Pic of the day #139

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Windows XP SP3 RC

xp-sp3.jpgWindows XP Service Pack 3 Release Candidate build is live. Microsoft is hammering away at the third and final service pack for Windows XP, and is making consistent headway in the matter. Truth be told, since the 2004 availability of XP SP2, and after the numerous delays of SP3 across 2006 and 2007, Service Pack 3 is long overdue. But at the same time, the refresh is getting closer and closer at a fast pace. Microsoft has in fact synchronized the development milestones of Windows Server 2008, formerly codenamed Longhorn, Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows XP SP3.

The third service pack for XP was initially introduced as a BETA preview version concomitantly with Windows Vista SP1 pre-BETA in mid July 2007. Ever since that point, Vista SP1 and XP SP3 have been joined at the hip. In this regard, Vista SP1 moved into BETA stage at the end of September 2007, with XP SP3 Beta following closely behind in early October. Last week, Microsoft opened up the test driving process of Vista SP1 with a preview of the first Release Candidate to the service pack shipping to approximately 15,000 testers.

At the same time, the company indicated that a fresh build of Windows XP SP3 was not that far behind. Well, Microsoft in fact managed to provide official confirmation that a Release Candidate of Windows XP SP3 has also been made available to testers. According to the Redmond company, the same 15,000 testers that have been given access to Vista SP1 RC are also able to access XP SP3 RC.

At the same time, Microsoft promised that it will broaden the beta testing of XP SP3 in the future but failed to provide the actual date when it plans to do so. Unlike the latest testing build of Windows Vista SP1, the latest version of XP SP3 is not a preview, but the actual Release Candidate. The final version of XP SP3 is planned for the first half of 2008.

Source: PCTipsBox

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Pic of the day #138

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I always thought coolers were important…

I was right

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New Trojan Spreads Quickly

trojan_horse.pngA new Trojan horse that started to spread early Sunday via Microsoft Corp.’s instant messaging client has already infected about 11,000 PCs, a security company said today. The as-yet-unnamed Trojan horse began hitting systems about 7 a.m. EST on Sunday, according to Roei Lichtman, the director of product management at Aladdin Knowledge Systems Ltd. “We still haven’t found what it’s meant to do, but at the moment, it’s creating an army [of bots],” he said. “Eventually, of course, the operator will send commands to do something.”

Users of Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger instant messaging program receive a message that includes spoofed Zip files, such as one named “pics” that is actually a double-extension executable in the format “filenamejpg.exe” or a file labeled “images” that in reality is a .pif executable.

“This is really growing rapidly,” said Lichtman. Six hours after it first found the Trojan horse, Aladdin put the total number of assembled bots at about 500; three hours later, that had climbed to several thousand. By late today, the botnet had been built out to 12,000 machines.

As with other malware spread through instant messaging software, the messages bearing malicious code appear to come from people on the recipient’s IM contact list.

But while its speed in spreading is impressive, Lichtman pointed to another characteristic of the Trojan horse: it can also propagate via virtual network computing (VNC) clients, the generic term for remote control programs used to access one computer’s files and desktop from another.

Once the Trojan horse has installed itself on a PC through IM, it can sniff out a VNC client, then use it to infect a remotely controlled system, perhaps one inside a corporation’s firewall. “You increase your reach to these PCs as well, as if you infected them,” Lichtman said, momentarily taking the hacker’s point of view. To his knowledge, the Trojan’s use of a VNC vector was a first.

Aladdin will continue to monitor the bot’s spread by tapping into the Internet Relay Chat channel being used to command and control the compromised PCs, said Lichtman.

IM-based threats, while still relatively rare compared with those that spread via e-mail or from malicious Web sites, aren’t unknown. Neither are vulnerabilities within IM software. In September, for example, Microsoft forced users of its aged MSN Messenger software to upgrade to Windows Live Messenger 8.1 to stymie a vulnerability in the older program.

Source: Computerworld

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Pic of the day #137

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Lassie? Bark if you can you hear me

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Firefox 3 BETA 1 Available

logo_ff.pngFirefox 3 Beta 1 is now available for download. This is the ninth developer milestone focused on testing the core functionality provided by many new features and changes to the platform scheduled for Firefox 3. Ongoing planning for Firefox 3 can be followed at the Firefox 3 Planning Center, as well as in mozilla.dev.planning and on irc.mozilla.org in #granparadiso.

New features and changes in this milestone that require feedback include:

  • Improved security features such as: better presentation of website identity and security, malware protection, stricter SSL error pages, anti-virus integration in the download manager, and version checking for insecure plugins.
  • Improved ease of use through: better password management, easier add-on installation, new download manager with resumable downloading, full page zoom, animated tab strip, and better integration with Windows Vista and Mac OS X.
  • Richer personalization through: one-click bookmarking, smart search bookmark folders, direct typing in location bar searches your history and bookmarks for URLs and page titles, ability to register web applications as protocol handlers, and better customization of download actions for file types.
  • Improved platform features such as: new graphics and font rendering architecture, major changes to the HTML rendering engine to provide better CSS, float-, and table layout support, native web page form controls, colour profile management, and offline application support.
  • Performance improvements such as: better data reliability for user profiles, architectural improvements to speed up page rendering, over 300 memory leak fixes, and a new XPCOM cycle collector to reduce entire classes of leaks.

(You can find out more about all of these features in the “What’s New” section of the release notes.)

Testers can download Firefox 3 Beta 1 builds for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux in over 20 different languages. Please be sure to read the full release notes before using this preview release. Developers should look at the Firefox 3 for Developers article on the Mozilla Developer Center.

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Pic of the day #136

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Vista vs. XP

vista-vs-xp.pngMicrosoft Corp.’s biggest worry over Windows Vista shouldn’t be rival operating systems from Apple Inc. or Red Hat Inc., but remains competition from its own Windows XP, an analyst said today.“The big story isn’t that 32% of the companies we surveyed said that they would start Vista deployments by the end of next year,” said Benjamin Gray, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “It’s that companies have been hugely successful in standardizing on Windows XP.”

According to a survey of nearly 600 U.S. and European companies that have more than 1,000 employees, 84% of all their PCs now run Windows XP, up from 67% the year before. While XP may have peaked, Gray warned not to bet against the 6-year-old operating system. “There are plenty of companies looking forward to XP SP3,” he said. That next hot-fix and patch rollup is to ship sometime in the first quarter of 2008, Microsoft has said, and it will reportedly be XP’s last service pack.

“Vista’s biggest competition isn’t Apple or Novell or Red Hat; it’s Microsoft itself, it’s XP,” Gray said. So enamored of XP are businesses that Microsoft may feel obligated to extend the operating system’s mainstream support past its current April 2009 expiration date. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” Gray said, although it might require some additional pressure on the company by its largest customers.

Still, XP will eventually get the boot in favor of Vista, Gray said. “Vista isn’t a matter of if, but of when and how,” he noted.

Nearly a third of the polled businesses — 32% to be exact — said they would begin deploying Vista by the end of 2008, while another 17% said they would start in 2009 or 2010. But more than half of all companies remain skittish about Vista, according to Forrester’s data. A year after Microsoft released Vista to duplicators, 38% of companies claimed they had no plans at this stage to deploy the operating system. Another 14% said they just didn’t know.

Gray also echoed other analysts who last week said Vista plans had been significantly scaled back by most companies. “That’s absolutely the case. In May 2006, 40% of the companies we surveyed said they planned on deploying Vista within the first year of its public life,” Gray said. “Forty percent were planning on deploying, but by the end of 2007, only 7% will have started. Enterprises are absolutely pulling back from their very, very aggressive deployment plans.”

He attributed the lowered expectations to a lack of detailed information about Vista in 2006; too-high prices for PCs with 2GB of memory, which is essentially the minimum needed for Vista, according to company managers; and a larger-than-expected number of incompatible applications.

“Application incompatibility is a big, big headache,” Gray said, citing reports from companies preparing for a migration to Vista. Those firms said applications incompatible with Vista made up between 10% and 40% of their software portfolios. “That’s causing a lot of XP shops to take a wait-and-see approach to Vista.”

But Gray said he was convinced Microsoft will win out in the end, if only because it has virtually no competitor worth the name in the enterprise market. “Linux and Mac have 1% or 2%, and in some cases, such as Europe and the largest corporations, they don’t even register,” he said. “Microsoft owns this space, and I don’t see that changing.”

Source: Computerworld

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Pic of the day #135

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Windows Live OneCare 2.0

wloc.png The exact ship date of OneCare 2.0 is unclear, with one online retailer saying it will be offered early next week and others saying it will arrive earlier. Microsoft Corp. is about to release a major update to its Windows Live OneCare security suite, according to online retailers, that have already begun taking orders for the software.Amazon.com has already begun accepting orders for the product, which it said will ship tomorrow.Microsoft has been beta-testing OneCare 2.0 since July, billing it as a better way for users to manage their home computing environments and as “a foundation to better address the needs of small businesses,” according to a company blog posting.

The software, which can be run on as many as three PCs, has new tools for backing up, monitoring and managing home networks. It also has new features to speed up the performance of systems that use the software. Its suggested retail price is $49.95, but Amazon is offering it for $42.99. OneCare is sold on a subscription basis, so these prices would cover a one-year subscription.

Since it was introduced last year, OneCare hasn’t been a runaway hit.

Just last week the software came under fire for changing users’ automatic update settings without proper notification, and earlier this year the software ranked last in a test of 15 antivirus products by AV-Comparatives, an Austrian antivirus testing project.

But Microsoft has improved its malware detection rate, according to Vinny Gullotto, general manager of the company’s Malware Protection Center.

Between September 2006 and September this year, Microsoft has improved its malware detection rate by about 20 points, Gullotto said. Now, Microsoft’s detection rate is usually between 91% to 95%, depending on the testing plan, he said.

Source: Computerworld

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