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Microsoft’s Windows 8 Plan B(lue): Bring back the Start button, boot to desktop

start button

What if Microsoft relented and granted users who are lukewarm about Windows 8 two of their biggest requests: Allow those who want to boot straight to the desktop, and bring back the Start button with Windows Blue, a.k.a. Windows 8.1?

Though supposedly not part of the original plan for Blue, these two UI options are looking more likely.

Reports from a couple of different forums from this past weekend raised the possibility that Microsoft might be moving toward allowing users to skip booting into the Metro-Style Start menu and instead start their PCs in desktop mode.

Read more about this on ZDNET

Rootkit infection requires Windows reinstall, says Microsoft

IT Solutions – Microsoft is telling Windows users that they’ll have to reinstall the operating system if they get infected with a new rootkit that hides in the machine’s boot sector.

A new variant of a Trojan Microsoft calls “Popureb” digs so deeply into the system that the only way to eradicate it is to return Windows to its out-of-the-box configuration, Chun Feng, an engineer with the Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC), said last week on the group’s blog.

“If your system does get infected with Trojan:Win32/Popureb.E, we advise you to fix the MBR and then use a recovery CD to restore your system to a pre-infected state,” said Feng.

A recovery disc returns Windows to its factory settings.

Malware like Popureb overwrites the hard drive’s master boot record (MBR), the first sector — sector 0 — where code is stored to bootstrap the operating system after the computer’s BIOS does its start-up checks. Because it hides on the MBR, the rootkit is effectively invisible to both the operating system and security software.

According to Feng, Popureb detects write operations aimed at the MBR — operations designed to scrub the MBR or other disk sectors containing attack code — and then swaps out the write operation with a read operation.

Although the operation will seem to succeed, the new data is not actually written to the disk. In other words, the cleaning process will have failed.

Feng provided links to MBR-fixing instructions for XP, Vista and Windows 7

Rootkits are often planted by attackers to hide follow-on malware, such as banking password-stealing Trojans. They’re not a new phenomenon on Windows.

In early 2010, for example, Microsoft contended with a rootkit dubbed “Alureon” that infected Windows XP systems and crippled machines after a Microsoft security update.

At the time, Microsoft’s advice was similar to what Feng is now offering for Popureb.

If you need help and support with virus removal please don’t hesitate to contact us.

IT Solutions Support Team

Vista SP1 Dies in 2 Months

Time is running out for customers still leveraging Windows Vista plus the first Service Pack released by Microsoft.

Windows Vista SP1 has less than a couple of months of life left in it, support-wise. This because, Vista SP1 will reach end of support on July 12, 2011.
The best course of action for users is to make sure to upgrade as soon as possible, or at least start planning for the jump to a more recent release of Windows.

At this point in time customers have two options at their disposal, only one of which does not require them to actually change the operating system, namely moving to the second upgrade released for Vista.

“From that date onward, Microsoft will no longer provide support or free security updates for Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1). In order to stay secure and continue support you must upgrade to Service Pack 2 (SP2),” revealed a member of the Microsoft Small Business team.

In addition to moving to Vista SP2, Windows 7 is also available as an upgrade alternative, and of course, one that’s far superior to its predecessor.

Microsoft is currently hard at work on the next version of the Windows client, but those on Vista SP1 should not expect for the successor of Windows 7 to come out before dumping Vista SP1.

If anyone requires help and support please don’t hesitate to contact us www.it-solutions-site.co.uk

New Windows Phone operating system coming Monday

Microsoft is ready to unveil the next version of its mobile operating system on Monday. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, CEO Steve Ballmer will take the stage to show off the next version of Windows Mobile.

Except this time, the OS will most likely have a new name – something along the lines of “Windows Phone 7.”

The rumored rebranding is no surprise – Microsoft has faced harsh criticism this past year as Windows Mobile lost popularity to Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android OS and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry line, which continued to win over consumers. But there may be more to the rebranding than simply getting away from the “Windows Mobile” name – the next mobile operating system could be completely different.

Reports on Friday suggested Windows Phone 7 – or whatever it’ll be called – will look a lot like the user interface of Microsoft’s Zune HD media player.

A new look may be key in the success of Windows Phone 7. In many ways, the OS being revealed Monday is Microsoft’s last hope in the smartphone market.

Windows Mobile 6, Microsoft’s last big refresh, was released way back in 2007 and Windows Mobile 6.1 came in 2008. Windows Mobile 6.5, largely seen as a holdover until Monday’s announcement, was released in October 2009 to horrible reviews.

Meanwhile, Microsoft lost significant market share in 2009. Though comScore said Windows Mobile was on 18 percent of smartphones by the end of the year, Gartner said not even 8 percent of new smartphones sold during the third quarter were running Microsoft’s OS.

It’s time for something new.

Microsoft’s news conference kicks off at 6 a.m. Pacific on Monday. Tune into The Microsoft Blog then and in the following hours for all the information you can handle.

Microsoft Warns of IE Bug on Windows XP

Internet Explorer continues to be a target of unpatched exploits as Microsoft released yet another security advisory for IE on Wednesday, mostly applying to Windows XP users.

According to the advisory, the software giant is investigating a new publicly reported bug affecting IE versions 5 to 8 on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2. The fix applies to IE browsers that aren’t configured by default to run in “protected mode” or that have that function turned off.

Microsoft’s advisory also applies to IE 5.01 SP4 on Windows 2000 SP4, as well as to IE 6 SP1 on Windows 2000 SP4.

This vulnerability typically doesn’t apply when running IE on Windows Vista or Windows 7 because those operating systems use protected mode by default, according to a Microsoft blog. The blog noted that Microsoft has already issued a “Fix it” automated patch to help individual users enable protected mode on XP systems.

“Windows XP users, or users who have disabled Protected Mode, can help protect themselves by implementing Network Protocol Lockdown,” the blog explains. “We have created a Microsoft Fix It to automate this. The Fix It can be run on individual systems or enterprises can deploy it through their automated systems.”

The bug in question would still require that users be directed to a malicious Web site in order for the exploit to happen. A hacker could gain the same local user rights as the IE user if an attack is carried out successfully. Limiting user rights on the system thus can be a helpful way to lessen an attack’s impact.

Redmond may release a patch for this bug in its monthly security update, coming next Tuesday, or issue an out-of-band patch. Microsoft already issued an out-of-band fix for IE in January to address a remote code execution bug that led to attacks on Google and other companies.

Tuesday’s Patch Will Be a Windows Wash

Microsoft today signaled that a hefty batch of security fixes will arrive on Tuesday.

Microsoft’s has tended to break its own records of late. In the past six months, Patch Tuesdays have seemed more like “Fat Tuesdays,” at least in terms of the volume of fixes contained in the monthly patch. February’s patch looks to be no different. According to Microsoft’s advance notice, it will contain 13 fixes — five “critical,” seven “important” and one “moderate” fix.

“This amount of bulletins make this the busiest February we’ve seen from Microsoft, with only four [seen in February of] last year and an average of 11 to 12 [bulletins seen] in the three years prior,” said Sheldon Malm, senior director of security strategy at Rapid7.

“All eyes will be on Internet Explorer, given last month’s out-of-band update and the current zero day [bug] affecting older versions and instances where Protected Mode is disabled.”

Critical Items
The five critical security fixes will be targeted toward most Windows operating systems, according to Microsoft’s advance notice. Every fix will be associated with remote code execution (RCE) security implications across several as-yet-unspecified Windows components. The most pressing Windows component so far this year from a security perspective has been Internet Explorer, expert say.

While the critical fixes apply across most Windows OSes, there will be a couple of exceptions. Critical patch No. 2 will not affect Vista, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008. Critical patch No. 4 only touches on Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Important Items
The seven important items will be a mixed bag of RCE, elevation-of-privilege and denial-of-service exploit patches affecting both Windows components and Microsoft Office applications. Every supported Windows OS is affected in some form or another.

For the Office fixes, only Office apps sitting on Office XP, Office 2003 and Office 2004 for Mac will be affected.

Moderate Item
The lone moderate fix will only touch on the Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems as a patch for an RCE exploit.

It will be a busy day next Tuesday if the advance notice is any indication. Security experts anticipate no less than 20 vulnerabilities targeted in the February patch. All 13 security items may require a system restart.

“None of the operating systems escaped this month’s updates. Even the latest versions of Windows have been hit hard this month, with six updates for Vista, eight for Server 2008, and five for Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7,” Malm said in reference to the advance bulletin. “I won’t be surprised if Microsoft is playing catch-up on some lingering vulnerabilities from last year.”

If any IT administrators still have time for nonsecurity updates, they can check out this Knowledge Basearticle. It describes updates arriving via Windows Update, Microsoft Update and Windows Server Update Service.

Boost your performance with ReadyBoost

ReadyBoost helps your computer by giving it more high-speed memory.  If your computer is running low on RAM then it has to kick a lot of applications out of high-speed physical memory to the paging file on your hard drive.  This usually results in a big hit in performance and increased activity on your hard drive. ReadyBoost helps this situation by giving Windows an alternative to having to stick data into the slow paging file on your hard drive. Instead, ReadyBoost uses a USB storage device that is faster than a hard disk. This results in a performance boost because Windows will have a high speed alternative than using the slow paging file on your hard drive.

In order for ReadyBoost to work, it requires a USB storage device that meets minimum performance and space requirements:

  • The device must be at least 64 MB
  • The device must be USB 2.0
  • It has to be able to read at 3.5 MB/s
  • It has to be able to write at 2.5 MB/s

If you are unsure if your USB storage device meets these requirements, just give it a try anyways. To get started using ReadyBoost, follow these steps:

  1. Plug in USB storage device.
  2. Go to Computer and right click on the removable storage device and select Properties.
  3. If your device is compatible, you will see a ReadyBoost tab. Click on that.
  4. Select Use this device and select the amount of space on it you want to dedicate for the ReadyBoost system file.
  5. Click OK and you are finished.