Operating system

If You Still Use Windows XP, Prepare For the Worst

Microsoft

As a vicious new strain of ransomware swept the UK’s National Health Service yesterday, shutting off services at hospitals and clinics throughout the region, experts cautioned that the best protection was to download a patch Microsoft had issued in March. The only problem? A reported 90 percent of NHS systems run Windows XP, an operating system Microsoft first introduced in 2001, and hasn’t supported since 2014.

NHS has disputed the 90 percent figure—though not that a significant portion of its systems run Windows XP—and was only one example of the tens of thousands of impacted computers across nearly 100 countries yesterday. But its meltdown illustrates the deeper problems inherent in Windows XP’s prevalence three years after its official demise.

Experts rightly that the best protection against the so-called WannaCry ransomware was to patch everything, as soon as possible. But for Windows XP and other expired operating systems, the patches weren’t there in the first place. With very few exceptions—including an emergency patch after the first wave of WannaCry infections—Microsoft no longer provides any security report for the OS. A computer running XP today is a castle with no moat, portcullis raised, doors flung open, greeting the ravaging hoards with wine spritzers and jam.

And it’s only going to get worse.

Expiration Date

Hackers have targeted XP for years. Its lack of defenses and persistent popularity make it a popular target. And it really does have a foothold; according to analytics company StatCounter, 5.26 percent of Windows PCs run XP still, while a similar analysis from Net Applications puts the total at just over 7 percent of all personal computers. No matter whose numbers you use, that amounts to tens of millions of devices, and that’s before you count the absurd percentage of ATMs and other non-traditional systems stuck in the past.

The natural question, given the absurd level of risk that comes with running Windows XP in 2017, is why on earth would anyone stick with it, much less millions of people and companies with so much to lose.

The problem stems in part from Windows XP’s initial popularity. “It was one…

Microsoft’s WannaCrypt ransomware update takes unusual step of protecting Windows XP users

Still stubbornly running an ancient version of Windows, despite the security threats? You’re in luck, this time.

The ransomware attack known as WannaCrypt that sent organizations and individual users around the world scrambling for security cover has been addressed by Microsoft, the company behind the most widely used operating system on the planet, with a new software update. And, to the relief of many holding onto old versions of Windows, the update plays nice with some old school systems, too.

Late Friday, the company posted an official notice on its site regarding the update as well as general guidance regarding the WannaCrypt attack. The update covers users on Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 (the attack didn’t target Windows 10, according to Microsoft). Additionally, Microsoft advises users to “use vigilance when opening documents from untrusted or unknown sources.”

The patch goes all the…

Why Microsoft needs the iPhone to accomplish its mobile goals

Microsoft is shifting its mobile strategy.
Microsoft is shifting its mobile strategy.

It wasn’t that long ago when Windows Phone was an important topic at Microsoft’s Build developer conference.

But you’d be hard-pressed to tell from watching this year’s keynotes. Like last year’s event, no one in the parade of Microsoft executives who took the stage made any mention of Windows Phone.

Except for that one moment.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president in Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group, was demoing a new OneDrive feature from the upcoming Fall Creators Update on a Windows Phone. As soon as he said the words “Windows Phone,” someone in the audience let out an inexplicably enthusiastic “Woot!”

“Thank you,” he said, before continuing the demo. He didn’t mention Windows Phone again. Later, a slide appeared. “Windows PCs ❤️ All Your Devices,” it proclaimed. The first smartphone on the slide? An iPhone.

That almost perfectly encapsulates Microsoft’s mobile strategy right now. And, yes, despite the…

Microsoft unveils Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, coming ‘later this year’

At its Build 2017 developer conference today, Microsoft announced the Fall Creators Update for Windows 10. The company detailed a slew of new features coming to its latest and greatest operating system, all free. The update is slated to arrive “later this year” (that likely means September 2017, but Microsoft isn’t committing to a specific timeframe). Windows Insiders and developers will be able to play with it sooner.

Windows 10 is a service, meaning it was built in a very different way from its predecessors so it can be regularly updated with not just fixes but new features, too. Microsoft has released many such updates, including three major ones: November Update, Anniversary Update, and Creators Update.

As part of the update, Terry Myerson, executive vice president for Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, showed off Windows Story Remix, a new creative app built with .NET that uses the Microsoft Graph to transform your photos and videos. Think of it as the successor of Windows Movie Maker, with 3D features. It automatically brings together your photos and videos, or even those shared by your friends and family, to create stories with a soundtrack, theme, and cinematic transitions. You can also add 3D objects to your photos and videos or turn them into a canvas for drawing on with Windows Ink.

Lorraine Bardeen, Microsoft general manager of Mixed Reality Experiences, gave a demo that emphasized the collaborative nature of the creative app. There is image recognition technology for people and objects, Android and iOS versions…

Does PowerShell Work on Other Operating Systems Besides Windows?

It can be very frustrating when your professor says one thing about PowerShell and various websites seem to offer solid proof to the contrary. Does PowerShell actually work on non-Windows systems or not? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to a puzzled reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader FredSavage187 wants to know if PowerShell works on other operating systems besides Windows:

My computer science professor recently gave us a quiz and one of the questions was, “True or False: PowerShell works on Windows, Mac, and Linux”. The correct answer was “false” and he maintains that PowerShell is a Windows only thing. But I found a couple of websites that say otherwise:

PowerShell is open sourced and is available on Linux [Microsoft Azure Blog]

PowerShell Repository [GitHub]

Which one is actually correct? Does PowerShell work on Linux and Mac OS as well as…

Microsoft is forcing Windows 10 S users to rely on Edge and Bing by default

windows, microsoft, browser

Microsoft unveiled its brand new Chrome OS challenger, Windows 10 S, at a special event in New York yesterday, but it turns out the company has a nasty surprise in store for early adopters.

While the newly-introduced lightweight OS will support apps from the Windows Store without any limits, Microsoft has clarified users will have to rely on Edge as their default browser. In addition to this, you will also have to use Bing as your default search engine in both Edge and Internet Explorer.

The inconvenient stipulations appear in a FAQ for Windows 10 S – as spotted by The Verge – where Microsoft confirms that although “[y]ou…

Windows 10 S And The Surface Laptop Are Bad News For Gamers

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The Surface Laptop may be a MacBook killer but it's not a good choice for gamers.

The Surface Laptop may be a MacBook killer but it’s not a good choice for gamers.

The Surface Laptop debuted Tuesday to much fanfare and Apple comparison pieces. It’s Microsoft’s answer to the MacBook, and if you care at all about playing games on your PC, it’s decidedly not for you.

Windows 10 S wants to take the steam out of Steam.

The primary reason the Surface Laptop is bad for gamers is the fact that it’s the flagship device for Windows 10 S. Microsoft’s newest operating system abandons all pretense of openness in favor of a closed ecosystem. On Windows 10 S computers, only apps from Microsoft’s app store will run. All other software is closed out of this new walled garden. Microsoft isn’t just taking aim at the MacBook line with the Surface Laptop, it’s taking a page from Apple’s App Store success.

Notably absent from the Microsoft Store? Steam, the number one destination for PC gamers. This is where almost every PC gamer goes to buy and play games (though Mac and Linux users can also use Steam.) Also missing from the Microsoft Store are EA’s Origin, GOG Galaxy and Ubisoft’s Uplay. Basically all…

Microsoft and Apple in mad scramble to catch Google Chromebook in U.S. schools

Image Credit: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

(Reuters) — Microsoft Corp’s announcement of a suite of new education products on Tuesday shows the company’s determination to reverse a major shift that has taken place in U.S. classrooms in recent years: for most educators and school districts, Google’s Chromebook is now the computer of choice.

The Chromebook has gone from a standing start in 2011 to wild popularity in the market for education technology, which tech companies have traditionally viewed as a critical way to win over the next generation of users.

In 2016, mobile devices running Alphabet Inc’s Google’s Chrome operating system accounted for 58 percent of the U.S. market for primary and secondary schools, according to Futuresource Consulting.

The Microsoft products introduced Tuesday, including a new version of its Windows operating system, software to boost collaboration among students and a new Surface laptop, clearly show the influence of the Chromebook, industry watchers say.

“The success of the Chromebook has awakened sleeping giants,” said Tyler Bosmeny, CEO of Clever, an education technology company. “There’s so much investment into the space – it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

For years after the release of the Chromebook in 2011, Apple Inc and Microsoft stuck to their strategies of offering slightly modified and discounted versions of their products for educators.

But the Chromebook’s low price–it starts at $149– and easy management proved irresistible to many schools. Google also saw a key chance to expand its market share several years…

The Complete Guide to Speeding Up Your Virtual Machines

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Virtual machines are demanding beasts, providing virtual hardware and running multiple operating systems on your computer at once. As a result, they can sometimes be a little slow. Here are some tips to help you squeeze every last drop of performance out of your virtual machine, whether you’re using VirtualBox, VMware, Parallels, or something else.

Create Fixed-Size Disks Instead of Dynamically Allocated Ones

When creating your virtual machine, you can create two different types of virtual disks. By default, virtual machine programs will generally use dynamically allocated disks that grow as you use them.

For example, if you create a new virtual machine with a dynamically allocated disk with a maximum size of 30 GB, it won’t take up 30 GB of space on your hard disk immediately. After installing your operating system and programs, it may only take up 10 GB. As you add more files to the virtual disk, it will expand up to its maximum size of 30 GB.

This can be convenient, as each virtual machine won’t take up an unnecessarily large amount of space on your hard drive. However, it’s slower than creating a fixed-size disk (also known as a preallocated disk). When you create a fixed-size disk, all 30 GB of that space would be allocated immediately.

There’s a trade-off here: a fixed-size disk uses more space on your hard disk, but adding new files to the virtual machine’s hard disk is faster. You also won’t see as much file fragmentation. The space will be assigned in a large block instead of being added in smaller pieces.

Install Your Virtual Machine Software’s Tools

After installing a guest operating system inside a virtual machine, the first thing you should do is install your virtual machine software’s drive package—Guest Additions for VirtualBox, VMware Tools for VMware, or Parallels Tools for Parallels. These packages include special drivers that help your guest operating system run faster on your virtual machine’s hardware.

Installing the package is simple. In VirtualBox, boot your guest operating system and click Devices > Insert Guest Additions CD Image. You can then launch the installer from the virtual disc drive in your virtual machine. On VMware, select the Install VMware Tools option in the virtual machine’s menu instead. In Parallels, click Actions > Install Parallels Tools.

Follow the instructions on your screen to complete the installation. If you’re using a Windows guest operating system, it’ll be just like installing any other Windows application.

Ensure you keep these updated with your virtual machine program. If you see a notification that an update is available for Guest Additions or VMware Tools, you should install it.

Exclude Virtual Machine Directories In Your Antivirus

Your computer’s antivirus program may be scanning your virtual machine files whenever they’re accessed, reducing performance. The antivirus can’t see inside the virtual machine to detect viruses running on your guest operating systems, so this scanning isn’t helpful.

To speed things up, you can add your virtual machine directory to your antivirus’s exclusions list. Once it’s on the list, your antivirus will ignore all files in this directory.

Ensure Intel VT-x or AMD-V Is Enabled

Intel VT-x and AMD-V are special processor extensions that improve virtualization. Newer Intel and AMD processors generally include these features. However, some computers don’t automatically enable them. You may have to go into your computer’s BIOS and enable this setting yourself, even if your computer…

How to Make Linux and macOS Virtual Machines for Free with Parallels Lite

Parallels is easily the best virtualization software on the Mac, and earlier this year, they quietly added a new app called Parallels Desktop Lite to the Mac App Store—and unlike its cousin, it’s free to download. The catch: if you want to use Windows virtual machines, you’re going to have to pay for a $60 a year for a subscription.

But the program itself is completely free otherwise, meaning if you want to create Linux, Chromium OS, or even macOS virtual machines, you don’t need to pay a dime.

Should I Use Parallels Lite, or the “Full” Version of Parallels?

So how it Parallels Desktop Lite different than Parallels Desktop? Parallels outlines all of the differences here, if you’re curious—there are a few limitations related to Mac App Store sandboxing. Other than that, the main difference is that Lite is free for anything except Windows virtual machines. If you want to run a Windows virtual machine, you’ll need to pony up $60 annually.

How does that compare to Parallels Desktop for Mac, the “full” version of this software? Well that product currently costs $70, and is yours as long as you can keep it running. Parallels versions typically stop running every couple of macOS releases, after which you’ll need to either stick to an older host operating system or pony up $50 for an upgrade license. Assuming you need to upgrade every two years, which is roughly consistent with our experience, the two pricing plans are about that same.

But that’s only if you want to run Windows. If your interest in virtual machines lies entirely on the Linux and macOS side of things, Lite is without question the better deal, because you can’t beat free.

Getting Started With Parallels Desktop Lite

Start up Parallels Lite for the first time and you’ll see the Parallels Wizard, which makes setting up or adding virtual machines simple.

There are three main options here. The most prominent points you to download Windows 10 from Microsoft, which will cost you around $120 for Windows itself on top of the Parallels subscription. To the right, you’ll find the option to browse your computer for any installation images on your computer. Below these two prominent options, you’ll see quick tools for downloading several other operating systems, including:

  • Chromium OS (the open source version of Chrome OS)
  • Ubuntu 16.04
  • Fedora 23
  • CentOS 7
  • Debian 8

Let’s get started with setting up a couple of these installers, then move on to setting up macOS in a virtual…