The Windows 7 RC has been available since late October, but a leaked copy of the official release has us fairly convinced we can expect to see Windows Update pushing out the final build by the end of the month. Microsoft confirmed on Friday that it completed the RTM version of SP1, and it had been shipped out to its closest OEM partners for integration into new PC’s.
Before you get too excited however, we would remind you that there isn’t much new here. If you’re the diligent type or have Windows Update enabled and set to automatic, you probably already have 95 percent of what is being offered anyway.
A quick search on my local torrent tracker has confirmed the existence of 7601.17514.win7sp1_rtm.101119-1850 in the wild, but we highly recommend you wait for the official release. Even if this is the final version, you have no idea what other “goodies” might have been salted into the code.
Following recent high-end x86 chip launches by both AMD and Intel, Microsoft announced plans to phase out Itanium support in the company's server software.
Microsoft's move underscores how far the x86 architecture has come, which seemingly renders Itanium obsolete in some cases. Dan Reger, senior technical product manager for Microsoft's Windows Server division, said as much in a blog post announcing the change.
"Why the change? The natural evolution of the x86640bit ('x64') architecture has led to the creation of processors and servers which deliver the scalability and reliability needed for today's 'mission-critical' workloads," Reger said. "Just this week, both Intel and AMD have released new high core-count processors, and servers with 8 or more x64 processors have now been announced by a full dozen server manufacturers. Such servers contain 64 to 96 processor cores, with more on the horizon."
Reger said that Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the last version of Windows Server to support Itanium, while SQL Server 2008 R2 and Visual Studio 2010 also mark the end of the road for Itanium.
The change won't happen overnight, however, as Microsoft will continue so support Itanium customers until July 10, 2018.
It’s all the rage these days to have multitouch technology baked into software. Now Microsoft is letting us know that having multiple pointers could be cool too with the new MultiPoint SDK. The new v1.5 release is available for download and will allow developers to create applications that use multiple mice simultaneously. The SDK could allow groups to work collaboratively on a single PC.
Having a single computer interpret commands from multiple pointers could be a boon to education, says Microsoft. Many schools have fewer computers than students, and sharing PCs doesn’t always work because only one person is really able to interact with it at a time. In the recent demo on MSDN’s Channel9, some beta applications were shown off using three pointers.
While Redmond seems to be pushing education as the big sell, there could be other uses. There are times when a single computer with two independent mice could work just as well as two computers. The SDK is compatible with Windows 7 and Server 2008. Make sure to check out the video demo. If you’re the developer type, the SDK can be found here.
This week, Microsoft announced that DirectShow ActiveX code in Internet Explorer 6 and 7 that was reserved for future use has finally been used - by malware providers. The DirectShow Video ActiveX control in the msvidctr.dll file can be used to take over your system if you visit an infected website. According to Symantec, thousands of websites (primarily in China and other parts of Asia) have been affected.
Who's vulnerable? According to Microsoft Knowledge Base article 972890, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP SP2, Windows XP SP3, and Windows XP 64-bit edition are at risk if they haven't upgraded to IE8. IE8 is not vulnerable because the DirectShow ActiveX control being exploited was disabled in IE8. But, if you're still running IE7 (or - horrors! - IE6), what now?
Although Microsoft doesn't have a software patch, it's offering the next best thing: visit KB article 972890 to download and run Microsoft Fix it control 50287 to work around the problem (the same site also offers Microsoft Fix it control 50288 to disable the workaround). The woraround and disable workaround controls are distributed in .msi installer files. Microsoft also recommends the workaround for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 users who are still running IE7.
If you want to learn more about what the workaround changes, you can visit the Microsoft Security Advisory (972890) page. This page lists the CLSID values that must be changed. This information can be incorporated into a .reg file, or can be distributed to multiple PCs in a domain using Group Policy. For additional information, see Security Focus article 35558.
At long last, Microsoft has confirmed that Service Pack 2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 is complete, by releasing it to select manufacturers. It even hit torrents, hours before it was officially announced on the Windows Vista Team Blog.
As for an official download, it’s not clear when Service Pack 2 will be available. They’ve stated that they will push the final version to customers through Automatic Update over the next few months, but those that aren’t ready can still use Microsoft’s service-pack blocking tool.
Along with this, Microsoft has started pushing Vista SP1 to users that had previously blocked it, in order to prime them for SP2.
For those wondering, Service Pack 2 will bring Windows Search 4.0, the Bluetooth 2.1 Feature Pack, the ability to record data on Blu-ray natively through Windows, Windows Connect Now (a simpler WiFi tool), the addition of support for UTC timestamps in the exFAT file system, as well as various security and performance updates.
Today, Microsoft released a trio of security bulletins covering all currently-supported Windows versions. Users of Windows 2000 SP4 through Windows Vista SP1 (as well as Windows Server 2003 and 2008) need to install the update for the critical Windows kernel vulnerability noted in Security Bulletin MS-09-006.
It is finally happening! Microsoft is now changing over to a 64-bit operating system by default instead of 32 bit. Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the first operating system to feature 32 bit optional. This means that all the applications included with Windows Server 2008 R2 will be native 64 bit. It appears Microsoft is now ready to embrace the 21st century and begin shipping their new server operating systems as 64 bit only.
This month's Patch Tuesday, unlike October's, is a quiet one, with just two security bulletins:
MS08-069 solves a remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft's XML Core Service that is rated as Critical for version 3.0 and Important for later versions. All 32-bit and 64-bit desktop versions of Windows from Windows 2000 SP4 through Windows Vista SP1 are affected, as well as Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007. The Exploitability Index is 1 (Consistent Exploit Code Likely - the most serious ranking) or 2 (Inconsistent Exploit Code Likely), depending upon the version of XML Core Services installed. Windows Server 2003 and some installations of Windows Server 2008 are also affected.
MS08-068 patches a remote code execution vulnerability in the SMB protocol. MS08-068 is rated as Important for Windows 2000 SP4 and Windows XP, and Moderate for Windows Vista. Windows Server 2003 and all Windows Server 2008 installations are also affected. Despite Microsoft's rating this vulnerability as only Important rather than Critical, MS08-068's Exploitability Index is 1 because exploit code targeting Windows XP is already public.
That's it for Patch Tuesday security bulletins, both of which will be arriving soon via Windows Update (or can be downloaded manually if you prefer). What else has Microsoft served up?
The only non-security content this time is the usual monthly update for the Malicious Software Removal Tool (KB890830; not yet updated as this article was posted now updated) and the usual monthly update for the Windows Mail junk mail filter (KB905866), available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
Microsoft has joined forces with Akamai to provide a consummate high-definition video streaming experience for PCs. The two companies announced that Akamai will launch a beta version of its HD video streaming service christened AdaptiveEdge Streaming for Microsoft Silverlight in early 2009. The beta release will only be accessible to a few of Akamai’s own customers (content providers).
Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft Silverlight will form the skeletal base of the service. Akamai’s service will exploit Microsoft’s new Web server technology, called Internet Information Services 7.0 (IIS7.0) Smooth Streaming, which is aimed at delivering uninterrupted streaming videos – sans any buffering. “Smooth Streaming is an evolution of proven Silverlight technology that has powered global online events,” said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Division at Microsoft, in a press release.
Microsoft clearly hopes that high-definition streaming video can help its Silverlight platform turn the tide and gain more traction. Of course, if Akamai’s service finds favor among providers, it will automatically endear Silverlight to all such content providers. The camaraderie between Microsoft and Akamai dates back to 1999, when the two first strung together a similar partnership.