Archive for Microsoft

Canadians Can Now Save On Holiday Gifts Via Microsoft Rewards

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 21, 2017 by itnerd

According to a recent 2017 Holiday Shopping Survey by Accenture, savvy shoppers are keen on getting discounts when online shopping as the rise of deal websites have  attracted more than half of Canadians who are now purchasing holiday gifts year-round.

In time for the holiday season, Microsoft Rewards  is now available in Canada and enables users to earn rewards for doing what they already do online – searching the web with Bing, buying games, apps and music through the Microsoft store. 

How it works:

  • Points are accrued when users search with Bing and shop at the Microsoft online and retail stores, and can be exchanged for many items including movie downloads, devices, software and apps, games and entertainment, PC accessories and more.
  • Anyone with a Microsoft account including Outlook, Hotmail Live, Skype or Xbox Live, can easily sign up for the program through the Microsoft Rewards Dashboard. Those without an account can visit the dashboard page and create one in just a few simple steps.
  • Once registered and signed in, users will start earning points at the Level 1 status.  Full details of the Microsoft Rewards Program are available on the dashboard.

Cover the cost of a holiday-themed movie night by redeeming your points for film downloads and enjoy checking off your gift giving list from the comfort of your home this holiday season!

Check this out for more info on Microsoft Rewards.

 

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#PSA: Windows 10 Users Now Have A Means To Protect Themselves From Ransomware

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 24, 2017 by itnerd

If you’ve updated your Windows 10 install to the Fall Creators Update, you have a new feature that protects you from ransomware. It’s called controlled folder access. What it does is it prevents suspicious applications from changing the contents of selected protected folders. So if you extrapolate that to a ransomware attack, it should stop ransomware from encrypting your files and holding them hostage.

Here’s how you turn it on:

  • Go to the Windows Defender Security Center App
  • Open the virus & threat protection screen within Defender
  • Click on Virus & threat protection settings
  • Turn on the controlled folder access option

The document that I linked to above also has a way to turn this on in a corporate environment with dozens or perhaps hundreds of computers. There’s no performance penalty by turning this on and you will be better off by doing so. Thus I would recommend that you turn it on today.

UPDATE: In further testing I found that Parallels Desktop does not seem to like this feature if you have turned on sharing of your Mac’s home folders with a Windows 10 virtual machine. It also stops updates to Parallels Tools from taking place. Thus Parallels Desktop users should turn this feature off until Parallels comes out with a fix for this.

 

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update… Here’s What To Expect

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 18, 2017 by itnerd

Microsoft started rolling out the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update yesterday. This is the latest major update to its current desktop operating system. Here’s what you can expect from the Fall Creators Update:

  • Microsoft now has “OneDrive Files on Demand”, which allows some files to be stored in the cloud and available to you without being synced on your local device.
  • Microsoft has a new design language named “Fluent Design“. It uses more light, depth, motion, and transparency. It’s more related to “material” objects and incorporates “scale” more, according to Microsoft. This sounds like the final name of Project Neon, a new visual design language Microsoft has been working on, but it’s more than that. It’s a new interaction model, according to Microsoft.
  • Better inking and handwriting features for tablet users.
  • The task bar shows GPU usage. That will be handy for gamers.
  • A new touch keyboard which is based on Swiftkey and WordFlow
  • Music apps Spotify and iTunes Will Be Available in the Microsoft Store which used to be called the Windows Store.
  • Microsoft Edge gets a bunch of enhancements and features.
  • Cortana gets smarter.
  • VR support appears along with mixed reality support
  • Better battery life is on tap
  • Protection from ransomware is on tap.
  • Microsoft is making a ton of privacy related changes.

There’s a lot here on tap and I’ve only scratched the surface of what is on offer. Thus I’ll direct you to this blog and this video:

To get your hands on the Fall Creators Update, here’s a link that will walk you through how to get it.

#PSA: Microsoft Drops Support For Office 2011 For Mac TODAY

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 11, 2017 by itnerd

If you’re still using Microsoft Office For Mac 2011 you may want to note that as of today, support for Office For Mac 2011 has been dropped by Microsoft. That means on software updates or security updates for you. The latter should be a concern as it opens the door for you being pwned by something. Also, if you run macOS High Sierra, the company won’t guarantee that it will work on that OS as they didn’t bother testing it on that OS. Though, from my tests it works just fine on that OS.

Now, Microsoft would like you to update to Office For Mac 2016. But your other option is to use the iWork suite of apps from Apple. The fact that they’re free and for the most part will work fine for most people is a huge incentive to go that route.

Microsoft Kills Groove Music Service And Punts Users To Spotify

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 3, 2017 by itnerd

Today, Microsoft announced that it is killing Groove Music, which was once Xbox Music. The company has said that it will stop selling Groove Music passes soon. Any customers subscribed to the service will be refunded pro-rata once Groove Music Pass is discontinued on December 31st. After December 31st, Microsoft’s Groove Music app will cease to function.

So that you don’t defect to another service and cost Microsoft some money can still use your playlists, Microsoft is partnering with Spotify to allow the transfer of their playlists from Groove. The update that will allow users to do this will be available on Windows 10 next week.

So, are you affected by the imminent death of Groove? If you are, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

 

#Fail: 17 Year Old Bug In Windows Stops Identification Of Malware By AV Software

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 8, 2017 by itnerd

If this isn’t a #fail, I am not sure what qualifies. Bleeping Computer is reporting that Omri Misgav who is Security Researcher at enSilo discovered a bug in every version of Windows that has been released in the last 17 years that if properly exploited by malware creators, will stop security software from detecting said malware:

The bug affects PsSetLoadImageNotifyRoutine, one of the low-level mechanisms some security solutions use to identify when code has been loaded into the kernel or user space.

The problem is that an attacker can exploit this bug in a way that PsSetLoadImageNotifyRoutine returns an invalid module name, allowing an attacker to disguise malware as a legitimate operation.

What’s worse is this response from Microsoft:

“We [also] contacted MSRC [Microsoft Security Response Center] about this issue at the beginning of this year,” Misgav told Bleeping. “They did not deem it as a security issue.”

Well, that’s not cool. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that now that this is public, their tune may change. Though, knowing Microsoft, it may not change because something that doesn’t allow third party anti virus software to detect malware is a feature to them. Hopefully that’s not the case, but it wouldn’t shock me if it was.

#PSA: Microsoft Office For Mac Users May Have Issues With macOS High Sierra

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 5, 2017 by itnerd

If you run either Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 or 2016, I have news for you in terms of your ability to use either while running macOS High Sierra which ships sometime this month:

  • If you’re running Office for Mac 2011, it’s likely not going to work. You should upgrade to Microsoft Office for Mac 2016 for that reason and the fact that support ends for Office for Mac 2011 in October. That means no security or other updates for you.
  • If however you are running Office for Mac 2016, you’re still in trouble. First, you need to be running Office for Mac 2016 version 15.35 to be compatible with macOS High Sierra. You can get that through Microsoft’s update utility or from here. But even then, you may discover that not all functionality will work.

All of this is documented here. But this is a pretty clear message that Mac users don’t matter to Microsoft. That sounds pretty harsh, but here’s why I say that:

  1. Microsoft offers 10 years of of support to PC users of Office. Meanwhile Office 2011 got six years at most.
  2. Features that pop up in the Windows version of Office often take ages to appear on the Mac.
  3. This is not the first time that Microsoft has dropped the ball on day one support for the Mac version of office. As I noted in my El Capitan review from 2 years ago, Office 2016 had major stability issues that took them a long time to fix. Clearly, Microsoft doesn’t put any effort into testing Office on the Mac. Otherwise you’d think that a company of their size would be in front of this sort of stuff.

Now I get that Microsoft would much rather have Mac users switch to Windows. But doing this frankly half-assed support of the Mac platform isn’t going to make any Mac user switch to Windows. In my opinion Microsoft should either kill the Mac product, or step up and support it to the same standard as the Windows version.

Now if you need an Office compatible suite of apps that will work when High Sierra ships, might I suggest the Apple iWork suite? It brings to the table Keynote (their version of Power Point), Numbers (their version of Excel) and Pages (their version of Word). Is it a 1:1 match for what Microsoft serves up? No. But it’s 85% as good. Which is good enough for most of us. Plus it’s free which is hard to beat. Given the above, I’d suggest test driving iWork before High Sierra makes its debut.