Thursday, 16 April 2015

A revolutionary new way to resolve your app compatibility issues

How much time, money, and energy does it cost your company to resolve all the issues pertaining to compatibility, virtualisation suitability, and corporate standards? Wouldn't life be so much simpler if you could automate this process in a fraction of the time? And from wherever you are, even if you're not in the office? Even on a mobile device? And if your tech team were freed up from these annoying laborious issues, think about all the more constructive tasks they could be getting on with the improve your company's performance.

Well here at Qompat we have been developing an app that does all these things and more. Qompat Spine is a unique, cross-platform, cloud based app that assesses, remediates, and converts your applications in minutes.

Once you have signed up, you create a Project according to your individual requirements:

Then you simply drag and drop your apps onto the Uploader:

You will then see an executive summary that gives an overview of your app statuses:

You may drill down further to inspect issues within these apps, and our filtering system allows you to autoselect or manually select whichever issues you want to fix:

Reports are generated for you to view, export, and print:

Notifications will give you a progress update, and alert you when your files are ready to download:

If you would be interested in trying it out for yourself, feel free to email us, or visit our website for more information.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

To be IE, or not to be IE

Microsoft has released more information on their new web browser, currently code-named Spartan. You can read more about Spartan on the newly minted wikipedia page here

The new browser will be completely different from Microsoft IE, with a different rendering engine and a different code-base. 

The IE team provided a few different reasons for these changes:

  • Project Spartan was built for the next generation of the Web, taking the unique opportunity provided by Windows 10 to build a browser with a modern architecture and service model for Windows as a Service. This clean separation of legacy and new code will enable us to deliver on that promise. Our testing with Project Spartan has shown that it is on track to be highly compatible with the modern Web, which means the legacy engine isn’t needed for compatibility.
  • For Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10 to be an effective solution for legacy scenarios and enterprise customers, it needs to behave consistently with Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. Hosting our new engine in Internet Explorer 11 has compatibility implications that impact this promise and would have made the browser behave differently on Windows 10.
In addition to these changes, I think that there may be some customer confusion about which browser to use, and when. Enterprise customers may still need the legacy compatibility support for their internal enterprise systems while Spartan will be used for the "rest of the web". The web is a messy place, with compatibility issues of its own. I am not sure that a simple distinction of "if it's internal, use IE11 and if not, use Spartan" will work.

That said, Microsoft has updated Windows 10 at its fastest pace ever, and the new browser has been updated as well. Some key elements in the new browser include;

  • Cortana is built-in and ready to assist: Cortana in Project Spartan is a digital personal assistant that helps make Web browsing easier.
  • Inking and sharing so you can capture and communicate your thoughts: Now with new inking capabilities, Project Spartan enables you to write or type directly on the page, comment on what’s interesting or clip what you want – then easily share this “Web Note” via mail, or a social network. 
  • Distraction-free reading with Reading List and Reading View: Project Spartan helps with a new Reading List to collect everything you want to read, including the ability to save any webpage or PDF for convenient access later.
  • A new engine for the modern Web: Project Spartan’s new rendering engine is built around the idea that the Web “just works,” while being fast, more secure, and more reliable. 
However, if you are currently in the UK (like me) you will not be able to see all of these benefits, until worldwide distribution later this year. You can read more about this latest update to the Windows 10 Insider program here

This may all sound interesting from a simple technical perspective. However, if you have been watching my patch updates for a while (years?) and see how often IE is completely refreshed/updated each month, this may not be good news for you. Also, I think we have to ask the question, "Will anyone care?". There are already a number of very good, and fast evolving browsers out there. Microsoft is going to have work pretty hard to woo customers back to a new browser. 

Actually, it's kind of exciting to watch.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Massive March Microsoft Update

It looks like we have a massive March Microsoft Update for this months Update Tuesday. With five updates rated as critical and the remaining nine rated as important by Microsoft.

I have posted my latest update on my Computer World column: Patch Tuesday Debugged. You can find the full story here:

Two of the critical updates were related to the Microsoft VBScript engine - using the core OS or Internet Explorer (IE) as attack vectors for malicious hackers that could lead to remote code execution scenarios.

In addition, we saw an update to the Windows kernel mode driver, which I have advised to test thoroughly an then maybe wait a little while as these kinds of updates have caused issues in the past. The final update MS15-031 addressed the industry wide FREAK issue with an update to the Windows SChannel component.

I will post another preview of Microsoft Patch Tuesday next month (April) so, please watch this space.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Windows 10 means Microsoft 2.0

A little while ago, I was reading an article from Cliff Saran on Computer World titled Windows 10: Microsoft at the crossroads which I consider some required reading for those following the recent change of fortunes for Microsoft. 

I think that Microsoft has suffered from an image problem for the past few years. I won't go into the details, but I think that Windows 8 was a really good example of a company that stopped listening properly to their existing and prospective customers.

I think that has Microsoft has changed. And, more importantly it continuing to change.

Cliff's article details the different ways that Microsoft is handling both the release and the upkeep of their next version of the Windows operating system. As Forrester has noted that roughly 10% of users have migrated to Windows 8.x and even fewer enterprise customers have plans to move to Windows 8.x, Microsoft needed to change it's game. 

And, I believe it has done so with Windows 10 in three major ways. 

Windows 10 will be a subscription model
First, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for the first 12-months. After that we can assume that Microsoft will charge a monthly or yearly subscription. This is fundamental change for Microsoft from a license perspective with a move away from monolithic upgrades to a newer version. Windows 10 will then operate on a subscription basis - just like Office 365. Which for Office, seemed to work pretty well. (Disclaimer: our company uses it, and things seem OK so far.) 

Microsoft Universal Apps
Microsoft has released a really cool augmented visualization tool called HoloLens that solves some the nasty VR issues (like being sick in front of your friends) and allows computer generated graphics (think Skype video-chats and your current MineCraft project) to be over -layed onto your living room or office space. Cool, but the key ideas behind this technology is that Microsoft is creating a form of universal applications that can be displayed on any medium including; desktops, tablets, phones and even the HoloLens. Think responsive websites but taken to the next level for all of the Microsoft application eco-system. You can read more about Microsoft Universal Apps strategy here

Business as Usual Migrations and Updates
The third key component of the new Microsoft strategy is a managed approach to continuous cycles of innovation. Since you are now buying a subscription with Windows 10, Microsoft will need to keep adding features to ensure that you stay with Windows. Recognizing that enterprise customers will need a mixed or more flexible approach, Microsoft will support a "consumer paced" update cycle, a four month delayed cycle and a way for customers to opt-out of certain features or all future updates. Gartner has a great diagram that illustrates the the new Microsoft update process as shown below;

With these core changes, I can now understand why Microsoft didn't call it Windows 9. In binary, 1 and 0 means the number 2. 

As I see it, Windows 10 is really Microsoft 2.0

Monday, 9 February 2015

Microsoft Malware Protections in the Cloud - MAPS

When I first received my invite to join Google mail (Gmail) years ago, I was immediately surprised by what was missing: a global SPAM directory or registry. I thought to myself - this is the first time that someone knows what people are flagging as SPAM. Once you have a few (or maybe a few thousand) users complaining about a particular email (SPAM) from a particular sender (a SPAMMER) then you could be pretty sure that the email in question was SPAM. It was a crowd-sourced SPAM filter - updated dynamically by now millions of users every day. That omission was quickly corrected by Google, and now I have to say that their collective SPAM filter is very good. As is the more recent incarnation of Hotmail,

Which brings me to the next surprise. If Microsoft knows what people are using, and what kind of errors are occurring on the Windows desktop and server platforms, why doesn't Microsoft have the best crowd-sourced anti-malware and anti-virus system in the world? Who needs a monthly virus definition from Symantec (if you pay your money) when you should have daily, dynamic scans of your systems updated through the collective experience (wisdom) of hundreds of millions of other users?

Well, now you can. Sort of. You can now receive the benefit of other users' experience and dynamic updates through the Microsoft Active Protection Service (MAPS).

The Microsoft Active Protection Service is the cloud service that enables: Clients to report key telemetry events and suspicious malware queries to the cloud, whilst providing real-time blocking responses back to the client.
The MAPS service is available for all Microsoft's antivirus products and services, including:
  • Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection
  • Microsoft Security Essentials
  • System Center Endpoint Protection
  • Windows Defender on Windows 8 and later versions
You can join the MAPS program through the free Microsoft anti-virus/malware program using the Settings tab as shown here:

To help manage your privacy concerns, Microsoft reports all data through an encrypted connection and apparently only relevant data is included in the analysis process. If you are an enterprise customer, your data is most likely blocked by your corporate firewall, and therefore your particular threat landscape won't be included in Microsoft's updates.

If you need to find out more about the related confidentiality agreement from Microsoft you can look at the Microsoft System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection Privacy Statement for details

To give you an idea of how this malware telemetry is being exploited, you can see from the following chart that System Center Endpoint Protection is actually contributing roughly 10% of the malware signatures reviewed and included in Microsoft updates. 

That means people like you and I adding to the system - resulting in 10% fewer malware attacks and fewer security incidents.

You can read more about the Microsoft Cloud Protection effort here on the Microsoft Malware Protection home blog page.