The beta of version 2.0 of Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft’s all-in-one PC care service, should be over, with the final version of 2.0 released to all subscribers. The new version adds some really good improvements, like wireless connection security, a startup optimizer to turn off programs that start with your PC that you never use, automatic printer sharing on your network and monthly service reports.
The biggest change, though, is that OneCare is now set up to allow you to designate one of your PCs as a hub PC and connect the others to it (a OneCare subscription is good, at the normal price, for multiple PCs). You can manage the care of the other PCs from the hub, changing settings, scheduling backups and tuneups, and other things.
OneCare 2.0 also adds online photo backup, although for an added price. You get 10 gigabytes of space in Windows Live Folders, automatically synced from your computer, in order to keep your precious digital photos safe in case anything ever happens to your computer. I still don’t see any information on how much this added feature costs, and will look into it.
Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP has been released with some minor updates, and missing one major thing: A Windows Genuine Advantage Check. Microsoft has removed the anti-piracy tool, so that users running non-Genuine versions of Windows can still install IE7.
Microsoft decided that it was more important for pirates to have the heightened security of IE7 than to discourage pirates by sticking them with the old software. Many of Microsoft’s software updates require a WGA check so that pirates can’t use them, but the threat of botnets of zombie computers infected because of an insecure IE6 was so serious, Microsoft removed the piracy check. Good for them, and good for everyone, since IE7 is a pretty good upgrade.
Microsoft finally delivered the first Windows Live Suite, a single installer that allows you to install a number of Windows Live programs as a single download that updates regularly. Go to this site and configure your 1.8 megabyte download, picking from these products:
- Windows Live Mail – the ad-supported desktop email client that integrates well with Windows Live Hotmail, but lets you add any regular email account, plus RSS feeds, spell checking, PhotoMail and Windows Live Contacts. Replaces Outlook Express in Windows XP and Windows Mail in Windows Vista.
- Windows Live Photo Gallery – software for managing, finding, sharing, tagging and editing photos. Replaces Windows Photo Gallery in Vista and is a completely new feature for XP.
- Windows Live Writer – blog posting tool, supporting almost all popular blogging software. Considered one of the best products in its category.
- Windows Live Messenger – instant messaging, compatible with Yahoo Messenger. By getting it as part of the Suite, you don’t have to worry as much about installing new versions.
- Windows Live Sign-In assistant – required install, helps you sign in to Windows Live ID. When you visit a Windows Live ID site in your browser, the sign-in assistant can help out by displaying large buttons for various Live IDs and, in some cases, letting you just click on the account you want to sign in.
- Windows Live OneCare Family Safety – parental control software, allows parents to monitor and restrict a child’s internet access
- Windows Live Toolbar – Internet Explorer toolbar, very powerful toolbar for accessing Windows Live sites and services.
All the software included features newer updated versions. Live Messenger has some bugs fixed. Live Mail has a new List View for contacts, contacts import/export improvements, toolbar customization, Quick Views, improved Layout Dialog options, changing your sign in account, Photo E-Mail updates and Newsgroup updates.
Live Writer is hugely improved. The new version has video insertion (from Soapbox, including your own account, and other video websites), image uploading to Blogger/PicasaWeb, the ability to publish XHTML-style markup, 28 new languages, printing blog posts, justifying and aligning post text, and better image handling, including a fix for the blurry images problem, in addition to bug fixes and installation issues.
Live Photo Gallery gets improved color adjustment and cropping capabilities, image sharpening, shadow and highlight levels, image resizing, batch image resizing, a picture import tool that grabs pictures from your camera in a much better way than Vista or XP do, publishing photos to Windows Live Spaces and videos to MSN Soapbox. This is the first public beta of this software, also.
One complaint: The Suite is not yet available for 64-bit systems.
Curiously, the Suite offers to set your homepage to MSN.com, not Live.com, which probably indicates the change in strategy away from the personalized homepage.
MSDN has a new blog: Hackers @ Microsoft. The new blog is written by and about the white hat hackers employed by Microsoft, who work on improving security in Microsoft’s products (as well as research, development, testing and even management). The first post explains the kind of hackers who work at Microsoft:
We employ “white hat hackers” who spend their time pentesting and code reviewing applications and software looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities so that others don’t once we’ve released that code into the wild. We employ many many smart testers who know more about some of our software then perhaps the architects who designed it. We also employ some of the top researchers in their industry, dedicated people working on the bleeding edge of whats going to be common place in the next 5 or 10 years of computing.
(via Amit Agarwal)
Participants in the beta of Windows Live OneCare 2.0 had their software updated to the new beta over the last day or so. Take a look at some of the interface changes:
So, what’s different?
Well, you’re supposed to install OneCare on all your computers, then manage it centrally here. You manage everything on your network, including backing up to a central location. If you have Windows Home Server, it’ll take advantage of that as well. There’s also an online photo backup feature, with free storage for your photos, but you’ll have to wait until the end of the beta to use it, unless you get an email instructing you to test it right now.
The Firewall has a new setting that turns off certain activities automatically if you are in a public place. These activities will be suspended until you change zones. Take a look:
||Home or work zone
|File & Printer Sharing
|Media Center Extender
|Virtual Private Network (VPN)
|Internet Connection Sharing
The Configure Firewall dialog is WAY streamlined, with everything on a single page instead of a growing number of tabs, with the more advanced options hidden under a second dialog. This means there is an interface for less advanced users to fix firewall problems, while there are still tons of options for tweaking your firewall if you know how to.
There is a new feature under Tune-up for tweaking what happens at the startup of your system. It lists some programs that run at startup, with stats for how often and how recently you use those programs, and a simple click to disable that program. Goodbye, Adobe Acrobat Speed Launcher! So long, Google Toolbar Notifier!
Virus protection has an option to “look for virus-like behavior”, or just check for viruses and spyware. You get to choose how proactive it it.
There’s printer sharing, which automatically shares any printer connected to any computer in your OneCare “circle” with all the other computers. This should take the guesswork out of printer sharing in most cases.
There’s detailed support logging, including a Monthly Report you can have displayed automatically so you know if anything happened in the last month.
Read more at Bink (including a link to get the beta).
See screenshots at Paul Thurrot.
Microsoft sent out an email inviting closed beta testers to test out Windows Live OneCare 2.0, according to LiveSide. I am in the 2.0 beta, which is supposed to be confidential, but this website decided to leak anyway, including a link to the installer. They say that 2.0 includes these features:
- Multi PC management – designate a hub PC and then add additional PCs to your OneCare circle using a common Windows Live ID. You can then see the status of the other PCs within the group.
- Printer Sharing – share your printer with all the PCs in your OneCare circle
- OneCare Online Photo Backup – paid storage is available online for photo backups (we’re hearing 10GB but that could change by the end of the beta)
- Securing wireless networks – if your router is supported OneCare 2.0 will allow you to secure your wireless network.
- X64 support.
This blog has a screenshot of the email, but kept things confidential, as they are supposed to be. The OneCare beta is free and not recommended for subscribers. For some reason, members of the “perpetual beta” (which I am also) have to uninstall, then install the 2.0 beta.
The beta 2.0 installer actuall installs OneCare 1.6, but the version you install is “special”, and will turn into a 2.0 install in a few days.
Popular Science came out with its list of the 10 worst jobs in all of science, and Microsoft Security Response Center wound up grabbing sixth place, the only computer science job on the list. Describing it “Like wearing a big sign that reads ‘Hack Me’”, it says they get 100,000 emails a year, working on multiple versions in multiple languages of software products totalling billions of lines of code, and every screwup reflects enormously bad on your company and puts pressure on your job.
It’s a job I wouldn’t want to have, but the good workers doing security for the world’s operating system, they’re my heroes. Well, them and Superman. And if I was in trouble, it’s just Superman. Sorry guys.
The top 10:
- Hazmat Diver
- Elephant Vasectomist
- Coursework Carcass Preparer
- Microsoft Security Grunt
- Gravity Research Subject
- Olympic Drug Tester
- Forensic Entomologist (maggot study)
- Whale-Feces Researcher
Who knew there were Garbologists!?
(via InfoWorld > Neowin))
Microsoft security strategy director Jeff Jones has tabulated the number of bugs in Windows Vista reported after 180 days of availability (from the November business release through the end of May). He shows that Vista has had 27 security vulnerabilities, 12 of which have been patched, compared with (in their first six month), 36/33 for Windows XP, 273/214 for Red Hat Linux, 85/74 for Ubuntu Linux, 143/123 for Novell SUSE Linux, and 76/60 for Mac OS 10.4.
While counting security holes is an imprecise method, at best, and a pretty bad barometer at worst, it should help dispell anyone who insists Microsoft operating systems have all the security problems. Competing operating systems have plenty of security problems, as admitted by their makers when they are corrected, and acting like Microsoft is the worst is just ignoring the reality of the situation.
Read the full PDF report here.
Joe Wilcox has significant criticism of the report.
Slashdot takes the pessimistic view that Microsoft has fixed less than half of the small number of problems.
Microsoft has released something called Windows SteadyState, software designed for places with public computers. SteadyState keeps computers in shared public locations, like libraries and internet cafÃ©s, safe from the actions of the many users who might be accessing it on a daily basis. SteadyState makes managing the system easier, prevent users from installing software, infecting it with viruses, changing system settings, and changing the desktop appearance.
SteadyState replaces the Shared Computer Toolkit, and is free, but it only works on Genuine Windows XP Home/Pro/Tablet. It comes with an improved UI over the Toolkit, plus easier controls, simplified system-wide user restriction levels, the ability to copy user accounts from computers, more restrictions, Windows Disk Protection (which rolls back changes the second the user logs out), a User Account Manager, and a central control for security and privacy settings.
You can download it here.
Microsoft released to subscribers version 1.6 of Windows Live OneCare. You won’t notice many differences, but the slider that turns off the firewall has a fourth setting, one that turns it off for a set period of time, as well as an option to turn off the OneCare firewall for ever. To find that click “Chang OneCare settings”, select the Firewall tab, click “Advanced settings”, select the “Managing and Sharing” tab, and turn on “Turn off the firewall”. At least it isn’t complicated. There’s also a firewall activity report available from the dashboard.
I talk about Microsoft products here daily, and occasionally I link to them on Amazon.com so that if a reader chooses to buy them, I can get a small commission on the sale. Now, Microsoft is offering its own affiliate program, the Microsoft Affiliate Network, for websites to use to get some extra cash when they mention Microsoft products. Signing up is easy, just head here, and it’s fast (I signed up half a day ago, and I’m already accepted).
Currently, the program only has referrals for Windows Live OneCare, but the account rep I spoke to assured me that more will be added shortly. You get $1.50 for every user who signs up for a free trial of OneCare, and can link to it with an image or text. Here are examples of the images (these are live affiliate ad images, so don’t click them unless you want to install OneCare now):
One thing I absolutly love: The ads are just GIF images with a standard HTML link. That means they’ll work anywhere, even forums and emails, and on mobile phones, and certainly they’ll work in my blog posts, something Google AdSense referral ads don’t. Google uses SCRIPT tags, very annoying, and Microsoft has gone a simpler, and thus more compatible route.
There are also six text links. These consist of blocks of regular text with the referral link included, as well as an invisible image acting as a tracking bug (for ad statistics). I’m not a big fan of the text, especially since at least one of them is gramattically incorrect, and I hope you are allowed to edit it, at least in small ways, without breaking program policies.
- Help get peace of mind knowing that everything is managed for you with Windows Live OneCare—virus and spyware scanning, firewalls, tune-ups, file backups, the whole nine yards. And it’s all delivered to you in a smooth, hassle-free package. Download the 90 day free trial
- Help keep your PC trouble-free with Windows Live OneCare
- Try Windows Live OneCare free for 90 days to see how easy caring for your computer can be. Download the free trial.
- Get continuous protection for your PC with Windows Live OneCare Download the free trial.
- Download Windows Live OneCare, the new comprehensive, automatic, and self-updating PC care service that helps protect and maintain your PC.
- Windows Live OneCare works quietly in the background on your computer, so you don’t have to worry about nasty interruptions from viruses, spyware, hackers, and other unwanted intruders. It also goes beyond security, regularly backing up all your important files and cleaning up and tuning up your computer to help keep it running at top speed. Because you have better things to do with your PC. Download the free trial.
That last one is practically a full review! Maybe Microsoft wants to do my job for me!
Anyway, this program seems exciting and is definitely doing a few things smarter. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of the program as they add new products.
And if you are a regular reader of the blog, you already know how much I love OneCare, so don’t worry about bias here. If you haven’t tried it out yet, here’s your opportunity. There are only about twenty links to choose from
Disable search history deletion
Hosted on Zooomr
Are you a paranoid parent? Do you want to keep tabs on your kids, instead of talking to them and parenting? Well, you may have noticed that your kid is pretty smart, and knows how to cover his tracks by deleting the browser’s search history before you can see where he’s been.
Luckily, this MSDN forum thread explains how you can disable the ability to access the options page which allows deleting of the search history. Here’s how:
- Open the Start Menu and Click “Run” (in Windows Vista, just open the Start Menu and start typing. Alternatively, you can hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and press “R”)
- Type “gpedit.msc” and hit Enter
- Browse through the folders in the left pane to: Local Computer Policy -> Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Internet Explorer -> Internet Control Panel
- Double-click “Disable the General page”
- Click “Enabled” and click OK
That should do it. Now you can read your kid’s search history and find out that your kid isn’t looking up porn, he just hates you, because you’re too invasive. Whoops.
No, seriously, this is pretty useful. I don’t believe parents should snoop on their kids, but the kids shouldn’t have full access to cover their tracks on the family computer. With that in mind, if you make your kid an administrator, you really are an idiot.
I’ve been going crazy for months, unable to sync my Windows Mobile device (the T-Mobile MDA) with my computer, or even connect it via USB to move files over (thank god for MiniSD). Turns out there’s a known reason for it: Windows Live OneCare.
If you have OneCare, there is a good chance you can’t connect your device to your computer. The reason: OneCare’s firewall blocks a lot of things, including the sync, leaving you high and dry. Unless…
Just disable the firewall. That should get rid of almost every problem. When you want to connect your device, open OneCare, click “Change OneCare Settings” (you need administrator privileges to do this), click on the “Firewall” tab, then drag the slider down to the bottom (“Off”) and click Apply.
OneCare will ask you if you want to run the Firewall Connection Tool. There’s good news: This might fix it. Run the tool, put a check in the checkbox for “ActiveSync/Windows Mobile Device Center” and click OK. If that works (see if it worked by opening Windows Mobile Device Center/ActiveSync) then smile and move on. If it doesn’t (and for me, it only works half the time), turn off the firewall as described above. You will now be able to sync your device.
Once you are done syncing, activate your firewall again. If you clicked Apply when turning it off, the dialog should still be open, and you just have to drag the slider back up again and click OK. Otherwise, go through the steps again, and drag the slider up instead of down.
I hope to god the OneCare team figures out how to ensure that this stops being a problem in the future. They need to fix the Connection Tool so that if I select the ActiveSync option, it actually works. And Windows Mobile Device Center needs to be able to launch OneCare if it sees that there is a problem, because I spent months before I found this solution. Get on it, boys!
Also, a OneCare 2.0 beta is starting in April (maybe it won’t have this problem?), and you can sign up for it now by filling out a survey.
According to Paul Thurrott, the new version will feature “the new version will include wireless connection setup and security features, a boot time optimizer, monthly reports, online photo backup functionality (at extra cost), unified monitoring and maintenance of networked PCs, printer sharing, and automated tune-ups.” That sounds so cool, I just can’t wait to try it. The boot time optimizer (which I hope will optimize hibernation as well) alone is worth the effort.
If you wanted to download the new Windows Live OneCare 1.5, Microsoft’s all-in-one security suite that offers antivirus, firewall and backup, you can now get it for just $20, thirty bucks less than the usual price. Just head to this site
by February 12 to get this great deal. If you miss out on the deal, there’s always Amazon
Mike Torres writes about
a hidden Windows Vista option that gives you a much more powerful search in Windows Vista. Just hit up the “Folder Options” control panel and enable “Use natural language search” in the Search tab, and you’ll be able to make searches like “pictures taken last week”, “email from bill gates sent yesterday” and “music by enimen rated *****”. There are a few things to be learned about the search syntax, and it isn’t for everyone, but it is certainly worth trying out, since, if mastered, it can make for some really amazing searches and search folders.
The Windows Vista blog explains why different User Account Control prompts have different colors, and what each of them mean, so you can actually recognize at a glance the difference between verified publishers, unverified publishers, and prompts by the operating system.
Chris Lanier explains what the content restrictions will be in Windows Vista, and it is pretty clear from the list that Vista doesn’t contain more restrictions than XP. In every case, Vista supports more content than XP, or the exact same content, and every already popular method of piracy is still supported. It may be harder to pirate future technologies, but stuff like DVD will always be easy to crack.
Windows Live Search has released an SDK, giving you a ton of options for developing applications that use Windows Live Search. Good for them, considering Google closed down their API recently, so I’d like to see Windows Live step into the void.
Long Zheng has details of the wallpapers that ship with Windows Vista. Turns out some of them are from Flickr. Cool!
Microsoft has issued a press release noting that all the top security software companies will have products compatible with and designed for Windows Vista. They’ve got Symantec, which will have Norton Confidential, Norton Internet Security and Norton AntiVirus, all of which will be Vista-compatible by launch date. There’s also TrendMicro, all of McAfee’s 2007 products, Computer Associates Anti-Virus 2007, Panda, Safebrowse.com, and a bunch of others, even Microsoft’s own Windows Live OneCare (which works wonderfully for me right now on Windows Vista), which will release a new version the same day Vista hits stores.
Red Herring reports that Microsoft has bought Secured Dimensions, an Israel-based data protection startup, for a priced rumored to be a few million dollars. Secured Dimensions, a two year old company funded for just $600,000, is already proudly sporting “A Microsoft Subsidiary” on their website, and is in the business of protecting applications from being reverse engineered, cracked or pirated.
SecureLM.net is the first end-to-end solution to allow software vendors and publishers to protect their .NET applications or services, build dynamic software packages (evaluation and commercial ones), distribute their software to end-users and then monitor their customer preferences and behavior. Optional store-front closes the loop with integrated, on-demand eCommerce and online payment options.
Word is Microsoft may use this internally to protect its own software and assist with development of company products, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they started offering it as an option in future versions of its software development products.
Version 1.5 of Windows Live OneCare has been Released To Manufacturing, ensuring that the first Vista-compatible version of Microsoft’s security suite will be ready in time for the Vista launch, just 24 days, 15 hours, 23 minutes and 31 seconds away. It will be available to download and buy by the end of the month, and if you already have a OneCare subscription, you will be updated automatically and for free when it is available.
I’ve been running OneCare 1.5 as part of the perpetual beta, and trust me, all the changes have only served to make a really good product even better. I’m not sure what significant changes are in the new version, besides Vista support, but little things have been improved as the product continues to improve and, in my opinion, remain the best consumer security product on the market.