miniFlame Virus Set To Spy

So far I have not come across a good computer virus, even though they remain a theoretical possibility.

For now all viruses are either bad or impotent, though some are worse than others. Most viruses disrupt our computers, and can force a rebuild. Some viruses delete data. Some take over and use our machines as launch pads for spam. And some steal our info (and are especially fond of passwords).

But there are far worse, truly demonic viruses. miniFlame, a variant based off the Flame malware, is such a beast. This is built for cyber-spying, and aims to steal data and take over computers.

Right now the virus is slowly spreading and has been used against a small, select group of targets. After that, the next phase is systematically siphoning off data from infected computers.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/24/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Google: Going, Going, Gone?

Google never seemed to have a chink its armor until its most recent quarter where earnings missed analyst targets, and their premature release caused a bit of a collapse that was only halted when trading was frozen.

That was just the opening for critics. CNBC smelled blood, and one of its reporters is now asking if Google will essentially disappear in "5-8" years. Really? Yup, that's the question.

The argument, spearheaded by investment professional Eric Jackson, goes like this: More and more search is on mobile devices, not PCs where Google is clearly king. And these machines are too small to display ads of any substance. And what ads there are aren't going for much money.

Mobile also opens the door for new approaches to search, approaches that other companies may invent.

The result is not that the company disappears, but loses most of its influence, relevance and power the way Yahoo! has.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/24/2012 at 1:19 PM10 comments


Q&A with Rick Vanover: Avoiding Excessive Storage Consolidation

While bringing together disparate storage systems can reduce complexity, it's important to remember that you can overdo it. Rick Vanover, a software storage strategist at Veeam Software and upcoming sessions speaker at this year's Live! 360 event, recommends separating storage resources when provisioning vSphere and Hyper-V environments.

Q: Are virtual environments more complex when it comes to storage?
A:
Absolutely. Virtualization introduces abstraction and consolidation. Both of these factors, one good and one bad, introduce complexity to the design, troubleshooting and provisioning processes. In fact, many of us didn't likely spend much time using the IOPS term before virtualization. There's a phenomenon called an I/O tipping point, which many people find when critical workloads become virtualized.

Q: If I have physical servers and move to virtual, shouldn't my existing storage infrastructure just work?
A: There's no general rule for guidance here. It's quite possible it will, but it's also possible it won't. The ability to virtualize all servers should be attainable, but there needs to be visibility into what's actually being used on the virtualized storage infrastructure. There are a number of ways to go about this task for both vSphere and Hyper-V environments, and this is the classic case where a tool needs to be in place to execute correctly.

Q: Does the dynamic nature of VMs with features such as live migration pose a challenge? How is that dealt with?
A: Migration technologies have a serious impact on storage for virtualization. Specifically, I/O channel and pathing may become saturated on a single host but then mysteriously not saturated. The opportunity for correlation of different events can make this additional abstraction a manageable effect.

Q: What features must I demand of a storage vendor as I move to virtual servers?
A:
Simply put, today's storage decision isn't necessarily what we would've chosen just a few years ago. There's a new wave of features to consider: tiering, use of flash and SSD [solid-state drive] technologies, and virtualization awareness. This is an assessment process that looks into what the stakeholders of the infrastructure are. Meaning, if most or all of the storage will be used by vSphere or Hyper-V VMs, you should select a storage product built for that technology.

Q: In essence, with VM sprawl you're backing up more and more servers. How does one manage this additional work? Does this have to add additional cost?
A:
Not necessarily. In fact, many virtualization-specific backup approaches can actually significantly reduce the data-protection burden. This can be done with agent-less backup technologies built specifically for vSphere, Hyper-V or other virtualization platforms. Consolidation comes into play again here. Done well, VM backups can actually be more efficient when leveraging the platform.

If heading out to Orlando for this year's Live! 360 event in December, make sure to catch Rick's workshop, "Storage Best Practices for Virtualized Environments."

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/24/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Windows 7 Can Count on IE 10

IE 10 was really designed for Windows 8. Now comes official word that the browser will run on Win 7 as well, something that has been talked about less than the CIA's personnel files.

True to its recent words, Microsoft is now prepping an IE 10 preview for Windows 7, due out next month.

The last word on IE 10 for Win 7 was a Platform Preview this past June. IE 10 is a pretty big departure. It not only has a touch interface (along with the older interface), but it does away with plugins with the huge exception for Flash (at least on Win 8). Not running Flash would be a deal breaker for most.

But with IE 10 for Win 7 still a ways away, we're not completely sure it will share Flash with its Win 8 brethren. My guess? Yes.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/22/2012 at 1:19 PM3 comments


Surface, Get Your Surface Here!

Just like the recently announced opening of preorders for Windows 8, Microsoft is now accepting money for Surface devices. Both the OS and the tablets built on it are available Oct. 26 -- at least for the ARM-based Surfaces. Oddly the Intel-based devices will lag by three months. Seems like it should be the opposite since Windows already runs on Intel, no?

The real news is Surface pricing. A machine with 32GB of flash RAM is $600 and the 64GB version is an extra hundred. If you want a machine sans keyboard (not sure why you would) you can scoop one for $500.

One thing included in the pricing is a free low-end version of Office. This should make the pricing a bit more palatable.

Is this in your price range? Opine at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/22/2012 at 1:19 PM3 comments


Q&A with Cynthia Farren: Microsoft Licensing in Virtualized Environments

When it comes to virtualization and Microsoft software licensing, few things are more jaw-dropping. And fewer people know the ins and outs of Microsoft licensing requirements. One who knows all about how to sift through the complexities of desktop and server licensing in a virtualized environment is Cynthia Farren, president of Cynthia Farren Consulting and upcoming sessions speaker at this year's Live! 360 event.

Q: Licensing for on-premises Microsoft software is insanely complex. How much more difficult is understanding licensing for virtual environments?
A:
Equally as complex. For example, logic might dictate that if I'm decommissioning a standard physical server and replacing it with a standard virtual server that I should be able to simply reuse that license. Typically, you can. However, we have a tendency to move virtual servers between hosts -- either manually or with automated tools -- more frequently than we do with physical servers, and this creates a completely different licensing need.

Q: What are the risks for not understanding licensing and having unlicensed VMs and clients?
A:
Significant. More and more companies are undergoing compliance reviews -- either actual audits or Software Asset Management assessments -- so the risk of being found noncompliant is higher than ever. Additionally, the rules for desktop virtualization are significantly different than the traditional model, and with automated server-management tools there's a high risk of unintentionally being incorrectly licensed on a significant percentage of your servers.

For example, many of our Enterprise Agreement [EA] customers assume that they're covered for Microsoft licenses for thin clients -- thin clients, iPads, Android devices and so on -- accessing Citrix to run Microsoft Office because they have the OS, Office Professional, not Office 365, and the core CAL [Client Access License] on their EA. However, the Software Assurance [SA] benefits governing the OS don't apply to embedded Windows or to non-Microsoft OSes. So while they own the upgrade, they don't own the underlying license they need to apply that upgrade.

Additionally, if these devices are on company premises, they would need to have additional Office licenses for each of these devices because Office is licensed by device, not user. On top of all this, they need to have a Remote Desktop Services CAL for each of the users or devices.

Q: When I create a VM what exactly do I have to pay for -- an OS, an app license, CALs for any who might access it? How do I figure this out?
A:
A server VM needs a server OS and CALs or External Connector licenses for everyone who accesses it. However, this need is typically already licensed by the presence of physical servers, so VMs rarely create a new need. Any additional server applications running on the server -- such as SQL, SharePoint, Project and so on -- all need to be licensed, and any users of those server applications need to have CALs for those applications.

How to figure it out is the hard part. Make your reseller part of your solution. Explain to them how you plan to use the technology and have them provide you with the guidance of what you need to license. Get it in writing. Finally, verify their recommendations either through research, Microsoft assistance or a qualified third-party advisor.

Microsoft has a Dependency Reference Guide available, which can help with the research.

Q: When I decommission a VM for which I paid license fees, can I transfer those licenses? If so, how? What's the best resource for clearly understanding all these issues?
A:
You can typically transfer the license, unless it was bought OEM. However, you can't reassign a license in less than 90 days from first assignment, except in a hardware failure situation. Microsoft is trying to help demystify licensing by providing some Licensing Briefs, which outline common technology usage and how to license. To avoid misinterpretation, be sure to check the effective date and be sure to keep in mind what version of the product the brief was written for compared to the version you'll be running. If in doubt or if you need additional clarification based upon your actual situation, consider working with a qualified Microsoft licensing expert, such as myself. For more independent Microsoft licensing advice, click here.

If heading out to Orlando for this year's Live! 360 event in December, make sure to catch Cynthia's workshop, "Microsoft Licensing for Desktop and Server Virtualization."

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/22/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Beneath the Surface

One of the biggest ways Microsoft reveals itself is through its blogs. In fact most minor product announcements are made this way nowadays.

Product groups go deeper, and generally have blogs that offer a step-by-step commentary on how a product is being built, what new features the company is willing to talk about and what the developers were thinking along the way.

The company also spends a good deal of time talking to blogs of others, and these conversations can serve the same purpose.

Panos Panay, general manager of Microsoft Surface, talked about his group's thinking on Surface.

One knock on Surface is its resolution of 1366 x 768 is far less than the iPad's 2048 x 1536. In fact, the Surface has far less resolution than the maximum resolution of most PCs. The reasoning is that Microsoft is focused instead on what is called the modulation transfer function (MTF) which combines resolution and contrast.

MTP, apparently part of ClearType, gets rid of the jaggies and make things clearer than the resolution would otherwise indicate. Sounds like is does much the same thing as anti-aliasing.

Other items tackled? The machines don't have Ethernet ports or support mobile wireless techs 3G and 4G. The company apparently sees WiFi and Bluetooth as the most useful wireless technologies.

Not having mobile wireless may irk some, but I refuse to pay extra for mobile data for a tablet. My cable, phone, Netflix and mortgage are more than enough monthly expenses.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/22/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Google Apps Jettison Older File Compatibility

Google continues to cut ties with older Microsoft technologies. Our last report showed that Google Apps wouldn't be supported on IE versions older than IE 8, which means XP users will have to move to Firefox or Chrome (which may be what Google had in mind in the first place!).

Now Google Docs will no longer export to older Microsoft Office formats and will mainly work with the newer DOCX files.

This is a bad, bad idea. As an editor I deal with files all the time, and not everyone has a late-model edition of Office that writes and reads DOCX. In fact, DOCX files are a huge pain for these Office users who have to use a filter to convert them to plain of DOC.

Should we all just suck it up and convert to these formats? Answers welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com. 

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/19/2012 at 1:19 PM4 comments


Microsoft's Earnings Semi-Debacle

Microsoft shocked me with huge revenues and earnings decline. I mean, have you ever heard of Microsoft sales dropping, never mind collapsing 8%? Earnings were down more fiercely, a gut-wrenching 22 percent.

While enduring endless heaps of pundit criticism, Microsoft set sales record after sales record, like clockwork. It was rarely enough to quell the maddening pundit crowd. Now those years of negative prophecies have finally been fulfilled.

Microsoft's problem is the PC's problems. Sales of PCs are down, so OEM Windows sales and sales of new Office copies are concomitantly down. Sales of new PCs were down 8.6% in the third quarter alone.

On the plus side, Microsoft is on the cusp of shipping a huge array of ambitious products, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and 2013 versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync. Once rolling, these products will start to moo as the cash cows they were built to be.

So what is going on with PCs? There could be a sales lull as folks wait to see Win 8. There is more use of smartphones and tablets for computing and communicating. Virtualization means thin clients can swap in for PCs or PCs can run off servers where the apps are upgraded on the server (and an old PC can always appear new).

And let's face it, after more than 30 years of PC availability, there are so many machines that we sometimes have to pay to get rid of them.

Microsoft execs can take solace in one fact: Google also got dumped on. Its stock got hammered after the company pre-released earnings that were less than Wall Street expected. Twenty billion in market value disappeared before trading was stopped.

What is your theory about PC sales and how many machines do you own? Explain yourself at dbarney@redmondmag.com. 

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/19/2012 at 1:19 PM4 comments


Q&A with Yung Chou: Windows Server 2012 -- Microsoft's Private Cloud Platform

The release of Microsoft Windows Server 2012 is the company's most ambitious effort yet to help organizations build and manage private clouds. Windows Server 2012 is designed with cloud computing in mind and with many new and enhanced features to facilitate the integration and management of cloud computing resources.

Few can dig deeper into the private cloud features of the new OS than Microsoft Senior IT Evangelist Yung Chou. And Chou, who has been penned as an upcoming sessions speaker at this year's Live!360, takes some time to answer some of my questions.

Q: Describe five ways Windows Server 2012 supports private clouds.
A:
Hyper-V scalability takes advantage of cutting-edge hardware capabilities to ensure meeting SLAs [service-level agreements] while also maximizing efficiency and scalability. Hyper-V Replica is an affordable storage-agnostic and workload-agnostic business continuity and disaster recovery solution for virtualized workload without employing third-party technology. SMB [Server Message Block] 3.0 offers an option for storing VM files and snapshots in file shares from both standalone file share servers and clustered file servers with much affordability and flexibility. Shared-nothing migration requires neither a clustered environment nor shared storage, and offers an alternative to consolidate resources with affordable networked storage for cost reduction and resource consolidation. And there are reduced requirements and a simplified process to set up DirectAccess, which is strategic for providing a user experience with seamless and secure access to the private cloud.

Q: Can you talk about how Microsoft supports each of these in a private cloud setting?
A:
Now, an authorized self-service user can initiate and later manage a service deployment to a private cloud with a few mouse clicks once a service deployment package -- including content, configurations, procedures and service template -- is validated against private cloud resource pools integrated and managed by System Center 2012.

The ability to manage a set of associated VMs as one entity provides an opportunity for System Center 2012 to deploy servers, configure a target runtime environment, install an intended LOB application, and start and manage an instance throughout its lifecycle. In essence, a service deployment can now be delivered as IaaS [Infrastructure as a Service], PaaS [Platform as a Service] or SaaS [Software as a Service], based on requirements. Ultimately, enterprise IT is transitioning into a cloud-computing platform with a realization of ITaaS [IT as a Service].

If heading out to Orlando for this year's Live! 360 event in December, make sure to catch Yung's workshop, "7 Must-Know Private Cloud Features in Windows Server 2012."

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


IE 10 'Do Not Track' Attacked by Trackers

I read the headline, "IE 10's 'Do No Track' Setting Under Attack" and wondered what on earth could be wrong with this privacy feature?

Then I found out that the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is the one with all the complaints. Here's what they whined to Steve Ballmer about: Do Not Track "will undercut the effectiveness of our members' advertising and, as a result, drastically damage the online experience by reducing the Internet content and offerings that such advertising supports. This result will harm consumers, hurt competition, and undermine American innovation and leadership in the Internet economy." Wow. Sounds like Do Not Tack, not communism, is the true enemy of capitalism.

Do Not Track is on by default in IE 10 and simply tells the advertisers that the end user doesn't want to be tracked.

While other browsers have the feature, users have to opt-in. The ANA apparently worries that almost no IE 10 will turn tracking on. And this is actually bad for the user. Here's the logic: If you can turn off tracking, it's like turning off TV commercials. The result is that advertising will suffer and these advertisers won't be able to "subsidize Internet offerings, or pay more for offerings that they currently enjoy for free or at a low cost."

But no one says Internet advertisers have to stop advertising. They just can't spy on what we do.

This may all be moot as some advertisers are expected to ignore or bypass the Do Not Track settings and track us anyway. What do you make of all this? Let us all know by writing to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/17/2012 at 1:19 PM7 comments


Android Successful Enough To Get Hacked

There are two theories as to why Windows is so often compromised. One is that when it comes to security, Windows is just lousy software. The other side is that Windows is so pervasive that hackers can't resist going after it.

Those of the second opinion can find supporting evidence by looking at Android, which is now coming under fire from hackers.

And it isn't just an attack here and there. On the first quarter of this year there were 5,000 malware programs going after Android. In the next three-month period, that shot up to 15,000.

Once issue is that like Windows and unlike the iPhone and iPad, Android has a pretty open software market. This increases the likelihood that you just won't get infected when clicking malicious links, but when downloading applications.

These attacks come in two forms: Some give hackers control of Android devices through backdoors., while more prevalent attacks are done with data stealing Trojans.

Is Windows compromised because it's bad, popular or both? Answers welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/17/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


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