Archive for Microsoft

Microsoft Is Forcing Edge Down Your Throats A Little Bit At A Time

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 19, 2018 by itnerd

I came across something in the Microsoft Windows Blog over the weekend that quite literally made my head explode. In the latest insider build of Windows 10, that’s their beta test program by the way, Microsoft has set it up so that Windows Mail will open any links within emails with Microsoft Edge, even if you’ve set another browser as your default browser.

Here’s how the folks in Redmond spin this:

For Windows Insiders in the Skip Ahead ring, we will begin testing a change where links clicked on within the Windows Mail app will open in Microsoft Edge, which provides the best, most secure and consistent experience on Windows 10 and across your devices.

With built-in features for reading, note-taking, Cortana integration, and easy access to services such as SharePoint and OneDrive, Microsoft Edge enables you to be more productive, organized and creative without sacrificing your battery life or security. As always, we look forward to feedback from our WIP community.

Here’s some feedback Microsoft, it’s a stupid idea.

If I set my default browser to be something other than Edge, then it implies that I don’t want to use Edge. Period. End of story. Trying to get me to use Edge via the “drip drip” method is a non-starter. I say that they’re using the “drip drip” method because today it’s going to be Windows Mail opening links. Tomorrow it will be something else equally as trivial. And so on until your only browsing experience is via Edge. I can already see that there’s blowback to this online that Microsoft will somehow have to manage. But I suspect they’ll manage this by ignoring the naysayers and pushing ahead. I say that because Microsoft Edge accounts for just 4.99 per cent of Windows desktop browsing worldwide according Netmarketshare. That’s insanely low and clearly Microsoft are desperate to bump that up any way they can.

Good luck with that Microsoft.


Microsoft Admits To Updating Windows 10 PCs After Users Set The PC Not To Do That

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 13, 2018 by itnerd

Stop me if this sounds familiar. Microsoft has had to come clean about updating PCs to the latest build of Windows 10 after users set the PC to not do that. But it’s not quite the same situation as what Microsoft has been accused of doing in the past. Here’s the details from Bleeping Computer:

The admission came in a knowledge base article updated last week. Not all users of older Windows versions were forcibly updated, but only those whose machines were running Windows 10 v1703 (Creators Update). This is the version where Microsoft added special controls to the Windows Update setting section that allow users to pause OS updates in case they have driver or other hardware issues with the latest OS version. But according to reports, a Microsoft snafu ignored these settings and forcibly updated some users to Windows 10 v1709 (Fall Creators Update).

This is the knowledge base article in question. To me this sounds like a screw up rather than force feeding Windows 10 down people’s throats. I’m willing to take Microsoft at their word on this one.

However….. The larger issue is that users of Windows 10 in home environments and small business do not have complete control of the update experience like they did with Windows 7 and earlier. Unless Microsoft fixes that, we’re going to be talking about something like this over and over again.

Project Zero Outs Edge Bug That Microsoft Has Problems Fixing

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 20, 2018 by itnerd

If you take a look here at Google’s Project Zero bug-tracker, you’ll see that Google has disclosed a bug in the Microsoft Edge browser that is kind of nasty. It centers around the  just-in-time compiler that Microsoft’s Edge browser uses to execute JavaScript. In short, the bug makes it possible to predict the memory space it is about to use. Once an attacker knows about that memory, they could pop their own code in there as Edge executes instructions of their choice rather than JavaScript in the web page the browser was rendering. That of course leads to pwnage.

However, Microsoft is struggling to fix this as detailed in this post that the company put up. They hope to have something by March 13th, but that would be outside the 90 day window and 14 day grace period that Google gives companies to fix stuff. Thus now that this is public, you can fully expect that bad guys on the Internet will be figuring out ways to make attack code that will pwn users of the Edge browser. Thus for the time being, you might want to use another browser until this gets fixed.

Microsoft Is Giving Away A 1 Month Xbox Game Pass Just For Signing Up For Microsoft Rewards

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 5, 2018 by itnerd

Starting today, Microsoft will be offering any consumer who signs up for Microsoft Rewards between February 5-28, a one-month Xbox Game Pass. New joiners will get unlimited access to over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games on Xbox One. With games added every month, users will always have something new to play and can continue collecting Microsoft Rewards points with each Bing search or by shopping for Xbox games and movies in the Microsoft Store.


There are three easy steps to claim the free month of Xbox Game Pass:

  • Sign up for Microsoft Rewards using this link
  • Claim a code for one free month of Xbox Game Pass
  • Redeem the code online

Microsoft Rewards enables users to earn rewards for doing what they already do online – searching the web with Bing and purchasing Xbox systems, games, subscriptions, accessories and more from the Microsoft Store. This means users can now cover the cost of a monthly Xbox Live subscription by simply using Bing for their everyday searches, or claim a gift card to put toward the purchase of a new Xbox One X, the world’s most powerful console.

Office 2019 Will Only Run On Windows 10 Says Microsoft

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 2, 2018 by itnerd

Microsoft on Thursday served up a new support document that references Office 2019, in which it revealed that the apps will only run on Windows 10. Which is a great way for Microsoft to force you off Windows 7 or 8.1, or even Vista and XP if you’re still running those for whatever reason. Because if you want to ensure that you can open and save documents with minimal hassle, you need to be on the latest version of office. Which in turn means you need Windows 10.

You have to admit that this is a pretty crafty move by Microsoft. But if you don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10, there’s always LibreOffice which includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation package, and a database. And it’s free.

Windows Defender To Defend You Against Scareware

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 1, 2018 by itnerd

I’m pretty sure that we’ve all seen programs that claim any of the following:

  • You have out of date drivers
  • You have thousands of registry errors
  • You’re infected with viruses.

And said program will claim to fix all of that for a tidy sum of cash. Now, these programs  are called “scareware” because they are meant to scare you into handing over your hard earned money to a bunch of lying scumbags. These sorts of apps are a problem. And Microsoft is going to solve that problem via an update to Windows Defender:

Starting March 1, 2018Windows Defender Antivirus and other Microsoft security products will classify programs that display coercive messages as unwanted software, which will be detected and removed. If you’re a software developer and want to validate the detection of your programs, visit the Windows Defender Security Intelligence portal.

So if you’re in the business of trying to fleece people of their cash using scareware, your days are numbered if Microsoft has its way. I for one will be interested to see how this will work when it finally rolls out. As well as if it can help to protect users from dodgy software.

Microsoft Stops Issuing Spectre & Meltdown Patches…. And Intel Told The Chinese About These Flaws Ahead Of The US

Posted in Commentary with tags , on January 29, 2018 by itnerd

It seems that Microsoft has joined Intel, HP and Dell in stopping people from installing the mitigations for Spectre and Meltdown according to Bleeping Computer via an emergency patch that appeared over the weekend.

Microsoft has issued on Saturday an emergency out-of-band Windows update that disables patches for the Spectre Variant 2 bug (CVE-2017-5715). The update — KB4078130 — targets Windows 7 (SP1), Windows 8.1, all versions of Windows 10, and all supported Windows Server distributions. Microsoft shipped mitigations for the Meltdown and Spectre bugs on January 3. The company said it decided to disable mitigations for the Spectre Variant 2 bug after Intel publicly admitted that the microcode updates it developed for this bug caused “higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior” that led to “data loss or corruption.”

HP, Dell, and Red Hat took previous steps during the past week.

So, that is pretty bad. But here’s something that’s worse. It appears that Intel might have told the Chinese about these chip flaws before it told the US Government. Here’s why that’s bad:

Intel Corporation initially warned a handful of customers, including several Chinese technology firms, about security flaws within its processor chips, while at the same time not telling the U.S. government, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. 

Security experts told the newspaper that the decision could have allowed Chinese tech companies to flag the vulnerabilities to Beijing, giving the Chinese government opportunity to exploit them. 

Now that’s really bad. Clearly the response to these chip flaws has been sub-optimal to say the least. Thus I am fully expecting more bad news to appear on this front in the coming days.