I'm sure that everyone reading this site is aware of the fact that Windows Vista has made some rather drastic changes to the underlying OS in the name of security. Some of these are good and overdue changes; some, however, are freakin' brain dead (you can see my last post for a very brief summary of my feelings about Vista from a user's perspective). Regardless of my personal feelings, the fact is Vista is here and it's install base is only going to grow as people purchase new PCs. Given that I maintain a few applications for Windows, I have to take Vista into consideration and make sure that my apps continue to play nicely on Microsoft's current and future operation systems.
Unfortunately, I'm rather late to this party. Until just recently I have had no direct exposure with Vista; I even managed to go through the entire alpha, beta, and release candidate stages of Vista without seeing a Vista system a single time. Needless to say, once it was released I began receiving notices that Universal Extractor has Vista compatibility issues. I'm sure AutoFLAC does as well, but I guess those users are a bit less demanding. :-) (I say that in jest, of course - the UniExtract community over on the MSFN forum has been fantastic!)
The good news is that I finally do have access to a Vista system. I can't stand using it (again, see my last post if you want to know how I really feel about it), but it can at least serve as a test box for UniExtract and AutoFLAC. The next couple revisions of each will focus on Vista compatibility, and in anticipation of this I've begun doing some research into the Vista changes that most affect applications and installers. I'm post some of the more useful links I've found both for my own reference and for anyone else that may benefit from this information.
New ACLs Improve Security in Windows Vista - detailed article about many of the changes to user and administrator privileges, file system and registry permissions, etc.; very informative, though highly technical
File and Registry Virtualization – the good, the bad, and the ugly - discussion about the compatibility features provided by Vista to allow older "non-compliant" applications to install and function properly
I know there's a lot more information out there, and I'll probably update this post as I come across it, but this will get me started. Do you know of any other good resources? Please post a comment!
I'll probably follow this up with more coherent and reasoned thoughts when I get some free time and am better rested, but for now I just felt the need to share my feelings.
That is all.
I came across a couple of very useful Windows apps tonight while doing some maintenance on my systems. The first is Core Mini-SFTP Server. This is a commercial/proprietary app, but it's available free of charge. As implied by the name, it's a stripped-down sFTP server for Windows. No installation or configuration is necessary; simply download and run the executable, specify the username, password, and root directory, then click Start. Any user can now connect via SFTP using the specified credentials. It's very convenient if you simply need quick and easy access to an sFTP server on Windows, but, of course, it does have limitations. It's strictly single user, must be run interactively (ie, it cannot be run as a service when the system starts), and only minimal sftp functionality is included (the
sftp client under Linux works, for example, but
scp does not). Additionally, it stores the specified password in plaintext within the registry. Keep this in mind when choosing a password, and be sure to delete the key after you're finished if it's a sensitive password (HKCU\Software\FTPWare\msftpsrvr\msftpsrvr).
Next up is a fine new FOSS app for Windows. Infra Recorder is a very slick CD burning application based on
cdrecord. The interface is very nice and intuitive, functionally it can do just about anything you'd expect of a CD burning application, and so far it seems quite stable (considering it's a beta release). I'm quite pleased with it so far. The audio capabilities are somewhat limited (it can only handle WAV files directly, for example), but given that I use Exact Audio Copy for all of my audio CD needs it's not much of an issue for me. It'll make a great alternative to cdrtfe, my current burning app of choice under Windows.
Edit: I'm afraid I'm going to have to take back some of the praise for Infra Recorder. It doesn't seem to actually want to write the disc image that you tell it to burn. Instead, it just pretends to burn it for several minutes, letting you think it's being written to disc. I discovered this after thinking I had burned a freshly downloaded 700 MB Kubuntu ISO, only to find out after I had deleted ISO that it had not, in fact, been written to disc. So, I downloaded it again, checked and double-checked all settings (especially the "simulation" option, and attempted to burn it again, but it still failed. I then fired up cdrtfe and burned it without problem on the first attempt, confirming that the disc image was fine.
I'd recommend sticking with cdrtfe for important stuff for now.
The End User License Agreement (EULA) for the upcoming Windows Vista was made available by Microsoft about a month ago. You can read obtain a PDF copy of the EULA though Microsoft's website.
It turns out that there are several provisions in the EULA that are unusually restrictive, to the point of being draconian (What? Microsoft licensing is restrictive? I'm shocked! Shocked, I say!). Obviously restrictive EULA's are nothing new, but this is a bit much even according to Microsoft standards. Some of the highlights include being limited to one and only one license transfer, being forbidden to run the Home versions in a virtual machine and being forbidden from accessing any DRM content while running under a virtual machine.
There has been quite a few articles written about this in the past couple weeks; however, I think Scott Granneman's article on Security Focus does the best job of detailing the issues. He also includes a lot of links and references to other sources about this.
If you're considering buying/upgrading to Vista when it's released, I strongly recommend reading this article before you do. I'll leave you with a short quote from Granneman's article:
If you thought that the legal troubles the company faced in the late 90s would perhaps mellow it out, you were wrong. Far from it. The draconian limitations I've discussed could only be enacted by a monopoly unafraid of alienating its users, as it feels they have no other alternative.
Microsoft recently commisioned research whore firm IDC to research and produce a report entitled, "The Economic Impact of Microsoft Windows Vista" (link to PDF). The executive summary essentially states that the upcoming release of Windows Vista will provide a huge boon to the European economy, and is a direct response into the Europeans Commission's inquiry into whether Microsoft is playing fair with this new release.
Now, I haven't posted much about either Microsoft or Linux in quite some time (nearly 2 years in fact, which probably isn't all that surprising given that I only posted 4 articles in all of 2005), simply because I'm content to sit and watch from the sidelines at this point. However, the news I read about this report struck me as rather odd. For example:
There are some other odd conclusions included in the report, but these are the two that are most puzzling to me. For example, the "$40 billion" statement doesn't sound like something they should brag about. To me, this reads as, "Microsoft will drain the European of up to $40 billion in the form of upgrades and license fees. Additional money must be spent replacing hardware that doesn't meet the minimum requirements of Microsoft's next OS, but could continue to function fine with current software or alternative operating systems." The only boon I see is for Microsoft, in the form of transferring an obscenely large amount of money from the European economy into its own coffers.
The second example is equally as puzzling. We're talking about an upgrade, not an entirely new or revolutionary product. IT workers today will continue to provide IT services tomorrow. The only reason I can think of that Windows Vista would provide such a huge increase in IT jobs is that it will take that much more manpower to deploy and support Vista-based systems. Again, this isn't exactly something I would brag about.
The reason I bring this up now is that I recently came across two good articles discussion the issue. The first, in Business Week, gives a broader overview of the issues involved, and is a good read to get caught up on this topic. The second, in Linux Journal takes a more focused approach by specifically discussing the IDC research report, comparing the report's "benefits" to real-world benefits obtainable through Open Source software.
If you're curious about this issue, I encourage reading both articles below:
The Ximian Connector for Microsoft Exchange allows Ximian Evolution clients to access accounts on Microsoft Exchange 2000 servers. It is available through Ximian Red Carpet in its own channel or through novell's website. See the product's site for more details: https://store.ximian.com/xproddetail.php?sku=XCN14-DL-U01.
Unlike the regular Ximian Evolution client, the Ximian Connector for Microsoft Exchange is proprietary software and source code is not available.
Edit by jbreland:
Thanks, Andrew! Actually, the connector has, in fact, recently been GPL'ed. This happened a few months ago, thanks to Novell. Details about this can be found in the Evolution 2.0 press release from Novell.
Microsoft yesterday released their latest collection of patches for vulnerabilities in Windows and Outlook Express. There are four patches total, but each covers multiple vulnerabilities, including several "critical" vulnerabilities. For thos Windows users out there, I'd recommend patching ASAP.