Category Archives: Microsoft

Windows 8 prevents site blocking using HOSTS file

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.

August 2012 Patch Tuesday

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.

No way to avoid crappy new UI in Windows 8

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.

August 2012 Patch Tuesday advance warning

Microsoft will be issuing several patches for Windows, Office, and other software on August 14, 2012. According to the advance bulletin, there are nine updates in all, with five affecting various versions of Windows, and three affecting various versions of Office.

A total of 14 vulnerabilities will be addressed by the patches. Five of the bulletins are rated critical.

Additional details will be posted here as they are made available in the lead-up to Patch Tuesday.

Microsoft wants even fewer people to use the next version of Office

According to The Verge, the next version of Microsoft Office (2013) will not run on Windows Vista or XP.

So, now there’s another good reason to avoid the latest version of Office, as if you needed one. Microsoft has struggled to get people to upgrade Office. Many users still run – and are perfectly happy with – much earlier versions. The general perception is that while new versions may look fancy, they tend to increase bloat, while randomly removing useful features, adding useless new features, introducing fun new bugs, and changing the user interface to make everything harder to find.

I predict that people will stay away from Office 2013 in even greater numbers than for previous versions.