I was encouraged by Microsoft’s recent announcement that pricing for Windows 8 was going to be lower than previous Windows offerings. In particular, $40 for the retail Windows 8 Pro Upgrade is a lot more reasonable than I had expected. Of course, that’s the download-only version; the retail box will be priced at $70. The non-upgrade version of Windows 8 Pro will be $70, which is still better than it was for Windows 7.
Alas, these prices are only going to be in effect for a brief period, from the retail release on October 26, 2012 to January 31, 2013. After that, the non-upgrade Pro version will increase from $70 to $200 (gag), while the Pro Upgrade price will increase from $40 to something higher (exactly what remains unclear). These prices are all in US dollars.
In related news, Microsoft has revamped their licensing for Windows. Among other changes, users will now be able to – for the first time! – legitimately install Windows on a self-built PC without paying full price for a retail version. The new license type is called “Personal Use License for System Builder (PULSB)” and although pricing is not yet know, it will hopefully be significantly lower than the full retail version. Ed Bott has additional analysis over at ZDNet, and he’ll be posting more as his analysis continues. ARS Technica has more info on the new licensing and PULSB.
Another day, another reason to hate Windows 8. And I haven’t even installed it yet. According to ghacks.net, using the Windows HOSTS file to block web sites will no longer work reliably in Windows 8.
Modifying the Windows HOSTS file is a simple and effective way to fiddle with the way domain names are translated into IP addresses. I use it on development PCs to allow access to locally-hosted web sites using their public URLs. It can also be used to redirect unwanted web sites to LOCALHOST, effectively blocking them. This can be used as a rudimentary form of ad blocking, although there are some risks involved.
Microsoft apparently doesn’t want people using the HOSTS file that way, because it silently updates the file, even if it’s marked as read-only, removing entries for facebook.com and ad.doubleclick.net (a major advertising source), and presumably others.
It turns out that the culprit is Windows Defender, which is enabled by default in Windows 8. Exactly why Windows Defender is doing this is not certain, but it’s safe to assume that Microsoft was pressured to do this by Facebook, Doubleclick, and others. Microsoft will probably claim that it was done for reasons of security, in which case it will be interesting to hear their explanation.
Meanwhile, disabling Windows Defender apparently resolves this issue. You should probably use real anti-malware software anyway. There are plenty of free alternatives.
Apparently some Google employees decided to test Adobe Reader after they found several security-related bugs in the PDF reader code used in Google Chrome. They found sixty issues that cause crashes, about forty of which could provide attack vectors.
Bugs, crashes and security issues in Adobe software are nothing new. But given the frequency and number of updates for Reader, one might assume that Adobe had a handle on these issues. The ongoing crashing problems with Flash on Windows 7 indicate otherwise, as does this new revelation from Google.
Windows 8 is now available for computer manufacturers. The RTM release gives manufacturers some lead time to complete their preparations and testing before the general consumer (retail) release on October 26.
The new Windows O/S is also now available through Technet, MSDN and other Microsoft subscription services. A three month evaluation copy of Windows 8 for developers can also be downloaded.
The FBI has issued an alert about Reveton, drive-by ransomware that first appeared in early 2012.
The term “drive-by” is typically applied to malware that affects users when they visit an infected web site. To put it another way: your computer can become infected by this malware if you visit an infected web site, even if you don’t click anything on that web site or view anything other than the home page. This is why even web searches have become somewhat dangerous.
“Ransomware” refers to malware that presents a warning to the user, in some cases pretending to be from a government agency, that they have violated some law or regulation. The solution presented is to pay a ‘fine’; any money paid goes to the malware’s perpetrator. Surprisingly, this fools enough people to make it a worthwhile scam.
PCWorld has additional information.
Adobe issued several new bulletins today.
First up is Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader. Adobe security bulletin APSB12-16 announces Reader and Acrobat versions 10.1.4 and 9.5.2, which address a specific crashing problem that could allow an attacker to gain control of affected computers.
Next is Adobe security bulletin APSB12-17. This bulletin announces version 184.108.40.2066 of Shockwave. Once again, the new version addresses a security issue.
Finally, a new version of the Flash player is announced in Adobe security bulletin APSB12-18. The new version is 11.3.300.271, and it addresses yet another crash-leading-to-possible-exploit security problem. As mentioned previously here, Google Chrome users will receive the new version of Flash for Chrome with the latest version of that browser. It remains to be seen whether this latest fix will resolve the long-standing crashing problems with the Flash player on Windows 7 systems.
Google really pushes out a lot of updates for Chrome, don’t they? The latest update takes the browser to version 21.0.1180.79. The only change is a security fix for Adobe Flash, with the modified code being provided by Adobe. New versions of the Flash plugin for browsers were also released by Adobe today.
Another Patch Tuesday is here, and this time there are nine bulletins, with associated patches affecting most versions of Windows and Microsoft Office. Several of the Windows patches are classified as critical.
Details on the August 2012 patches are posted on the Microsoft Security Bulletin site.
The patches are now available via Microsoft Update. Computers configured for automatic updates should start receiving them overnight.
Another version of Google’s Chrome browser was announced yesterday. Version 21.0.1180.77 addresses one minor problem.
As predicted by many, Microsoft has officially adopted Apple’s “take what we give you and like it” approach to software development. The hopelessly clunky, nameless, tablet-oriented new user interface in Windows 8 will not be avoidable.
Microsoft apparently really does think that everyone will like the new UI, and anyone who doesn’t is just not important. Since that last group of people includes everyone who uses their computer for more than web browsing, Skype and email, as well as everyone who reviews and evaluates software and makes software purchasing recommendations for organizations, I’m calling it now: Windows 8 is going to be a disaster.
On the other hand, intrepid developers out there have found ways around Microsoft’s idiocy before, and they’ll no doubt do it again. With any luck, they’re working right now on ways to make Windows 8 a usable O/S. UPDATE: Indeed they are – see how to bring back the Start menu in Windows 8 and Samsung’s attempt to revive the Start menu.