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September 2009

Issue 111

Computing 10 years on A-Z, Choosing Windows 7, Google's Chrome OS, Office 2010 dawns, Safer surfing measures

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CONTENTS

*** NewsBytes ***
  1. Computing 10 years on: rocking, rooted or rotting?
  2. Choosing Windows 7
  3. Will Google's Chrome smash Microsoft's Windows?
  4. 2010 dawns - MS empire strikes back, free Office software
  5. What's inside Office 2010?
  6. Q&A: What mailing listserver software should we use for external discussions?
  7. Web attacks prompt safer surfing measures

Clicks of the Trade - recover lost files in Word 2003/2007



*** NewsBytes ***
Bing is go!
Bing logo Billed as a 'decision engine' rather just another search engine, Microsoft's new Bing launched on 3rd June, amid much debate over whether the web really needs a rival to Google - or doesn't. However Bing aims its focus towards catalogued results and related searches, presenting pages looking more like a slick summary for a chief exec rather than a pure listing. Time will tell whether the Microsoft decision engine will lure users away from Google's established simplicity, a prospect reinforced by Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive: "My time frame is lots of years." At an industry conference Ballmer indicated they were looking at the long haul: "There's no way to change the game in one step."
90% of spam hails from hacked PCs
keysicon Your neighbour could be spamming you without knowing it. Hacked computers that have been assemble into remotely programmed botnets form approximately 90 per cent of spam distrutors, according to research by Symantec With spam averaging almost 94 per cent of all e-mail traffic in 2008, the total number of spam messages were sent on the Internet rose to 349.6 billion, up from 119.6 billion in 2007, says Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report.
Mi-Fi: your own portable wi-fi hotspot
3_wifi_modem Wi-fi hotspots at Internet cafes and hotels are be expensive and can be difficult to track down just when you want to send a quick email or do a bit of surfing. So why not make your own multi-user hotspot? You can even take it with you. Step up MiFi® - a mobile wi-fi service to be launched by mobile network provider 3 UK.
The Mi-Fi box sends out wireless signals allowing several wi-fi-capable devices such as laptops to hook up to it once an 8-digit network key has been typed in. From there, users gain Internet connections seamlessly via a subscription to 3's 3G service, giving them access to email, web browsing and social media sites. three_logo_ The diminutive 86 x 45 x 10 mm box is in effect a battery powered wi-fi router needing neither a fixed broadband line nor software and would be ideal for creating an exhibition hotspot or for impromptu workshop Internet access.
About the only caveats are the exclusive 3 UK provision and the fact that the Mi-Fi mobile wi-fi box won't be available until Christmas.
Money runs out
A long time favourite for personal banking, Microsoft's Money Plus software ceased to be available for purchase after 30 June 2009. For Money Plus die-hards, product support is planned to continue through to January 2011, though any recent purchases must be activated before 31 January 2011. Having suspended annual updates of Money Plus in 2008, Microsoft cites the range of options for managing personal finances available from banks, brokerage firms and web sites as a factor. However they will continue to evolve and enhance the MSN Money Web site MSN offering in coming months. More info: MS Money Plus site
Cheaper iPhone 3GS for some
Apple iPhone 3GS Apple recently revealed a $99 reduced-memory iPhone as part of its new series. The new 3GS models feature video recording capabilities, a 3-megapixel camera, and up to 9 hours of battery time when working on a wi-fi network. The 8GB $99 version, 16GB $199 version and 32GB $299 will be available on 19 June, though some UK subscribers are angered that they will have pay off their existing contract to be elligible for the 3GS upgrade. O2 (who has the exclusive UK rights) claim that device subsidies by them are the cause. Follow the O2 Twitter stream for more info.
Watching the watchers
Orwellian Opel, London - Spotted by Joanathan Chetwynd
The tables have turned on Google. The company's controversial Street View mapping service saw fleets of unmistakable, Big Brother-ish cars roaming the streets, very probably yours. Now, readers of The Register have combined to create a mashup of sightings of the black, camera-topped cars - dubbed 'Orwellian Opels' - ironically using Google's own maps. Even stranger, some of the picture-takers were captured on Street View at the same instant they clicked the shutter, rendering themselves immortal and infinite in a stroke. Prior to the March 2009 UK launch, the cars were rumbled as long ago as 2008 by Edinburgh's Evening News, with Google initially responding in a somewhat less than reciprocal fashion. Check the photo to see our local Opel heading up the street towards Co-Operative Systems!
Charity Finance Live 2009
Charity Finance Live logo Attendees to Charity Finance Live this year can save £50 off the registration fees if they book by 18th September. The 2008 inaugural conference launched in a very different economic climate, so this year focuses on the future of the UK economy over the next 5 years (a keynote address by Robert Chote from the Institute of Fiscal Studies), a strategy to manage through the downturn, how to maintain service levels and reduce costs, and a debate around the pressures on charities of commercialisation.
When: Monday 19 October 2009
Where: QEII Conference Centre, Westminster
Check the Charity Finance Live page for the programme and registration or alternatively phone on 020 7819 1200.
*** end of NewsBytes ***



^ Back to contents ^
1.Computing 10 years on: rocking, rooted or rotting?
From Acrobat to Zombie, IB presents a 10 year review of computing.

Help at hand.
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Ten years ago InfoBulletin was simple text email newsletter dishing out IT tips by popular demand to clients of Co-Operative Systems. Since then, IB has developed into an HTML newsletter, a mini web site with RSS feeds, printed hard copies, an interactive PDF library and it also streams direct to social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Ten year A-Z of iconic computing history
Rooted
Rooted
A is for Acrobat Paperless offices got off to a slow start with Adobe's ground-breaking Portable Document Format (PDF), if only because its initial charge was $50 a pop for the Reader software, thankfully freely downloaded these days. Now licensed in many other packages such as Primo PDF, the format has become a de-facto standard, and allowed many organisations (ours included) to go down the electronic invoicing route.
Rotting
Rotting
B is for Broadband Starting the century as geeky ADSL, the term for online Nirvana morphed into user-friendly broadband – the only question was who had it and and where. Now that most of the UK have it, the controversial question is "How fast?". Sadly we still lag way behind Scandinavians and Koreans.
Rocking
Rocking
C is for Camera Three hundred years after the first portable camera was built, it went 'electronic', and in the next 20 years cameras dumped their acetate film-based history on the cutting room floor. Yesteryear's 35mm is currently pursued by only a handful of pro camera companies, with Leica going digital only in 2007, while every Jo Bloggs totes a pocket-sized gadget that records video and audio as well as pictures, all for a price that would barely buy an old zoom lens.
Rocking
Rocking
D is for Dell Big Michael gave his name to the company and his PCs to the populace, perfecting the Direct-To-Customer sales approach by slicing margins and rigorously automating the building of semi-customised computers, to the point where buyers 'simply' pick and choose online. It didnt completely work out that way, as ongoing IT complexities ("SCSI or ATA drives, Sir?") had many people still reaching for their friendly IT supplier. Dell recognised this by embracing the channel with a Dell Certified Partner programme.
Rooted
Rooted
E is for Ethernet The unsung hero of networking, formerly uttered only when it was 'not working', now speeds our data effortlessly over local networks 100 times faster than it did of yore. And yet we hardly notice.
Rocking
Rocking
F is for Facebook The example that brought the concept and practice of social networking to the masses. Now, online social networks pop up left, right and centre, with Twitter being the latest one to watch.
Rocking
Rocking
G is for Google In the beginning (1998), Google was just 2 students, a minimal search interface, some clever maths algorithms and a mantra of Don't be evil. Today, the big G is a multi-billion dollar, ad-powered, online application dynamo - with its sights set on Microsoft's market share.
Rocking
Rocking
H is for Handheld From Laptop to Ultra-Mobile PC to Palmtop to Smartphone Smartphone more and more features have been been packed into Windows Mobiles, BlackBerrys, iPhones and now Androids. Touchscreen technology has made sophisticated applications easy to manipulate despite the small screen size.
Rocking
Rocking
I is for Internet Once so obscure it was deemed 'good for nothing', today there seems nothing it's not good for. Weird search protocols replaced by friendly search engines, email that can be secure (though often isn't implemented) and, instead of static old HTML web pages, there is dynamic content management, controlled by groups so that everyone can contribute. We work, learn, shop, chat, play and fantasise online, almost like the real world didn't exist.
Rooted
Rooted
J is for Java A mid-90s fledgling programming language, developed by Sun, now underlies many web site menus, interactive web technologies and applications like AJAX, bringing online software such as webmail and social media straight into our web browsers.
Rooted
Rooted
K is for Killer application Over 6 million web entries confirm the popularity of this iconic phrase that tries to define the iconic bit of software. Humans being communicative literary souls at heart, it is of course still email.
Rooted
Rooted
L is for LCD Flat screens derive their svelte profile from Liquid Crystal Display technology. A rarity among the bulky Cathode Ray Tube monitors 10 years ago, the LCD is so commonplace, on everything from massive TV wide screens down to mobile phones, that we take it for granted.
Rooted
Rooted
M is for Microsoft Bill Gates ensured that, for a computing generation, Windows and Office continue to be the staple diet of almost anyone who uses a PC, whether for work or play. A decade back it was perhaps Windows 98 or Windows 2000 and Office 97. Now we have Windows 7 succeeding Vista, and a first offline offering Office 2010 in the wings to complement Office 2007.
Rotting
Rotting
N is for Netbooks Small, cheap fast computers bounded into the limelight again a decade after Sun/Oracle's thin client discless desktops, called NCs. The portable Asus Eee series for school kids included discs and won acclaim, but the boost to the Linux operating system proved temporary, with many buyers drifting back to Windows-powered machines.
Rooted
Rooted
O is for Open source Free open source software vs. commercial proprietary code: the longest running argument in the history of computing? Geeks and marketeers have traded insults through the ages on issues of support, usability and security. Linux v. Windows, OpenOffice v. Office - any of it sound familiar? Plus ca change ...
Rocking
Rocking
P is for Printers Once printers were just that. Today's refined beasts boast copy, scan and fax functions making 3 other machines obsolete for the price of one. Lasers used to be expensive, but cheap to run, while inkjets were the reverse, but the tables are turning once again in favour of ink.
Rooted
Rooted
Q is for QWERTY Love it or loathe it, the 19C. typewriter stares us daily in the face, as a majority of keyboard philistines peck away crudely at keys laid out in their current design of 135 years ago. As if to remind us of its origins, the word "typewriter" can be spelled using only the the top row of keys.
Rocking
Rocking
R is for Routers A box of once-strange and mystical powers that could turn typed phrases into Internet numbers is now a fixture in many homes. The ADSL modem has been replaced by the wireless router hub. For many teenagers, the only significance of the 'death of dial up' has been a blissful blurring of the line where homework stops and gaming begins.
Rotting
Rotting
S is for Spam The one thing we wish had gone away and never did – junk mail has got worse. Heaps worse. The boon of bucket shop advertising makes it profitable for spammers to reel in the gullible few by mailing millions of misanthropes. Online spam filtering to the rescue.
Rooted
Rooted
T is for Tape The recording medium of choice for 1970s bootlegs, tape still persists as the cheapest form of mass backup. Moving through a morass of 3-letter-acronymed standards (DDS, AIT and LTO), today's rocketing hard drive storage still hasn't unseated the old tape cartridge when it comes to cost.
Rooted
Rooted
U is for UPS The Uninterruptible Power Supply has remained a steady workhorse for a decade and more, monitoring our messy mains power lines, and switching servers seamlessly over to battery while gracefully shutting them down until normal service is resumed. A simple idea implemented with sophistication, and a huge money saver.
Rocking
Rocking
V is for VoIP The 2-tins-and-a-bit-string telephone system still in use by everyone at the end of last century was finally computerised, and by 2003 calls were already free, care of Skype's famous PC-to-PC software, now a video-conferencing tool as well. Mr. A. Bell esq. would have boggled at it all.
Rooted
Rooted
W is for Wireless A more pervasive technology would be hard to find. In 1999, "wireless" was something your Granddad remembered listening to. A year later, it promised to clear away all those nasty PC wires, often accompanied by much gnashing of teeth in setting it up. Today's average smartphone packs in over a dozen wireless devices – GSM, GPRS, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS – all given away as a loss-leading, pocketable gadget.
Rocking
Rocking
X is for x86 In technical terms, the most commercially successful instruction set architecture invented for processors. In human terms, common computers for everyone. Half way through our decade, the only major contender, Apple's PowerPC, gave up and switched its Macs to Intel's x86 processors.
Rooted
Rooted
Y is for Year 2000 The doomsday scenario - when people's birth records would vanish and planes would fall to earth - failed to materialise on 1st January 2000 and was deemed by many to be a load of bunkum. A more accurate and 'inconvenient truth' was the fact that a huge amount of hard programming work went into averting it. Not nearly as inconvenient and uncomfortable as Al Gore's later truth though.
Rotting
Rotting
Z is for Zombie The anti-virus battle has raged and been waged since last century and shows signs of getting more vicious. Script kiddies writing programmes that played teenage pranks gave way to organised crime syndicates stealing bank info by enslaving thousands of unsecured zombie PCs. You can buy a zombie botnet army for around £5000, and who knows, one of its recruits might be your PC!


^ Back to contents ^
2. Choosing Windows 7
With analysts, trialists and testing labs giving Windows 7 the thumbs up all round, the successor to Windows Vista is proving to be a hit long before its official on sale date to consumers on 22nd October.

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Back issues just a click away


http://www.microsoft.com/Windows/Framework/images/windows-7/win7_get_hero.jpg

Windows 7 hardware requirements

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 (Windows Display Driver Model) or higher driver

The real winner, for purchasers of new machines and upgraders of old ones alike, is going to be on the hardware front. According to lab reports, Windows 7 runs - incredibly - a tad faster than its Vista predecessor, and even keeps the same PC hardware requirements (see panel).

Some pioneers are even squeezing new Windows life out machines that don't meet the requirements for 7; would believe an old 700MHz Pentium III ThinkPad with 256MB of RAM, or a 600MHz Pentium III desktop with 512MB of RAM, or even a 266MHz Pentium II with 96MB RAM, circa-1997!

Whittling Win 7 choices down

Another diversion from previous versions is that Windows is a lot easier to choose this time around. Although there 5 are actual product editions, the two most basic - called Home Basic and Starter - are just that, omitting vital functions such as: support for multiple or 64-bit processors; Microsoft's Encrypting File System (EFS); DVD playback; no HomeGroup sharing of local files (only the ability to join other shares).

For newer foldable-style and touch-sensitive screens, gone also is Tablet PC functionality and Multi-Touch support, while those with aspirations to multimedia and TV integration would have to forego Windows Media Center and support for TV tuners.

However since Home Basic will only be available in so-called emerging markets (Brazil,China, India, Mexico and Thailand, to name but a few), and Starter will only come pre-installed on computers through system integrator, this narrows the field down to just three for the likes of consumers in presumably 'established' markets, typically home users and Small-Office-Home-Office (SoHo) workers.

These are: Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate.

Windows 7 Home Premium

Windows 7 Home Premium

Windows 7 Professional

Windows 7 Professional

Windows 7 Ultimate

Windows 7 Ultimate

All three editions have contain essential, all-round features such as:

  • improved desktop navigation,
  • faster program start-up and web browsing, a safer online experience;
  • Windows Journal notetaker, a Tablet PC spin off that can organise handwritten notes and drawings;
  • Windows Media Center and PVR-style functions like pausing, rewinding, and recording for up to 4 TV tuners;
  • creating a home network, of course, to hook up PCs and printers, now called HomeGroup;
  • and full backup for data and a system image snapshot for restoring your PC to a previous state - as a last resort recovery.

Moving up to Professional and Ultimate only (but not included in Home Premium) is:

  • Windows XP Mode (for running old programs),
  • Offline Files (as per XP),
  • the capability of joining company networks and domains,
  • Remote Desktop hosting
  • and an extension of the system Backup and Restore to include backup locations on a home or business network.

At the apex of the Windows 7 series on Ultimate only (but not included in either Home Premium nor Professional), we discover BitLocker - full protection of data against loss or theft on PCs and portable storage devices - as well as the ability to work in any of 35 languages. For enterprise use, a feature called AppLocker helps in controlling which applications can run, either to prevent rogue or unknown programs from installing themselves or from being installed by unauthorised users. Also at the top end of the range we find DirectAccess, a means of accessing the corporate network (based on a Windows Server 2008) securely through the Internet for those who have found VPN methods unreliable.

New buyers beware


Shop for PCs

There are major performance differences to consider when choosing between 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and the hardware they sit on. Take maximum memory (RAM) size: Windows 7 32-bit can accommodate 4 GB for all versions, while it's 64-bit brother stretches to 192 GB on the Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions, though only 16 GB on Home Premium. So in terms of new PC purchases with Windows 7 installed, it becomes clear that knowing how much 'oomph' you need in future is critical. Everyday word processing and spreadsheet use will purr happily away on 32-bit installations, but to give a PC enough upgradeable RAM capacity to deal with a fistful of applications simultaneously, buying one of today's increasingly prevalent 64-bit machines will be the best bet.

Can my PC run Windows 7?

Another factor is whether you can actually upgrade from a previous version of Windows. Unfortunately, this is where IT politics come into play. The EU have pursued Microsoft on anti-competitive practices where Internet Explorer was bundled with Windows previously, with no other browser alternatives. The ruling was addressed somewhat controversially  by an intention to supply a browser-less version of Windows 7 in Europe only, dubbed 'Win 7E'. The problem for European buyers was then that upgrades from Vista were off the cards, since a fresh install involving a hard drive format was required, with all the accompanying heartache of copying documents, email and settings- well beyond the capability of the average user. To quote the document entitled Windows 7 Upgrade Paths: "Upgrades from Windows Vista to Windows N, Windows K, Windows KN, or Windows E are not supported".

Browser Ballot

However in mid August, Microsoft reversed its Europe-only policy and instead banked on EU antitrust regulators backing a Windows 7 that gives users the ability to choose their web browser, via a 'ballot screen' containing links to just a handful of the browser competitors, at present being Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera.

In the current state of affairs, it seems that, globally, everyone will receive the same Windows 7, so what appears on the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor page once again holds true, but anyone with nagging doubts about buying a new PC will likely wait until 22nd October comes around.

Family matters

Another last minute volte face will bring benefits for UK home users too. Microsoft will after all sell the Windows 7 Family Pack in the UK, offering buyers the chance to upgrade up to three PCs to Windows 7 for just £150, though the company says this offer will only be available in "limited quantities". The upgrade path can come via XP or Vista, though only a Vista upgrade will retain the original programs, settings and data. Keep your eyes peeled from 22nd October onwards, the Windows 7 launch date.

Out with the old

So much for "in with the new" but is there anything that's quietly gone AWOL from Windows 7 when compared to its forbears? Sadly yes, and some features you might miss sorely.

  • Classic menus - yep, really! Only the Vista-style Start Menu from now on
  • No more taskbar 'always on top' setting
  • Taskbar items like the Quick Launch toolbar and the Address Bar now have to be 'pinned' to the taskbar
  • Instances of combined taskbar windows (eg several Explorers or IEs) are no longer shown as a number and the 'disable grouping' feature to allow all tabs to be shown has disappeared
  • Bye-bye to animation of network activity on the 'double-PC' Network Connections icon bottom right - a much-used indication of whether the PC is still active on the LAN or Internet
  • AutoPlay, which can allow malicious programs picked up on USB memory sticks to infect PCs has been cut back to support AutoRun only on optical discs, like CDs and DVDs
  • No more individual window size and position for Windows Explorer, each window sharing the same ones
  • It's no longer possible to disable Auto Arrange and Align to Grid
  • On the Windows Explorer status bar, free disk space and the size of any highlighted item are not shown

Once bitten ...?

People who took up Vista and decided to vent their anger and disappointment by reverting to their old familiar Windows XP may be fighting shy of diving into another Windows 'adventure'. Can they perform the same trick this time around? After all Microsoft plans to continue supporting Windows XP until April 2014.

What many are asking - particularly organisations with older XP-running applications to support - is:
"Can I downgrade my OEM version of Windows 7 Professional to Windows XP Professional?" To which the offical answer is:
"For a limited time of 18 months after the general availability of Windows 7 or the release of a Windows 7 Service Pack, whichever is earlier, the OEM license of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate will include downgrade rights to Windows XP Professional. After that period the OEM license will enable downgrade rights to Windows Vista Business."

You can find out more about Windows 7 Downgrades at the page on Microsoft Select License, Open License, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) License, and Full-Packaged Product (FPP) License Downgrade Rights.

Broadly speaking then, this means that most purchasers of Windows, or machines installed with same, will end up running Windows 7 by April 2011.

Contacts


^ Back to contents ^
3. Will Google's Chrome smash Microsoft's Windows?
The arrival of Google's new operating system could throw the presently turgid desktop market into disarray. But don't hold your breath.

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google_chrome_logo.jpg

Almost since the dawn of the PC, when IBM opened up the Personal Computer specification, consumers eagerly took up the emerging operating system launched by Microsoft, which eventually became Windows.

Although Apple's Mac OS and open source Linux variations offer computing alternatives, Windows still sits on nine tenths of desktops purchased. For the first time since PC's Year-Zero, it appears the market place may become significantly split between Microsoft and a major rival - Google.

Browsing the light fantastic

With its intended foray into the mobile phone market as well as every conceivable type of popular computer and the (supposedly) universally available web as its 'platform', Google's new operating system débutante is aiming to be sociable and sought after in one hit.

As a competitor, Chrome has a lot going for it. Based on Linux, it's free, unlike any Windows the world has ever known. And just about any old web application - such as Gmail, Google Docs, googlegroups, wikipedia, forums, blogs, social media, online games – indeed anything that runs in a browser will just work. That's a sizeable selection of popular software for starters. Big enough to worry Apple perhaps, even with its head start on a heaving iPhone app store.

logo_android.gif

Build your own Android

The live-android project allows you to burn an Android CD and boot from it Linux-style, without touching your existing computer's drive at all.

Version 1.1 of Android Developer Kit puts Android directly on your PC and gives access to Google libraries such as Maps.

More than 1.75 million companies use Google apps, say Google, and governments with an eye on up-front costs have become keen to use Linux-based software as an alternative to Microsoft.

One OS for all?

At this point another unknown factor heaves into view – Android. November 2007 saw the release of this mobile operating system, quickly adopted into the world's first actual phone (T-Mobile's G1) in 2008 and more recently HTC's Magic.

android-desktop-pc.jpg

With Android kits being available left, right and centre, it was hardly surprising that companies began tinkering with/evaluating Android, as Acer then HP and many others announced serious interest in creating Android-based netbooks and laptops. Few developers would spurn a low-load operating system with access to loads of geographical data and applications thrown in – it's a huge potential market.

However, even while testing Android PCs themselves, Google have been relatively mute on the subject - possibly because Android lacks desktop-class productivity applications and document editing - so in the end Chrome may have been the reason why.

Leaps and bounds

The most well-known software company in the world isn't about to sit back and have its bread and butter stolen lightly of course. Simmering gently in the background has been Microsoft's Gazelle project, an experimental 'multi-principal OS', though the terms are somewhat confusing since Gazelle isn't really an operating system, but .

This prototype browser shares common elements with Google's Chrome browser in that separately tabbed pages run in their own memory space and process, an approach which enhances security and prevents an error in any one page being rendered from crashing the whole browser. When so many of today's web pages tend to download software and run scripts, rather than just rendering the layout, that could be a real boon for continuity when a user has say 20 tabs open. Whereas Chrome makes a compromise to efficiency by bundling elements from the same web domain, Gazelle looks to take a further leap by dedicating an individual process to each element of a rendered web page.

crunchpad.jpg

The obvious snag is that all the separate processes add up to a performance hit in terms of both memory consumed and processor overhead, perhaps 10 times as much. However with an undoubted interest in cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), the browser may become the most prominent part of the the future's operating systems. Indeed technologies such as Google's Gears, Adobe Air, Microsoft's Silverlight and the conceptual CrunchPad (tablet with browser as OS) are skewing the conventional ideas about the architecture desktop computing.

This surface may require several applications ...

But how much of a reality is a competitive Chrome OS scenario?

chrome_logo_sm.jpg

On the application front Google has to get from almost nowhere to Apple-style iPhone app-heaven in under 12 months. While the 9 hardware manufacturers who signed up in support (Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba) haven't exactly got nothing to lose, it's as good an offer as they going to get in computer credit-crunch times, though Chrome's success will depend hugely on what it can run.

However the application market for developers is more of a gamble. They can write all the code they want but 'monetizing' it (what used to be called "earning a living") doesn't come that easy. New applications on a new operating system means changing computer buyers' habits, ones which are capriciously conservative, sticking to the old familiar Windows they know, until of course, they discern a tangible trend. Then everyone leaps on the bandwagon, and the rest is iPhone history.

Six reasons why Chrome OS isn't an immediate threat to Windows 7

Returning to Google's immediate proposition for the moment, a Chrome operating system would indeed prove interesting, if only because the desktop market may for the first time have a major rival. Underline: may.

The current sparse Chrome FAQ only shows bullets 3 questions (Is it free? What companies support it? How can developers get involved?).

  • Chrome OS is thus far an announcement, not a product, and one that would have gone unnoticed if released by a small startup company
  • the code doesn't go open source for developers until end of this year
  • Chrome OS won't launch to consumers until the second half of 2010
  • Windows 7 may already have achieved a significant take up by then
  • users have to be persuaded to change their instinct away from going with what they already know
  • MS have had a habit in the past of magically dropping prices in the face of serious competition.

Enthusiastic IT managers, CIOs and users may be as keen as anyone to see a Chrome operating system on PCs, but with even the free Chrome browser only taking a 2% slice of the market so far, it's all a way off just yet.

Contacts


^ Back to contents ^
4. MS empire strikes back, free Office software
Microsoft counters Google operating system challenge by offering its own Office software for free.

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Following Google's announced foray into the desktop market threatening to unsettle Windows' dominance with its Chrome operating system, Microsoft hit back at its rival with the announcement of Office 2010, a web-based version of its prime Office application.

Google has primarily marketed its advertising-supported search engine plus web-based applications, while Microsoft has successfully dominated the desktop software arena.

The Chicago way

Hospitals and morgues

Malone: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way! And that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I'm offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?

Mutual respect for the online vs. desktop marketing divide dissolved in July with Google's announcement of Chrome OS, a free operating system for desktops and laptops, and one that treads unequivocally on MS-dominated territory. Microsoft retaliated with a free edition of its Office money-spinner, designed to mark a similar move into Google's acclaimed Docs & Spreadsheets, a web applications suite with software delivered as a service (SaaS) direct from the web.

Despite these rival giants being based in Redmond, Washington and Mountain View, California respectively, the inter-company battle has an air of The Untouchables what with stakes being so high, at least in the long term; the cross-country conflict begins to resemble Chicago city gangsterism in its brinkmanship.

Only there are no deals on the table.

Office online - paying out or paying off?

Will the free Office 2010 impact a key source of Microsoft's income?

Not much, say the industry watchers. Free web versions of Office will be ad-sponsored, hopefully drawing users to its ad-supported websites, including the new MS search engine, Bing.

The free version of Office would represent a minor dent in Microsoft's overall revenue, a business earning its bread and butter from corporate users. Only a relatively small number of home users are likely to abandon the comfort of their accustomed PC version of Office in the short term, in favour of online software which depends entirely on having a reliable ISP.

Because the hidden cost of Internet-delivered software is what happens when it goes offline: people all over the world stop working, as Gmail users found repeatedly to their cost in early 2009. Google has begun to remedy the catastrophe of the "Gmail's offline again" scenario with continuous offline working, thanks to its underlying Gears™ technology.

When Office 2010's Word goes belly up along with the broadband connection, early adopters will rue the day they switched – or find a better broadband line.

And of course, the majority of consumers may care less - after all, healthy competition in the software market often leads to a fall in the price of licence costs.

Old Office offline

With the Office 14 code brely out of the PR starting gate, a new vulnerability was found in the Office Web Components (OWC) portion of older versions of Microsoft Office, with hackers hard on its heels attempting exploits. Microsoft initially detailed the flaw and provided a workaround, but has now fixed the flaw with an OWC security patch.

To put all these speculations into perspective it's worth rolling out some numbers. Google boasts over 15 million users of its free Google Apps (Gmail, Docs & Spreadsheets, etc), though paid up members to the premium version comprise only hundreds of thousands of those. Stack against that Microsoft's claim to have 500 million owners of desktop Office, though around half of those are reckoned to use pirated copies.

Microsoft has been here before of course, pulling back from a lagging position on Internet web browsers with its Internet Explorer and, less successfully, on anti-virus software. The company clearly hopes to garner a new source of revenue from users of the the free software by driving them to its ad-supported websites, probably via its recently-launched Bing search engine, another swipe at prime Google territory.

Microsoft will also press its own data centres into action to host an Internet business version of its Office 2010 online, though fees for this paid version are yet to be announced.


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5. What's inside Office 2010?

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As if a whole new Windows operating system wasn't enough to take on board, Microsoft is pushing out its new Office 2010 and, for basic users, it will be free.

We take a peek inside Office 2010.

Bascially the whole gamut of applications is on offer:

office2010apps
  • Word 2010
  • Excel® 2010
  • PowerPoint® 2010
  • Outlook® 2010
  • OneNote® 2010
  • Publisher 2010
  • Access® 2010
  • SharePoint Workspace 2010
  • InfoPath® 2010
  • Office Web Applications
  • Office Mobile

Key to the suite will inevitably be 'portability', a logical development of having documents and data at your fingertips on whatever device be it a laptop, desktop, phone or Internet browser built into almost any device. Collaboration and has been the bane of users hooked into years of Office upgrades, and simultaneous co-authoring of documents will be a major advance if it can be presented in a way that makes sense to even unskilled users. The possibility of being to able to lock paragraphs mimics what happens inside a database where people can work on the same table but editing different records.

Co-authoring: collaboration without chaos

CoAuthoringinWord

A new Outlook helps users tackle email more time-efficiently by allowing them to ignore conversational threads of no interest and flagging up warnings before they mail someone who's on holiday or are about to transmit confidential info outside the organisation!

Take control of your e-mail and calendar

OutlookConversationView

Inside Excel, the way your data is trending will become faster to spot with the use of 'Sparklines' compacted charts and 'Slicers' in a single cell, to make earlier decisions without having to build graphs manually.

Powerpoint brings with it the ability to share presentations with non-Powerpoint owners via any web browser and takes the hassle out of sending presentation videos without clogging up emails.

Since the days of what might called traditional desktop software, sites like Flickr, YouTube and Blogger have established within the user consciousness the idea of publishing and sharing, not just from a web site perspective, but as a desire within organisations too. Office 2010's live sharing aims to make data sharing immediate – the kind of thing you could chat about in a live phone call as if users were in the same room, though actually hundreds of miles apart.

Office 2010 aims to minimise training budgets by deploying virtualised desktops complete with the Office setup inside them and pull in macros written for a previous version of Microsoft Office software using Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V).

Annoyingly the Microsoft PR people require you install its Silverlight plug-in just to view the Office 2010 puffs, so its best skip yet another download and head on over to the Office 2010 technical preview for a faster insight, which bundles informative text, pictures and video and readily accessible in the spirit of web interoperability!

Phil Anthony, director of Co-Operative Systems, commented: "This web version of Office will stem possible moves to take up Google Apps online, but there's no doubt it drive SaaS (Sofware as a Service) forward".

logo_microsoft_office2010

Easier choices

Instead of the 8 different versions facing today's potential purchasers of Office 2007, Microsoft is pruning the 2010 family tree down to a less boggling 5 combos, after all we want to spend more time using Office than choosing Office.

However, the 'killer' Outlook email application continues to remain absent from Home and Student packages, though OneNote is available throughout. Microsoft hasn't announced prices for any of these desktop-based products.

The five combination packages or SKUs are:

  • Office Home and Student: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote
  • Office Home and Business: same as above, plus Outlook
  • Office Standard: same as above, plus Publisher (only available via volume licensing)
  • Office Professional: same as above, plus Access
  • Office Professional Plus: same as above, plus SharePoint Workspace and InfoPath (only available via volume licensing)

Also coming in late 2010 will be the next edition of Microsoft Office for Mac with the major change in this office suite being the inclusion of Outlook for Mac, a new application replacing the 'deeply unloved' Entourage.

Contacts


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6. Q&A: What mailing listserver software should we use for external discussions?

Question
Mark

QuestionMark

Hi Mark,

A colleague who works for our college also works for another small organisation which doesn't have its own office IT or any servers. They are looking to start up a "list server" service – but do not have central mailing software. Do you know of an on-line web company which can provide this service?
What they are looking to do is create a generic email distribution list eg discussion@ourdomain.com and link private individuals to the list such as joe.bloggs@hotmail.co.uk, etc. So when one of the distribution list sends an email to discussion@ourdomain.com, it gets forwarded to the other xx people on the list. They also need an on-line record of all the emails so they can refer back to them easily. If they are able to 'organise' the messages themselves (into subject areas) this would be a bonus.

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Google groups discuss.

For those who not in the know, "mailing lists" and "distribution lists" are much-abused terms to describe almost anything related to a situation where lots of people receive circulated mail, but in actual fact there are several distinct kinds, so it's worth understanding them:

  • distribution list – a list of email addresses (often internal, but sometimes a mix of internal and Internet addresses) for circulation of memos and internal newsletters. Those with access (determined by rights on the central mail server) can send to all on the list just by addressing the list name, eg To: librarydept
  • mass mailing (email marketing or mail outs) – another one-to-many situation normally used for sending newsletters to large external audiences. Only admins or editors usually have rights to send to the list.
  • list-servers – a true many-to-many scenario where sending to a single email address eg actually discussion@ourdomain.com resends it to all the members on the list, AND all members can do this too - in other words, access rights are universal (up to a point)

Erstwhile list servers used to be operated by sending 'commands' in the subject line of your email - such as "subscribe", "unsubscribe", "lists", and so on - when email was the only way to remote-control them.

That all appears terribly clunky now, and even the classic listserver web application - Mailman – is showing its age.

Google groups logo

More user-friendly listservers have sprung into the fray nowadays, Google groups and Yahoo groups being the big popular ones. Both are quick to set up and use, though at least one lead person (admin) will need to hold a respective Google/Yahoo account to start.

However once set up, these group facilitating applications offer a huge number of sophisticated functions: to take the case of Google groups for a minute, there is the ability to discuss via your email software, or online through a web browser, so your specific need to view an archive or record of all previous discussions is easily met.

Yahoo groups logo

But you can also determine from within the category of managers/members/anyone who can join, who can create pages or upload files or post messages, or where replies go. And even whether the group is public/private and the colour and style of the online layout. If arguments get out of hand, the Management Tasks section lets you restrict a member's rights or even throw them off the list.

Chucking a final idea into the mix, you could also consider setting up Twitter accounts for yourselves, but keep the discussions private, which would allow people to join in on mobile phones, thus eliminating even the requirement for a PC. With 140-character message limit, it might stop people droning on!


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7. Web attacks prompt safer surfing measures
With a surge in the number of stealth malware attacks on web blogs and social media sites, Web-based attacks are now the primary vector for malicious activity over the Internet.

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Symantec threat report

A report out in June indicated that 90% of spam comes from hacked PCs, a sure indicator that it's time for organisations to clamp down on their far-flung computers located in outlying offices, at the homes of remote workers, or laptops roaming with their travelling owners.

masthead symantec

Although cleaning up a compromised PC will stop it joining armies of others trying to breach web sites and send out spam, altruistic motives aren't the only ones at play here. The Symantec report reveals what attackers who write and distribute malicious programs are after. More than ever they are concentrating on financial gain: 76% of phishing-lures targeted brands in the financial services sector, 12% of all data breaches that occurred in 2008 exposed credit card information. That means keeping tighter control on how and where credit card details are stored, as well access to bank account credentials and email accounts.

So malware is getting personal. Where the computers involved belong to staff, one can add incidental costs, such as damage to the organisation's reputation and remedial clean up measures. The average cost per incident of a data breach in the US last year was $6.7 million.

Drive-by attacks

Most web-based attacks are launched against users who visit legitimate websites that have been compromised by attackers in order to serve malicious content, effecting so-called 'drive-by attacks'.

Common techniques range from exploiting a vulnerable web application such as a content management system to manipulating a vulnerability in the underlying web server. In 2008, attackers could choose from over 17,000 such exploits – from poorly-secured input fields on web forms to embedding a malicious iframe on a web pages, thus redirecting a visitor’s browser to their own malicious web server.

With the explosion of micro-blogging and social media sites, legitimate web sites include many based on newly-developed software, especially where they encourage public participation. Thus it behoves designers to check whether the underlying software is up-to-date and to implement security patches as soon as they become available.

Policies, Protections and Purges

IT policies

The last eight years has seen a quadrupling in the proportion of companies with active IT security policies in place. Even as early as last year government-commissioned research highlighted that 7 out of 10 large businesses were enforcing a security policy.

pwcberr_security_policy

The findings come from the 2008 Information Security Breaches Survey (ISBS) carried out for the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR).

Playing into the hands of attackers' efforts to target users via social engineering such as phishing and scams has been a habitual carelessness by workers of disclosing confidential information on social web sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

"What companies are realising is that increasing security awareness is only part of the answer. The critical issue is changing the behaviour of the people," said Chris Potter, partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, which carried out the survey. "A 'click' mentality has grown up - users do what expedites their activity rather than what they know they ought to. It's a bit like the road speed limit - everyone knows what they ought to do, but only a few actually do it. Only when behaviour changed do businesses realise the benefits of a security-aware culture."

Guarding web surfing activities

A gamut of simple web surfing defences are now available and easy to set up.

linkextend.com combines many of these protections into one add-on for Mozilla's Firefox browser, displaying an at-a-glance summary of the relative safety of sites presented in search results as well as a toolbar for assessing site statistics and pedigree.

screensaver_search

For example, just one stab at the classic dangerous search for "screensaver" in Google quickly reveals which sites are reliable and which are risky.

It's not just about software at the leading edge either. Checking older and existing versions is essential, and thanks to some handy tools, not too arduous either.

Purge old applications

Checking that the most common applications are up-to-date is essential. For instance, removing old (and possibly dangerous) versions of Java is relatively easy to achieve.

The underlying Java programme used by so many web sites to deliver content-rich and interactive features, such as menus, dynamic pages, forms and the like, has become a popular attack target for hackers and criminals, as Java can be found on almost every computer, even non-Windows ones.

Although Sun have responded by releasing regularly security-patched versions, they have also had a policy of leaving old Java versions on the machine (find them in Windows under Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs), the rationale being that old applications may not run on the latest Java implementation, but few ordinary computer users diagnose the reasons for their applications failing to run properly anyway.

To tackle old Java versions, try JavaRa, a free download-and-run utility that permanently removes old and vulnerable versions of Java from your PC.

Other major software applications can be checked quickly too, using Secunia's Online Software Inspector. This handy checker comes in several versions so it can be used online (OSI) or downloaded as the Personal Software Inspector (PSI) to run when no Internet connection is present.

secunia logo

OSI and PSI scans the local PC and reports on whether installed programs are patched against known vulnerabilities for which the vendor has released security patches.

Aside from the usual programs such as Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger, Outlook Express and the Windows operating system - which are all covered by Microsoft's automatic updates - Secunia's scanner usefully inspects a whole range of third party applications, whose automated self-checking often gets turned off:

  • Adobe
  • Apple QuickTime
  • Eudora
  • iTunes
  • Macromedia Flash Player
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Mozilla Thunderbird
  • Opera
  • Skype for Windows
  • Sun Java JRE
  • WinZip
  • Yahoo! Messenger
  • ZoneAlarm

If Secunia's online statistics are anything to go by, a worrying number of users are neglecting their computers and exposing them to attack, since nearly a quarter of programs scanned via their web site are out of date!


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Clicks of the Trade - recover lost files in Word 2003/2007
--- Quick tips for happier clicks! ---

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Back issues just a click away


Too many people give up on having 'lost' a document in Word and resort to laborious retyping - almost without a thought as to alternatives.

Perhaps it's a lack of knowledge of recovery techniques, but since it takes just 5 to 10 minutes to whizz through, they have to be worth bookmarking before turning to the backup system (which may not have kicked into action during the time it took to create and lose the hard-won prose).

We're going to skip the obvious ones of searching (Start | Search) your Windows PC for the files (by title and/or date) and checking the Recycle Bin (on the desktop).

Didn't find any backup files?
Make it happen next time ...

  • In Word 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button | Word Options | Advanced
  • Find Save section (end of list) | Always create backup copy
  • In Word 2003: Pull down | Tools menu | Options | Save tab | Always create backup copy
  • Click Start | Search | All Files and Folders
  • In the top box headed All or part of the file name, type *.wbk

For any results that come up, eg backup.wbk, you should be able to ...

  • Right-click on the files | Open with | Word or drag them to an open instance of Word

Didn't find any AutoRecover files?
Make it happen next time ...

  • In Word 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button | Word Options | Save | Save documents section | Save AutoRecover information every [] minutes
  • Find Save section (end of list) | Always create backup copy
  • In Word 2003: Pull down | Tools menu | Options | Save tab | Save AutoRecover information every [] minutes

If AutoRecover is turned on, try closing Word and reopening it. An AutoRecover task pane should appear on the left.

Otherwise ...

  • In Word 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button | Open | select the Word document |
  • in the lower-right corner of the Open pane, click Open and Repair
  • In Word 2003: Pull down | File menu | select the Word document
  • in the lower-right corner of the Open pane, click Open and Repair

AutoRecover failed? Open and Repair failed? The AutoRecover file might be saved elsewhere. Look for the AutoRecover file manually.

  • Click Start | Search | All Files and Folders
  • In the top box headed All or part of the file name, type *.asd

For any results that come up, eg DocumentName.asd, you should be able to ...

  • Right-click on the files | Open with | Word or drag them to an open instance of Word
  • Restart the computer
  • Open Word
  • In Word 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button | Open | select the Word document |
  • in the lower-right corner of the Open pane, click Open and Repair

If Word finds the AutoRecover file, the Document Recovery task pane opens on the left, with the lost document is listed as DocumentName [Original] or as DocumentName [Recovered]. Next, do either of ...

  • In Word 2007: double-click the file in the Document Recovery task pane
  • click the Microsoft Office Button
  • save the document as a .docx file
  • In Word 2003: double-click the file in the Document Recovery task pane
  • pull down File menu | Save As | save the document as a .doc file

No Auto Recover files found? Thinsg are getting a bit more desparate. There's chance you might be able to recover the document from a temporary file.

  • Click Start | Search | All Files and Folders
  • In the top box headed All or part of the file name, type *.tmp
  • Use the Search options entitled When was it modified? and/or More advanced options to narrow the search and shorten the time taken
  • For easier viewing sort the results by date: Pull down View menu | Details. Then pull down View menu | Arrange Icons by | Modified

For any results that come up, eg DocumentName.tmp, employ the Open and Repair recovery technique in part 2 above.

Last knockings now. Some temporary file names start with the tilde (~) symbol and may not have turned up the search above.

  • Use the search technique immediately above in part 4 to look for ~*.* files
    The tilde symbol is often obtained by pressing Shift + # (next to the Enter key) on UK keyboards

Get more help by reading the top support articles on Microsoft Office suites and individual Office products.



Learn more about data recovery and backup alternatives.

** try it now **

More Clicks of the Trade


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InfoBulletin is written and published by Co-Operative Systems and contains Information Technology tips that we come across during everyday research and support activities and which may be useful in improving your IT operations, either internally or on the Internet.

Opinions expressed within InfoBulletin do not necessarily represent the views of Co-Operative Systems.

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