Monday, January 30, 2012

Big Changes Comming in Windows8

Big Changes between Windows XP, Windows 20007 and Windows 8

Please share this graphic and page with your friends, colleagues and coworkers who want to know more about Windows 8.

Microsoft’s New ReFS Format

As early back as 2003, Microsoft has been promising a new file system to replace NTFS, originally known as WinFS. Now, in 2012 a new file system finally is coming. So what is ReFS all about and does it have anything to do with the original WinFS announcement?
First off, WinFS was a technology designed as a relational file system for the storage of structured and unstructured data. After several years of hype, it was essentially quietly killed in 2006.
The main factors for its death laid around the fact that it didn't offer a significantly better experience than what we already had with NTFS.
So fast forwarding to today, with NTFS as the dominate file system (though many legacy devices still use FAT-32), what makes ReFS worth the change?
First off, Windows 8 is all about change with its touch-centric design, its use of the hibernate kernel for speeding up start-ups and shut-downs, and the introduction of ARM processor support. So now seems like the perfect time to make yet a big change on the file system front as well.
Microsoft is working hard to overcome past perceptions that its Oses are easily corrupted and overly unstable when compared to options like Linux and Mac OS. Despite that fact this has been somewhat true, the folks at Redmond still find it important to lay these security and stability concerns to rest.
So ReFS standards for “resilient” file system, and resilient it is. The main purpose that designers kept in mind with this format is that it is capable of keeping data safe and, hopefully, free of potential corruptibility.
There are several ways it attempts to accomplish this goal, such as keeping metadata integrity with checksums, verifying and auto-correcting data to limit data corruption, isolating data corruption, keeping user data integrity with integrity streams, and keeping an entire volume intact, online, and accessible.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Auto Reset and Re-install of Windows 8

One of the more interesting features in Windows 8, certainly from my perspective as the author of “Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out” is the ability for Microsoft’s new operating system to self-repair and reinstall itself.  This isn’t actually as clever as it sounds but as a simplistic explanation it’ll do.
Microsoft have today though offered more insight into this process, called refresh and reset.  In a post on the Building Windows 8 blog they said “As we began planning for Windows 8, we asked ourselves: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you could just push a button and everything is fixed?’ We really wanted to focus on the concept of ‘push button’, which translated into a design goal that represents a simple to use, predictable, and fast solution.  The point of this is…
With Windows 8, there are a few key things that we set out to deliver:
  • Provide a consistent experience to get the software on any Windows 8 PC back to a good and predictable state.
  • Streamline the process so that getting a PC back to a good state with all the things customers care about can be done quickly instead of taking up the whole day.
  • Make sure that customers don’t lose their data in the process.
  • Provide a fully customizable approach for technical enthusiasts to do things their own way.
While this sounds like a wonderful solution to all your woes, it’s still not quite as wonderful as it sounds.  The two options will allow you to perform one of these tasks…
  • Reset your PC – Remove all personal data, apps, and settings from the PC, and reinstall Windows.
  • Refresh your PC – Keep all personal data, Metro style apps, and important settings from the PC, and reinstall Windows.
You’ll notice this says it will keep “Metro style apps” and doesn’t mention desktop apps.  This is because Microsoft will have a much tighter quality control on Metro apps and cite reasons in the blog including reinstalling bad apps and having little or no control over some installer types as the reason.  In fairness there probably are very good technical reasons why this is the case so there’s no need to disbelieve them here.
Windows 7 comes with an image backup system however in all editions that can be used with Startup Repair to restore your copy of Windows with all of your programs and settings intact.  Fortunately this hasn’t been forgotten and Microsoft have built it into the Rest options.
With this in mind, we’ve made it possible for you to establish your own baseline image via a command-line tool (recimg.exe). So when you get a Windows 8 PC, you will be able to do the following:
  1. Go through the Windows first-run experience to configure basic settings.
  2. Install your favorite desktop apps (or uninstall things you don’t want).
  3. Configure the machine exactly as you would like it.
  4. Use recimg.exe to capture and set your custom image of the system.
It’s not completely clear yet how this will work with the existing backup options, where a friendly wizard interface will walk you through the image backup process.  It is unlikely however that a command line will be the only way to do this.
So how long will it actually take to perform a refresh or a reset?  Microsoft timed the results on the machines they gave out to developers at their BUILD conference last september.
The refresh and restore options will also work from the new style Windows boot menu, should your copy of Windows be unable to start.
In Windows 8 Beta, there will also be a tool that you can use to create a bootable USB flash drive, in case even the copy of Windows RE on the hard drive won’t start. You’ll be able to start your PC with the USB drive, and fix problems by refreshing your PC or performing advanced troubleshooting. And if your PC comes with a hidden recovery partition, you’ll even have the option to remove it and reclaim disk space once you’ve created the USB drive.
It’s great that Microsoft are making these features more accessible and easier to use.  It is ironic however that the more stable and trouble-free Windows gets, the more troubleshooting and repair features are introduced.
Clearly these tools won’t suit everyone so I’m not concerned about whether there will be another edition of “Troubleshooting…”  I’ve also found on my own Windows tablet that the Developer Preview of the OS didn’t feel there was enough space to store all the rescue files and, as such when I went to try the tool it failed to work.  It might be that on some tablet devices where flash storage is at a premium, this may be the case in the future.

Windows 8 Picture Password

One of the coolest things that we’ve seen come from Windows 8 is the new picture password log on feature. For those of you who don’t know, this is a new method of logging in. All the user has to do is draw a pattern and tap in a certain location and sequence to unlock their PC. It’s quite a cool feature if you ask me, however it’s been slated be some security experts.
Kenneth Weiss runs a three-factor authentication business called Universal Secure Registry and is the inventor of RSA’s SecurID token. Here’s what he had to say about it
I think it’s cute, I don’t think it’s serious security
Well that doesn’t say too much for it now then does it. Kenneth actually described it more like a Fisher-Price toy than a serious choice for secure computer access.
The concept is good, but from a security perspective there is some flaws. For example, if anyone sees you input the pattern it’s quite easy for them to remember. Unlike a traditional password where the pin/password that you enter is displayed as “*”, you’ll be able to see exactly what the user’s entering. Also it’s a bit of a pain trying to right down what your pattern is in case you forget it. It would have to be quite long winded to make sure that you get the pattern right.
However, because it’s so quick and simple to set one up and enter the password, I think we may find that more people will start using this. There’s plenty of people who don’t use a password what so ever so if they used this picture password it would be better than nothing wouldn’t it?
Also all you have to do is make sure that the wrong people don’t see you entering in your pattern and you should be ok. But I’d be interested to hear what you guys think of the picture password.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

CCleaner - Optimization and Cleaning

"Quickly and effectively remove unused or temporary files, unwanted cookies, and other unneeded files from applications." Chosen for Gizmo's 9 great freeware.
Additionally, it can scan the registry for issues, erase, manage the startup, uninstall, and clean system restore points.
Related: Also runs automatically at startup or as a task.
What's it for? - Over time unnecessary files accumulate, which can be removed with a disk cleaner to maintain system performance.