Advantages and disadvantages of Windows 3.0

I hear the question from time to time what the advantages and disadvantages of Windows 3.0 were. Windows 3.0, released in May 1990, is generally considered the first usable version of Windows. The oft-repeated advice to always wait for Microsoft’s version 3 is a direct reference to Windows 3.0 that still gets repeated today, frequently.

Although Windows 3.0 is clumsy by today’s standards, in 1990 it had the right combination of everything to take the world by storm.

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Lenovo and Best Buy team up for a $149 laptop this year

Cheap laptops are nothing new this time of year–they’ve been practically a holiday tradition since 2002 when Sotec released a decent laptop for $900, which was jaw-droppingly low for the time–but this year, Best Buy is selling a Lenovo Ideapad 100s for $149.99, which, while not jaw-droppingly low given the number of $199 laptops that were available last year, is still the cheapest name-brand laptop I’ve seen. Note: Best Buy has since raised the price to $199, but Ebay has limited stock of the same item for $129.

I’ve seen some reviews, but there is one thing I haven’t seen anyone bring up yet: This is a netbook in every way, except I think we’re supposed to call them cloudbooks now. So keep that in mind. The machine is probably worth $149.99, but it made some compromises to reach that price point.

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Application whitelisting on Windows, even home editions

One of the very best things security measures you can take is application whitelisting–limiting the apps that are allowed to run on your computer.

The Australian Signals Directorate–the Australian counterpart to the NSA–says doing four things cuts security incidents by a whopping 85 percent. You probably do three of the things. The fourth is application whitelisting.

  • use application whitelisting to help prevent malicious software and unapproved programs from running
  • patch applications such as Java, PDF viewers, Flash, web browsers and Microsoft Office
  • patch operating system vulnerabilities
  • restrict administrative privileges to operating systems and applications based on user duties.

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Data breaches don’t cost anything–so here’s why they matter

What seems like a million years ago, when Sony Pictures got breached, some pundits were predicting that was the end of the company. I always thought that was hyperbole, but I have to admit I never went to the extreme of saying breaches are nearly harmless, which seems to be the current popular thinking.

Indeed, a financial analyst went on the Down the Security Rabbit Hole podcast and said breaches are an investment opportunity. Just buy the dip.

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Why every breach is different

I’ve grown used to being asked what unpatched vulnerability was used in the most recent breach, in an effort to make sure some other company is protected.

I appreciate the desire to learn from other companies’ mistakes and not repeat them. But there are several reasons why the answer to that question is complicated, and not necessarily helpful.

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The Fujitsu Scansnap iX500 deserves its reputation

I don’t buy a lot of hardware anymore, but we purchased a Fujitsu Scansnap ix500 document scanner this month. It has a fantastic reputation, and it only took an hour to live up to it for me.

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PDQ Deploy looks like an interesting tool for a Windows sysadmin

I’ve been looking into ways to manage Java where I work, and I have some ideas, but wanted to see how other people are solving the same problem I’m trying to solve.

PDQ Deploy looks like an interesting solution for someone who needs to remotely push a lot of software packages but wants something cheaper than Microsoft SCCM that has an easier learning curve. In a small or medium-sized environment, it looks like something that could save server and desktop administrators alike a lot of time. The $250/year price per administrator doesn’t seem hard to justify in my mind.

I’m sure one thing that’s kept some environments from replacing Microsoft Office with something like Libre Office is the time and effort required to keep it up to date. PDQ Deploy would take care of most of that problem.

Since we have a large investment in other tools at work, I’m not sure PDQ Deploy is really the answer there, but I think it would be helpful for some people.

The phantom tech worker shortage

I saw a story yet again about the tech worker shortage, and the backlash against H1-B visas. Reading the comments on Slashdot, I increasingly got the feeling the shortage is a mirage. The people are out there, but the matchups with job openings aren’t happening.

My experience may be anecdotal, but it mirrors this. Read more

So I’m not the only one ditching Microsoft Office

Rick Broida wrote a fairly harsh piece on Cnet about why he’s ditching Microsoft Office. Our reasons differ, and while I agree with all of his reasons he may not agree with all of mine. That’s OK.

I stuck with Office 2003 because its user interface is familiar and makes sense. By using the program, you learn the keyboard shortcuts from the menu and can graduate from casual user to power user relatively quickly. That went away in Office 2007, so I never moved on. Office 2003 was the best version Microsoft ever made, but it loses security updates next month, so it’s the end of the road.

Fortunately, Libre Office has a traditional user interface and most of the same keyboard shortcuts. If you don’t use mail merge, it’s a capable replacement, and it’s free and actively maintained. It’s not as fast as Office 2003 was, but neither is anything Microsoft has made since.

Now, in corporate environments, with a recent version of Office and Sharepoint you can do some really nifty things, like automatically building Powerpoint presentations from Excel spreadsheets created by different people. You could probably approximate the same thing with other software, but what I saw a Sharepoint-literate colleague build this week with MS Office was very impressive.

But I don’t need that at home, and I don’t want to pay $100 per year for the rest of my life to use a program that I tolerate at best, so I’ll save my money and move to Libre Office.

How to patch less

One of my former supervisors now works for a security vendor. He told me the other day that someone asked him, “Does your company have anything so I don’t have to patch anymore?”

The answer, of course, is that there’s nothing that gets you out of ever having to patch anymore. To some degree you can mitigate, but there’s no longer any such thing as a completely friendly network. The reasoning that you’re behind a firewall doesn’t work anymore. On corporate networks, there’s always something hostile roaming around behind the firewall, and you have to protect against it. If you’re on a home network with just a computer and a router, your computer and router attack each other from time to time. That’s the hostile world we live in right now. Patching is one of the fundamental things you have to do to keep those attacks from being successful.

That said, there are things you can do to patch less. Read more