Ramblings of this guy you know!

Tech Stuff and random observations on life as I see it….

Tag Archives: Microsoft

Are we in a bubble? Patently we are!

I have been resisting it for a while but it has just got so stupid I can’t stop the rant any more. This story is going to center around the giants of tech and starts with the auction of the Nortell patents and will end up with a claim of infringement based on a sci-fi movie.

Battles over patent infringement is nothing new, this is no beginning but it is an escalation. It has become a time when companies are forced to buy more and more patents just to defend themselves from lawsuits by countersuing with their own list of infringements. It seems to me to be like the cold war of a couple of decades back where countries stockpiled a nuclear arsenal with little intention to use them but to use them as a deterrent against anther country attacking them. Then, as now, we find these large tech companies buying up stockpiles of patents to assure one of two things, a deterrent against attack or at the very worst each others mutual destruction. No longer are the giants like Microsoft, Google and Apple (and the hardware companies like HTC and Samsung that have been dragged into the battle) able to dedicate the same level of time and investment to innovation. Surely, if you have faith in your product and your user base you should be able to compete in the open market and not resort to the courts to decide which product is the best.

I am no patent lawyer (not even close) and I can understand a need to protect your idea but when it gets out of hand like this, something in the system is broken, whether it is the system itself or whether the patents granted truly can be called justified will require many clever heads in the industry to sort it out,

At the point where we begin, we What follows is a summary of the news that has really dominated tech throughout August.

Nortel patents 1st July 2011
This is the tipping point for the recent bout of madness. Up until now, Google has been trying to sidestep all the patent issues and carry on the development of Android. However a constant stream of litigation against the successful mobile OS forces Google to look to purchase some protective patents of their own. However they misjudge the situation quite badly offering sums based on mathematical variables like Pi. They end up losing the patents to a consortium of 6 companies made up of the most unlikely set of allies: Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Sony, Ericsson and EMC. The 6000 patents are sold for $4.5bn.

Apple files against HTC – 12th July
HTC and Google have been partnering together with Android for a while now and in their ongoing battle against the copycat designs of their mobile and tablet devices, Apple sued HTC for infringing on 20 of their patents. HTC denied the allegations and immediately counter-sued against Apples infringements of their own designs. It’s not the first company that Apple has tried to stop imports of their products, the previous month they had made the claims against Samsungs designs of phone and tablet

Google whines about everyone not playing fair – 3rd August
In what I felt was a very uncharacteristic for Google, they posted on their blog about how unfair everyone was being to Google and Android in particular. The post was titled When patents attack Android and was posted by David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer.

Rather than rant at the blogosphere, I think that Mr Drummond’s energies would have been better off directed at solving the problem rather than cry about it. Google simply looked like were sulking about losing out on the Nortel deal even though they didn’t take it as seriously as they should have.

Microsoft replies to Googles post publicly on Twitter – 4th August
Google’s assertions were swiftly contradicted by Microsoft. The firm’s General Counsel, Brad Smith, tweeted: “Google says we brought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”

Frank Shaw, one of Microsoft’s top PR men, then tweeted an image of an email between Smith and Kent Walker, Google General Counsel, which appears to confirm that Microsoft offered to team up with Google.

David Drummond then goes on to update his blog post from the previous night to explain why they didn’t team up with the group and instead highlights the fact that the DOJ overturned the ownership of some of the patents and forced them to be handed over to the open source community.

The rest of the consortium opt not to join in the public slagging match and stay quiet.

Apple seeks injunction preventing Samsung galaxy tab in Europe – 10th August
In a mini-saga in itself, Apple files an injunction to ban sales of the Galaxy range of smartphones and the 10.1″ Galaxy Tab. This is initially granted despite controversy surrounding the doctoring of The Tab’s dimensions. The injunction is later lifted after courts decide that the only infringement is that of how the two devices scroll pages.

Google buys Motorola – 15th August
It’s a Monday morning, the markets haven’t even opened yet and Larry Page was announcing to the world that it has bought Motorola Mobility for $40 a share… In cash. This is of course the mobile phone arm of Motorola that was spun off as a separate company 8 months previously. In a deal for $12.5bn (£7.7bn), Google gets not only the ‘Mobility’ arm, which makes phones and tablets, but it also has a ‘Solutions’ division, which develops technology systems for industry. Analysts speculate that Google’s primary motivation was not for the hardware but also arms them with over 17,000 patents of protection for themselves. Although other handset manufacturers like samsung and HTC were falling over themselves to say what a good move it was for them, you can’t help but wonder how they really feel now that Google has a dedicated hardware platform that they can produce for.

The deal has yet to be completely finalised but Google expects the purchase to be completed by the end of 2011 or early 2012.

Microsoft tries to ban Motorola imports – 22nd August
Microsoft filed a suit on the above date accusing Google’s new besty, Motorola Mobility, of infringing on seven of Microsoft’s patents that just so happen to cover Android. Before the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, Microsoft requested an import ban on a number of Motorola smartphones.

Microsoft is “confident that the ITC will rule in [its] favor.” Meanwhile, Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said in an email to Bloomberg that Motorola is “vigorously defending [itself] against Microsoft’s patent attack business strategy.” And a business strategy is exactly what it is.

Administrative Law Judge Theodore Essex will release his findings to the public on November 4.

Samsung tries to claim “prior art” on Apples patents – 23rd August
You can tell that Samsung is getting desperate in it’s fight against apple’s lawsuits. They made the claim that iPad-like tablets have already been established as “prior art,” thanks to a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In one of the Space Odyssey scenes, two astronauts are eating together. Each has a thin, tablet-like display next to his meal tray. Because the film was released in 1968, long before Apple designed the iPad, Samsung argues that Space Odyssey establishes iPad-like tablets as “prior art” and invalidates one of Apple’s patents.

“As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table’s surface), and a thin form factor,” Samsung’s legal team writes.

That’s it to date… Actually it’s not, there’s more looming over the horizon but if I don’t post now, I never will cos this is going to rumble on and on and on.


Bluetooth vulnerability fixed in latest Patch Tuesday update

Microsoft recently fixed an issue that allowed an attacker to exploit a weakness in the Bluetooth stack in Windows 7 and Windows Vista machines which would most likely crash a users machine. A remote code-injection attack would also be possible but difficult to execute. For once Windows XP users are safe as the problem has only existed since the Bluetooth stack was updated in Vista.

The exploit requires the PC to be in Discovery mode (which is not the default setup) which will broadcast the adaptor address out. If executed correctly, an attacker could exploit the vulnerability by constructing a series of specially crafted Bluetooth packets and sending them to the target machine. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights and take complete control of a system without any user notification at any time

There is also the chance of a non-bluetooth enabled laptop or desktop machine being compromised with the insertion of a USB dongle as Vista and Windows 7 come Bluetooth ready and will auto-initiate. If you don’t use Bluetooth and never intend to then the best defence is to totally disable the service.

This vulnerability is of course now fixed but the possibility of drive-by attacks has now been proven. Expect more similar exploits soon.

Microsoft announces Visual Studio Lightswitch 2011 released on 26 July

Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011 is a rapid prototyping business application tool which, through a variety of built-in templates for creating forms-from-data applications.

Built on Visual Studio 2010 and using either C# or VisualBasic, LightSwitch creates Silverlight applications that can run in the browser, out-of-the-browser, or in the cloud. Forms are built from templates and then populated with data from data sources including Excel, SQL Server, SQL Azure and SharePoint all without the need to write code unless you want to customise it or extend it further.

You can find more information on Lightswitch here including a beta download, training information and How-To videos

Microsoft disables Autorun. Surprise! Infections decrease.

In an attempt to reduce malware, Microsoft has finally got round to changing a default setting that tech guys around the world have been doing since autorun became available: they changed the default setting to OFF. In a blog posting from Mid June, Microsoft are doing a victory dance over the reduction in infections as a result of the change.

Autorun has been a serious security threat for several years mostly through malware spreading through flash drives and other infectable external media by automatically executing a command when the device was plugged in. There are many viruses tagged as a variant of Autorun but other top viruses mentioned by Microsoft in their report were Conficker, Rimecud, and Taterf.

When Windows 7 was rolled out, the autorun feature was already disabled but earlier this year in February a retro rollout was pushed to XP SP3 and Vista users. Malware rates for SP2 are unchanged as it is no longer a supported version. In the months following the update the amount of detected infections went down dramatically (59% less in XP and 74% in Vista) even more dramatically in those machines that were already fully patched.

Of course, the larger war against malware continues to rage, but the battle against autorun infections seems to have scored a victory, according to Microsoft.

Recent Tech articles – 20th-26th June 2011

A lot of news this week centers around security issues.. We will start with it, and end with it… We started the week with two biggish issues from Dropbox and WordPress; On the Monday it was reported that a programmer’s error in a code update at Dropbox caused a temporary security breach that allowed any password to be used to access any user account. This was followed in the Tuesday with a release from WordPress when it announced it was forcing users to reset their passwords at WordPress.org after several popular plugins were compromised by hackers.

In Adobe news, to try and get beyond critics comments on their reliance on Flash and the Desktop, released one new product and put out on Preview another; At the beginning of the week they announced that Flash Builder 4.5.1 was ready for release and would allow IOS and Playbook development on top of the already existing Android platform. They then ended the week by announcing the preview of Edge – an HTML5 animation design tool.

On the Wednesday I started hearing on Twitter about an [at that point] unverified story from Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing which was suggesting that the UK Copyright lobby was in closed talks with the British Government on national web censorship… If you are a Net Neutrality follower, it’s worth reading including the BBC followup.

As we head towards Microsoft Office365 cloud offering coming out of Beta, I am sure that they could be doing without BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), the suite that 365 will replace, experiencing further outages which was reported midweek last week.

After last weeks release of the Kinect Windows SDK, i picked up some a couple of URLS’s one pointing to a Kinect Hacks site for inspiration on what you can do with it and the other was a series of videos from the Microsoft developers event the previous week.

Gamification is a hot topic at the moment. So what is it and how can it be used in real world situations?

As promised, we end the news of this week with more security news. Firstly, in an international raid called Operation Tribune Herald resulted in multiple equipment seizures of a group spreading scareware malware. And finally after 50 days at sea, LulzSec announces that they are disbanding… Or do they?

Something to play with – I found a new social site last week after hearing it mentioned on Mashable.com. Infostripe – A personal landing page with mobile in mind.

Educational Resources for Kinect Windows SDK developers

Last week I posted that the Kinect SDK for Windows had been released… Had a couple of pointers to resources so I thought I’d stick them all in one place and update them if I get more:

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Microsoft BPOS goes offline for three and a half hours.

As we head towards Microsoft Office365 cloud offering coming out of Beta, I am sure that they could be doing without BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), the suite that 365 will replace, experiencing further outages.
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Recent Tech News – 13th-19th June

My weekly roundup of Tech News. There’s been a fair amount of Microsoft news but also an announcement from Google on search. In Security news, there is an article on why keeping patches up to date is important.

Microsoft News – Academic Search Beta released , Kinect SDK released and Tech.Days 2011 videos now available
Click here to view the article.

Microsoft releases the WebMatrix web development tool
Click here to view the article.

Microsoft warning of phishers posing as computer security experts in phone scam
Click here to view the article.

Reasons why we update – June Patch Tuesday and Java vulnerabilities
Click here to view the article.

Support retires for Office XP, Vista SP1 & Server 2008 SP0 as of July 12 2011
Click here to view the article.

Google enhances mobile and desktop search at “Inside Search”
Click here to view the article.

Finally, I thought i’d pass on a recommendation for those of you that have iPads and are keen bloggers using WordPress or Blogger to write… Take a look at Blogsy for iPad – Blogging for the iPad done right
Click here to view the article.

Microsoft releases the WebMatrix web development tool

In July of 2010 the Beta of WebMatrix was released and updated to Beta 2 in January this year. This week, WebMatrix was officially released…. I say released but in actual fact this is a revival of a 2004 project that was subsequently dropped. Microsoft claims this time to have fully adopted the project and it is part of their portfolio of applications. Microsoft has however in recent times become quite famous for developing new technologies only to abandon them later, leaving early adopters high and dry. WebMatrix is one of those rare exceptions to get a second life after being dropped like a stone six years ago.

WebMatrix provides a free web development environment for .NET and, to a lesser extent, PHP. The aim appears to be to provide a simple entry point to .NET web development for beginner coders – the hope being that once snared within the Microsoft development environment, programmers will upgrade to Visual Studio. The initial install includes the IIS Express web server, the SQL Server Compact Edition for databases and support for the new Razor mark-up syntax.

To get started creating websites, just download and install WebMatrix using the Microsoft Web Platform Installer. You’ll be up and running less than 5 minutes! Microsoft’s tutorials walk you competently through the standard “hello world” equivalents – including pulling data from a database.

Not only can you develop sites from scratch but the option also exists to integrate open-source frameworks. WebMatrix makes it simple to get and install the latest version of free web applications such as WordPress, Joomla!, DotNetNuke and Drupal. By choosing the WordPress framework, for example, WebMatrix will install and configure a fully working WordPress site running locally. The intention is that you’d put your site together on your PC and then upload it to a compatible host using Microsoft’s Web Deploy technology. It works in a similar way to a WAMP server but in a more convenient package.

Find out more about how to download the application and take a look at the introduction tutorials at the Microsoft WebMatrix site

Reasons why we update – June Patch Tuesday and Java vulnerabilities

Patch Tuesday vulnerabilities already being exploited by hackers

Just three days after Microsoft released it’s latest batch of fixes and updates hackers have begun to exploit one of the bugs on un-patched machines reports Symantec. The exploit takes advantage of one of the Internet Explorer issues that was patched this month. This incident only highlights the importance of updating a computer’s files as soon as a patch becomes available because the longer a security hole is left exposed, the more risk there is to the user.

Usually when vulnerabilities are published in Microsoft’s reports regarding Patch Tuesday, there is the expectation that hackers will use that information and usually be successful within 30 days. However in this case, there has been some surprise that the individuals have done it in a significantly less amount of time.

The vulnerability itself stems from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser, version 8 and below, that was originally discovered back in January by a bounty hunter according to InfoWorld. The IE bug, which was placed as the most important update on Patch Tuesday by security analysts, causes issues due to its ability to automatically download malicious files. Symantec’s Joji Hamada stated that, “we have only seen limited attacks taking advantage of this vulnerability and believe that the exploit is only being carried out in targeted attacks at present”.

Oracle releases Java 1.6 update 26

Microsoft recreantly released a new piece of software for detecting malware on your machine. Microsoft Safety Scanner is downloaded and run on your PC to detect and remove malware and rootkits. In eight out of ten of the top vulnerabilities had gotten into users’ machines through Java vulnerabilities. Now, Oracle has updated Java 1.6 to Update 26. If you have Java on your machine, then you want to update to this version to prevent the remote execution exploits that have been fixed.

17 vulnerabilities have been patched with nine of those given a 10 out of 10 in terms of security risk – Oracle’s own ranking. This update is available for Windows, Linux, and Solaris. Apple users will have to wait until Apple issues an update to address the flaws.

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