System Center 2012 Service Pack Nears

System Center 2012 isn't all that old, but is already about to get its first Service Pack. System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 is what they call "release-to-manufacturing (RTM)." That means it's finished and sent off to the folks that package it for broad distribution. That used to mean burning it onto floppies, CD or DVDs. Now it mostly means setting it up on servers so it can be downloaded.

Being RTM doesn't mean it's instantaneously available -- the service pack won't be available to the general customer base 'til next month.

And while it is technically done, Microsoft isn't exactly opening the kimono on this thing. We have to read the tea leaves and old MS blog post to discern that this baby is all about.

Here's the one thing we know: It will support Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/19/2012 at 1:19 PM3 comments


2012: The Year of 83 Patches

Microsoft averaged almost precisely 7 patches per month this year, releasing 83 fixes (or bulletins) in 2012. This month was right on target with 7 fixes (or bulletins), 5 of them critical.

The newest wares, Windows RT and its cousin Windows 8, were impacted by all seven fixes.

If you haven't yet patched this month, here are the deets.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/19/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


A Win 8 Tablet Ouchie!

An MIT professor with a Harvard blog address (my sister starts her fancy new job at Harvard today!) has some choice words for Windows 8. Philipp Greenspun calls it "A Christmas gift for some you hate" and called the interface "a dog's breakfast." And you thought MIT people were all slide rules and calculators. This guy can write!

Greenspun's criticisms aren't exactly original, but he does a terrific job analyzing the difference between Win 8 as a tablet and the more refined iPad and Android.

As for the basics, "Microsoft here integrates the tablet and the standard Windows desktop in the most inconvenient and inconsistent possible way," Greenspun writes.

For instance, you can really run tablet apps and desktops at the same time.

He continues: "It is either the old Windows XP desktop or the new Android-like tablet environment. As far as I can tell they cannot be mixed except that a tablet app can be set to appear in a vertical ribbon on the left or right edge of the screen."

And you can't just use it as a pure tablet or a pure laptop/desktop either.

"Some functions, such as 'start an application' or 'restart the computer' are available only from the tablet interface. Conversely, when one is comfortably ensconced in a touch/tablet application, an additional click will fire up a Web browser, thereby causing the tablet to disappear in favor of the desktop," he argues.

And, as a tablet, it lacks ease of use refinements such as easy to find home and back buttons.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/17/2012 at 1:19 PM13 comments


Windows 8 with a Free Side of Media Center

Microsoft is making an offer I'm sure many can refuse. For a limited time only, if you buy the expensive version of Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro (as opposed to that amateur-hour release), you can get for free what came in XP, Vista and Windows 7 for free: Windows Media Center.

That's right, you lucky dog, just pay your money by Jan. 31 and you too could be enjoying DVD playback, make a slide show, copy a CD and other state-of-the-art things. Things my two-year old Dell already does just fine.

How much is Media Center worth to you? Send your best estimate to dbarney@redmondmag.com,

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/17/2012 at 1:19 PM2 comments


Totalitarianism and Technology

Julian Assange has been assaulted on all sides by the British, Swedish and U.S. government, and pundits on TV, radio and the blogosphere.

I'm not going to raise a reader ruckus backing or dismissing Assange. Instead I'm going to lay out some provocative points he recently made and let you comment (by writing to dbarney@redmondmag.com).

According to a recent interview, Assange believes technology is allowing governments to find out what all of us are doing, and has a broad and deep view of Internet activity through sophisticated monitoring. This type of insight equals control, and would enable totalitarianism. In his view, technology can "intercept entire nations."

The U.S. has had the ability to gather/intercept vast amounts of information here and throughout the world. With a technology trickle down, the same is possible for smaller countries such as Libya, he argues.

And we allow this to happen by giving so much of ourselves through Facebook and other means.

What do you make of all this? Free flow of ideas welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com. 

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/14/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


PowerShell Knocks Off System Center 

Redmond columnists are not just dopes off the street (present company excluded), but are real IT pros and noted authors, with a real world view and actionable advice.

Brien Posey is just one such writer. Posey's insight and Microsoft contacts recently let him to an interesting thesis -- that PowerShell could be used in place of System Center, making the management package far less relevant.

A chance hearing of what could have been an off-hand comment started the wheels turning. It seems Posey was in Redmond when a presenter mentioned that "PowerShell was going to be the preferred method for managing Windows Server."

The company is really pushing server core and this headless OS is perfect for management via PowerShell. This is especially the case since PowerShell has done nothing except get better and better.

Posey has tested the limits of PowerShell. Having spent time with System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, Brien began looking at how much of what this product does could also be done through PowerShell. The answer is "a lot."

Another factor is the fact that more and more IT pros know PowerShell, something Microsoft has been pressuring them to do.

How far do you go with PowerShell and is Brien on or off track? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/14/2012 at 1:19 PM8 comments


Windows Tablet Share Horror Show

I trust analyst projections about as much as campaign promises. In each case they occasionally come true.

So when IDC released projections showing Windows tablets going nowhere fast, I was skeptical. Estimates of current paltry market share are probably good. It's hard to mess up analyzing what is happening now. This year Microsoft has less than a 3 percent share, a reasonable estimate.

But the high and mighty research house claims that in 2016 that share will be a tad over 10 percent, with iOS with nearly half the market and Android picking up the rest.

The Microsoft numbers are far too low for two reasons: Let's assume the flawed Windows 8 doesn't change. It will do far better than 10 percent because besides being a tablet, it is also a PC that can do actual work. Try and do your 30/60/90s on an iPad!

And three or four years from now Windows 8 won't be Windows 8 -- it will be Windows 9 (unless Microsoft comes up with a dumb annoying new naming scheme yet again).

All the wrinkles that folks like you, the loyal Redmond Report readers have pointed out, will have been largely smoothed over.

Maybe I'll check back in a few years on who was right, IDC or me. What's your guess? Vote at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/13/2012 at 1:19 PM27 comments


Office 2013 Open for Business

Are you the type that gets a new car every year, stands in line for the latest gadget and buys new clothes right as a new fashion fad begins? Then you may want to snag Office 2013, which is possible so long as you are already a volume customer.

That could make you first on the block, as the general availability won't be until the first quarter of next year.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/13/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Microsoft Security Essentials, Users Like It, Testers Hate It

I learn a lot from Redmond Report readers. One case is Security Essentials, a free antivirus program that you all seem to generally like.

One organization that doesn't like it is AV-Test, a security test shop. AV-Test compared the Microsoft tool against other free tools and found it sorely wanting. In fact, it only picked up on 64 percent of zero-day exploits. When the attacks have been out for a while Security Essentials handles 90 percent. That might be an A in high school, but it is an F in security.

A tool with this kind of result is better than no tool, but far from optimal.

Meanwhile three different posters to our original article report good results with Security Essentials. Go figure.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/12/2012 at 1:19 PM3 comments


Bizarre Office 2013 Licensing

Getting a pilot's license takes months of study and lots of practice. Being in compliance with some software licenses can take the same effort. All the gotchas are in fine print and legalese.

And sometimes the licenses are just bizarre. Take the free version of Office you get when you shell out about $800 for a Surface RT machine as an example. This Student version can be used as much as you like, provided you don't work for an actual office.

Business use is verboten. So if your shop buys one of these tablet/laptops, you can write your term papers and love letters, but stuff your memo in a sack. For that you must buy one of three separate licenses. Or, if you have a license for Office 2013 for another machine, you are good to go.

This is just pure weirdness.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/12/2012 at 1:19 PM6 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Your Outlook on Microsoft's New Outlook

Readers chime in with their thoughts on the redesigned and renamed Hotmail:

I have never been a fan of Hotmail (or of most Microsoft products, for that matter). But they are the industry standard and as such, have most of us in a position of dependence. But I have adapted. I use Yahoo mail for my personal use and the Outlook client at work.

Tonight an elderly friend asked me to look at her computer. She had always used Hotmail. Now it was Outlook, and she couldn't figure out why. After some research, I found that Microsoft had 'changed' from Hotmail to the 'new' (almost typed 'ew') Outlook. We could not figure out a way she could forward an e-mail. Like her spiritual chain letters... you know the type: 'Please send this message that Jesus loves them to ten of you close friends and know that all of you are loved.' That sort of thing.

Well, if there is a way to do that, or even forward other kinds of e-mail (like a meeting agenda) to specific people, we couldn't find it. I am going to get her set up with Yahoo, as it is much easier, but she wants to import her contacts. Outlook is also not cooperating with that... Overall, I would say it's a bust, unless there is something I am just not seeing.
-Denise

The best thing about the Outlook.com page is the button that lets you switch back to the old Hotmail.com Web pages. Even if the Outlook.com pages worked well, which (as you noted) they don't, they're still flat-out ugly, hard to use and waste enormous amounts of screen space. I paid good money for the pixels on my display, I don't want 90 percent of them white all the time.

Fortunately, I use Office Outlook on my desktop and laptop so I rarely need to use the Web pages.
-Anonymous

You are dead on target and describe my feelings about Outlook.com.

I will be wise in future NOT to believe those so-called independent reviews (the basis on which I switched to Outlook) and will continue my love-hate relationship with Microsoft.
-Satish

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/12/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Patching Time Again

Last month you had it easy with barely any big patches on Patch Tuesday. Tomorrow Microsoft is catching up with no less than 5 "critical" security bulletins. Overall Redmond is fixing 11 holes in everything from Windows and Office to Exchange and IE.

The vast majority of patches, as is now rote, is for remote code execution (RCE), and IE is the biggest target. Experts advise fixing the browser first since it is the easiest vector for attack.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/10/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


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