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Windows 7 Release Candidate Update: dates confirmed

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2009 11:34

A post in the Windows Blog confirms we will be able to download the Windows 7 Release Candidate from MSDN and Technet on the 30th April, and public availability will begin on 5th May.


On behalf of everyone here, I would to thank all of our beta testers for helping us get to this point. You guys have been busy. At the peak of the feedback cycle, we were receiving a “Send Feedback” report every 15 seconds for an entire week. Since then, the engineering team has been busy analyzing the feedback, fixing bugs, and working hard to improve the overall experience. Many of your suggestions helped us refine the new and improved taskbar, the behavior of Aero Peek, Touch, Windows Media Player, and much more.


More information in Windows Blog...



Things to check before buying cheap PCs

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Apr-2009 12:24

When you buy a PC and the price is too low, it might be time to think "Is this too good to be true?"... I've just posted on Geekzone how Microsoft is leading the charge against New Zealand companies that sell hardware with counterfeit copies of their OS.


Three Auckland-area companies found to be selling unlicensed software have settled with Microsoft as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to protect local resellers and consumers by reducing software piracy.

The three companies that entered into settlement agreements are: TDM Technology Limited, operated by Ayman Franso and Nicholas Jansen; Pars TV, operated by Al-Huseiny Ibrahim; and PCTown, run by Linjiang Yu.  Two other companies did not settle with Microsoft, and the matters are before the Auckland District Court.

These latest settlements follow two High Court proceedings filed in November 2008 against Auckland-based traders charged with selling counterfeit Microsoft software likely sourced from China."


Illegal copies might be loaded with all sorts of malware - virus, trojans, keyloggers, etc. When buying a PC you should ask yourself:

• Am I buying from a reputable reseller?
• What is their return policy, and do I have contact details in case I have problems with this product?
• Are they giving a strange explanation for why the price is so low?
• Is a Certificate of Authenticity included?
• Is a hologram CD, DVD, or recovery media included?
• Are the product packaging and documentation of high quality?
• Is an End-user License Agreement included?



Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Service Pack 1 available for download

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Apr-2009 12:29

Last week Microsoft announced the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Service Pack 1. Since Geekzone runs on SQL Server 2008 I worked on our test server to deploy this update - which worked out to be quick and painless - and no server reboot required! Mind you, the database will be out of action for a few minutes while the code is changed, but that's pretty much it (I've tested this in both 32 bit and 64 bit environments we have here).

According to their blog announcement:


With this Service pack, Microsoft is introducing 80% fewer changes to customer configurations compared to previous SQL Server Service Pack releases. 

With this service pack, Microsoft has made investments to ease deployment and make management of service packs more efficient. Key improvements in SP1 include Slipstream, Service Pack Uninstall and Report Builder 2.0 click-once deployment.

o   Slipstream allows administrators to install SQL Server 2008 and Service Pack 1 in a single instance. This decreases the total time for an installation, including a fewer number of reboots thereby increasing productivity and deployment availability.

o    Service Pack Uninstall allows administrators to uninstall the service pack separately from the database release.  This feature also improves DBA productivity, reduces the cost of deployment and improves overall supportability

o   Report Builder 2.0 Click Once improves the existing SQL Server end-user report authoring application by easing deployment to business users.


It seems this is mainly a rollup of previous cumulative updates and minor fixes. No new features are being released. If you are running Microsoft SQL Server 2008 you should start planning (or implementing) for it now. Download the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Service Pack 1 to start working.



 



Microsoft Office Service Pack 2 coming 28th April

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Apr-2009 18:21

Later this month Microsoft will introduce the Microsoft Office Service Pack 2. Here is a list of changes for this version:


Changes that impact desktop applications

· Service Pack 2 adds the ability to open, edit and save documents in version 1.1 of the OpenDocument Format for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. These applications now let users save, open, and edit files as OpenDocument Text (*.odt), OpenDocument Spreadsheet (*.ods), and OpenDocument Presentations (*.odp).

· The 2007 Microsoft Office Service Pack 2 is the first service pack to support uninstall of client updates through the Microsoft Service Pack Uninstall Tool for the 2007 Microsoft Office Suite as well as via Windows Installer command line. The Service Pack Uninstall Tool will be available as a separate download.

· Save As PDF/XPS support has been built into the SP2 of these Office applications. Users no longer have to download the add-in separately.

· When many graphic objects are present performance has been improved.

· In many scenarios, expect increased print fidelity of graphical objects.

· Improved interoperability using standard DrawingML markup to describe the visual properties of the SmartArt graphic.

The 2007 Office Suite SP2 has been tested and is supported for Internet Explorer 8. Windows Vista SP2, Windows Server 2008 SP2, Windows 7 and Windows Server R2 will all be supported upon their release.

Access
· The ability to export reports to Excel has been added.

· Fixes for issues with the import data wizards, report printing and previewing, macros, Excel integration, and date filters.

· Updates to Access Developer Extensions are now included in SP2.

Excel
· The charting mechanism has improved robustness and targeted performance improvements.

· A chart object model has been added to Word and PowerPoint.

· Improved printing of graphical content, especially on PCL printers.

Groove
· Improved form tools.

· Synchronization reliability has been improved.

InfoPath
· Increased compatibility between InfoPath forms and other Microsoft products, such as Groove and Outlook.

OneNote
· SharePoint synchronization has been improved which helps reduce the load on SharePoint servers and produce fewer errors.

Outlook
· Performance in startup, shutdown, view rendering, and folder switch has been improved.

· Calendar updates, search, and RSS are more reliable.

· The object model has been improved.

PowerPoint
· Resaving of files is faster.

· Several printer-specific problems have been fixed.

· The Microsoft Office Excel Chart Object Model has been more fully integrated.

Project
· The scheduling engine, Active Cache, and Gantt charts all have improvements.

· There is additional reliability with earlier versions of the .mpp format.

Publisher
· Fixes have been made in the following areas: print preview, compatibility with Internet Explorer 8, e-mail on Windows Vista, and saving to the Content library. 

Visio
· Improved compatibility with other Microsoft products in several key scenarios, such as inserting Visio drawings as linked objects in PowerPoint or Word, exporting reports to Excel, and saving drawings as Web pages for browsing in Internet Explorer 8.

Word
· Fidelity of PDF and XPS output has been enhanced.

· Fuller integration of the Microsoft Office Excel Chart Object Model.




There are also changes to server products in the making.



Tips for dealing with Conficker

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Mar-2009 17:43

Since  the topic is Conficker, most home users should have Windows Update enabled by default and should not be affected by Conficker. I think most of the affected machines I've heard of were corporate PCs - in which case some IT departments choose to enable or disabled automatic updates depending on their management policies.

There are some common sense tips though:

• Fully install the MS08-067 update on all your Windows PCs.
• Use an antivirus product. All the major ones detect and block Conficker from copying itself to other machines. Microsoft Forefront Client Security and Windows Live OneCare can/did block this worm.
• Use strong passwords both for any user account and also for any file shares.

I know Microsoft has a US$250,000 reward for information that results in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for illegally launching the Conficker malicious code on the Internet...

A lot of information on Conficker can be found here at http://www.microsoft.com/protect/computer/viruses/worms/conficker.mspx. Also more information here:

• The MSRC weblog (http://blogs.technet.com/MSRC)
• The MMPC weblog (http://blogs.technet.com/MMPC)
• The consumer security weblog (http://blogs.msdn.com/securitytipstalk/)
• The consumer Conficker landing page  (same as above) (http://www.microsoft.com/protect/computer/viruses/worms/conficker.mspx)
• IT Pro Conficker landing page (http://www.microsoft.com/conficker
• More information and free support for Conficker issues can be found here http://microsoft.com/protect or in the US and Canada can call the PC Safety hotline at 1-866-PCSAFETY.

And remember to always practice safe computing.



Quick way to check for Hyper-V capabilties

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Mar-2009 11:01

When I first installed Microsoft Hyper-V on our servers I noticed one of the requirements was hardware assisted virtualization support and hardware DEP support.

This is ok when you are working with high end server and know the company (in my case HP) supports the Hyper-V environment on their servers, etc.

But what if you want to install Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V on a development desktop or laptop? How do you know if your hardware has the required specs to  run it?

I found out a quick way to get this information is to run the GRC SecurAble program. If you see something like this then you are most likely good to go:



This is on my Acer Ferrari 5000 laptop. Of course for a more detailed hardware inventory and compatibility analysis you should check the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit. And for a complete view of your hardware, it's hard to beat the freeware CPU-Z:







New Zealand Community SharePoint Conference 2009

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Mar-2009 16:22

The New Zealand Community SharePoint Conference 2009 will be the conference you have to attend this year to learn about Microsoft SharePoint 2007, collaboration and related topics.



Happening in Wellington, 2nd and 3rd July 2009, the conference has two full days of sessions Level 100 (no previous experience required), Level 200 (previous experience or knowledge expected) and Level 300 (deep dive).

The New Zealand Community SharePoint Conference 2009 is being promoted by the New Zealand SharePoint Community and has a list of speakers from Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.



Internet Explorer 8 RSS bug shows its head again - will webmasters notice?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-Mar-2009 13:44

If you are a webmaster and see an increase in traffic, check your logs - look for the user-agent "Windows-RSS-Platform/2.0 (MSIE 8.0"...

During the beta period I logged a fault that existed only when people using the Windows RSS platform on Internet Explorer 7 upgraded to the Internet Explorer 8 beta code. Basically Internet Explorer 8 goes crazy and instead of checking RSS feeds once every hour (or the time you set), does it hundreds of times per minute.

During tests I found some browsers checking some Geekzone RSS feeds about 20,000 thousand times in a period of a few hours.

I wasn't happy, and logged a fault. Microsoft's response was "Closed - can't reproduce".

Guess what? Now Internet Explorer 8 is out and I've just noticed this happening again:



I've just blocked this IP address but there are others. So my only option at the moment is to simply filter all requests from this user-agent.

If you are a webmaster, check your logs and see if you can catch this on your server too. Please let me know.






Booting Windows 7 to desktop in less than 30 seconds with SSD

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Jan-2009 10:33

I have finally come around to installing Windows 7 Beta in all my PCs around the house, replacing Windows Vista Ultimate.

We now have a (finally) working Windows-based Media Center. It is great being able to actually watch HD broadcast using the native Windows Media Center application. Until now we were only able to watch Freeview HD with third party software, because of lack of H.264 support on Windows Vista.

Windows 7 changes this with built-in H.264 support and the experience is very pleasant. You can check some screenshots in my previous blog post about Windows 7 Media Center.

I have also replaced Windows Vista Ultimate with Windows 7 Ultimate Beta on my main laptop. At the same time I've swapped the original 160GB HDD with an Intel 80GB SSD. A lot of talk has been around about Windows 7 support for SSD technologies so I decided to try it myself.

You can see below the Windows Experience Index results for my laptop, an AMD Turion 64 x2-based Acer Ferrari 5000 with 4GB RAM and ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 video graphics:

Intel SSD and Windows 7 performance index

The interesting thing is that this same Intel 80GB SSD showed a 7.9 index on another PC. Perhaps because of differences in controllers or drivers?

Anyway, with this laptop I am able to boot (after BIOS) into the Windows desktop in less than 30 seconds. And this is with Microsoft Office 2007, Live Messenger, Avast AV being loaded at boot time - real life experience.

Overall I am feeling a great improvement over previous Windows versions. Small UI things such as the ability to see previews of multiple windows for an application when hovering the mouse cusor over it in the Taskbar, and the automatic hiding of all othe windows so you can see it directly on the desktop make much easier to work:



Are you testing the Windows 7 beta? Just for curiosity, as a developer or IT administrator? What are your impressions?



A fix for Windows Update install crashes on Windows 7 Beta

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Jan-2009 07:57

There have been reports of some Windows 7 beta testers experiencing installation errors with Windows Update and third party applications like Java and Flash (crashes of Explorer and MSI-based installers).

This may be an issue related to the Customer Experience Improvement Program client (CEIP also known as SQM). If you are experiencing this try the fix outlined below. Any machine that’s currently not affected by this problem does not need this fix, nor will future installations or upgrades.

What happened? Microsoft deployed a configuration change which exposed this problem. The following instructions will remove those changes (registry keys) to prevent further CEIP related crashes. 

1.Select and copy the following to your clipboard:

reg delete HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SQMClient\Windows\DisabledSessions /va /f

2.Click on "Start", then "All Programs", then "Accessories"

3.Right click on "Command Prompt", then click on "Run as administrator"

4.In the UAC prompt, verify that the program’s name is "Windows Command Processor" and then click "Yes"

5.Right click on the "Administrator: Command Prompt" window’s black area, then select "Paste"

6.Press "Enter", you should see “The operation completed successfully”.

7.If you see “ERROR: Access is denied”, please make sure you followed Step 3. 

8.Close the "Administrator: Command Prompt window"



freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums. Also worth visiting is TravelTalk NZ, a community for travelers!

Subscribe now to my blog RSS feed or the Geekzone RSS feed.

If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me freitasm@geekzone.co.nz. Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

Here's is my full disclosure post.

A couple of blog posts you should read:

Find more about Business Transformation | Enterprise Content Management | Customer Relationship Management


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