Tag Archives | Windows

WinPatrol: A Must-Have Free Tool

Steve Bass's TechBiteWinPatrol is a free tool you just must have on your Windows PC: It gives you a way to stop unwanted programs from loading (and tells you which apps are safe), watches out for spyware and keyloggers, keeps your System tray uncluttered, and when you boot, can get you to the desktop quickly.

At its core, WinPatrol raises a flag when something suspicious happens within critical parts of your system. For instance, you’ll get an alert when anything is added to any of the Registry’s Startup locations and you’ll have the option of blocking it or disabling it later. WinPatrol watches almost 20 functions, including when a browser plug-in is added, a file type association is changed, a scheduled task is created, your HOST file is touched, or a new ActiveX component is installed.

Continue Reading →

No comments

Hide File Extensions, Invite Hackers?

Mikko, at F-Secure’s Weblog:

…in Windows NT, 2000, XP and Vista, Explorer used to Hide extensions for known file types. And virus writers used this “feature” to make people mistake executables for stuff such as document files.

The trick was to rename VIRUS.EXE to VIRUS.TXT.EXE or VIRUS.JPG.EXE, and Windows would hide the .EXE part of the filename.

Additionally, virus writers would change the icon inside the executable to look like the icon of a text file or an image, and everybody would be fooled.

Surely this won’t work in Windows 7.

As a grizzled old Windows veteran, I remember the days when computer users spent a lot more time thinking about extensions (and we liked it, dagnab it!). It was kind of discombobulating when Microsoft began downplaying them. But Mikko brings up a pretty compelling reason why it’s not a great idea to hide ’em. Wonder if Microsoft has thought about this, and why it hasn’t erred on the side of safety?


Five Web Services You've Got to Try

Steve Bass's TechBiteJunk and clutter: It’s the blaring banner ads and annoying boxes that slide across the screen that are ruining the Web. I avoid it all with a smart ad blocker–Ad Muncher, a miraculous tool.

But there’s still a problem.

Web pages aren’t designed for reading, and that’s one of my pleasures: Reading product and movie reviews, for instance, or devouring John McPhee’s lengthy pieces in The New Yorker, or James Fallows (read his old, but still valuable What Was I Thinking? in The Atlantic).

Up until now, I’d click the Print button if the site offered one. Then I discovered Readability, a site that reformats any page of text to conform to your reading style. Set up Readability by choosing a style, font size, and margin width, and then drag the Readability bookmarklet to your browser’s toolbar. The next time you’re on a Web page you want to read, click the Readability link and the transformation happens immediately. (You can get a better idea by watching the video.)

Continue Reading →


Windows 7 Eliminates AutoRun/AutoPlay Security Hole

It seems unlikely that Microsoft has any major news involving Windows 7 features up its sleeve, but interesting tidbits are still coming out. The latest is today’s news that it’s eliminating the venerable AutoRun feature for USB drives. A blog post at the company’s Engineering Windows 7 blog explains that the Conficker worm¬† used AutoRun (which identifies programs on a removable device and lets users choose to have them run automatically) and AutoPlay (which notices that you’ve inserted a removable storage device and provides a menu of tasks to choose from) to provide an AutoPlay item that looks like it’ll open up a folder but which actually launches Conficker. Windows 7 won’t display AutoRun items in this menu, and Microsoft says it’ll update Windows Vista and Windows XP to behave the same way. Conficker may be devious, but the security hole was pretty gaping all along; it’s surprising that it took this long for it to be publicized and for Microsoft to seal it up.

AutoPlay will still display AutoRun items on CDs and DVDs–which are presumably far less likely to carry worms than USB drives–but Microsoft is tweaking the message you get to make it clearer that launching an AutoRun item involves running a program from an external device.

Side note: Microsoft’s Security Research and Defense Blog also has an item on the change, in which it says that “AutoPlay will no longer support the AutoRun functionality for non removable optical media” This momentarily confused me–it brought to mind visions of a DVD drive with a single disc sealed up inside the computer–but I’m reasonably sure that it’s a typo and that the poster meant to say “non-optical removable media.”


Windows 7: Now With Windows XP!

Windows 7How can you ensure that Windows 7 will run Windows XP applications? Make it run Windows XP. That’s the idea behind Windows XP Mode, a free download that Microsoft will make available to buyers of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. (Here’s Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurott’s report on it.) It’s a copy of the next generation of Microsoft’s Virtual PC virtualization software that’s been pre-bundled with Windows XP, and which lets you run XP apps within Windows 7 as if they were native 7 ones–seamlessly, in theory. Sounds a bit like the experience of using VMWare Fusion’s Unity feature or Parallels Desktop’s Coherence one to make Windows apps show up in OS X.

You gotta hope that there are relatively few instances when Windows 7 won’t be able to run an XP app natively, but this sounds like a useful security blanket, especially for companies that run custom apps. It’s also a sign of the ongoing relevance of Windows XP. Sounds like a smart, inventive move on the part of Microsoft.


Microsoft Sets Release Date for Windows 7 RC1. Two of Them, Actually!

Windows 7Enough with the rumors, educated guesses, and BitTorrent leaks: Microsoft is saying when it’ll release Windows 7 Release Candidate 1, the version that’s likely to be the last major one before the OS is finalized. As Ina Fried reports over at Cnet, developers who are members of Microsoft’s MSDN program can download it on April 30th; everyone else will get it on May 5th. The RC will feature a lot of minor tweaks compared to the beta, but if it involves any surprises it’ll be…surprising! Absent wild-card scenarios like government interference, it seems all but certain that the computers folks buy for back-to-school season and the holidays will get the shipping version of the OS.

I’ll install it and share thoughts when I can get my hands on it; if you give it a test drive, I’d love to know what you think.