Hyperbole, Embellishment, and Systems Administration Blog

May 20, 2013

Where are the Touchscreen Windows “Retina” Laptops?

Retina displays are a bit like well made furniture. You don’t necessarily notice the difference when you’re sitting in front of one, but if you use one for a while and return to a non-retina screen, you wonder if you can unsee the pixels....More
May 6, 2013

Will you be using your current computer in 2020? 1

Computers these days are built to last. Or perhaps they’ve become a lot more reliable. Or perhaps they are so powerful that the demands of most operating systems and applications aren’t going to overwhelm them any time soon....More
Apr 29, 2013

Bring Your Own Security

A substantial number of people don't keep the anti-malware on their personal computers up to date. What does this mean for BYOD?...More
Apr 21, 2013

So why not Windows RT Enterprise Edition? 2

It has Windows PowerShell, local group policies, WDS and WSUS support - but can't join a domain. Why isn't there an Enterprise edition of Windows RT?...More
Apr 16, 2013

Is the Start button like the QWERTY keyboard? 1

Does UI inertia like the type that keeps the QWERTY format around mean that the Start button may return?...More
Mar 27, 2013

All about Secure Boot

You may have heard this week that Hispalinux, a Spanish Linux advocacy group is trying to get the EU to bring an anti-trust action against Microsoft on secure boot. What is it and why do they object?...More
Mar 20, 2013

Is free anti-malware software sustainable 1

Is free anti-malware software sustainable...More
Jan 30, 2013

UPnP vulnerability checker available

Rapid7, best known in the security community for Metasploit  (http://www.metasploit.com) and which recently published research indicating that an estimated 40-50 million network enabled devices are at risk due to vulnerabilities in the UPnP protocol. UPnP allows you to simplify the process of connecting to and configuring network connected devices. Rapid7 has published a utility that you can use to scan for UPnP vulnerabilities on your network. You can download the utility from the following location: http://www.rapid7.com/resources/free-security-software-downloads/universal-plug-and-play-jan-2013.jsp Given the vulnerabilities involved and the difficulty in automatically updating the software on the types of devices that would be vulnerable, you should strongly consider disabling UPnP functionality on any devices that you detect as vulnerable. Disabling UPnP won’t stop you from being able to use the device for its intended function, but it will require you to perform some configuration tasks that you performed automatically using a more involved manual process....More
Jan 30, 2013

Bounties for Pwn2Own 2013

The Pwn2Own hacking competition, which usually makes headlines in early March on the subject of which browser and operating system is first to fall" to the hackers has upped its price pool to more than half a million dollars. The hacking competition is held at CanSecWest in Vancouver between the 6th and 8th of March. The bounties provide an interesting, if unreliable, metric on the difficulty of generating specific exploits. The higher the bounty, the more difficult the exploit. The competition works by providing contestants with a fully patched computer running Windows 7, Windows 8, or OSX Mountain Lion running in their default configuration. Any exploits used must be currently unknown to the vendor. In the cases where an application is sandboxed from the operating system, the exploit must be able to escape the the sandbox.  The bounties offered in US dollars are as follows: •    $100,000. Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 •    $100,000. Google Chrome on Windows 7 (Whatever number is the latest version in March?) •    $75,000. Internet Explorer 9 on Windows 7. •    $70,000. Adobe Reader XI plugin on IE 9 on Windows 7. •    $70,000. Adobe Flash plugin on IE 9 on Windows 7. •    $65,000. Apple Safari on OSX Mountain Lion. •    $60,000. Mozilla Firefox on Windows 7. •    $20,000. Oracle Java The interesting take home fro...More
Jan 4, 2013

Of Course Computer Sales Have Slowed. Do You Need a New One?

There’s been many articles talking about the death of the PC and the rise of tablets. Some of these articles point to PC sales data stats, discussing the fact that while people seem to be going out and buying iPads and Android tablets and so on, they aren’t going out and buying the old traditional PC. My question is – why the hell would they? Now – back in the 90’s I upgraded to a new computer every year. But back then every 18 months you felt Moore’s Law kicking you. If you were a gamer, you had to keep upgrading your CPU, Graphics Card, RAM and often motherboard because if you didn’t, the latest game ran like a PowerPoint slide show. But something has happened in the last few years. The gaming rig I purchased 2 years ago seems to run cutting edge games – for example MechWarrior Online (http://www.mwomercs.com) in full screen 2560x1600 without dropping as much as a frame. Computers have gone from having a service lifespan where 3 years seemed ancient to one where 5 years looks more like middle age. The same applies to laptops. Sure, the batteries give up after a couple of years, but there are a large number of sites around that will ship you cheap replacements. My wife’s laptop (an ASUS Lamborghini VX2) has had it’s battery replaced runs Windows 8 fine and we got it 5 years ago. Unless something spectacular goes wrong with it, we’ll probably be using it a couple of years from now. So is it that we’ve reached a “Post PC” era – or is it that PCs have reached a level of maturity where their lifespan is more similar to that of the family pet than it is a mayfly. PCs aren’t selling fast because after a few years they still manage to do the job you purchased them for as well as they did the day you unboxed them. This will naturally delay the adoption of new operating systems – as most people only get a new OS when they get a new PC (the exception to that is Apple, who with their method of incremental OS upgrades, have their users neatly treadmilling to the next ver...More
Jan 3, 2013

Why Microsoft Should Backport the Windows RunTime Environment to Windows 7

Given Microsoft’s goal of increasing the number of quality apps in the Windows Store, perhaps it should backport the Windows RunTime environment to Windows 7....More
Dec 12, 2012

Windows Phone. Time for some Killer Apps. And by Killer Apps I mean great games.

There’s been a lot of noise about Android’s skyrocketing market share recently. I think that people might be reading a little too much “Android Market share = a lifelong bond between consumers and the Android OS”. I recently helped out some family and friends with their Android phones and most of them hadn’t gotten beyond “making phone calls and SMS” (several weren’t even aware you could put a facebook on them (though given the quality of the Android Facebook app …)). Unlike Eric Schmidt, who seems to be willing to comment on Windows 8 and Windows RT without having actually used it, I decided earlier in the year that if I was going to talk about Android, I better have an Android device to talk about. So I got myself the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity. Which, if you were going to compare Android devices to cars, is up towards the Maserati end of the scale as opposed to the Corolla end. With that in mind, let me detour. I’m an avid gamer on iPad and because of that I’ve developed certain expectations about mobile games. While there is a lot of crap published in the stores, if you’re willing to fork over the bucks, you can get a premium gaming experience. Some of my favorite iOS games include Civilization Revolution (A version of the console game) Settlers (great adaption of Settlers II for PC and other devices) Final Fantasy Tactics War of the Lions (great adaption of the Playstation game) Orion (It’s like Master of Orion on iPad) Air Supremacy (good combat flight simulator) MechWarrior (Mechs Mechs Mechs) Balder’s Gate (Doesn’t need an introduction) Ticket To Ride (Fantasy Flight Games adaption) Elder Sign (Fantasy Flight Games adaption) Dungeon II HD. (Hack and Slash Diablo type game) WarpGate HD (Sort of like an isometric version of the space fighting/trade game Elite) That’s not all of them – but these are the ones that I know I can blow a few hours on and have some fun. What really surprised me when I fired...More
Nov 20, 2012

Functionality trumps ideology.

German town throws up hands at Open Office, decides to go back to Microsoft Office. A recent article in The Register -  - reports on the decision of the local council to abandon their attempted deployment of Open Office  and return to Microsoft Office. The council originally mandated the use of Open Office for political rather than pragmatic reasons. Open Source advocates pushed hard for the adoption of the software suite not because it was the best solution for the job, but because it ticked specific ideological checkboxes. A report in IT World suggests that the deployment was a train wreck. Critical functionality wasn’t available and users ended up having to run Office 2000 in parallel with Open Office to perform common daily tasks. Rather than take the “open source” approach of fixing what users found wrong with the product – the council’s deployment hasn’t been a flash in the pan, it has been ongoing for the last 5 years – advocates appeared to be more interested in scoring political points than they are in dealing with the problems that users were encountering. At one point the choice of the Freiburg council to deploy Open Office was cheered at open source friendly news sites like Slashdot. Given that this deployment was a sort of “poster child” for the utilization of the open source office solution, you’d think that more people in the open source community would have gotten on board to ensure that it ended up working flawlessly. As it stands, when future large organizations consider using open source alternatives to Microsoft Office, the Freiburg case study will provide an additional reason not to make the jump. Trying to regulate a specific software solution is never going to work as well as simply choosing what works best for an organization. Rather than create a product that is in most ways better than Microsoft’s offering, some groups have instead decided to become politicians and have regulated their favored product into use. In the long run...More
Nov 20, 2012

Tsunami of updated products

Even for IT Pros who are really great at absorbing new information, the last few weeks has felt less like a stream of new stuff and more like a tsunami. In the last months or so on the IT Pro side of the fence, Microsoft has released Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Server 2012, Exchange Server 2013, SharePoint Server 2013, Lync 2013 as well as new revision of the Office suite. Keeping track is challenging and I’ve probably missed something else that’s important – and it’s my job to kinda keep this stuff in my head. That’s how many products have been released. In the past decade there has usually been a bit of a break between the release of major products. This break has been useful because it allows IT Pros that might work with these products a chance to “skill up”. Many were able to get up to speed on Windows Server 2008 before having to deal with other products used in their environment like SharePoint and Exchange 2010. Although in large organizations people wear fewer hats, in small to medium sized organizations, IT Pros are responsible for multiple server products. One person might manage AD, Exchange, SharePoint and SQL. While Microsoft evangelists and product teams are very specialized on their own product, most IT pros have to be knowledgeable about multiple products. Most (not all) organizations would rather employ two people that know about AD, Exchange, SharePoint and SQL than four people, each of which is knowledgeable across a single product. I’ve been talking to a few IT Pros over the last few weeks and many of them are simply feeling “overwhelmed” by the amount of new stuff that they have to learn. They have time in their schedules to get up to speed with one product every few months, but, other than taking sabbatical, don’t feel that they have the time to get up to speed with all the new products just released. I’m not sure how this will play out, but a few IT Pros I know have already discussed simply skipping over the release of some products b...More
Nov 1, 2012

My ASUS Vivo Tab replaced my Ultrabook 1

The Surface still isn’t out in Australia, which is why I got myself an ASUS Vivo Tab RT instead. I haven’t used a Surface – which is different from the ASUS. The Asus has 2 USB ports (one through an adapter) and a detachable keyboard that also functions as a battery. This is perhaps why I’ve come to a different conclusion than Paul Thurrott - http://www.windowsitpro.com/article/surface-tablet/surface-windows-rt-pc-replacement-144692. He’s said that Surface isn’t a PC replacement. I think it makes a fine ultrabook replacement. I use different laptops for different things. I have a beast with a lot of RAM that I use to run virtual machines at conferences. My Windows RT device doesn’t and can’t replace that. But I’m also aware that my useage profile in that case is way out of the norm. Very few people run virtual machines on their laptop (or even desktop computers). I also have a much smaller Sony VAIO ultrabook that I cart around. I connect it to projectors to run slides. Use it as a backup computer to run videos of demos in case my demo laptop fails. I use it to write books and articles in Word and to put together PowerPoint presentations. I used a Macbook Air with Bootcamp prior to that for the same sort of thing. A companion computer to the 17 inch ASUS monster I usually travel with. After a week or so’s use, the ASUS Vivo Tab has replaced these smaller laptops when I go out the door. Windows RT is far more than an iPad replacement. In the last week I have been able to do the following things with it. Connect to the printer on my home network and printed documents including airline tickets and my son’s homework. Connected to my scanner and scanned documents Used a micro-hdmi cable to connect it to a 27 inch 1920x1080 monitor. I also connected a keyboard, mouse, and USB hub and found that it functions okay as a desktop in that configuration. Used a micro-hdmi to VGA cable to present PowerPoint slides Used MS Press’s complex Word templates to writ...More
Oct 28, 2012

Is Touch inevitable for Mac OSX? 1

Microsoft has gone “all in” with touch on Windows 8. Part of the reason for the radical redesign of the interface in Windows 8 / Windows RT was to make the “touch unfriendly” Windows 95 through Windows 7 (designed for a mouse and keyboard) so that it worked better with mouse / keyboard and touch. You could use Windows 7 with your finger, but it wasn’t as seamless as using navigating around with a mouse. Once you use touch, especially with a laptop, you miss it when it isn’t present on other devices. So what’s Apple going to do? Are they going to ignore being able to touch the screen as an interface option for OSX on Macbook Air and Macbook Pro? My guess is that they won’t and that we’ll see a touch Retina Macbook Pro sometime in the next 18 months. There isn’t many good reasons not to move to mouse/keyboard/touch on laptop computers – though I’m sure that we’ll hear arguments from Mac Fans about how “touchscreens on laptops are sub optimal” – sort of like the same arguments about how PPC was a better architecture than i386 – until OSX went i386 and everything i386 was now cool....More
Oct 28, 2012

Windows RT: Local Group Policy, MMC, and PowerShell

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting with Windows RT – possibly something like Windows Phone with a cut down desktop mode. I found the messaging a bit confusing. Lots of talk about what it wouldn’t do, not about the similarities it had to the Windows 8 I was familiar with. In reality Windows RT seems more Windows 8 “Home edition” (I know there is no home edition, what I mean is a full operating system that can’t join a domain) than Windows Phone on steroids. Other than not being able to download and run applications from the Internet (I’ve yet to find a way to play mkv files and I’m guessing that VLC won’t ever be published in the App Store) – the operating system feels like everyday Windows 8. I connected to my network printer in about 15 seconds. I remote desktop across to other computers. As you can see by the pics below, I can run the local group policy editor and PowerShell. If you can run gpedit.msc and add a whole lot of snap-ins to a custom Microsoft Management Console – you’re definitely not in a “completely stripped down” version of an OS. Finally – if you’re running RT, remember to check for Optional Updates. This allows you to go and convert to the final version of Office 2013, not the preview....More
Oct 25, 2012

Windows RT has PowerShell and Command Prompts and feels like Windows 8 1

I was a little concerned that Windows RT would be to Windows 8 what iOS is to OSX. After using my new ASUS Vivo Tab RT (simply because the Microsoft Surface doesn’t turn up in Australia for a couple of weeks) for a couple of hours – it’s fair to say that using Windows RT feels pretty identical to running Windows 8. I was even able to fire up PowerShell and a Command Prompt. I’m sure that the differences will be more visible once I’ve used it longer, but at the moment it really feels like Windows 8 – just running on an iPad form factor device....More
Oct 18, 2012

Anyone buying now knows the difference with Windows RT 3

There’s been a bit of commentary in the last few days about Microsoft’s messaging with respect to the difference between Windows RT and Windows 8. The concern seems to be that Mum, Dad, Grandma, or the family cat will run out and buy a Surface on release day and then hassle you asking why a legacy application like TaxaBlaster2005 doesn’t run on it. In reality, anyone who has pre-ordered a Surface or likely gets an RT device this side of the holiday season knows which Tram they are getting on and isn’t going to accidentally end up in Bundoora. While some journos might have rung up a couple of Microsoft Stores and chatted to some sales droids that weren’t on message (say what you want about the Apple Stores, the sales droids there are unlikely to run off into the Dune sea babbling on about some mission), it’s pretty reasonable to assume that anyone wandering into a Microsoft store in the next few weeks to drop some cash for this kit knows what they are getting themselves into. They will know what RT does. What it doesn’t do. And they’ll know why they want it. Today’s consumer isn’t the technical illiterate of years past. There are people driving cars who weren’t born when Windows 95 was released. Today’s first adopters are smart people who aren’t dropping a few hundred bucks on a device they’ve never seen or haven’t researched. I bet if you polled most people who walked out of a Microsoft Store with a Surface over the next few weeks, they’d be able to tell you a fair amount about the device they purchased because they would have done the legwork before they splashed out and purchased the thing. By the time the general public becomes interested in Windows RT devices, which probably won’t be next week or even next month, the droids at the Microsoft Store and other retail outlets will know how to answer questions about the devices. Microsoft doesn’t need to put up a special website saying “You Really Need To Know The Following About Windows RT” because the informatio...More
Oct 17, 2012

Tablets with attachable keyboards: The "Future of Laptops"

Here’s two bold predictions for you. Prediction 1: In 5 year’s time, the majority of new laptop computers will actually be tablets with attachable keyboards. Prediction 2: In 5 year’s time, the majority of new laptop computers will have touchscreen displays As Scott Adams once said – the thing about predictions is that when the time limit expires, people have either forgotten them entirely or you were right all along and you are being lauded as a visionary. These predictions aren’t that bold. If you look at Microsoft’s Surface, it seems that this might be what they are thinking as well. Perhaps Surface is a signpost product. A “hey guys, the future is over here” sign post to the current crop of laptop vendors who seemed to be at a loss as to a sense of direction beyond “a few minutes longer battery life, a few tenths of a millimeter thinner, a couple of more dots per inch”. A “see this design – make more stuff like this or wind up as relevant to future office environments as the typewriter”. I’ve been thinking about this a while. I recently got myself an ASUS Transformer Infinity. Functionally it’s an Android Ultrabook with a detachable touch screen/tablet. All the components are in the tablet and the keyboard functions as an extra battery. I love the form factor of this device, and it’s 1920x1200 touch screen. It’s a wonderful device let down by an operating system that’s a bit rubbish. I could use it to work if it had applications and an operating system that allowed me to do that. Unfortunately Android apps are designed with phones in mind rather than laptop computers in mind and very few of them successfully make the transition. It may be easier to scale down a desktop operating system to work on tablets than it is to scale a phone operating system up to work on desktops. I also have an iPad 3. It’s a great device for consuming content. It’s not so great when it comes to creating it. Onscreen keyboards are fantastic for twitter updates and short email me...More
What's Hyperbole, Embellishment, and Systems Administration Blog?

IT pro Orin Thomas provides true tales, snafus, news, and urban legends for Microsoft Windows system administrators.


Orin Thomas

Orin Thomas is a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and a Windows Security MVP. He has authored or coauthored more than a dozen books for Microsoft Press, and he writes the Hyperbole,...
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