Windows 7 AutoRun Changes


Microsoft are making a number of advancements with Windows 7 (see Safe Unlinking) and there’s another change being made-this time to the AutoRun feature.

More and more malware is using the Autorun feature as a way of getting itself onto machines, the most high profile being Conficker; so MS have moved to prevent this in their latest Operating System.

What is AutoRun?

AutoRun is a technology used to start some programs automatically when a CD or another media is inserted into a computer. The main purpose of AutoRun is to provide a software response to hardware actions that a user starts on a computer (from MS Security Research & Defense Blog).

What are MS doing?

The Microsoft engineers have made changes in Windows 7 to help prevent the spread of Malware:

1) AutoPlay will still work for CD/DVDs but it will no longer work for USB drives. For example, if an infected USB drive is inserted on a machine then the AutoRun task will not be displayed. The dialogs below highlight the difference that users will see after this change. Before the change, the malware is leveraging AutoRun (box in red) to confuse the user. After the change, AutoRun will no longer work, so the AutoPlay options are safe.

AutoRun1autorun2

This, and other changes, can already be seen in the Windows 7 RC  that is available for download now. Microsoft also plan on making these changes available for XP & Vista users. You can see full details over at the MS Security Research & Defense Blog.

Windows 7 Starter 3-App Limit Removed


Good news for all netbook owners is that MS have decided to remove the 3 application limit from Windows 7 Starter Edition, as first reported by Paul Thurrott.

I wasn’t convinced that the limit of 3 separate running applications was particularly troublesome but it can’t hurt for it to be removed can it?!

Microsoft Bing


We all knew that Live Search was going to be re-branded and Kumo was the favourite new name for quite some time. MS certainly tried it out and I had people visiting this very blog from “Kumo.com” but they finally decided on “Bing”, and announced it May 28th 2009. Microsoft say that Bing isn’t just a search engine, but a “Decision” engine-a device to help you make sense of the information you receive and I think it sounds pretty great!

Some examples I’ve seen are that if you search for say “Nikon D80″, Bing will break the results down in to sections such as “Where to Buy”, “How to use”, “Photography Groups” etc rather than just a long list of results. The 2nd example was if you search for “British Airways” not only will Bing return the BA homepage but also the most pertinent info from the site including Customer services number, contact address etc-without you needing to enter the site :-) That’s the kind of stuff that will making searching the net easier and more fruitful :-)

Bing will be available Worldwide on June the 3rd so it’s not long until we can all see for ourselves if Bing is, as Steve Woz from Apple said, “Astounding”!

bing

To find out more, head over to www.bing.com

PS: It’s been noted by a few people that Bing could also stand for But It’s Not Google ;-)

Cassette Boy vs The Bloody Apprentice


This YouTube video is excellent-it makes me cry with laughter each time I watch it and I haven’t found anyone it doesn’t crack up! Not only is it awesomely funny, the amount of time and work that must have gone in to creating it deserves respect…so here it is, and if you’ve ever wondered about Sir Alan’s balls-you’re in luck ;-)

I’m a guest writer


I’ve recently started contributing articles to www.windows7center.com, so feel free to head over there and see what else they’ve got going on :-)

It’s almost exclusively Windows 7 focused (as the name suggests) and has got some great articles on screenshots, XP Mode etc.

Windows 7 Kernel Feature Improves Security – Safe Unlinking


The Windows 7 kernel has a new feature called “Safe Unlinking”, to help increase security and prevent vulnerabilities known as pool overrun attacks. This will make the experience of using Windows 7 faster, more reliable and above all, safer by making it harder for people to launch these attacks.

It sits in the memory allocation section of the kernel and performs a series of checks to detect memory corruption, and potential pool overrun attacks. This is the latest in a succession of new security features that MS have been adding over the last few years including:

  • Stack protection (/GS)
  • Data Execution Prevention (DEP)
  • Heap Protection
  • Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR)
  • Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection (SEHOP)

Peter Beck, from Microsoft’s Security Research & Defense team says:

“This simple check blocks the most common exploit technique for pool overruns. It doesn’t mean pool overruns are impossible to exploit, but it significantly increases the work for an attacker”.

What is an overrun attack?

Wikipedia explains it as:

“Memory (on the heap) is dynamically allocated by the application at run-time and typically contains program data. Exploitation is performed by corrupting this data in specific ways to cause the application to overwrite internal structures such as linked list pointers.”

Safe Unlinking will also help improve the reliability of Windows 7 by performing a Bug Check as soon as an overrun is detected, which will prevent further memory corruption, crashes and errors.

More detailed technical information can be found on the MS Security Research & Defense blog here.

Microsoft Windows 7 Touch Pack


To mark the “anniversary” of Windows 7 Multi-Touch, (AKA Windows Touch) being discussed at the D: All Things D conference in 2008, Microsoft have released the Windows 7 Touch Pack.  This is a set of 6 multi-touch enabled apps that will be available with Windows 7; it is comprised of 3 games and 3 MS Surface applications.

Microsoft Surface Globe: This is based on the Virtual Earth 3D engine and, using multi-touch, allows users to navigate different area of the globe as well as getting local info and “pinning” top locations. A demo video can be found here.

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Microsoft Surface Collage: Users can arrange photos with their fingertips to create personalised desktop backgrounds.

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Microsoft Surface Lagoon: A screensaver that supports multi-touch interaction. “Ripple” the water with your fingers or watch fish gather around as you press down.

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Microsoft Blackboard: A game which may also educate! In this physics based teaser, users must arrange various gears, fans and levers to move objects towards the finish.

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Microsoft Rebound: A touch based, electrified version of air hockey that can be played online.

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Microsoft Garden Pond: A modern version of a Zen garden, this app allows you to guide your Origami creations around the peaceful ponds and pools with your fingers.

It will be up to the OEM’s whether they include some, all or none of these applications however, following general availability of Windows 7, Microsoft will look to expand this.

Some may see these a great features, some may see them as nothing but filler but if nothing else, they do a great job of showing how clean, easy and fresh multi-touch application can be on Windows 7.

You can see even more over at the Windows Team Blog.

MS MyPhone open to all


That’s right folks, the beta of Microsoft’s MyPhone is open to everyone-go and sign up here.

I’ve been using it for a couple of months and it’s pretty much excellent It’s a great way to keep a backup of Office files and photo’s- as well as text messages. I also find it useful for getting items from my phone to my pc when I can’t find my USB cable, which seems to be most of the time :-) It will really come in to it’s own when you get  a new phone and you have a nice easy way to quickly import your texts etc.

It’s biggest drawback in my eyes is it’s 200MB storage limit, that makes it no real use for music and transferring MP3’s and WMA’s is where I’d love to use it most. This could easily be overcome by using the Hotmail SkyDrive as a storage pool-giving us all 25GB :-) As it was originally called “SkyBox”-that link could still be a possibility…

House of Commons Speaker to stand down


This is completely off topic but the Speaker of the House of Commons is expected to resign today (19/05/09); something which hasn’t happened since Sir John Trevor in 1695!

Sir John Trevor-the last Commons speaker to stand down.

Sir John Trevor-the last Commons speaker to stand down.

In honour of that-here are some choice events from 1695-enjoy!

July 17 – Bank of Scotland is founded

December 31st – “Window Tax” is imposed in UK-shopkeepers brick them up to avoid paying.

Britain introduces a £2 fine for swearing.

England decides not to renew the Licensing Act-leading to a free press further down the line.

November 10th – John Bevis, discoverer of Crab Nebula, is born.

The Treason Act brought in to effect in England.

I’m sure there are plenty I’ve left out but feel free to add them in the comments :-)

Credit to Wikipedia for helping me out too!

Star Trek Movie Quick Recognition Chart


I just saw this on Digg and it is awesome-a handy flow chart style guide to the Star Trek films.

startrekmovierecognitionguide

*Click image to make it bigger.

Having re-watched Insurrection at the weekend, I definitely agree that this chart works!

Props to www.lukemckinney.org for this :-)