Not a whole lot is being planned for this month's Patch Tuesday, just a couple of relatively low-key updates to Windows and Office, Microsoft says. According to at least one security researcher, this is on par with Microsoft's modus operandi.
"It's the predictable off month for Microsoft," said Andrew Storms, the director of security operations with nCircle Security. "That's all within the predictable pattern they've created."
Storms says Microsoft frequently alternates large and small sized updates, and since the software maker issued some 11 security updates in April to fix 25 flaws, it's no surprise that this month is much less ambitious.
The single security fix for this Tuesday is considered "critical" for Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Server 2003, and Server 2008, and "important" for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2.
"Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 customers will be offered the Windows-related update but they are not vulnerable in their default configurations," said Jerry Bryant, a security program manager, in an entry on the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) blog.
Office buildings in the United States are woefully behind the times and have failed to keep pace with the revolution in automation that pervades modern life, according to a new survey of American office workers by IBM.
"Urban environments are experiencing growth at a rate where better efficiency at the system level is key," said Rich Lechner, vice president, Energy and Environment for IBM. "Yet, even as automobiles, transportation systems, electrical grids and other modern systems are achieving greater efficiency, many office buildings remain rooted in the past. Bridging this 'Intelligence Gap' can create huge savings in energy and maintenance costs and improve a company's bottom line, as well as create a healthier, more productive workforce."
Some of the numbers are pretty startling. For example, the cumulative time office workers spent stuck in an elevator in the past year totaled 33 years across the 16 cities in which the survey was given. The time spent waiting for an elevator was even worse, totaling 92 years, while 25 percent of respondents said that the elevators in their office buildings are poorly coordinated.
Only 33 percent of the 6,486 office workers surveyed rated their office buildings "somewhat high," "very high," or "extremely high" in terms of environmental responsibility, while 75 percent said they would be more likely to conserve resources at work if they were rewarded for their efforts.
It's hard to deny the power of Google Docs, especially if you don't have the cash (or the wherewithal) to shell out for Microsoft Office. Sure, you could grab OpenOffice.org, but you would trade away the ability to edit your documents from any Internet-equipped location-one of Google Doc's important, Cloud-based features... as well as its ability to allow multiple users to simultaneously edit a document. You just can't get this kind of stuff in an offline word processor!
Of course, that's not to say that you can't use Google Docs offline. Nor are applications like Microsoft Word completely removed from the Internet-there's Microsoft Office Live for that, if you're so inclined.
Anyway, the point of this Freeware Files is not to confuse you in feature-lists or semantics. I'm here to show you just how easy it is to set up your system to use both offline and online word processing tools. Provided you're ready to jump into the wide world of Google Docs, all of the freeware and open-source applications listed below will do much to help integrate online editing and storage into your traditional offline type-type-typing.
Somewhere, someone out there is saying "Told you so!" The reason? Oracle has begun charging $90 per user on a plug-in for Microsoft Office that Sun Microsystems used to give away for free.
The tool makes it so Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users can read, edit, and save documents in the ODF (Open Document Format), the same one used by OpenOffice. Oracle's only selling the plug-in in quantities of 100 or more, which works out to $9,000 per order, at least for the perpetual license. Oracle also offers 1-5 year licenses ranging in price from $18 to $63 per user, which are also only available in quantities of 100 or more.
If that weren't enough of a 'gotcha,' customers who wish to receive upgrades in the future must also purchase a support contract.
In a blog post on Friday, Microsoft announced it has reached the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) milestone for the next version of Office, which includes Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010, and Project 2010.
"RTM is the final engineering milestone of a product release and our engineering team has poured their heart and soul into reaching this milestone," said Takeshi Numoto, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Office. "It is also an appropriate time to re-emphasize our sincere gratitude to the more than 5,000 organizations and partners who have worked with us on rapid deployment and testing of the products."
Numoto went on to say that over 7.5 million people have downloaded the beta version since it went public in November 2009, which is more than 3 times the number of 2007 beta downloads.
Office 2010 will land in retail stores in June, though U.S. customers can already place preorders through the Microsoft Store. Pricing has been set to $150 for Home and Student, $280 for Home and Business, and $500 for Professional.
With applications becoming increasingly vital to a mobile platform's success, it makes perfect sense to lure developers to your platform early in its development cycle. It is something Microsoft is trying to accomplish using the Windows Phone 7 Series emulator, which was released earlier this week at its Mix10 event.
The emulator presents a fantastic opportunity to developers looking to learn more about developing apps for the upcoming platform. There is one caveat, though: The emulator only provides limited access to the mobile operating system's features. With hackers not shy to take apart expensive gadgets to get past any exasperating limits, it was always going to be a matter of time before an ingenious developer unfettered this free emulator.
A developer named Don Ardelean announced today that he has successfully “unlocked the ROM image in the emulator CTP.” The task only snatched 6 hours from his life. Ardelean was quick to publish an unlocked version of the emulator, which he later pulled down in as much haste. “I have decided to take down the link because Microsoft could get upset and I don't really want that (if someone at Microsoft will tell me that it doesn't bother them I will put it back),” he wrote on his blog. Besides unlocking all features demoed by Microsoft, Ardelean's hard work also yielded the first glimpse of the Office Apps for Windows Phone 7 Series.
It hasn’t been a good week for Microsoft’s updates to Office. Today, Microsoft came clean on some problems with a recently released seven-patch update for Excel. Apparently, users are seeing Chinese where they’d normally expect to see English. This comes on top of an early faux pas in an update for Office 2007 that caused it to crash under certain circumstances.
Says Microsoft about the most recent snafu: “We have received reports from some of our Excel 2003 and Excel 2002 customers that after installing update KB978471 or KB978474, they are seeing non-English text in the 'Add or Remove Programs' tool (Win[dows] XP) or the 'Programs and Features' --> 'Installed Updates' view (Vista, Win[dows] 7).” Continuing on, Microsoft says if you really need English text uninstall Tuesday’s Excel update, then download and install a corrected version of the patch.
The earlier problem, acknowledged by Microsoft yesterday, involved a non-security hotfix that added support for .Net 4.0 to Office 2007. This caused versions of Office 2007 running on Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2008 with Terminal Services to crash. Some users also claimed the update would cause Internet Explorer 8 to crash, when being used with SharePoint 2007. Microsoft has already replaced the offending update with a corrected version.
More bad news for Microsoft, who again was found guilty of willfully infringing on i4i's patents, this time by the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals.
Microsoft is quickly running out of avenues. This latest verdict is the second time an appeals court affirmed i4i's patent win, which requires Redmond to fork over more than $240 million in damages, as well as remove a feature in versions of Microsoft Word 2007 that lets people create custom XML documents.
"A reasonable jury could have concluded that Microsoft 'willfully' infringed the 449 patents based on the evidence present at the trial," the judges wrote. "Similarly, there is no evidence Microsoft ever made a good faith effort to avoid infringement, internal emails show Microsoft intended to render i4i's product 'obsolete' and assure 'there won't be a need for [i4i's] product.'"
So is it time to throw in the towel? Not quite. According to InfoWorld.com, the panel will now circulate the document to the rest of the judges on the appeals court, who will then decide whether honor Microsoft's request for an en banc review. If the request is approved, all 12 appeals court judges will reconsider the case.
"From our perspective, there are only so many more avenues for appeals for them," said Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i.
This upcoming Patch Tuesday won't be anything like the one last month, in which Microsoft plugged 26 security holes with 13 bulletins, some of which included critical vulnerabilities for Windows.
Those numbers are way down, according to Microsoft, who announced on Thursday it will issue two bulletins to fix just eight vulnerabilities, all of which are being rated as "important."
"We recommend that customers review the Advance Notification webpage and prepare to deploy these bulletins as soon as possible," Microsoft wrote in an official blog post. "To provide additional guidance for deployment prioritization, customers should note that both bulletins will address issues that would require a user to open a specially crafted file. There are no network based attack vectors."
In addition, Redmond said it is continuing to monitor a VBScript issue disclosed on Monday. The software maker said there are currently no known attacks, but is "encouraging" customers to apply the suggested workarounds in the advisory nonetheless.
Listen up Office users, Microsoft has made available a free tool to help you level up your productivity skills. It's called Ribbon Hero and it offers up different 'games' or challenges for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel 2007 and 2010.
"Ribbon Hero watches what features you do and don't use, and then it recommend challenges for you to play, to hopefully expose you to new features," Microsoft writes in an Office blog. "The first time you complete a challenge, you'll earn points. But then we want you to use those same features in the app (on another day) to prove you've mastered those features! You can max out a feature using it twice, on two separate days -- and one one of those times can you get points from playing the challenge."
Ribbon Hero also serves up Facebook integration so you can spam your friends' walls with PowerPoint updates right next to your latest Farmville achievement. Oh joy.