Open Season For Online Data?

A couple months ago, a New York judge ruled that US search warrants applied to digital information even if they were stored overseas. The decision came about as part of an effort to dig up a Microsoft user's account information stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland. Microsoft responded to the ruling and challenged it, stating that the government's longstanding views of digital content on foreign servers are wrong, and that the protections applied to physical materials should be extended to digital content. In briefs filed last week, however, the US government countered.

Conan O'Brien Has Seen The Future - One Word: Robots!

Escape From XP!

Here is a cute XP-themed videogame to play in your browser - help the side-scrolling programmer (shooter) bust out of the nightmare that is XP. Go here, and scroll down till you see the "Escape from XP" animation. 

Zorin OS 9 Core And Ultimate

This one seemed to arrive quicker than I expected - but Zorin OS 9 Core and Ultimate are here, based upon the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS version (LTS=5 years of updates and support on that version). It does not seem like too long ago that I installed Zorin OS 8 on my laptop.

Ultimate is the paid version, while Core is free of charge. After a total of about 30 minutes (!) using this one, I have but one gripe/quibble - the Zorin folks decided to put a kind of a goofy skin on the default Firefox browser, which is not really to my taste. I'm going to live with it for a day or two (it's a theme, and can be readily removed), but my first impression was not good.

The login screen for Zorin 8 also seemed slicker to me, but I am not really a good arbiter of design. Apart form the dubious Firefox theme (see below), Zorin 9 seems to be a nice update to the previous version, with long-term support.
The main focus for Zorin OS 9 has been on stability and the refinement of Zorin OS’s wide array of incredible features. Firstly, Zorin OS 9 includes a myriad of updated software and bug fixes to ensure that your computer runs better than ever. New applications such as the Firefox Web Browser and Rhythmbox Music Player have also been included in this release. EFI boot support has been added, making it easier to get Zorin OS on newer computers (64 bit only). In addition, we have introduced a new Blue desktop theme to the Zorin Theme Changer in complement to the Light and Dark themes.
Click to enlarge the Firefox theme


Never Mind Windows XP, What About Server 2003?

Another important end-of-life event for a major operating system is coming up in July 2015, but this time I'd say the stakes are perhaps even higher. Server 2003 will cease to receive official update support after that time, and there are still a lot of smaller offices and virtual servers running on this platform.
Since its launch 11 years ago, the operating system was succeeded by Windows Server 2008 and 2012. Despite those releases, Windows Server 2003 maintains a strong grip on some data centers, said Anderson.

"The fact of the matter is that there is a significant amount of Windows Server 2003 to upgrade around the world; we estimate that there are more than 15,000,000 physical servers that are likely to be upgraded over the next 12 months," he said.

Migrating millions of servers to Windows Server 2012 could provide Microsoft's virtualization technology, Hyper-V, with a big boost against rival VMware.

Anderson indicated that "many organizations are using the upgrade as the point in time they also migrate from VMware to Hyper-V." Windows Server 2003, unlike Server 2012, does not ship with the hypervisor, he observed.


Microsoft Employees Bracing For Coming Layoffs

Microsoft is expected to cut thousands of jobs, most likely this week, just ahead of its Q4 fiscal 2014 earnings report next week.

Expectations are the Nokia handset division, which Microsoft officially acquired earlier this year, will bear the brunt of the cuts. (Microsoft acquired 25,000 Nokia employees as part of that transaction, adding to its workforce of close to 100,000.) Beyond those possible cuts, Microsoft also may cut more jobs in marketing across the company, Bloomberg reported on July 14, as it did in 2009 when it shed more than 5,000 employees.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is working to focus the company on fewer, key areas where it has a better chance of winning. The areas where Microsoft is trumpeting its wins at this week's Worldwide Partner Conference are largely in the cloud -- with Azure, Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online -- and Office, Windows Server and business intelligence/SQL Server on premises.


LXLE Desktop Linux - First Impressions

LXLE Desktop Linux is a distribution based upon Lubuntu LTS 14.04 (Long Term Support). LXLE is a nicely polished Linux version that runs well on older hardware; I installed on an older T-series Lenovo laptop with 2GB RAM - a pretty typical Windows XP-class system. After a few days use, I really like this distro; it has a nice selection of software, including ClamTK antivirus and an installer for Steam (which worked nicely). 

I Think I May Be Done With Windows

With most of my free time taken up by an Android tablet and a laptop running various flavors of Linux, I think I may be done with Windows. The only thing still tying me to Windows might have been gaming, but I do so little of that now it's really not an issue anymore. Windows 8 made me take a big step back, and the latest scuttlebutt on Windows 9 having yet another anti-piracy activation scheme makes me shy away from it also.  See the quote below from InfoWorld
...and Microsoft is working on new activation methods that will more closely tie a copy of Windows 9 with a specific PC.
It's not that I intend to pirate Windows of course, but I like to upgrade hardware from time to time and the new protection scheme sounds like it will be even more clunky to work with for home builders. 

I still am heavily involved with Windows at work, of course, and our home computer runs Windows 7 (and will keep running until it finally keels over, as far as I am concerned), but as far as my own computer needs during my own time, it's Linux and Android for the forseeable future.


Windows 9 To Windows 8 As Windows 7 Was To Vista

Windows 8 has not and is not doing very well; adoption has been slow and updated versions such as Windows 8.1 and 8.1 update 1 have only brought some minor tweaks and concessions to a more "traditional" Windows. Windows 9 is on it's way towards the end of the year, and I'm sure Microsoft is hoping that it will make everything okay again, the way Windows 7 did for beleaguered Vista users back in late 2009. There are not too many details yet on Windows 9, although leaks and speculation makes for interesting reading, such as this article at Infoworld:
If Microsoft can get Windows 9 out the door in short order -- even if it's only "the way Windows 8 should've been" for experienced Windows users -- perhaps some of the damage from Windows 8 can be mitigated. Unleashing a detailed Windows 9 announcement will kill Windows 8 sales, but that wouldn't change the status quo by much. Releasing a working Preview of Windows 9 would work wonders.

If a near-term announcement of Windows 8's demise is tied to an offer for free upgrades to Windows 9 from either Windows 7 or Windows 8 (8.1, 8.1 Update 1, 8.1 Update 2, whatever) -- including a consumer migration tool like Windows Easy Transfer or Laplink Migration Kit -- Windows might live to fight another day


Android's Factory Reset May Not Be What You Expect

The security outfit Avast has written up a breathless advertorial claiming that selling an old Android phone exposes all your personal data—even after a factory reset. The company bought 20 used phones off eBay that the sellers thought had been wiped out, but by using forensics techniques, Avast was able to recover the previous owner's data. The melodramatic descriptions of the leftover data includes "family photos of children," "photos of women in various stages of undress," and "selfies of what appear to be the previous owner’s manhood," along with the usual texts and e-mails. Like all Anti-virus company bulletins, the recommended solution is to install the company's product, in this case the freemium "Avast! Anti-Theft" app.

While the tone is definitely over-the-top, the issue raised is legitimate. It's something that affects most computers: there is a big difference between "deletion" and "secure erase." Deleting something—either a single file or a whole partition—usually involves changing an index that points to the thing, rather than deleting the thing itself. Since only the pointer to the bits is changed, and not the actual bits, recovery software can reconstruct the contents of the "deleted" information. While you could make every deletion or partition wipe physically erase the bits, this is usually a waste of time, and, on flash memory, it would reduce the life of the device.


Ransomware Fears Growing Rapidly

IT pros indicated they are feeling less protected, as confidence in endpoint security dropped from 96 percent in January to 59 percent.

Apprehension over ransomware is growing rapidly, rising to 73 percent from 48 percent of those who are very or extremely concerned about it, according to a survey from security awareness training company KnowBe4.

If confronted with a scenario where backups have failed and weeks of work might be lost, an astounding 57 percent of those polled said they would begin with paying the $500 ransom and hope for the best.

Confidence in email and spam filtering effectiveness dropped from 88 percent to 64 percent, and the survey found if faced with 4 hours of lost work from ransomware encryption, 81 percent would rely on backup.