Microsoft last week released the fifth volume of its Security Intelligence Report (SIR) covering the period between January through June of 2008. The report, which purports to offer an "in-depth perspective on software vulnerabilities and exploits, malicious code threats, and potentially unwanted software," uses data derived from what Microsoft claims are hundreds of millions of Windows users, all of which is analyzed and laid out in a tidy 13MB PDF download.
According to the 150-page report, hackers are increasingly honing in on third party applications rather than attempting to attack Microsoft directly. Vulnerabilities in programs like RealPlayer, QuickTime, WinZip, and other non-operating system software provide hackers with a greater number of exploits requiring a low degree of complexity, the report claims.
"It is alarming to see that more than 90 percent of vulnerabilities disclosed in 1H08 affected applications, and nearly half of all industry vulnerabilities are rated as High Severity," Microsoft says in its report. "Additionally, 1H08 showed how threats are increasingly affecting a variety of vendors beyond Microsoft."
The report also notes several geographical trends in security threats. Among them, password stealers such are Win32/Bancos are most prominent in Brazil where the overall infection rate has risen an alarming 81.8 percent from 2H07 to 1H08. In the U.S., trojan downloaders, like Win32/Zlob, account for the largest single category of threat.
Ever heard the expression,” if you can’t beat them, join them”? It turns out this is an attitude shared by the executives over at Sensis, the advertising and directories arm of Australia’s largest telecommunications company Telstra. Starting in Q1 2009, all of the Sensis business listings will be incorporated into Google’s mapping service. Google will then be implemented to power the native search and mapping functionality on the site. Sensis’s decision has been widely criticized as an admission that could not compete with Google, but I would argue it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Many larger and deeper pocketed rivals have attempted to duplicate Google’s success over the years with arguably little to no lasting success. Yahoo and Live search aside anyone else remember Cuil?
The announcement was made at Google’s headquarters and Sensis CEO Bruce Akhurst said the deal would allow them to focus on their yellow pages business listings. Both parties have openly denied that any talks are taking place with regards to a merger, and according to Sensis the deal is only intended as a means to share revenue. Neither party is revealing any specifics as to the terms or financial agreements, but presumably Sensis determined it was the best way to save market share. According to Nielsen NetRatings, Google Maps serves just over 2.5 million Australian visitors, with a mere 1.2 million using the Sensis Wherels service. Even more dramatic are the search numbers with 9.3 million Australians using Google, and only 184,000 users choosing Sensis.
Another search engine bites the dust, can anyone take on Google? Hit the jump and let us know what you think.
Harvard believes that the settlement will lend a commercial shade to the Google Book Search service and that “the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher-education community and by patrons of public libraries.” However, Google can blithely continue to scan Harvard’s out-of-copyright material.
Although the $25 million settlement is yet to be ratified by a judge, the Author’s Guild delightfully labeled it the "the biggest book deal in U.S. publishing history." The deal has opened the floodgates for millions of extra titles to be part of Google Book Search. Users will have the option of purchasing a book – the revenue will be split between Google, the publisher and the author – after previewing it; the service will allow them to preview 20 percent of the pages.
Much to the dismay of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of Amercia (RIAA), BitTorrent tracking site The Pirate Bay continues to grow at what might be a record pace. According to the file sharing site, its global user base now sits at 22 million peers strong, up from 8 million just one year ago.
"We would like to thank all the great and persistent uploaders that dedicate time to share," Pirate Bay writes in its blog. "But most of all, we would like to thank you, you and you! For it is all of you out there that makes this site what it is. Together; uploaders, seeders, leechers, mods and admins, we are The Pirate Bay."
Not stopping at a blog post, the file sharing site has applied to be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for its supposed accomplishment. If the number of peers turn out to be real, it would mean that the other legal alternatives -- Hulu, Last.fm, Pandora, and others -- have had little effect on The Pirate Bay.
This year's edition of WinHEC, which has already demonstrated Windows 7's digital goodness with Device Stage, has more good news about Microsoft's next desktop operating system:
Longer battery life
Faster boot times
As Maximum PC.com readers know, better hardware support has been a major goal of Windows 7 right from the start, and it looks as if Windows 7, even in its pre-beta stage, is making impressive strides.
Engadget has posted a video from WinHEC that shows a Windows 7 machine providing energy savings equivalent to an extra hour of DVD playback: you won't have to worry about running out of power before the movie ends, and you'll even have enough juice for a special feature or two.
WinHEC also featured Microsoft exec Jon DeVaan, the Senior Vice President in charge of Core Operating System Division, performing a "boot drag race" pitting identical machines running Windows 7 and Windows Vista: Windows 7 won by several seconds. It's part of DeVaan and Steven Sinofsky's keynote address, which you can see at the WinHEC virtual pressroom.
To find out who else is seeing the improvements in Windows 7, join us after the jump.
Tim Holman, senior producer on Company of Heroes -- Relic's well-received, bajillion-selling PC-exclusive RTS franchise -- might be a teensy bit biased in favor of PC gaming. But his amorous feelings for the constantly morphing platform only go so far, and that's why it's time for an intervention. PC devs, quit shooting-up your games with prettier-than-real-life textures and nuclear-powered bloom lighting. Take it away, Tim:
"I think one of the things that hurt PC gaming is PC developers," he said. "If you make a game with such high-end requirements that only people with a $6,000 PC can play it at a decent framerate, of course your sales are going to drop."
"And of course people are going to pirate your game more, because they don't want to invest in your game first. They want to try it first for free [to see if it's compatible with their hardware]."
So, who's the excellently postured whiz kid sitting in the front of the classroom, setting an example for all the other miscreants? Why, that'd be Blizzard, says Holman. "It's no big secret. I know when I buy a Blizzard game, I'm not going to have to upgrade anything," he explained.
But Holman's far from stuffing this not-compliment sandwich into a plastic baggy and calling it quits; the thing's all condiments and no meat. His main point, then, is this:
"I laugh hysterically whenever I hear that PC gaming is dead. Every time I hear a person saying, 'PC games are dying,' or 'PC games are dead,' particularly if they're a competitor, I fully agree with them--and I encourage them to get out of the space as soon as possible, just so I don't have to compete with them," Holman said, laughing -- probably in a hysterical manner.
So, are you willing to give your eight GeForce graphics shurikens a break from flexing their potent prowess for the betterment of PC gaming? Or do you think Holman's opinion is a load of crock?
November 1 quite literally marked the end of an era. Windows 3.x, which was released back in 1990, is now officially a part of the past. Microsoft finally stopped issuing licenses for the software, which originally brought them worldwide success on the platform of graphical user interfaces.
While 3.x lives in relative obscurity today, it still has some very sizeable tasks placed at its feet. Many cash registers and ticketing systems are still powered by the aging OS. Even in-flight entertainment systems on some Virgin and Quantas jets use 3.x as their platform of choice when bringing long-haul flight customers such cinematic masterpieces as Tim Allen’s, “The Shaggy Dog.”
This has everything to do with what’s under the hood of 3.x. Stefan Berka, who is responsible for the GUI Documentation Project stated that the important technical innovations in the software were its extended memory that could address more than 640KB and vast improvements to hardware support. Not to mention its 100 percent compatibility with older MSDOS applications.
The age ushered in by 3.x required at least an 8086/8088 processor (or better) with a clock speed of at least 10MHz. Along with that, it required a brawny 640KB of RAM and seven MB of HDD space to store it all.
3.x, you’ve served us well. We salute you on your service, and hope that others take after your example. You will be missed.
If solid state drives (SSDs) continue to march into the mainstream market, 2008 might very well one day be looked at as the start of the SSD era. But for that to happen, the performance numbers have to improve and users have to be convinced that the technology can be reliable on a long-term basis. Performance, which is supposed to SSD's strong point, has come under fire amid real-world benchmark comparisons, and as far as SanDisk is concerned, Vista is to blame.
Taking matters into its own hands, SanDisk has developed a new file system, ExtremeFFS, which the company claims has the potential to increase write performance by up to 100 times in SSDs over existing systems.
"To maximize random write performance, SanDisk developed the ExtremeFFS flash file management system," the company wrote in a press release. "This operates on a page-based algorithm, which means there is no fixed coupling between physical and logical location. When a sector of data is written, the SSD puts it where it is most convenient and efficient. The result is an improvement in random write performance – by up to 100 times – as well as in overall endurance."
ExtremeFFS allows NAND channels to work independently of each other, so while some might be reading data, others can be simultaneously writing. The technology also purports to "learn" user patterns and eventually localize data, which sounds a lot like advanced defragging routines. Admittedly, SanDisk senior VP and GM Rich Heye's concedes that it might not make a difference in benchmarks, but believes "it is the right thing to do for end-users."
In related news, SanDisk has also come up with a performance metric it is calling vRPM, or virtual RPM. The metric has been designed to let users know how fast a typical hard drive would need to spin to match the performance of an SSD, which would also allow for a performance comparison between SSDs.
Among other things, Vista's successor, Windows 7, will bring with it multi-touch support utilizing technology developed by the Surface team. What impact this will have on touch-based computing as a whole remains to be seen; just be sure not to make the mistake of referring to the Tablet PC as a niche market when discussing touch-based computing.
"I won't go so far as to say it's the next mouse, meaning it will be on everything and you have to use it," Microsoft's Ray Ozzie said during an interview with TechFlash. "But it's not going to be like the Tablet PC, where it was truly niche. I think it will go broader and broader."
Ozzie's comments have sparked a backlash of sorts from some of the Tablet PC faithful who feel that the his comments are a slight against their, well, niche PC. But it's not necessarily the truth of the statement that has users perturbed so much as it is hearing Microsoft make such a comment. For example, Loren Heiny of the Incremental Blogger writes:
"What is the case, is that Tablet PCs have been sold like they are niche. The manufacturers have kept the prices high – keeping the volume down and off of store shelves. Even Microsoft itself has relegated the Tablet features to its premium SKUs rather than making them available in low-cost educational PCs where isn’t it obvious that there’s great value and need for them? And feature-wise, we keep coming back to Tablets and IT. Yeah, I wonder why that might be? Might it be the niche thinking of some large northwestern company? Huh? Ring a bell?"
Do you take issue with Ozzie's statement? Hit the jump and let us know.
While Windows 7's basic "look" is a refined version of Windows Vista, Windows 7 is much more than "Vista, Take 2." One of the most significant new features coming in Windows 7 is Device Stage, and Device Stage is one of the major themes of this week's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC).
What is Device Stage?
Device Stage, for the first time, looks at a device as a single entity rather than as a collection of different components. As ArsTechnica describes Device Stage:
Attaching a device in current versions of Windows gives sometimes unpredictable results. A multi-function printer/scanner/fax, for instance, might show up as several different things within Windows: a printer, scanner, removable disk, and some vendor supplied management suite...The "Device Stage" feature is designed to alleviate some of these problems by treating devices as distinct "things" with multiple abilities.
To learn more about Device Stage, and to find out what hardware vendors think about this new feature, join us after the jump.