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Apr 8
Windows XP support finally ends

Windows XP ProSupport for the Windows XP operating system ends today, Tuesday 8th April 2014.

This means that there will be no more official security updates and bug fixes for the operating system from Microsoft.

Windows XP was originally released in 2001 and, soon after that, Microsoft said it would support all its products for at least 10 years from the release date. However, in 2007, the company decided to extend support for Windows XP to 2014, because it was still so widely used. In fact, estimates suggest that almost 1 in 5 personal computers still run Windows XP.

Although consumers are entitled to carry on using Windows XP for as long as they like, those who choose to do so will be much more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Security firms have said that anyone using the 13-year-old software will be at increased risk of infection and could be compromised by the attacks of cyber-criminals

The final “Patch Tuesday” for Windows XP included a critical fix for a zero-day Microsoft Word vulnerability uncovered only last week.

Some governments have negotiated extended support contracts for the Operating System in a bid to keep users more protected.

Souce: The Telegraph

Oct 10
The looming Windows XP deadline

windows xp proOn the 8th April 2014 Microsoft will release its last security updates for Windows XP, whose extended support period will come to a hard stop. That end date is now less than six months away!

Exactly how many PCs will still be out there running Windows XP next April? Several sources suggest that more than 100 million PCs will still be running Windows XP when security updates stop next April.

If your budget is so tight that the cost of an OS upgrade is too much to bear, now might be the time to consider switching to a free alternative like Linux, along with open-source apps and free or low-cost services to complement them.

However, for most older desktops a replacement PC is usually a smarter investment. New hardware is also generally easier and cheaper to manage, maintain, and secure than older PCs, which are more likely to fail and where replacement parts can be hard to find and expensive to buy.

But what if you don’t have the luxury of switching? Here are two strategies to adopt if you can’t cut your XP ties right away.

Disconnect it from the Internet

Disconnect its Internet connection so you (and others) cannot use it for email or web browsing and thus cannot expose yourself to potentially malicious software or network intrusion attempts. You can use removable media (carefully) to copy files between this isolated XP PC and any other Windows machines (Windows 7 and 8) you might own, that have full Internet access. So if you really want to keep that XP PC around just for one purpose, let it be dedicated to that purpose alone.

Use Virtualization

If the OS version is the only roadblock, you should be able to solve the compatibility conundrum by running the problem application(s) in a well-sandboxed virtual machine (VM).

Windows 8.x Pro and Enterprise have Hyper-V virtualization built in. Windows 7 Pro includes Windows XP Mode and Virtual PC, which has the advantage of eliminating the cost of an XP license for your VM. You can also use VMware or Virtual Box on Windows 7 or, for that matter, on a PC running Linux.

If you decide to set up a VM running Windows XP, lock it down firmly so it can’t be used for web browsing or email, and then install your XP-only application. You can then use the physical machine, running Windows 7 or Windows 8, with its modern, fully patched operating system, for everyday tasks and then use the Virtual Machine for your XP-only application.

Source: ZDNet

Sep 9
Patch Tuesday to fix four critical flaws in Windows, Internet Explorer and Office

microsoft office entranceMicrosoft released 14 patches on Patch Tuesday — with four of them rated as critical.

The software giant said in its latest advanced security bulletin that the most severe security flaws have been found in Microsoft Office, Windows, Internet Explorer and Windows Server.

In all, there are eight remote code execution flaws, which can allow hackers to gain access to, or take control of an affected system without user prompts or permission.

With half of all the patches applying to the company’s productivity suite — Office 2007 (Service Pack 3) and Office 2010 (Service Pack 1) are affected — users are advised to patch their systems as soon as possible. The latest Office 2013 release is not affected, however.

Another round of patches will fix flaws in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, both of which are to be phased out of the company’s support cycles in April 2014.

Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP through to Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 and RT-based devices face another round of patches. Server-based versions of Internet Explorer are rated “moderate,” but should still be patched sooner rather than later.

Source: ZDnet

May 24
Microsofts Skydrive

sky drive for windows desktopMicrosoft’s SkyDrive now has 250 million users according to a recent news report. So what can SkyDrive offer you?

Microsoft’s offering gives you 7GB of free cloud storage but does charge a monthly fee if you wish to use even more online storage for all your files. This compares with the likes of Google who offer 5GB of free storage and Drop Box who offer only 2GB.

By storing all your files and photos in the cloud you will be able to sync your documents across all your computers in your home. You can even edit and collaborate on Microsoft Office documents in the cloud. You can even access the latest version of your Microsoft Office documents from any computer or Windows Smartphone and no cables or USB flash drives are necessary.

For greater control over SkyDrive and your files, download the SkyDrive for Windows program. The desktop program creates a special folder on your computer that mirrors what’s stored in the cloud. That makes SkyDrive particularly easy to use, because when you change the contents of that special folder on your computer, Windows automatically updates SkyDrive, as well. All you need to do is drag and drop files into your Desktop SkyDrive folder to automatically upload them to your cloud storage account. When the files are synced a green checkmark appears to show the upload is complete.

With the desktop app, you can sync individual folders or you can choose single file. If you want to later change which folders or files are synced, right-click the SkyDrive desktop icon in the notification area at the far right of the taskbar. Then click Settings, and then click the Choose folders tab.

Incidentally, once you have SkyDrive, Microsoft’s OneNote becomes even more powerful. You can save your notebook to your SkyDrive folder and then access it from anywhere. Check your study notes, review your shopping lists, or just stay organized right from your Windows 8 phone.

Note: The Windows 8 SkyDrive app makes it fairly easy to open files you’ve already uploaded to the cloud, but it offers little control. If the Windows 8 Start screen’s SkyDrive app is too simple for your needs, head for the Windows 8 desktop and visit SkyDrive to download the desktop program.

Apr 23
Sponsored Video: Microsoft 365

Take a look at Microsoft’s cloud based Office 365.

Apr 15
Microsoft updates its own Windows 8 apps

microsoft office entranceMicrosoft is pushing out updates to six of the Windows 8/Windows RT applications built by the Bing AppEx team, company officials announced on April 15.

Five of these app updates – Finance, News, Maps, Sports and Travel – are available today in the Windows Store. The Weather app updates will be “shipping over the course of the coming weeks,” according to company officials.

All six of these apps were built by the couple of hundred developers in the Bing AppEx (Application Experiences) team. AppEx primarily used HTML5 and JavaScipt to build these showcase apps. The AppEx deliverables are meant to visibly demonstrate to customers and other developers what what well-designed Windows 8 apps look like. (The AppEx team did not build the Windows Mail or SkyDrive apps – those were built by the Windows client team.)

Source: ZDNet

Feb 19
Microsoft’s Fix It Tool

Microsoft fixitA large proportion of PC software problems are fairly easy to fix but the other 10% or 20% often need specialist help.

Microsoft can also help with its Fix It Tool.

The Fix it website can be used to diagnose and solve many different software issues that can occur within a Windows computer.

The Microsoft Fix it site is very easy to use as it splits the various problem areas into Top Solutions, Windows, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Entertainment, Office and Other. By clicking on these top levels a detailed list of possible fixes is displayed, some of which may help to fix your ailing PC. There’s also an optional list of task based activities that you can select from.

So before you rush of to get your PC repaired by the ‘guy down the street’ try Microsofts Fix It tool it just might be the solution you need!

Feb 11
Microsoft to release fixes for 57 security flaws

Patch Tuesday Microsoft will release 12 patches for 57 vulnerabilities this week for Windows, Internet Explorer, and Office.

A spattering of enterprise products, including Microsoft Office and Windows Server, and developer tools, such as .NET Framework, will also be patched.

Five of the updates are labeled “critical,” in which malicious code can be remotely executed on users’ machines. Another vulnerability that allows remote code execution is labeled “important.”

The company’s pre-release bulletin warns of two major vulnerabilities for Internet Explorer, which will patch a flaw allowing hackers to run remotely executed code on vulnerable machines. All versions from IE6 to IE10 are affected, including Windows RT-based Surface tablets, which will also need to be updated. With this in mind, users are advised to switch to another browser for the next few days until the updates are released.

Another critical update will address a flaw in Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2003—but does not affect later versions of the operating system, such as Windows 7 or Windows 8.

The fourth critical vulnerability patches Microsoft’s email server, Exchange, while the fifth critical vulnerability affects only Windows XP-based machines.

In other “important” updates, Microsoft will also patch SharePoint which could be subject to code injection attacks.

Jan 20
Windows 8 upgrade offer is ending on 31st January

Windows 8 ProWhen Microsoft announced last year a “limited time offer” for Windows 8 upgrade pricing, some thought or at least hoped that the heavily discounted price might be on offer indefinitely. However, Microsoft officials announced on 18th January that this will not be the case.

After 31st January, the £24.99 ($39.99 in the USA) upgrade price will end.

Starting on 1st February the Windows 8 upgrade will cost around £75 ($119.99 in the USA). The Windows 8 Pro upgrade will cost a staggering £126 ($199.99 in the USA). Microsoft may up these prices for its UK buyers. However, the cost may be slightly discounted by the likes of Amazon and Ebay.

Currently, Microsoft is charging £24.99 for an upgrade license to Windows 8 Pro from Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Source: ZDNet

Jan 4
Is Microsoft Surface Beginning to Sink?

microsoft surfaceThe latest prediction that things are not all well with Microsoft Surface comes from J.P. Morgan analyst John DiFucci, who predicts unit sales for the tablet of around 700,000 for December, and 2.6 million for the entire fiscal year.

Supply chain chatter suggested that Microsoft had initially ordered one million Surface units, so that 700,000 figure is certainly in the right ballpark.

As to what’s wrong with Surface, DiFucci has no shortage of ideas. “We believe a number of factors, including price, the lack of cellular connectivity, and relatively lukewarm critical reviews will limit its broad appeal at this time,” DiFucci wrote in a note to his clients. “In addition, at least some Surface sales will be cannibalistic to traditional laptop sales,” he added.

So not only is the existence of the Surface tablet harmful to other tablet makers, it is also having a negative effect on PC OEMs (PC makers). The PC industry is not alone here, with analysts predicting that Apple is seeing the same thing happen with the iPad mini cannibalizing iPad sales. Biggest difference here is that either way consumers are buying a high-margin Apple product, rather than a competitor’s product.

DiFucci also spreads gloom over the remainder of the PC industry, quoting Gartner figures that suggest PC unit shipments for December are down some 5.5 percent compared to the same period last year.

Compare these estimated Surface sales of 2.6 million for the whole year to the 14 million iPads that Apple sold last quarter and you begin to see that Microsoft has a long way to go before the Surface is a serious contender in the tablet market.

Source ZDNET

Nov 23
Windows 8 Shortcuts (2)

start 8Making your way around Windows 8 is sometimes like being placed in a thick fog, wondering which way to turn!

In a previous post I mentioned a few key combinations that can help to get you around Windows 8 as you go between the tiled interface and the traditional desktop.

Here are a few more key combinations that you will no doubt find very useful.

  • From the tiled layout the Windows key and D key will take you to the traditional Windows desktop.
  • Pressing the Windows and M keys minimizes everything that is showing on the traditional desktop.
  • Windows plus E key opens Explorer for quick access to folders.
  • Windows plus Tab key opens a list of currently running programs.
  • Windows plus Print Screen key takes a screenshot and saves it in a Screenshots folder within your Pictures folder.
  • Windows plus Q key opens a global search menu. Type what you’re looking for and where you would like to look.
  • Windows plus R key opens the Run command which is useful for quickly launching apps and other routines using a command prompt.
  • Windows plus X key opens the Quick Access Menu, exposing system functionality such as the Command Prompt, Disk Management, File Explorer, Run, and more. Alternately, you can right-click on the bottom right corner of the screen to spawn the Quick Access Menu.
  • Windows plus I key opens the settings menu, giving you quick access to the Control Panel, Personalization, and your Power button, among other features.

And finally to replace the Start Menu on the traditional desktop view try either Start 8 from Stardock (shown in the above image) or Classic Shell from

Oct 31
Windows 8 Shortcuts

windows 8Windows 8 (not the RT version) love it or hate it –  for those that inherit the tiled start screen as part of a new purchase and need to use applications for their work or gaming pleasure may find that the Start screen and its tiles more of a hindrance than a help.

To get around the new tiled layout and the traditional Desktop layout its a good idea to learn about the new shortcuts available in this new Windows Operating System.

Pressing the Windows and D keys will take you to the traditional Windows desktop, while Windows + B takes you from the new tiled interface to the currently active traditional desktop application. Finally, Windows + M loads the traditional Windows desktop from the start screen, and minimises all applications.

Right now these shortcuts are the only way to get around the newly styled interface but they still don’t give you the flexibility of the Start Button when accessing traditional applications such as Outlook 2010, PhotoShop CS5, iTunes, TweetDeck, an accounts package, CAD and other essential programs.

See a whole lot more Windows 8 shortcuts by checking out my new post – Windows 8 Shortcuts (2) –

Oct 5
Windows 8 Multi-monitor Tips and Tricks

dual monitorsIf you want to get the most out of your Windows 8 installation when you’re at your work desk, or working on your PC at home, having multiple displays is a tremendous productivity aid. Putting your email, social chat, and Web browser on a secondary display while editing documents on the primary one amplifies your ability to get work done.

Although Windows 7 offers multiple display support, Windows 8 takes it to the next level. All you need to do is plug in a second display, then dive into your applications.

However it’s well worth taking a look at specific aspects of Windows 8’s multi-display support.

Customize the Taskbar
Windows 8 now allows you to have individual taskbars on separate monitors. The default is to replicate pinned icons on all display taskbars. Two other options exist, which you access by right-clicking on the taskbar and selecting Properties. If you prefer the Windows 7 method, you can even set up the taskbar so that it shows up only on the primary monitor.

Keyboard Shortcuts
Windows 8 adds a pair of new keyboard shortcuts to manage Windows 8 style apps in multiple displays, as well as supporting the Windows 7 shortcuts used for multiple displays. The Windows (or Win) + arrow keys still snap windows to one side or another. Win + PageDn (or PageUp) swaps full-screen Windows 8 apps to different displays.

Inside Edge Detection
Windows 7 had limited support for edge detection in single-display mode. In the case of a multi-monitor display, edge detection treated the entire display surface as one monitor. So if you wanted to throw a window to the side of the screen to take up exactly half the display, that wouldn’t work if the edge was the “inside” of a two-display setup.

Windows 8 now supports edge detection at the edge of all displays. For example, if you hover over the left edge of the right display (the inside edge), you’ll still see the sidebar thumbnails of running applications. If you hover the icon on the upper right corner of the left display, you’ll see the Charms bar. Just remember to hover the mouse cursor for a second or two at inside edges or corners to activate the effect.

Note that shared corners or inside edge detection areas are only six pixels wide. You really need to be in that small area for edge detection to occur, as well as hovering the cursor for a few seconds.

Sep 28
Running Android apps on Windows 8

Windows 8Some Windows 8 laptops and PCs could end up running more Android apps than ones written for Microsoft’s software.

Gadgets built around chips made by AMD will come optimised to run the Android apps. A collaboration between AMD and software firm Bluestacks lets the devices run the 500,000 apps more usually found on Android phones.

By contrast, Microsoft reportedly only has a few thousand apps written specifically for next months Windows 8 launch.

The Android apps will be available on Windows 8 devices via AMD’s AppZone player. Inside this is code from Bluestacks that acts as a wrapper around the mobile phone programs so they can run on desktops, laptops and tablets.

AMD has made changes to the core code that runs its processors and graphics cards to ensure apps built for the small screens on mobile phones look good and run well on larger displays.

Source BBC Tech

Sep 14
When Microsofts support ends for your Windows PC

windows 8With Windows 8 soon to be launched many people may be wondering what to do about upgrading to this new Operating System or just need to know the dates when support ends for Microsoft’s various Operating Systems.

Being armed with this information may help you to decide whether to stay with your current set up or move up to Windows 8.

Here are the various dates that Microsoft have set in stone

Operating SystemSupport Finally Ends
Windows XP SP38th April 2014
Windows Vista SP211th April 2017
Windows 7 SP114th January 2020

So, if you currently have Windows 7 on your PC you can keep using it, instead of Windows 8, for the next 11 years!

Interestingly, Microsoft says PC Sellers (OEM’s) can sell Windows 7 pre-loaded on their PC’s until 25th October 2014 and boxed copies of Windows 7 will be on sale until at least 25th October 2013.

It seems Microsoft suspect that Windows 7 users will not upgrade to Windows 8 but wait for Windows 9 (or whatever it might be called).

Aug 30
Upgrading to Windows 8 will cost £24.99 in the UK

Windows 8 ProMicrosoft is set to charge UK consumers £24.99 to upgrade to the latest version of its Windows Operating System – Windows 8.

The company announced in July that users would be charged $39.99 to upgrade from any version of Windows to Windows 8 Pro. Yesterday it revealed the UK pricing for a downloaded update will be almost identical, avoiding fears that the firm would ‘rip off’ British consumers, as it has done in the past.

Microsoft is providing a UK English version of Windows 8 Pro, as well as special versions that don’t include Windows Media Player, to comply with the 2004 European Commission ruling.

Microsoft’s download store is registered in Germany, which applies VAT at a rate of 19% – 1% lower than the current UK rate.

The move comes just days after Microsoft revealed it has updated its corporate logo for the first time in 25 years as it prepares for the Windows 8 launch.

Source: Daily Mail Tech News

Aug 17
Faster booting with Windows 8

Windows 8 DesktopMicrosoft will require that new computers bearing the Windows 8 logo must use a new boot solution called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), which will significantly improve the boot process and experience. It replaces the archaic Basic Input Output System (BIOS) that we’ve used for decades, in all the previous versions of Windows.

With UEFI you’ll see a much faster boot time from pressing the power button to being in fully logged into Windows. The likely speed improvement could be around 8 seconds. This boost to log in speed, along with less need for restarts, can help increase productivity in the office and save IT personnel time when applying upgrades or installing software.

The safeguards built into UEFI can also help save the IT department time and resources over the long term. Secure Boot prevents unauthorized operating systems from loading, and Early Launch Anti-Malware (ELAM) protects against boot loader attacks. UEFI will also allow remote diagnostics and repair of computers within the Pre-OS environment. So instead of physically sending a technician to visit a PC experiencing boot issues, it might be possible to repair and restore the machine over a network.

Although many will enjoy the benefits of UEFI, there has been some controversy over the Secure Boot feature that Microsoft is requiring PC makers to turn on by default. At the moment it’s not totally clear, but Secure Boot may have to be manually disabled for those who want to install or dual boot to another OS such as Linux, adding an extra step to the process.

Aug 13
9 fixes in Microsoft’s August Patch Tuesday

microsoft entranceMicrosoft has announced that August’s Patch Tuesday will contain nine security bulletins, with some fixes rectifying vulnerabilities that allow attackers to install malware without permission.

The programs that are affected by the update are Windows, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, SQL Server, Microsoft Server, Microsoft Developer Tools and Microsoft Exchange.

According to Microsoft’s Security Bulletin Advance Notification, five of the patches are rated as “critical”. The bulletin will fix the vulnerabilities in the software that runs the risk of an attack from remote code execution.

The four bulletins that are given the “important” rating by Microsoft affect Windows and Office. Three of these fixes also focus on the remote execution problems, while one covers an elevation of privilege.

PC Advisor

Aug 3
Microsoft drops ‘Metro’ name for Windows 8

Windows 8 DesktopA potential trademark dispute has forced Microsoft to drop the Metro name for the tile-based interface of Windows 8 and Windows Mobile.

Talks with an “important European partner” have brought about the change according to internal memos seen by the tech news site The Verge.

The partner is believed to be the German retail giant Metro AG.

Microsoft is currently working out what to call the interface and said the new name would be announced very soon.

The tiled interface has been called “Metro” ever since Microsoft started showing off its designs for the software. Elements of it have also been used on older products such as the Zune media player.

In documents sent out to developers and media months ago, Microsoft said Metro was the “code name for our design language”. It added that Metro was picked because the name was “modern and clean. It’s fast and in motion”.

Now documents sent out to developers are warning coders to avoid using the word when referring to the distinctive interface.

Souce: BBC Tech News

Jul 26
Recovery Options in Windows 8

Windows 8 Restore OptionsWindows 8 brings two new recovery options (Refresh and Reset) that could help save IT personnel and users’ time when a PC becomes infected or corrupt, or when they’re being readied for disposal or reuse.

Each of these recovery options can be initiated via the Metro-style Settings app within Windows, via the new boot Windows Recovery Environment (RE) menus, or even via booting from a Windows To Go USB drive.

Refresh keeps all the personal data, Metro-style apps, and important settings, and then re-installs Windows. According to Microsoft, this can all happen in less than 10 minutes regardless of how much personal data is backed up. While it doesn’t keep the traditional desktop applications, it saves a list of them in an HTML file (without the license keys, however) that will appear on the desktop.

If you create an image backup of your PC ahead of time, however, Refresh will restore your PC to that image. This would include any desktop applications that were installed at the time of imaging, and your most current personal data, Metro-style apps, and important settings would all be restored.

Reset removes all data and then re-installs Windows so the PC is in the same condition as when it was started the first time. According to Microsoft, this can take anywhere from less than 10 minutes if BitLocker encryption is enabled, to up to 25 minutes if it isn’t enabled.

The Regular option simply erases and formats the drive before reinstalling Windows, while the Thorough option writes random patterns to every sector of the drive to significantly reduce the chances of data being recovered.

Source: PC Advisor

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