Sunday, October 25, 2009

Computers for Windows 7

Computers for Windows 7
The long awaited Windows 7 operating system is here and rumor has it, Microsoft will soon announce several new computers that are designed specifically to run the new OS. However, several computer manufacturers have beat Microsoft to the punch by releasing information about their own new models that will feature Windows 7. Several of them are specially designed to use the OS's touch-screen features.

Hewlett-Packard has four new computers, all with touch-screens. The cheapest of the bunch is the TouchSmart 300, a 20 inch screen desktop that will retail around $900. Next is the TouchSmart 600, also a desktop, sporting a 23-inch screen, and that will sell for about $1,100 (though for $500 more, you can get the version that is able to show video at 1080p resolution). For those not looking for a desktop, there is the TouchSmart tx2 - a tablet computer that will start around $800. And if you happen to be looking for 42-inch touch screen, the $2,800 LD4200tm is your computer.

If you're looking for super-cheap, Compaq (owned by Hewlett-Packard) will be releasing the CQ61z laptop, a 15-inch screen notebook. It doesn't have a touchscreen but it will sell for $399 until right around Christmastime when the price is expected to rise to $499.

Toshiba will release two new Satellite laptops, both with touch-screens. The M505 has a 14-inch screen and should sell for around $950, while the U505 13-inch screen with a "textured finish" will sell for about $1,050.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Microsoft opens first retail store.

If you've been to any mall in the United States you've probably seen the Apple Store. A store full of every Apple product you can imagine. Well imagine that store only filled with Microsoft Products and color and you'll know what its like inside the new Microsoft Store in Scottsdale, AZ.

Microsoft feels the new store is giving customers a chance to "experience the best of Microsoft and its partners, the store offers customers a select line of laptops, netbooks, all-in-one PCs, Xbox consoles, Windows Mobile phones and one of the largest selections of third-party software titles in any store." A second store will be opening October 29, in Mission Viejo, California.

Microsoft decided a store dedicated to its products is what its customers were looking for and needed. Each store will have various sections and departments focusing on various Microsoft products and needs. You will be able to play with the technology and see how its uses can be utilized for maximum benefit.

The Scottsdale Microsoft Store has tables full of laptops, large screen tv's on the walls, and a vast collection of software and the design has been planned to maximize interaction between the customer, technology and the highly trained staff.

It will also feature a place to customize your products,“If you want to have Disney characters on your laptop or an NFL team on your Xbox, we’ll build a nice library of licensed products that you can use, or you also can bring in a picture of your dog or your family and make it custom,” said store manager, Cheryl Hibbard.

More customization features include a table to create your own ringtone for your Microsoft phone. A place to compare cell phone rates. More than just outer customization the customers can also customize their products from the inside. "Once a PC is purchased, store employees will offer a 15-minute session to help customers set up their passwords and networks, and tailor their browser, e-mail and other applications to their personal preferences. Customers can launch their computer from hibernate the minute they take it home,” she says. “With this set-up session, we’re taking the typical ‘ready to assemble’ PC ownership experience to ‘ready to run’.”

While its still fairly new and only one store, Microsoft feels confident that the stores will help with sales and customer experience with the products Microsoft and its partners have to offer. If it will compete with Apple in this arena, we will just have to wait and see.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Windows 7 Security is Better than Ever

Windows 7 Security is Better than Ever

While many Microsoft users had several complaints about Windows Vista, security wasn't usually one of them. Compared to past versions of Windows, Vista was very secure and it sounds like Windows 7 will be even more of an improvement. Based on user-feedback, Microsoft took extra care to ensure Windows 7 has strong, yet user-friendly security. Let's take a look at some of those features.

Core System Security: Just like with Vista, Windows 7 was developed according to the Security Development Lifecycle. It was built from scratch while retaining key security features from Vista including Kernel Patch Protection, Data Execution Prevention (DEP), Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), and Mandatory Integrity Levels. These help protect against malicious software and other attacks.

Enhanced UAC : User Access Control (UAC) was introduced with Vista. It enforces least-privileged access and allows organizations to deploy the operating system without granting administrator access. The primary purpose of UAC was make software developers use better coding practices without being allowed access to sensitive areas of Windows but many people saw the feature as security. Many users associate UAC with access-consent prompts which had led to it becoming a source of negative feedback from Vista users.

However, in Windows 7, Microsoft reduced the number of applications and task that trigger the prompt. You can also adjust the the feature with a slider in the Control Panel under the heading "Change User Account Control Settings." The slider allows you to choose from four levels of protection ranging from "always notify" to "never notify." Obviously the decision is up to users and how much they are worried about security vs convenience. But either way, even when the slider is set to "Never Notify," UA is not completely disabled. Even though you no longer see the prompts, some of UAC's protections will remain, including Protected Mode Internet Explorer.

Integrated Fingerprint Scanner Support: Not activating the user name and password feature on your computer is basically like leaving your home with your doors unlocked. But even if you do take advantage, passwords can be figured out when an attacker is dedicated to its mission. As a matter of fact, experts have always suggested adding another layer of authentication to your computer for security purposes. This is why many computers, particularly laptops come with a built-in fingerprint scanner. Windows 7, however, takes fingerprint-scanning to a whole new level.

Windows 7 has better driver support which makes for more reliable fingerprint reading. To configure your fingerprint data reader with Windows 7, all you have to do is click on "Biometric Devices" inside your control panel and there you will have access to the console for enrolling and managing fingerprint data and customizing biometric-security settings. You can add scans of as many of your fingers as you'd like, but adding all ten is recommended. Simply choose the finger you want to scan and place your finger on your reader (or follow your hardware's guidelines for fingerprint scanning). Each finger will need to be scanned three times to be sure it is successful.

Protecting Data: If you aren't taking proper measures to protect or safeguard your computer, anyone who comes in contact with it can access any of your files or sensitive data. Considering thousands of computers are lost or stolen each year, this is definitely something computer users should be wary of. Vista made great waves in data-protection technology with Encrypting File System, and support for Active Directory Rights Management Services. Windows 7 not only updates some of the minor details of these features but it improves on Vista's Bitlocker drive encryption technology and adds BitLocker to Go for removable media such as USB flash drives.

Encrypting Drives with Bitlocker:
When BitLocker made its original debut with Vista, it could only encrypt the primary operating system but didn't allow encryption on removable or portable disks. Windows 7 has BitLocker to Go for that purpose - it allows you to protect data on portable drives while also sharing data with partners, customers, and other parties.

To use the BitLocker Drive Encryption, your disk volumes must be configured properly. When most people are setting up drive partitions, they don't realize that Windows requires a small, unencrypted partition for the core system files that begin the boot process. This is why Microsoft has created a tool that allows you to repartition the drive so that it's prepared for the BitLocker encryption. Once the drive is properly partitioned, you can encrypt it with BitLocker by finding it in the control panel. It will display the available drives and their current state. Next to any unencrypted drive, you will click on "Turn on BitLocker" to start the process of encryption. You will then need to assign a password or insert a smartcard. You will then have the opportunity to save the BitLocker Recovery Key as a file or a print-out (which is needed to unlock data ir your password or smartcard fails). Once the process is complete is you can click on "Manage BitLocker" to unlock encrypted drives automatically when you log into Windows.

Using BitLocker Without a TPM: Technically, BitLocker requires a TPM chip (Trusted Platform Module). Unfortunately, most computers don't have a TPM chip but Microsoft has included an option to use the BitLocker Drive Encryption without a compatible TPM. It's not an easy thing to do, but it is possible if you follow the following steps: click the start menu and type gpedit.msc in the "search programs and files' field. Under Computer Configuration, find "Administrative Templates, Windows Components, BitLocker Drive Encryption, Operating System Drives." Click on "Require additional authentication at startup." Choose the "Enabled" radio button and check the "Allow BitLocker without a compatible TPM" box. Click OK.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Twitter - It's All About Me?

Twitter - It's All About Me?

Two Rutgers University Professors, Mor Naaman and Jeffrey Boase, set out to examines user behavior on social media websites such as Twitter and what they found is, well, probably not all that shocking. After looking at over 3,000 tweets from more than 350 Twitter users, it turns out, about 80 percent are what the professors now call "meformers," or people use who post updates on their everyday activities, feelings, thoughts, emotions and social lives. The other 20 percent, the "informers," are more about sharing information such as news articles and interacting with their followers. As a matter of fact, informers usually had more friends and followers than meformers. The median number for informers was 131 friends and 112 followers whereas meformers had a median of 61 friends and 43 followers.

While carefully documenting the details of their research, the professors determined that there are nine different types of Tweets: information sharing, self promotion, opinions and complaints, statements and random thoughts, me now, question to followers, presence maintenance, self-referential anecdotes, and anecdotes about others. A majority of tweets - about 41 percent - can be classified as "me now" tweets with random thoughts, and opinions and complaints coming in as the second most tweeted items.

The research doesn't portray Twitter users very positively, but most previous research done on the social medium has had the same findings, if not worse. Some studies have gone on to call Twitter users "narcissists" or claim that nearly half of all tweets are "pointless babble."

So what else did the study find? Informers usually mention other users more often by making @replies. About 25 percent of tweets come from users' mobile phones. Of those posted from phones, over half (51 percent) tend to be "me now" messages. Females were also more likely to post the "me now" messages; 45 percent of female users posted them whereas 37 percent of men did.