Tag: windows

Analysis: Intel fails to fix PC malaise

Intel's Gordon Moore and Robert NoyceIntel reported its financial first quarter results yesterday evening and as expected its PC business continued to decline.

But Intel consolidated its results making it hard to see how much money it’s losing on its really quite disastrous foray into the mobile and tablet markets.

PR executives spun the results by saying they were in line with previous estimates – but its previous estimates weren’t in line with the estimates it previously estimated.

Its revenues were flat and it expect its revenues to continue to be flat for the rest of the year. But with gross margins of 60.5 percent for the quarter, it still turned in a net profit of two billion dollars.

CEO Brian Krzanich said in a prepared statement that growth in data centres, the internet of things (IoT) and memory helped to keep its figures relatively not too bad.

The client computing group showed revenues of $7.4 billion, a fall of 16 percent compared to the previous quarter and a fall of eight percent compared to the same quarter in its last financial year.

And while the data centre group turned in revenues of $3.7 billion, that was down 10 percent sequentially but rose 19 percent year on year.

The internet of things group delivered revenues of $533 million – a fall of 10 percent compared to the previous quarter but up 11 percent year on year.

Its software and services operating division delivered revenues of $534 million, down four per cent sequentially and three per cent year on year.

It is hard to describe Intel’s results as stellar. Like Microsoft, it is showing signs of malaise and despite optimistic forecasts that PC sales are going to go through the roof because of the launch of Windows 10, that is a hope, not a promise.

Intel’s problem is, that like IBM in the 1990s, it resembles a big oil tanker and can’t be turned around quickly. The real question is that as it depended on its success in the PC business through sales of X86 chips, where does it actually go now?

Its mobile strategy has been all over the place for years now and phone manufacturers quite simply went for better and cheaper ARM processors. The Wintel hegemony is over and Intel’s board lacks a charitable nature. Krzanich is too newly fledged to dump yet, but the board will already be demanding answers.

The problem is, there are no easy answers to the Intel malaise and despite it being the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law (pictured, left)  in just a few days time, that isn’t going to stop the slow and steady decline in the company’s fortunes. Like Microsoft, it is largely irrelevant to the changing nature of current technology and we doubt the internet of things is going to make any real difference in the long run. ♣

Windows has the ancient hole from hell

Bomarzo_parco_mostri_orcoWindows users are still suffering from a hole which was first discovered by Aaron Spangler in 1997.

The hole is so bad, that it makes Slough look somewhat attractive and leaves millions of Windows users open to attack, making it possible to extract encrypted credentials from a target machine.

Security experts at Cylance say the problem affects “any Windows PC, tablet or server” (including Windows 10) and is a slight progression of the Redirect to SMB attack.

Redirect to SMB is essentially a man-in-the-middle attack which involves taking control of a network connection.Victims are then redirected to a malicious SMB server which can extract usernames, domains and passwords. Cylance also reports that software from companies such as Adobe, Oracle and Symantec — including security and antivirus tools — are affected.

Writing in his bog, Brian Wallace explains that Cylance has spent the last month and half working with vendors to help fix the problem, but has now decided to make details of the vulnerability public.

A technical white paper explains how the original Redirect to SMB attack worked by sending a URL in the form file://1.1.1.1 — this would cause Windows to connect to a malicious SMB server at 1.1.1.1, attempt to authenticate, and essentially hand over security credentials.

The paper said that the researchers uncovered Redirect to SMB while hunting for ways to abuse a chat client feature that provides image previews.

“When a URL to an image was received, the client attempted to show a preview of the image. Inspired by Aaron’s research some 18 years ago, we promptly sent another user a URL starting with file:// which pointed to a malicious SMB server. Surely enough, the chat client tried to load the image, and the Windows user at the other end attempted to authenticate with our SMB server,” the paper said.

Cylance found no fewer than four Windows API functions that can be used to redirect a user from an HTTP or HTTPS connection to a malicious SMB server.

The forced authentication makes it relatively easy to get hold of usernames and passwords, even if they are held in encrypted form. As well as Windows itself, other programs affected by the problem include AVG Free, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, BitDefender Free, TeamViewer, and Github for Windows.

Wallace said that the redirect to SMB is most likely to be used in targeted attacks by advanced hackers because attackers must have control over some component of a victim’s network traffic.

Malicious ads could also be crafted that would force authentication attempts from IE users while hiding malicious behaviour from those displaying the advertising.

Less sophisticated attackers could launch Redirect to SMB attacks on shared WiFi access points at locations such as coffee shops from any computer, including mobile devices.

“We successfully tested this attack on a home network using a Nexus 7 loaded with all required tools, “he said.

Vole is still to release a patch for the security flaw, Cylance suggests a workaround. By blocking outbound traffic from TCP 139 and TCP 445 you can put an obstacle in the way of authentication attempts that originate outside of your network while retaining SMB capabilities within it.

IBM Lenovo sale at risk

It seems that US paranoia over Chinese spying is set to derail the proposed $2.3 billion sale of IBM’s low end server business.

Approval of the deal was expected to be automatic; after all, Lenovo has been selling old IBM PCs to US government for ages with no problems.

However the US government has put the deal in limbo while its spooks apparently investigate “national security issues”.

Apparently US security officials and members of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) are worried that IBM’s x86 servers used in communications networks and in data centres supporting the Pentagon’s networks could be accessed remotely by Chinese spies or compromised, the newspaper reported.

Lenovo bought IBM’s money-losing ThinkPad business for $1.75 billion, which had faced scrutiny, but was approved with no real debate. But it is clear that this time government officials are trying to derail the deal.

They are uneasy about the potential sale of servers that may be clustered together to perform like a powerful computer.

IBM and Lenovo are trying to address CFIUS concerns about server maintenance and have said that IBM will provide maintenance on Lenovo’s behalf “for an extended period” after the sale.

Meanwhile IBM and Lenovo have refiled their application for approval of the deal to buy more time.

If the deal falls through then IBM could be in trouble. The division has not made money for a while now and Big Blue was keen to lose it. There is no buyer on the horizon either. Did we mention it was a loss maker?

But equally pressure on Lenovo is unfair and seems to be geared to sending a message to Beijing that the US Empire is the only one which is allowed to spy on anyone. 

Apple can’t eat its own dog food

Apple is so confident of the superiority of its software that it has placed it in the forefront of its production lines. Nah not really, it depends entirely on Microsoft Windows.

Geek Magazine found a snap of Microsoft CEO Tim Cook inspecting the production lines in Austin, Texas manufacturing facility where the Pro is put together.

Apple is apparently jolly keen to tell the world+dog that its Mac Pro production line is supporting manufacturing on US soil, thus making it all Americans’ patriotic duty to buy a Mac. Of course that does not apply to the iPad and iPhone which are made in China, but that is not the point.

Cook tweeted the photo to show the world that he could work with Americans. Sadly, it also showed another dirty little secret that Apple has.

Manufacturing the Mac Pro involves the use of the Windows operating system and the photo shows Windows running on iMacs right down the production line. To make it even more embarrassing it would appear to be Windows XP, although Windows 7 or some release of Windows Embedded can’t be ruled out, either. One wonders what Apple could do if it actually splashed out on some modern software.

It also begs the question, if iOS is so great, why are you running your “state of the art” production line on ancient Microsoft software. Is it because iOS is actually Windows five years ago?

It also makes Cook’s recent claim the latest version of iOS Mavericks “is the fastest adoption ever of any PC operating system in history” look a bit silly. Cook told a company rally that Mavericks was cleaning Windows 8’s clock because it had been adopted so fast. The statement was shown to be statistically unsound, but it is fairly clear that if Apple is too scared to trust Mavericks on its own production line, so there must be something wrong with it. 

Microsoft says start-menu non-starter this year

It looks like Microsoft’s promise to provide a Start Menu for Windows 8 with its coming Windows 8.1 Update 2 is not happening. ,

Vole had been promising a new “Mini” Start Menu part of a second update to Windows 8.1. Windows 8.1 Update 2 was supposed to arrive in August.

ZDNet hackett Mary Jo Foley said her deep throats in Redmond had told her that Microsoft’s operating systems group has decided to hold off on delivering a Microsoft-developed Start Menu until Threshold. Threshold is the next “major” release of Windows which will be released in April 2015.

It is unclear if the postponement is because the feature won’t be fully baked in time, or if there’s another reason for the change in plans.

Vole is still trying to make Windows 8 work if people have computers rather than tablets. At the moment most people just ignore Metro and its clunky apps and stay on their desktops.

Foley said that the new Microsoft-developed Start Menu isn’t going to be the same as the Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 Start Menus. It will apparently integrate Windows 8’s Metro-Style Start screen concept, which Microsoft is stubbornly holding onto.

With no start menu appearing in August, the question is what is going to be in Windows 8.1 Update 2?

So far Microsoft has not revealed if there is going to be any user-interface changes or will it be more a vehicle for under-the-covers programming interface and reliability improvements. 

University formats every computer by mistake

A private research university in metropolitan Atlanta, Emory University stuffed up a Windows 7 roll-out in a tragedy of biblical proportions.

Everyone knows that when you install a new operating system, that message comes up and asks you if you want to reformat you old hard-drive. It seems that Emory University, which has proudly been running Windows XP since the university was founded in 1836, really did not have a clue when it came to these “new fangled” operating systems.

During the roll out a Windows 7 deployment image was accidently sent to all Windows machines, including laptops, desktops, and even servers.

This image started with a repartition/reformat set of tasks. As soon as the accident was discovered, the SCCM server was powered off – however, by that time, the SCCM server itself had been repartitioned and reformatted.

The fallout was quite dramatic, but could have been worse.  The deployed image included a number of key applications such as Office, other such as Visio and Project required manual installation which meant that not everything was over written.

According to WinBeta,   IT technicians worked through the night to restore “mission critical” computers to help speed up the process of getting others systems back up and running.

All told, the clean-up took a couple of days from start to finish, although there is still some work to be done to get all system fully operational again. It is not clear how much of everything was backed up as different sources say different things.

Apple loses out to Android, Windows

A report from market research company IDC said that more than three quarters of Western government employees are abandoning Apple and Blackberry.

The European government sector was heavily dependent on Blackberry use in the past, but only 27 percent use the device to connect with their enterprises.

The winners are smartphones based using either the Android or the Microsoft Windows operating system, said IDC.

IDC also said that over 60 percent of government outfits are developing mobile applications, including financial apps.

Massimiliano Claps, a research director at IDC EMEA, said that government CIOs need to support investments in back office apps, workflow automation and analytics.

Lenovo shows off Windows Tablet

Chinese maker of the Thinkpad, Lenovo has leaked details of a large tablet based around Microsoft’s latest version of Windows on its Aussie site.

Lenovo appears to be enthusiastically working with Vole lately and has released several small tablets based around Redmond’s Windows 8.1.

But over the weekend Lenovo accidently put up details of much larger tablet called the Thinkpad 10. It was quickly removed but not before it was seen by Her Majesty’s Loyal Press.  

The German site TabTech managed to grab the information and images from the site before it was taken down.

It would appear that the Lenovo ThinkPad 10 will have a 10.1 inch IPS display with a 1920×1200 resolution. Under the bonnet there will be a Bay trail 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Z3795 quad-core processor, support for either 2 or 4GB of RAM and SSD storage options of 64 and 128GB.

While the first version of the ThinkPad 10 has the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1, Lenovo will release future versions that will have the 64-bit version.

Other hardware features include an eight-megapixel rear camera and a two megapixel front facing camera.

According to the site, the battery is supposed to last up to 10 hours and will support its own QuickShot Cover that will allow users to peel off part of the covering to expose the tablet’s rear camera.

Depending on which version you buy, there are also Microsoft Office 2013 Home & Student for free. Lenovo appear to be looking to provide lots of accessories for the beast including a keyboard which serves as a dock and a stylus.

The leak failed to mention a price or a release date for the ThinkPad 10 but if it was leaked on one of the company’s official websites, it should not be long. 

Where are the Windows tablets?

Buried in the Intel figures was some bad tablet news for Microsoft.

It appears that Windows is not getting any market share from Android and its tablets are going down in a screaming heap.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said during the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call that out of the 5 million tablet processors shipped “80 to 90 percent” were for Android and the rest Windows.

That means that Windows tablets are not selling at all well and must have a tiny market share.

Microsoft’s problem is that Windows on a tablet does not have a lot to offer when compared with Android. Its customers want a PC on a tablet and to do that they need a keyboard.

This is one of the reasons that Microsoft has panicked and added lots of keyboard functionality to its tablets, but this pushes it out of Intel’s definition of what makes a tablet and makes Volish gear more of a 2-in-1.

Intel said that the five million shipments and 40 million full year target does not include 2-in-1s. Those are reflected in PC Client Group results. If it detaches, that’s a tablet; if it just folds over, that’s a 2 in 1, Chipzilla said.

This could mean that many of Microsoft’s tablet sales are hidden from the Intel results. That is not saying that Microsoft does not have problems in pushing its Windows tablets. Last year Gartner estimated that about 4 million Windows tablets shipped worldwide. That compares with 121 million Android and 70 million Apple tablets.

Stacy Smith, Intel’s chief financial officer said that Intel will increase the amount it allocates to device makers to order to incentivize them to bring out more Intel-based tablets. In theory that would help Microsoft, although it is equally, possible that much of that cash will flow to Android tablet makers. Brian Krzanich is 53. 

Windows XP is finally a Norwegian Blue

Software giant Microsoft has finally pulled the plug on its most successful product and said that it will not support Windows XP any more.

The support deadline for Windows XP support means millions of machines worldwide are at risk from security threats. The writing has been on the wall for XP for years. However, Microsoft has been unsuccessfully trying to wean its users off their addiction to the OS. The latest figures show that nearly a quarter of the world’s PCs still run XP.

It has been a pretty long run. The operating system was released to manufacturing on August 24, 2001 and development was started in the late 1990s.

Prototype code was nicknamed named “Neptune” and was an operating system built on the Windows NT kernel which was intended for consumers. An updated version of Windows 2000 was also originally planned for the business market. In January 2000, both projects were shelved in favour of a single OS codenamed “Whistler”. This meant that the OS could be used in both business and consumer environments.

It introduced a significantly redesigned graphical user interface and was the first version of Windows to use product activation in an effort to reduce software piracy. Given it was pirated to oblivion you see how that worked out.

Windows XP also proved to be popular among users; by January 2006, over 400 million copies of Windows XP were in use and was the most widely used operating system until August 2012, when Windows 7 overtook it

The much-extended deadline falls on the same day as Patch Tuesday, giving Vole a chance to release updates for the platform. However, after that there will be no more updates for those without custom support.

One of those with a custom support agreement is the UK government, which has paid Vole £5.5 million to keep public sector organisations covered. The Dutch government also signed a similar deal.

For the rest of the world it will be a great time to target XP systems because there will be no protection short of virus checkers.