Microsoft announces new hardware for Windows 8

The new mice and keyboard will be released around the time of the Windows 8 launch

Microsoft on Monday announced new keyboards and mice optimized for tablets and laptops running the Windows 8 operating system.

The new devices are lighter and more mobile, and will work with tablets running the latest versions of Windows 8 and RT, which are due for release on Oct. 26. The new mice and keyboards are wireless and connect to devices using Bluetooth, cutting the dependence on USB ports.

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Microsoft’s new mice and keyboard will be released around the time of the Windows 8 launch, Microsoft said in a statement. The company will release its Surface tablet with Windows at around the same time.

The $79.95 Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard is a full-size keyboard designed for tablet users, and has specific hot keys for Windows 8 that provide quick access to search, system settings and the Metro user-interface in the Windows 8 OS. It uses Bluetooth to communicate and comes with a cover that when used turns off the keyboard to increase battery life. The cover can be used as a tablet stand, as well.

The $49.95 Microsoft Sculpt Mobile Keyboard, has a six-degree curve, much like Microsoft’s ergonomic keyboards. The keyboard has many of the specific Windows 8 hotkeys, and offers 10 months of battery life on active usage.

Earlier this year, Microsoft’s Hardware division announced that the Touch Mouse would get updated to include new touch functionality specifically designed for Windows 8, including support new gestures that will help make navigating easier.

The Microsoft Sculpt Touch Mouse, also priced at $49.95, has a four-way touch scroll strip, which makes it easier to navigate through the Windows 8 start screen. By swiping the finger on the panel, users can easily navigate through multiple panels on the Start screen. The mouse also enables easier navigation through documents. Similarly, the $79.95 Microsoft Touch Mouse incorporates finger swipes and movements to navigate screens, switch applications or zoom in and out.

The $69.95 Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse can shut down when a tablet goes into sleep mode, extending the battery life of the mouse. It is smaller than a traditional mouse, and is designed for mobile use as it can fit into a pocket and work on any surface. The device provides “four-way” touch scrolling, Microsoft said.

The new accessories will work with devices based on Intel processors, and also with Windows RT devices based on ARM processors. The new keyboards and mice are also compatible with Windows 7, Vista and Mac OS, though some advanced features may not work, according to Microsoft.

First look: Opera 12 ups the ante

The latest release of Opera has some obvious cosmetic and UI changes, as well as several new under-the-hood functions. Overall, here are 12 changes worth noting.

Plug-ins run as separate processes
Plug-ins in Opera 12 now function as processes separate from the browser’s main operation. This is meant to provide better overall stability against plug-ins that are badly written or happen to crash, and to thwart any malicious ones devised to compromise security. Under this new architecture, if a plug-in misbehaves, Opera 12 will shut it down and continue running.

Do not track
Opera 12 can be set to prevent all websites from tracking your browsing activity, or only ones you specify. To turn this feature on to stop all websites from tracking, you go to Settings > Preferences > Advanced > Security and check “Ask websites not to track me.” Blocking a specific site from tracking you requires that you first visit it, right-click over a blank spot of the page, select “Edit site preferences” from the pop-up menu, Network, and then put in a check by “Ask websites not to track me.”

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64-bit processor support
To further increase its speed, Opera 12 now takes advantage of computers running 64-bit processors with 64-bit versions of Windows or Mac OS X. This makes Opera the first of the major web browsers to have a simultaneous 64-bit release alongside its 32-bit version for both platforms.

Hardware acceleration
Opera 12 supports WebGL and can use the graphics processor in your computer to further give a performance boost. However, these are currently tagged as experimental features, so both are turned off by default. To activate WebGL, you enter opera:config in the browser’s address bar, select User Prefs and enter “1” in the “Enable WebGL” box. For hardware acceleration, set “Enable Hardware Acceleration” to “1.”

Easier and faster theme changing
Changing the look (theme) of Opera 12 is a quick one-click process, and it doesn’t require a restart of the browser. Right-click on a blank area on the new tab/speed dial page, select Appearance, and choose a new theme in the pop-up window.

Easier to see security badges
In the address bar, the security badges to the left of a URL have been redesigned, which includes color coding, to make
them easier to see and interpret the privacy setting for the website you’re browsing.

Address field improvements and enhancements
Additions and fixes implemented into Opera 12’s address field include: Improved search term and URL suggestions are listed as you type, and also appear in the address bar drop-down window; smart URL shortening is now listed in the address field drop-down; URL and page content columns shown in this drop-down are now combined; and a URL’s page title and an excerpt from it are used for displaying full-page search results.

Webcam support through HTML5

Opera 12 now supports the WebRTC architecture for webcams, which allows real-time communication (RTC) between two users with webcams. WebRTC is an open project that uses HTML5 and JavaScript code to accomplish this, and is also officially supported by Google for its Chrome browser and Mozilla for Firefox.

Drag-and-drop through HTML5
Another HTML5 component bringing new robustness to Opera is the capability for a web page to include elements (such as text or files) that the user can drag and drop onto another page, or from the desktop onto the page.

Extensions can control tabs and windows
Extensions in Opera 12 are now permitted to interact with browser windows and tabs (or groups of tabs). For example, an extension can be written to open or close a browser window or tab. Obviously, this raises the spectre of malicious or untrusted sites cluttering up your browser with windows and tabs you don’t want opening, but is necessary to allow legitimate sites to have, such as web apps.

Right-to-left language support
Opera 12’s UI automatically mirrors itself when displaying right-to-left languages Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu, if your Windows or Linux computer is set to one of these language. The direction of the UI is determined by the direction of the language. Under one of these four languages, the sidebar, for example, which is normally set on the left side of the browser will be placed along the right.

Opera Unite and widgets phased out
The little-used features Opera Unite and widgets have been deactivated by default in Opera 12. Unite actually was innovative: It let you set up your computer to function as a server through Opera. Unite was promoted prominently as a main attraction for using Opera when it was first introduced, but for some reason it never caught on with users. Widgets are being phased out in part to remove users’ confusion with extensions, and developers of Opera widgets are being encouraged to write extensions instead. The code for these two lays dormant in Opera 12, but will be removed from upcoming versions of the browser.

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Microsoft, Juniper, others in coding consortium issue guidelines for safer applications

An industry consortium dedicated to assuring the security of software has issued guidelines to lower the risk that vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers will wind up in finished code.

In particular, the Software Assurance Forum for Excellence in Code (SAFECode) is addressing how to prevent vulnerabilities that may worm their way in during the Agile software development process.

MORE: SAP designs facility for ‘agile’ cloud application development

RELATED: ‘Rugged Manifesto’ promotes secure coding

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Agile is a framework for incremental software development by teams that work together in stages called sprints to develop the first iteration of code then revisit it regularly to refine the product based on new requirements and input from users.

SAFECode’s new paper, “Practical Security Stories and Security Tasks for Agile Development Environments,” presents Agile teams with a list of specific goals they may be trying to achieve at the outset and tasks necessary to achieve each one.

These tasks are refined at the end of each sprint in preparation for the next one, but they set Agile teams on a path that will lead to a safer end product, says Edward Bonver, a principal senior software engineer at Symantec who participates in SAFECode. The organization is made up of some major vendors: Adobe, EMC, Juniper, Microsoft, Nokia, SAP, Siemens and Symantec.

The paper lays down 36 goals Agile teams may wish to pursue while working on software products and is meant to supplement an earlier best practices paper written by the group. These goals are gleaned from the experiences of coding teams within SAFECode’s members as effective ways to approach Agile coding.

Called stories, these specific goals are written in plain language and from a particular perspective. For example, one story reads: “As a(n) architect/developer, I want to ensure AND as [quality assurance], I want to verify that cross-site scripting attacks are prevented.”

The story is accompanied by a set of tasks to accomplish this goal, each one marked with the category of team members who should work on each task. One task associated with the story in the example above is directed toward developers and testers and reads: “[D/T] When generating dynamic web pages, filter the input for any browser-executable content that is not intended (for example, from user-originated fields in a database). Consider all forms of input of content that might eventually be presented to and consumed by a browser, like events generated outside the system, log messages, arguments in a URL, form field values, etc. Perform this filtering at server-side, close to use.”

Depending on how much is accomplished toward that goal after the first sprint, it may remain as a task for the next one or be refined to address new issues that crop up. The task list is meant to guide Agile teams toward accomplishing goals that will lower risk of vulnerabilities, but not by setting down a rigid set of steps that may not be applicable to all projects.

“Incorporating security in Agile was a challenge,” for SAFECode member companies, Bonver says. “They decided to share their experiences, what they had success doing.”

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Windows XP and Vista: No Office 2013 for you

Microsoft bars 55% of all current Windows PCs from running the newest suite

Computerworld – Microsoft confirmed yesterday that the new Office 2013 will not run on older PCs powered by Windows XP or Vista.

“The new Office will work with Windows 7 and Windows 8,” a Microsoft spokesperson said Monday in an email reply to questions about Office 2013 and Office 365. “Vista or XP will not support the new Office.”

Users running those operating systems will not be able to advance beyond Office 2010, the suite that launched about seven months after Windows 7.

The omission of the two operating systems means that more than half of all Windows computers — 54.6%, to be exact — now in place will be locked out of the upgrade, according to statistics compiled by Web metrics company Net Applications.

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Windows 7 does not yet have a majority of all Windows PCs: In June, it powered 45.1% of all PCs that went online, said Net Applications. Windows 8, which has not been released except in preview formats, accounted for just 0.2% of all copies of Windows.

But those shares are moving targets, and will be different come the release date of Office 2013 and the various Office 365 subscription programs. It’s difficult to project how much more share Windows 7 and Windows 8 will have then, since uptake on Windows 8 would be a blind guess, and no one knows whether Windows 8’s gains will come from former XP or Vista users, or from people moving up one edition from Windows 7.

One projection is possible, however: Absent any Windows 8 impact — unlikely, of course — Windows 7 will edge upward to 54.9% of all Windows PCs by February 2013, one of the several release dates that has been bandied about.

“It makes sense for them to do this, what with the end of life for XP approaching,” said Alan Krans, an analyst with Technology Business Research.

As Krans noted, it’s no surprise that Microsoft excluded Windows XP from the supported OS list. Windows XP is due for retirement in April 2014, when Microsoft stops serving the 11-year-old operating system with security updates.

“Those people are due for an upgrade [to a new operating system] anyway, but it is a nudge to push people to Windows 8,” acknowledged Krans. “Microsoft is imposing that line in the sand where users running software a couple of generations old need to upgrade.”

Microsoft has said that XP users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8, assuming that their hardware passes the eligibility test.

Krans pointed that out as well. “A lot of upgrades will go straight from XP to Windows 8,” he said, referring to the possibility of those users buying into Office 2013 once they’ve upgraded to the new OS.

Microsoft has eased the pain of upgrading to Windows 8 by cutting the price to just $39.99, a deal good through the end of January 2013.

Less expected was Microsoft’s decision to bar Vista users from acquiring Office 2013. Although the five-year-old edition was never popular — it peaked at a 19.1% share in October 2009 by Net Applications’ tracking — it still represents about 7% of all currently in-use copies of Windows and will account for around 5% come February 2013.

Krans had an explanation for Vista’s absence from the Office 2013 list as well, saying that it was a sign that Microsoft recognized what users have known for years: The 2007 edition was a washout.

For those reasons — XP users needing to upgrade or buy new PCs soon, and Vista’s irrelevance — Krans downplayed the potential financial hit to Microsoft of its decision to block XP and Vista from running the new Office.

What’s also notable about Windows XP’s inability to run Office 2013 is that it ends the operating system’s long run of supported suites. The aged operating system was able to handle four different editions: Office XP, which shipped in March 2001, Office 2003 (October 2003), Office 2007 (January 2007) and even Office 2010 (June 2010).

By comparison, the perception-plagued Vista only supported two editions — Office 2007 and Office 2010 — another demonstration of its short shelf life.

And it’s not as if Microsoft hasn’t put the kibosh on XP and Vista before.

March 2011’s Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) was refused to XP users, a decision Microsoft made the year before and stuck to even in the face of critics who howled that they’d been left behind.

Vista, meanwhile, will not run the upcoming IE10 that Microsoft plans to ship with Windows 8 and also release for Windows 7, later this year.

The ban on an Office 2013-Windows XP combination can also be read as another way for Microsoft to condemn the OS to the ash bin of history. For over a year now, Microsoft has said it was “time to move on” from Windows XP as it’s dubbed it the “lowest common denominator” and kicked off a retirement countdown for the software.

Users running Windows 7 or the Windows 8 Release Preview can try Office 2013 through one of the Office 365 Customer Previews, available from Microsoft’s website.

Windows XP and Vista users, of course, need not apply.

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Microsoft Wave: yet another Microsoft site about Microsoft

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The Microsoft UK team has put together Microsoft Wave, and it’s not a new release of Windows Live, nor is it a competitor to Google Wave. It’s a Web portal that showcases cool new technology that the company is involved in. The site shows off the latest developments and products and breaks them up unevenly into five categories:

Entertainment: Xbox 360 Project Natal, Microsoft Mediaroom, Microsoft Surface, and Xbox 360 Elite
PCs & Accessories: Windows PC Selector, Arc Mouse, Natural Wireless Laser Mouse, LifeCam NX-3000, and Sidewinder X6 Keyboard
Mobile: Windows Mobile Devices, Microsoft Tag, and Windows Live for Mobile

Online Services: Live Mesh, Internet Explorer 8, Office Live Workspace, and Office Live Small Business
Featured: Dreamspark, WorldWide Telescope, DeepZoom Composer, Photosynth, pptPLEX for Powerpoint, Songsmith, and AutoCollage
Gaming: Halo Wars, Ninja Blade, Gears of War 2, Banjo Kazzooie: Nuts and Bolts, Flight Simulator X Deluxe, Age of Empires III: Gold Edition, and Zoo Tycoon 2:
Office: Microsoft Office Templates, Office Clip Art, Office Live Workspace, and Office Live Small Business
Design: Expression Blend, Expression Media, Expression Web, and Expression Encoder
Developer: Silverlight, Kodu, Expression super Preview, XNA Creators Club, Dreamspark, and MSDN Developer Centers
Videos: I’m a PC, Office 2010, and Project Natal

While it’s interesting to see how Microsoft has decided to divvy up its products, tools, and resources, there is quite a lot missing. Most notably, Windows 7 is nowhere to be found. The site definitely shows some flair: Microsoft is in dire need of showcasing many of the things that it does as much of it goes unnoticed. Still, this just seems like yet another Microsoft website that will fall by the wayside as it’s just adding to the clutter. There are way too many Microsoft websites that overlap, and even though Microsoft Wave is pretty spiffy, it isn’t helping with the confusion.

Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International

In the past two years, the number of female Country Managers at Microsoft has nearly doubled with this increased focus on gender diversity in leadership. For our fan page, Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International, has committed to a series of interviews with some of the female Country Managers from around the globe, and this interview with VERONIKA ABOUT HER ROLE AS CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA CLUSTER COUNTRY MANAGER is the eighth in that series. Microsoft operates in more than 140 countries around the world, and in each country, we have a Country Manager who is effectively, the CEO of Microsoft in that market. All of these Country Managers report to Jean-Philippe Courtois who is a big advocate for female diversity.

Q: WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST INTERESTING CHALLENGE AND/OR LEARNING AS A CM AT MICROSOFT? In my role, I look after 15 emerging countries in Central & Eastern Europe and Central Asia which are all very different both culturally and with regard to business conventions. There are many different religions, traditions and historical contexts. When I started, I felt very challenged to try and understand all these business cultures not to make cultural mistakes. What I learned is that you can’t learn everything. I had to understand the basics, certainly, but then I learned to focus on being authentic and open to learning new things in talking to government officials or customers. They notice and appreciate when you’re trying to be respectful by asking them to advise, rather than trying to be perfect. I learned not to be afraid to not know it all.
Q: WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE ON LEADERSHIP THAT YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED? As a leader, I recognize that the people I work with are most important for me. One of the best pieces of advice I got early in my career as a manager helped me a lot. My VP told me to always try to hire the best people and to not be afraid to hire people better than me. It’s from those people that you can learn, and in turn, they will help you succeed.

Q: WHAT STRATEGIES DO YOU USE TO AIM FOR A HEALTHY WORK/LIFE BALANCE? With 15 countries to manage, I have a very busy travel schedule so it’s hard! For me, planning is key. I build regular activities into my calendar like tennis games, get-togethers with friends, vacations, and of course health/beauty-related treatments. Tracking the time in my calendar helps me to ensure I have right balance between time for myself, my family, and the business. But… I believe it is very individual, and this works for me.
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Q: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE CONSIDERING A CAREER IN TECHNOLOGY? Technology today is very diverse. It is lot of fun, and it is also about consumers and changing people’s lives, so I believe it is the right place for women to be. My advice would be don’t be afraid of technology and don’t be afraid to take risks! It’s true that information technology is still a male-dominated field, yes, but women bring something unique to this environment. One example is regarding decision making: women tend to be more thoughtful about decisions and that can make a difference in a team.

Q: WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO WORK AT MICROSOFT? I joined Microsoft 16 years ago as a sales person because for me it was a huge opportunity to learn about advanced business and technology. I am from a post-communist country, so working for an American and international company was a dream come true. Symbolically, for me it represented breaking away from what we “weren’t allowed to learn.” It was freedom.

Q: HOW DOES YOUR ROLE AT MICROSOFT ENABLE YOU TO HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE WORLD? The countries I cover are emerging markets which really want to succeed. In my role, I am able to help governments to make a difference for their people through technology. One of many examples I am proud of is that we are in the final stages of implementing a government gateway in the Republic of Georgia. This work, which began four years ago with the Government and USAID in Georgia, includes a citizen-facing portal to provide information and valuable citizen services with the click of a mouse. I am amazed to see the results of this type of work across the region, through strategic partnerships with governments, which are producing solutions for citizens that are better than what’s available in some developed countries today.


Microsoft urges death of Windows gadgets as researchers plan disclosures

Reacts to upcoming revelations of gadget vulnerabilities at Black Hat by offering tool that kills feature in Vista, Windows 7

Computerworld – Just two weeks before researchers are to disclose bugs in Windows “gadgets” at Black Hat, Microsoft acknowledged unspecified security vulnerabilities in the small pieces of software supported by Vista and Windows 7.

To deal with the vulnerabilities, Microsoft has provided a way to cripple all gadgets and disable the “sidebar” engine that runs them.

“The purpose of this advisory is to notify customers that Microsoft is aware of vulnerabilities in insecure Gadgets affecting the Windows Sidebar on supported versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7,” Microsoft said in a security warning issued Tuesday.

“The deprecation of gadgets and the sidebar is interesting,” said Jason Miller, manager of research and development at VMware, in an interview. “Gadgets are not much used for business, so if you don’t use it, get rid of it. That’s one of the best ways to reduce your attack profile.”

Microsoft did not detail the vulnerabilities or explain why it was letting users ditch gadgets, but the move may be linked to an upcoming presentation at Black Hat, the annual security conference held in Las Vegas. On July 26, Mickey Shkatov and Toby Kohlenberg are scheduled to present research on gadget flaws and exploits.


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The Black Hat entry for their presentation, “We Have You by the Gadgets,” noted “a number of interesting attack vectors” in gadgets.

“We will be talking about our research into creating malicious gadgets, misappropriating legitimate gadgets and the sorts of flaws we have found in published gadgets,” the description stated.

In its advisory, Microsoft thanked Shkatov and Kohlenberg for their help with gadget bugs. The researchers were unavailable for comment or to answer questions late Tuesday.

Gadgets and the sidebar engine were introduced in 2007’s Windows Vista as a way to run and manage single-use, lightweight applications. Windows 7 also supported gadgets, but let users place them directly on the desktop rather than on the separate sidebar.

At their debut, some critics noted gadgets’ similarity to the widgets and Dashboard introduced two years earlier by Apple in OS X 10.4, also known as Tiger.

While touted by Microsoft before the launch of Vista, gadgets never caught on with users. It was thus no surprise when Microsoft announced last fall that it was pulling support of gadgets from Windows 8. At the same time it retired the Windows Live Gallery, a source for desktop gadgets.

The Windows website, which until Tuesday described how to obtain gadgets, now warns users. “Gadgets installed from untrusted sources can harm your computer and can access your computer’s files, show you objectionable content, or change their behavior at any time,” said the site.

Microsoft offered users a “Fixit” — one of its automated configuration tools — that disables the sidebar and all gadgets in Vista and Windows 7. The tool can be found on this page of Microsoft’s support site.

“My first take was that Microsoft was admitting that it’s very difficult for a third-party developer to securely write a gadget,” said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security. “So they’re disabling them all. Thank goodness for that.”

This was not the first time that Microsoft has reacted to security problems in gadgets. More than four years ago, Microsoft updated Vista with a tool that let the company automatically — and remotely — disable suspicious or malicious gadgets.

Finding a Job in a Down Economy: It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who

Getting a decent job in any economic climate can be an exhausting, ego-crushing task. Not only are you competing with hundreds of talented applicants for one position, but you must also meet strict company requirements. You may still have to jump through some hoops to get a job, but the process has become a bit easier thanks to the Internet.

Today we are in the midst of a very serious economic recession. Hundreds of thousands of talented people have been laid off of their jobs and major corporations have gone under. So why in your right mind would you be out looking for another job right now? Why not just collect unemployment for awhile and ride out the storm? Getting a job may not be as hard as you think. Your favorite social networking site could be the best possible job resource you could ever gain access to.

MySpace, an international site that offers e-mail, a forum, communities, videos and Weblog space to help people stay connected with their friends and family members, now has a job site that allows people to search for employment opportunities based on the industry of their choice. You do not have to be a MySpace member to take advantage of this service. Another added bonus is the “career videos” section at the bottom of the jobs site, which help reduce some of the stress associated with the job hunt.
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It is particularly true during tough times, whether you are looking for your next client or business deal or simply trying to find a new job, that it’s not what you know, but who you know. Leveraging the power of social networking helps you avoid the anonymity that comes along with submitting your resume for one job opening through an online site.

In addition, social networking allows you to create a relationship with the people who are looking to fill a job position or with friends and colleagues who can otherwise give you an “in.”

LinkedIn is another popular social networking site that provides an interconnected network of experienced professionals located all over the world, representing 170 industries and 200 countries. LinkedIn enables you to find, be introduced to, and work with skilled professionals to accomplish your goals.

In order to create a network of trusted contacts, you must be willing to do some research and work. This involves reaching out to former coworkers, former classmates, and colleagues in your industry, fellow alumni and fellow association members.

With online social networks, you gain an easy way to develop and solidify these contacts which will only help your job search. If you need to change industries because of the economy, developing trusted contacts in other industries will significantly ease the transition into a new career.

Online social networks provide an easy way to develop and solidify these contacts which can only help your job search. You just may be able to land your dream job faster by setting yourself apart from the crowd through the opportunities provided through online social networking.