With the imminent launch of Windows 7 and its much-hyped Windows XP mode, the word "virtualization" is going to be everyone's lips throughout the month of October. Never one to let a fad slide on by, I'm jumping on the bandwagon in this week's freeware and open-source application roundup. I'll be taking a look at five different programs that enrich your computing experience with some kind of virtual add-on.
What does that even mean? A number of things. Windows XP mode is a great example of the common definition of virtualization--running a second operating system inside your primary operating system in a way that typically allows you to quickly switch between the two and access the contents of your primary machine's hard drives from the virtualized environment. Virtual desktops are a lesser derivative of this concept. Instead of running a separate operating system, you're merely extending the size of your workspace by stacking on additional desktop layers that you can swap back-and-forth. You can also install a virtual keyboard that sits overtop your programs--analogous to what Windows offers for tablet PCs--if you're concerned about keyloggers somehow getting their hands on your mission-critical information.
I won't go on, as that might spoil some of the fun applications you'll find after the jump. The virtual world, er, world of virtualized software is vast and interesting, featuring many applications that can expand your computer's functionality without adding a crazy amount of complexity. The coolness of these apps is only rivaled by their ability to save you precious time and headaches from doing things the old-fashioned way.
Windows XP usage plunged 1.1 percent in August, equaling its previous worst showing in November 2008. XP still has a viselike grip on the OS market, with a 71.8 percent market share. According to Net Applications’ data, Vista usage reached an all-time high of 18.8 percent in the month of August, during which it rose by 0.9 percent. Windows 7 also gained 0.3 percent to finish the month with a 1.2 percent market share.
Four people were jailed earlier today in eastern China today for selling pirated copies of Microsoft’s operating system, Windows XP.
Hong Lei and Sun Xianzhong were both sentenced to three and a half years and fined a million Yuan ($176,000) by a Suzhou city court. Along with them, two others were jailed for two years and fined 100,000 Yuan. According to prosecutors, they were members of a gang that offered free downloads of the OS and pulled money off of ads. Apparently, more than ten million people had downloaded the software.
The site gained attention from Chinese authorities after officials with the US Business Software Alliance filed a compliant last June.
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.
Russia’s state run anti-monopoly service has launched a formal investigation into Microsoft over cutbacks in the supply of Windows XP. The agency believes that Microsoft has violated antimonopoly legislation by intentionally limiting the stock of Windows XP to Russia in both retail, and OEM editions which come preinstalled on new PC’s. Analysts claim that Windows Vista continues to be available, while the ongoing demand for XP both by the public, and the government, remains unsatisfied.
Microsoft has yet to formally address the issue, but according to the Moscow regional office, nobody from the anti-monopoly service has tried to contact them. "We (have) always answered antimonopoly service questions in full and intend to continue this practice in future," Microsoft spokeswoman Marina Levina said by telephone. Full scale investigations by the antimonopoly service in Russia are rare, and Microsoft will be given more details by July 24th.
The accusations being made in Russia are drastically different than previous antitrust cases leveled by the EU and USA. In both these cases, the complaints were focused on software bundling for which it was fined $708 million in 2004 by the EU.
Could Microsoft be intentionally limiting Windows XP supply in Russia to help push Vista?
Earlier this week, Acer pulled a 180 and announced plans to ship an Android-based netbook after previously saying the open-source OS wasn't ready for netbooks. For the company's next trick, Acer now plans to dual-boot Android with Windows XP.
According to Acer chairman JT Wang, the dual-boot strategy carries less risk than shipping a netbook with Android alone, as consumer response has yet to be determined for the latter. But the company isn't ruling out a standalone Android netbook either. Acer plans to target telecom providers to sell the new netbook, and if there's enough demand, an Android-only model could be in the works.
Not everyone is happy about the decision, however, particularly open-source enthusiasts. It also remains to be seen what kind of consumer reaction there will be, considering the major selling point of an open-source platform is the reduced cost, but that won't be the case with XP tagging along for the ride.
What are your thoughts on a dual-booting netbook? Hit the jump and let us know!
AutoRun and AutoPlay, Microsoft's "dangerous duo" for launching programs from CD/DVD and other removable media types, have become among malware authors' favorite infection vectors - and Microsoft has finally said, "enough already!"
A research study by Forefront Client Securitycited by the Engineering Windows 7 blog determined that infections that can be started with AutoRun amounted to 17.7% of detected infections in the second half of 2008.
Although AutoRun was originally designed strictly for optical media, it can be used for other types of media. For example, you can create an autorun.inf file that adds the program on the media to the AutoPlay menu Windows displays, and change the default icon to make the malware program mimic a legitimate program. Conficker used this method to spread, as illustrated here.
Starting in Windows 7 RC, Microsoft has changed how both AutoRun and AutoPlay work:
AutoPlay no longer supports AutoRun on non-optical removable media. An autorun.inf file on a USB or other type of non-optical removable media will be disregarded. Only AutoPlay options that pertain to the types of files on the media will be listed.
When AutoPlay displays programs present on the media, the dialog now states that those programs will be run from the media.
To learn more about these changes, and to find out what other Microsoft operating systems will eventually get similar protection, join us after the jump.
In Win XP, folders automatically display in Explorer in alphabetical order. I want to order folders chronologically by calendar month, i.e., January, February, March, etc., but Explorer displays them alphabetically. Is there a way to change the order that folders are displayed? —Dave Schaffer
Once Windows 7 ships, Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate edition users will be able to download a free Windows XP Mode upgrade from Microsoft, WinSuperSite's Paul Thurrott reports. What Thurrott calls XP Mode will enable these versions of Windows 7 to be almost perfectly compatible with Windows XP applications. Essentially, Windows 7 will have "Windows XP inside" when XP Mode is installed.
What is XP Mode? Officially known as Virtual Windows XP, it combines a hardware-accelerated host virtualizer based on Virtual PC with a fully licensed copy of Windows XP Professional SP3 which the user must supply [updated 4-29-09]. While, at first glance, this might sound like little more than a more convenient replacement for downloading a copy of Virtual PC 2007 and scrounging up a Windows XP Pro disc and license from a dead PC, there's a lot more to Virtual Windows XP.
As the WinSuperSite screenshow reveals, Virtual Windows XP will be able to share your system's USB drives, and when you install apps to Virtual Windows XP, your Windows 7 menu will automatically be updated with shortcuts, enabling you to run Windows XP programs in separate virtualized windows on your desktop. Although the virtualizer used by Virtual Windows XP is a host-based virtualizer, these features put it miles ahead in usability compared to Virtual PC 2007 plus Windows XP. And, because Virtual Windows XP's virtualizer requires hardware virtualization support, it won't bog down your system the way an unaccelerated virtualization host will do.
Are there any downsides? For a couple of potential gotchas, and for your chance to sound off, join us after the jump.
Most users who have tried Windows 7 like it - a lot, but if you (or your company) are worried about what happens if old hardware or software you rely on won't play nice with the latest Windows version, stop worrying. According to Cnet's Ina Fried and ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, Windows 7 users will have the option to downgrade from 7 to either Windows Vista or even "the operating system that will not die," Windows XP.
Volume-licensing (aka "Software Assurance") customers have been able to do this for some time, but Microsoft has confirmed that downgrades from 7 to either Vista or XP will be available for at least a while after Windows 7 ships.
If you're on the fence about Windows 7, does the availability of downgrade rights make a difference? Join us after the jump for your chance to sound off.