 10 devices running Windows 8 ran the Windows 8.1 upgrade last month, said Net Applications. Microsoft launched a public preview of Windows 8.1, the restart to the problem- and perception-plagued OS, in June. The update will hit the Windows Store, where it can be downloaded by current users, on Oct. 17, and hit retail on Oct. 18, when many of Microsoft’s OEM (original equipment manufacturers) partners are expected to unveil and start selling new hardware.

Microsoft will launch its revamped Surface tablets several days later.

Windows 8 also increased its lead over Windows Vista, the oft-derided flop from 2007, when each OS’s share was compared 11 months after launch. At that point in its release cycle, Vista accounted for 8.5% of all Windows PCs. The gap between Vista and Windows 8 — 1.1 percentage points in August — widened in September to 1.3 points.

Windows 8 will certainly pass the 10% mark of all Windows PCs this month.

Part of the rise of Windows 8 must also be credited to the decline of Windows XP, the 12-year-old operating system slated to drop off Microsoft’s support radar next April.

For the second month running, Windows XP shed several percentage points of user share, ending at 31.4% of all personal computers worldwide. That was equivalent to 34.6% of all systems running one Windows flavor or another.

The rapid two-month decline of Windows XP hints at the final push to dump the “walking dead” OS that many analysts predicted would accelerate as the April deadline looms. Microsoft will issue its final security update for XP that month; after that, while the operating system will continue to run, it will do so in an increasingly dangerous environment because Microsoft will not provide patches to the general public for any vulnerabilities, critical or otherwise.

Some security experts have speculated that cyber criminals will unleash attacks in the months after April 2014, having saved up their “zero-day” vulnerabilities and associated exploits until the deadline has passed.

Using the trends in Net Applications’ data, Computerworld now predicts that XP will power between 18% and 26% of the world’s personal computers at the end of April 2014. The lower number assumes that the accelerated decline of the last few months continues, while the higher user share assumes XP’s drop-off resembles the more stately 12-month slide.

Microsoft has aggressive plans for deprecating XP, although it has not shared any new specifics. “We have plans to get [XP’s share] to 13% by April when the end-of-life of XP happens,” said Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s COO, during a half-day presentation last month in front of Wall Street analysts. “This has been a major and multi-year initiative for us, and one that we’ve worked very hard on to make sure we can execute towards.”

While Windows powered nine out of 10 personal computers in September, Apple’s OS X — the foundation of its desktop and notebook Macs — ended the month with a record 7.5% user share. Linux, which has never made good on its loyalists’ hopes that it would dominate desktop PCs, finished September up slightly, to 1.6%.

Net Applications measures operating system user share by tracking unique visitors to approximately 40,000 sites it monitors for clients.


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Yes, Bill Gates finally admitted that Ctrl+Alt+Del ‘was a mistake,’ but it was because the IBM design guy wouldn’t give him a single button.

At a Harvard fundraising campaign, Harvard Campaign co-chair David Rubenstein, asked Bill Gates, “Why, when I want to turn on my software and computer, do I need to have three fingers on Ctrl+Alt+Delete? What is that — where does that come from? Whose idea was that?”

Ctrl+Alt+DeleteGates began with a “complex” reply, “Basically, because when you turn your computer on, you’re gonna see some screens and eventually type your password in – you want to have something you do with the keyboard that is signaling to a very low level of the software – actually hard-coded in the hardware – that it really is bringing in the operating system you expect, instead of just a funny piece of software that puts up a screen that looks like a login screen, and then it listens to your password and then it’s able to do that.”

Then Gates finally cut to the chase and just admitted, “So we could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t want to give us our single button and so we programed it low level that you had to — it – it’s – it was a mistake.”

Gates (again) says “no” about returning to the helm of Microsoft

Despite rumors that Gates will return to Microsoft to replace the departing Steve Ballmer, Gates told Business Insider, “No, I ran Microsoft for a period of time. And, now I’m the chairman helping out on a part-time basis.”

When asked if he was tempted to return to the path of technology in order to rid the world of Apple devices, or at least replace iPads with Microsoft’s Surface tablets, Gates stated, “Well, I’m part-time involved and Microsoft’s got a lot of stuff, the industry is doing a lot of cool things, and I keep my hand in that, but I won’t be full-time doing that.”

Meanwhile, like many others, Forbes’ Anne Marie Squeo hammered on Microsoft’s lack of a CEO succession plan. Then a piece in the New York Times suggested that Gates should follow Ballmer out the door. Robert Cyran wrote that Gates’s “many talents don’t include effectiveness as chairman. Under his leadership, Microsoft’s board left Mr. Ballmer in place too long. Now that Mr. Ballmer is to retire as chief executive within a year, Mr. Gates doesn’t have a replacement ready, an important task for any chairman.”

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