Monday, August 31, 2009

Report: Windows 7 Meets Business Needs

By Herb Torrens08/31/2009

Microsoft got it right with Windows 7, according to Michael Cherry, vice president of research on operating systems for Directions on Microsoft.

Cherry, along with colleagues Paul DeGroot and Matt Rosoff, have produced a research report aimed at helping senior IT decision makers evaluate Microsoft's latest client operating system. The 40-page report, "Windows 7: An OS for Business," will be available next month.

"It was really important for this version of Windows to overcome the barriers put up by Vista, and I think they successfully accomplished that," said Cherry in a telephone interview.

Those barriers, according to the report, include poor application compatibility, poor device driver support, and of course, the infamous user account control (UAC) security feature, among others.

Two years after Vista was released, more than 70 percent of business computers were still running XP, according Forrester Research.

Windows 7 is a somewhat slimmed-down "interim" OS release, according to Cherry. Like Vista, Windows 7 shares the same code base for server and client, allowing simplified testing for Microsoft and much-improved maintenance for customers. A single service pack can be used to update both server and client.

While the core components of Vista and Windows 7 are the same, the improved performance of the new OS may alter perceptions that had turned negative with Vista, according to the report.

"I think the biggest surprise for me was when I saw a Microsoft executive hold up a netbook at a recent conference saying that it was running Windows 7," said Cherry. "There is no way you could run Vista on a box like that."

Changes made with Windows 7 include improved driver support, a streamlined UAC, an updated Service Control Manager, a new power management system and a simplified BitLocker, according to the report (see Table).

Removing Windows Barriers
By Michael Cherry, Research Vice President, Directions On Microsoft

This chart lists some common perceptions that stopped organizations from deploying Windows Vista and shows how each perceived barrier has been addressed in Windows 7. Barrier to Windows Vista Windows 7 Improvement 

Poor application compatibility Most applications that work with Vista will work with Windows 7, and most software vendors have updated their applications. 

Poor device driver support Most hardware manufacturers and developers have updated their products' device drivers for Vista SP2 and Windows 7. 

User Account Control (UAC) too obtrusive Most applications have been updated to work correctly with UAC, and UAC has been improved to lessen the number of user interruptions. 

Windows is too bloated Entry-level applications, such as Windows Mail, have been removed so that users need only download the Windows Live counterparts they want. 

Windows starts too slowly The Service Control Manager has been updated to allow certain events, such as joining an Active Directory domain, to start a service, rather than having to start all services at system startup. 

Using BitLocker to encrypt hard drives is too complicated Initial installation and configuration of BitLocker has been simplified, and in most cases the necessary partitioning will be handled automatically. 

BitLocker only works with internal storage drives BitLocker To Go, a new feature of Windows 7, will extend BitLocker protection to removal drives. 

No features for businesses DirectAccess, BranchCache, and Virtual PC with Windows XP mode address business needs for better connections for remote workers, improved use of bandwidth, and line-of-business application compatibility. 

Windows power management is too flaky—systems don't restore correctly from sleep or hibernation Power management has been improved to reduce power consumption when the computer is not in use as well as when it is running.  

Excerpt from the Research Report entitled: Windows 7: An OS for Business, September 2009, by independent analyst firm Directions On Microsoft,  


‘New Moon’ Newcomer Noot Seear Prefers Zack Morris To Robert PattinsonSP2 Released for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Amazon Adds Virtual Private Cloud Service

By Jeffrey Schwartz08/28/2009

Looking to address a key objection to hosting data in the cloud, Amazon this week said it will offer a more secure iteration of its EC2 service. Amazon's Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) will let enterprises extend their existing networks using IPsec-based VPN connections to create their own logically isolated Amazon EC2 instances, the company said.

Amazon, regarded as the largest and most influential provider of cloud services, said its new Amazon VPC is available for beta testing. The company bills it as a bridge between an organization's existing IT systems and the AWS cloud, allowing them to tie their systems to AWS via a standard VPN connection, allowing them to create their own IP address space, thereby extending security, firewalls, and intrusion detection to the Amazon cloud.

"We have developed Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) to allow our customers to seamlessly extend their IT infrastructure into the cloud while maintaining the levels of isolation required for their enterprise management tools to do their work," wrote Amazon CTO Werner Vogels in a blog posting.

"All Internet-bound traffic generated by your Amazon EC2 instances within your VPC routes across the VPN connection, where it wends its way through your outbound firewall and any other network security devices under your control before exiting from your network," added Jeff Barr, Amazon's lead web services evangelist in a separate blog posting announcing Amazon VPC.

To create a VPC on Amazon, developers or administrators can define a private IP address space consisting of any IPv4 address range including Private Address Spaces identified by RFC 1918 or any other routable IP address bloc, according to Barr. From there, the developer can partition the IP address space into any number of subnets. Customers can create up to 20 subnets per VPC, though they can request more, Barr noted.

"It basically creates a secure private tunnel between your data center and your infrastructure and Amazon's," said industry analyst Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions. "It doesn’t dramatically change what you are doing it just makes it more mature, more mission critical, more in tune with what organizations are looking for when it comes to enterprise types of services."

Michael Dortch, acting director of research at San Francisco research firm Focus, said it appears Amazon is looking to expand its footprint of cloud services. "Any company that's big enough to build their own private cloud probably has gotten enough past this fear," Dortch said. This will also appeal to medium sized business as well, Gardner added.

Pricing is as follows: for a standard VPN connection its five cents per hour. Inbound data transfer is 10 cents per GB of data. Outbound data transfer starts at 17 cents per GB for the first 10 TB per month, scaling down to 10 cents for more than 150 TB.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Windows XP Mode RC Released

By Kurt Mackie08/04/2009

The release candidate (RC) version of Windows XP Mode is now available, Microsoft announced on Tuesday.

Windows XP Mode provides a virtual Windows XP (Service Pack 3) desktop experience that runs on top of Windows 7. It's powered by the Windows Virtual PC engine for Windows 7.

The RC version of Windows XP Mode contains some new features over the beta, according to the Windows team blog. For instance, users can now run attached USB devices and Windows XP Mode applications via jump lists directly from the Windows 7 taskbar. They also can disable drive sharing between Windows 7 and Windows XP Mode. The storage location of "Windows XP Mode differencing disk files" can be customized. Finally, Microsoft added a tutorial on how to use Windows XP Mode.

Microsoft recommends Windows XP Mode for small organizations transitioning to Windows 7 that still have to run XP-based legacy applications. Some XP applications will run natively in Windows 7, along with Vista applications. Users can first try the Windows 7 Programs Troubleshooter, located in the Control Panel, to see if an XP-based application will run on Windows 7, according to Scott Woodgate, Microsoft's director of desktop virtualization and Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).

For larger organizations that need greater desktop management control, Microsoft doesn't recommend using Windows XP Mode. Instead, the company provides its Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) solution, which is part of the MDOP suite of applications available to Software Assurance licensees.

MED-V typically might be used by organizations that deploy virtual Windows images where permissions are set. MED-V is also the preferred tool in organizations where the network is centrally monitored and maintained, according to a Microsoft blog.

Those who want to use Windows XP Mode need to read the fine print. Windows XP Mode only works with Windows 7 release-to-manufacturing and release-candidate versions. In addition, only Ultimate, Professional and Enterprise editions of Windows 7 support it. Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 can run Windows XP Mode.

In addition, to run Windows XP Mode, specific PC hardware requirements need to be met, such as having 2 GB of memory and extra hard disk storage space of 15 GB. The PC's BIOS needs to be configured to support hardware virtualization. The PC's CPU should support Intel VT ("vPro") or AMD-V virtualization technologies.

Most, but not all, Intel Core 2 processors have built-in Intel virtualization technology, but users can check to be sure here. The Windows team blog states that "all AMD CPUs shipping to customers, except Sempron, will include hardware virtualization" by the time Windows 7 is launched on Oct. 22. AMD describes its hardware virtualization technology here.

Ironically, the need to have hardware virtualization technology may mean that organizations will have to have new PCs to run their legacy apps using Windows XP Mode.

Downloads of the Window XP Mode RC and Windows Virtual PC can be accessed here.

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Microsoft Questions Legal Judgment in Word Patent Case

By Kurt Mackie08/27/2009

Microsoft filed legal papers on Tuesday appealing a final judgment against it in a patent infringement case brought by i4i LP.

The case concerns i4i's XML-based technology, which received Patent No. 5,787,449 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1998.

At stake are sales of Microsoft Word in U.S. markets, which will be enjoined, according to the final judgment. However, Microsoft's appeal states that the ruling will affect "all versions of Word and Office currently available [p. 15]." Microsoft can't distribute copies of Word containing i4i's patented "custom XML" technology, according to the ruling by a U.S. District Court judge, who confirmed a jury verdict. The prohibition on Word sales takes place 60 days from the judge's ruling, or around Oct. 10.

Microsoft's appeal, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, essentially argues that the District Court's judge was incompetent as a "gatekeeper" and in striking the "delicate balance" needed in patent law disputes.

"That balance can be lost if the district court does not protect the process, and patent litigation then becomes a tax on innovation rather than its guardian [p. 1]," the appeal states.

In a released statement, i4i Chairman Loudon Owen commented on Microsoft's appeal.

"It captures the hostile attitude of Microsoft toward inventors who dare to enforce patents against them," Owen stated. "It is also blatantly derogatory about the court system."

According to the Microsoft's appeal, i4i's patent was only disclosed to "a handful" of Microsoft employees in some marketing materials. Microsoft later came out with a version of Word with functionality similar to i4i's patent.

The appeal continues:

"In late 2002, Microsoft released a beta version of Word 2003 that contained all of the functionality accused of infringement. (A1701-05.) i4i, Inc., which was a member of Microsoft's Developer Network, got an advance copy and evaluated it. (A1040-41; A1700-01.) But i4i, Inc. did not accuse Microsoft of infringing, even though it knew in fall 2002 that Word did exactly what it later accused of infringement. (A1703-09 (Vulpe); A802 (Owens) (admitting 'couldn't say that Word infringed'); A2154-59 (Sweet).) Far from it, Mr. Vulpe congratulated Microsoft on its introduction of the now accused custom XML functionality into Word 2003. [p. 9]"

The patent doesn't apply to older Office document formats, such as .DOC and .DOT. Rather, it applies to XML document formats (.XML, .DOCX and .DOCM) that "contain custom XML," according to page 11 of Microsoft's brief.

i4i's patent describes a mapping system that stores metadata separately from the content of the XML document. However, Microsoft's appeal disputes that Word uses this technology.

"Because i4i's own experts admitted that Word does not store a metacode map in a separate file from content, and does not allow for independent manipulation of a metacode map and mapped content, the jury's infringement verdict should be reversed [p. 17]," Microsoft's appeal states.

Microsoft claims "irreparable and immediate" losses for the company if the judgment is upheld (p. 21). The company was ordered by the District Court to pay more than $240 million in damages and other penalties. Microsoft's appeal asks for a reversal of the judgment and a finding of noninfringement. Otherwise, Microsoft is requesting a new trial.

Toronto-based i4i plans to issue a response to Microsoft's appeal on Sept. 7. Oral arguments in the appeal are scheduled for Sept. 23.

Microsoft's position is being supported by amicus filings by Dell and HP, according to Microsoft's press agency. Spokesperson Kevin Kutz indicated Microsoft will fight on.

"We believe the court erred in its interpretation and application of the law in this case and look forward to the Sept. 23 hearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals," Kutz said in a released statement.

Related LinksFull text of Microsoft's appealFull text of Dell's amicus filingFull text of HP's amicus filing

UPDATE: Court Tells Microsoft To Stop Selling Word in U.S.‘Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince’ Breaks Midnight Records

Windows Mobile Dev Camps Effort Extended but Silverlight Still Not In Sight

By Jeffrey Schwartz08/25/2009

Despite following in the shadow of the iPhone, Blackberry, Google's Android and even Palm's new Pre, Microsoft is hoping developer code camps will help revive the fortunes of its Windows Mobile platform.

Devices based on Windows Mobile 6.5 are expected to surface shortly. But critics say despite advances with the introduction of some touch interfaces and its planned Windows Mobile Marketplace, the platform lacks the appeal of its rivals. The inaugural Windows Mobile Dev Camp was held last week on the Microsoft campus in Redmond and already several other locations are planned in the coming months.

About 75 people attended last week's winmodevcamp, held on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, said Giovanni Gallucci, an independent developer who is organizing the events with support from Microsoft, as reported. While he said there were 2,800 unique connections to the streamed event, only several hundred appeared online at any given time, Gallucci acknowledged.

One of the biggest questions, Gallucci said in an interview: 'when will Microsoft's Silverlight support Windows Mobile?' "People are just wondering when they are going to see Silverlight on Windows Mobile 6.5," Gallucci said.

The question came up again today on a live streamed webcast held by Scott Guthrie, corporate VP of Microsoft's .NET Developer Platform group.

"We will have some compelling stuff, unfortunately we are not quite ready to talk about it now, I wish we could," he said during the webcast. Guthrie, who also runs the Silverlight mobile team, acknowledged that the effort is behind. "It's taken awhile on the mobile space for some of those new Windows Mobile clients to come out, but when they do come out you will find it's a very good story and an awesome developer story."

Loke Uei, senior technical product manager in Microsoft's Windows Mobile device experience group said in an interview that Microsoft is committed to reaching out to developers. At last week's dev camp, Uei told developers that Microsoft is looking to avoid the trap of 99 cent applications associated with Apple's iPhone.

Uei denied reports that Microsoft is looking to developers who focus on higher cost applications so that it can profit from them. "We don’t make more money, we just want to help ISVs and developers make more money," he said, adding that the 30 percent fee it takes for apps sold "is hardly enough to cover our costs for running this marketplace but we believe it's a good investment to help make ISVs and developers successful."

Last week's one-day event was dominated by presentations. Gallucci said the format of future dev camps will consist of presentations in the morning, followed by a coding contest that will go into the second day. Teams break apart and build mobile applications for Windows Mobile 6.5. Each event's contest will have a different theme, he added.

For example, one will target apps for non-profit organizations. Another might consist of local businesses requesting to have an application built. Also he is planning one that will focus on porting applications from the iPhone, among others.

"We will send the developers off and their job will be to solve the problem for a price, and when they are done, whoever has the best solution, we give that app support on the mobile platform.

Among the dates announced:

San Francisco: October 2-4 (in conjunction with the Silicon Valley Code Camp)San Diego: October 6-7 (in conjunction with CTIA Wireless Association show) New York: October 10-11London: October 17-18Los Angeles: November 15-16Hong Kong: November 22-23


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Friday, August 28, 2009

Are Your Apps Primed for Windows 7

By Kathleen Richards09/01/2009

Windows 7 was released to manufacturing (RTM) by Microsoft in July, three months prior to the planned Oct. 22 retail launch.

Windows 7 could be auspicious for the Windows team after the blight of Windows Vista, but developers need to help Microsoft sell it with compatible apps and must-have software.

The arrival of a new OS can exercise dev teams' mettle. In the case of Vista, which shipped in January 2007, the initial lack of drivers-along with complex compatibility and deployment issues-quickly snowballed into the widely held perception that, for many companies, upgrading to the new OS was more trouble than it was worth. In January 2009, Forrester Research Inc. estimated that less than 10 percent of PCs in enterprises were running Vista. However, 31 percent of IT managers surveyed in North America and Europe reported that their companies were preparing to migrate to the OS.

Despite early positive reviews for Windows 7, getting existing apps running on the latest OS could prove challenging, especially at companies that bypassed Vista due to compatibility hurdles.

Upgrading Made Easy
"The Windows Vista Application Compatibility Cookbook is still very relevant for Windows 7, as 99 percent of its topics apply to Windows 7," explains Microsoft Technical Evangelist Yochay Kiriaty, on the Windows team blog. Kiriaty identifies the seven compatibility hot buttons that afflict apps most often: version checking, data redirection, Internet Explorer protected mode, session 0 isolation, installer detection, user-interface privilege isolation and high DPI.

Companies that upgraded their apps to run on Vista should have an easier time. Kiriaty recommends checking out the Windows 7 Quality Cookbook to learn more about changes in components and dependencies between the two systems. Many companies will need to address sticky issues such as User Account Control and IE8 compatibility.

Software company Ellie Mae Inc. is having a fairly easy time migrating its Encompass mortgage-loan origination system to Windows 7. Encompass is used by mortgage brokers to automate the mounds of paperwork in the loan process.

"We have thousands of customers all around the country, and we have no control over what hardware or software platform they're using, so it's pretty much a given that some of our customers will use Windows 7 quickly after the Oct. 22 release," says Ron Yun, Ellie Mae's director of quality assurance. Ellie Mae uses Windows XP internally, "so we don't have Windows 7 available in house," Yun explains.

The development and quality-assurance team, based in Pleasanton, Calif., and Beijing is using Skytap Inc.'s on-demand cloud infrastructure and Windows 7 Ultimate release candidate (RC) virtual machine (VM) template to test Encompass' compatibility with the new OS.

"I was able to create that Windows 7 machine myself in a matter of minutes," Yun says. "The main things we found are some image rendering problems in certain areas, so we had to tweak our application to display certain images correctly. Other than that, we haven't found any functional problems or incompatibilities with our application as of yet. We're still in the process of testing it," he adds.

Ellie Mae made some changes to Encompass when Vista came out, which helped in terms of its compatibility with Windows 7. "Had our application not been Vista-compatible, we probably would've had to do a lot more work to get it to be Windows 7-compatible," notes Yun.

Adoption Efforts
For XP apps that can't be made compatible with Windows 7, Microsoft is offering an XP virtualization solution for Windows 7 desktops called Windows XP Mode. The RC was made available last month. It requires Windows Virtual PC and works with the Windows 7 RTM, in addition to the Windows 7 Professional RC, Ultimate RC and Enterprise RC editions.

Application compatibility and optimization will be the first order of business for many companies, but the new functionality in Windows 7 offers tremendous opportunity for app developers. Microsoft is fueling this effort with its Code7 Contest, which offers finalists in seven geographical locations up to $17,777 and a free trip to the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in November. Contestants submit a three-minute video explaining their app, which must take advantage of at least one of these Windows 7 technologies: Libraries, Windows Touch, Shell Integration, DirectX 11 or Sensor and Location Platform. The entry deadline is Oct. 10, 2009.

The Windows 7 RTM was available to MSDN subscribers (in English only) in early August. In addition to the Windows SDK for Windows 7 and .NET 3.5 Service Pack 1 (SP1), Microsoft is flooding MSDN with resources such as the Windows 7 Training Kit and the Windows 7 API Code Pack for .NET.

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Economy, Virtualization Eat Into Linux Growth

By Jeffrey Schwartz08/27/2009

The expected growth rate in Linux server operating system subscriptions and non-paid deployments is expected to slow to just1.1 percent over the next five years, according to a report released today.

Contraction in server sales in 2009 is largely to blame for the declining compound annual growth rate of Linux servers, according to the report, released by IDC. The economic downturn is a key contributor but will have a lasting impact looking forward, according to the report.

The report comes just a month after IDC released another forecast finding the economy and reduced IT budgets are aiding the growth of overall open source initiatives (see Forecast: Cost-Cutting Will Drive Open Source Growth).

But contributing to the declining growth rate of Linux in particular is the increase in deployments of hypervisors and virtualized deployments that are reducing the number of overall servers.

"We've been given the uplift for virtualization," said IDC analyst Al Gillen in an interview. "The net result is you wind up with more instances of the operating systems, you just don’t wind up with more physical footprints of hardware."

IDC is also forecasting weak growth for Microsoft's Windows Server in the next five years, Gilllen said. "That doesn’t say the products are going away, we expect the growth to be in the low to mid single digits through the forecast period," he said. "Any time you have any, even if it's zero growth, it still indicates the same number of units are shipped."

While subscriptions are down, overall revenue growth associated with Linux system software will decline in the coming five years to a CAGR of 16.9 percent, down from 23.7 percent between 2007 and 2009. Revenues from Linux are expected to hit the $1 billion threshold in 2012, according to IDC.

The report also found that Red Hat and Novell accounted for nearly 95 percent of worldwide Linux revenues in 2008, with the two accounting for 90 percent of new server operating subscriptions last year. Nonpaid Linux server deployments last year accounted for 43.3 percent of deployments, up from 41.4 percent in 2007.

For its part, Linux is a key catalyst for Novell's growth. The company today reported its Linux revenues of $38 million increased 22 percent for its third fiscal quarter ended July 31 over the same period last year, despite an overall revenue decline of 12 percent, totaling $216 for the period.


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Danube Looks To Bring Scrum to Enterprise Developers

By John K. Waters08/04/2009

Maintaining that Scrum Agile development methodologies have not gained substantial traction with enterprises, Danube Technologies is attempting to address major shortcomings of past efforts.

Danube, regarded as the leading provider of the ScrumWorks agile-process automation tools and ScrumCORE training courses and certifications, yesterday released ScrumWorks Pro 4.0. The company's founders said the new release is a major change from its prior iteration by emphasizing program management, release planning features, flexible modeling of development organizations and enterprise reporting.

"Enterprises are looking for the ability to manage deeply complex organizational structures," said Danube CTO Victor Szalvay. "And there has been a paucity of tooling to support that. But when we and our competitors tried to address this problem a year or two ago, we all fell flat."

The new release addresses that shortfall, he said. "It enables high-level planning at a release-cycle level for a single product, and tracking across multiple related products. It addresses the question our customers have been asking: 'How do you maintain the Agile development model in a shared-component environment?'"

Agile software development methodologies (also known as lightweight methods) differ from traditional approaches, such as the waterfall method, in a number of ways. They’re based on just a few key rules and practices, all of which are relatively easy to follow. They emphasize individuals and interactions over processes, and working software over documentation.

Scrum is an Agile framework that structures software development into cycles of work called "sprints." Sprints are iterations of work lasting two to four weeks. During each sprint, dev teams work from a prioritized list of customer requirements, called "user stories," which helps to ensure that the features developed first are of the highest value to the customer.

Among the enterprise-focused features of this release are "epics," which are designed to allow companies to manage the release of complex projects with multiple, shared components. "Danube has put some real thought into what it means to be an enterprise tool with this release," said Forrester analyst Tom Grant. "They’ve made some smart connections, for example, with the tagging feature. It might not sound important for an enterprise-ready tool, but it is."

Built on Java Enterprise Edition, ScrumWorks 4.0 uses keyword tagging instead of hierarchies to enable project managers to see projects from different perspectives and multiple dimensions. "It’s a very thoughtful approach in terms of enhancements for the enterprise," Grant added.

"The tree structures, which is the way traditional tools handle large groups of people trying to develop in concert, is just too rigid for Agile methods," said Szalvay. Agile development methodologies have been making their way into the enterprise for a few years now, but a recent spike in inquires from Forrester customers leads Grant to conclude that enterprise Agile may be gaining traction.

"Agile did get off to a slow start, but there’s been a big jump in interest," Grant said. "I think we’ve finally seen a critical mass of success stories, best practices and lessons learned that people can apply. The questions we’re getting about Agile today -- is there anything about my situation that would make failure likely, how will this impact the other groups we work with -- are signs of a maturing adoption."

Scrum has emerged as the most popular lightweight method overall, and may well take the lead in corporate app dev, as well, Grant said. "It’s far and away the most popular Agile method," he said. "Why that happens to be is something we’re looking into right now."

Szalvay said he believes Scrum addresses key concerns among those who manage development teams. "There’s talk about ROI, business priorities and the demands on business," he said. "As Agile gets more mainstream, and as larger organizations try to implement it, that’s the language we should be speaking."

Pricing for ScrumWorks 4.0 starts at $500 per seat, though the company offers volume discounts.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oracle Data Provider for .NET Coming Soon?

By Jeffrey Schwartz08/25/2009

When Microsoft said it was discontinuing its ADO.NET data provider for Oracle earlier this summer, it said the reason it did so was because there were suitable third party alternatives.

One of those alternatives was Oracle itself, which offers its Oracle Data Provider for .NET. In March Oracle released the beta for ODP for .NET Indeed observers suggested Oracle's provider was every bit as good as Microsoft's at the time of the announcement.

ODP.NET is a native ADO.NET data access driver for Oracle databases. The new release offers simplified development, improved app scalability, performance and security, according to a white paper written by Alex Keh, a principal product manager at Oracle for .NET data access.

The release is designed to let .NET developers more easily integrate with Oracle databases from the .NET Framework, according to Keh. The new release is likely to come out shortly, though Keh said he could not officially comment on ship dates or features.

According to a breakdown posted by Oracle, ODP.NET has a messaging API for "highly available" .NET queuing, faster data retrieval, automated run-time tuning of the statement cache for optimized memory usage and performance and the ability to programmatically start or shut down an Oracle database.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article erroneously reported Oracle released new ASP.NET Data Providers. That is not the case. The latest data drivers forthcoming from Oracle for .NET developers are the ODP.NET drivers, covered in this updated report.

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Windows 7 Upgrades Can Kill .NET 4 and VS 2010 Betas

By Kurt Mackie08/10/2009

Windows Vista users trying to upgrade to Windows 7 can face some unintended consequences if they also use .NET Framework 4 beta 1 and Visual Studio 2010 beta 1.

Those two betas will not "survive" the upgrade to Windows 7 release to manufacturing (RTM), according to Microsoft blogger Scott Hanselman. He recommends doing a clean install of Windows 7 or uninstalling the betas of .NET Framework 4 and VS 2010 before upgrading to Windows 7 RTM.

Hanselman also cautions that Microsoft does not support the upgrade path from Windows 7 release candidate (RC) to Windows 7 RTM. A clean install needs to be done in that case.

The RC of Windows 7 is scheduled to expire on June 1, 2010. However, the operating system will begin warning users by shutting down every two hours, beginning on March 1, 2010.

People can still download the RC version of Windows 7, but time is running out. After Aug. 20, Microsoft plans to stop issuing activation keys for Windows 7 RC.

Windows 7 was released to manufacturing late last month and is now available to Microsoft TechNet and MSDN subscribers, as well as Microsoft's Volume Licensing customers with Software Assurance.

Microsoft's partners will be able to download Windows 7 RTM on Aug. 16. Last week, Microsoft issued the Windows Demo Toolkit on Microsoft Connect for its partners. The Toolkit is a collection of demos prepared by Microsoft's marketing team to show Windows 7's capabilities to customers.

Also last week, Microsoft updated its Windows API Code Pack for .NET Framework to support the RTM of Windows 7 and earlier versions of Windows. Developers can use the framework's source code library to access some of Windows 7's features, such as jump lists and tabbed thumbnails, among others, according to a Microsoft ISV developer blog.

Support for Windows 7 is available at Microsoft's Springboard Series Web portal. In addition, Windows 7 walkthroughs can be found at this TechNet page. Finally, Microsoft has combined all of its Windows 7 videos onto its Channel 9 portal, according to this blog, which breaks out some links. В 

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Windows Server 2008 R2 Available on TechNet, MSDN

By Becky Nagel08/17/2009

On Friday Microsoft made the new R2 version of its Windows Server 2008 server operating system available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers.

The release comes about a week after Windows 7 was pushed to both sites. Manufacturers received the RTM versions in July, and the releases were made available to volume licensing customers earlier this month.

According to Microsoft's release schedule, Gold and Certified partners will have access to the software Wednesday, and a 180-day evaluation version of Windows Server 2008 R2 will be made available the general public (what Microsoft calls "technical enthusiasts") on Thursday. The software will become available via retail channels on Sept 14, although the official "launch" date for both software releases is currently scheduled for Oct.22.

Windows Server 2008 no longer supports 32-bit processors, but does support 64-bit and can support 256 logical processors. It also offers numerous new features in a variety of areas. In the virtualization space, Windows Server 2008 R2 includes Hyper-V 2.0, which now features "live migration." Other improvements include hot storage swapping, scalability upgrades and an update of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008.

New management features for the rest of Windows Server 2008, according to Microsoft, include an new integrated management console, PowerShell 2.0, new Active Directory and Group Policy features, and a best practices analyzer.

Other additions include IIS 7.5, ASP.NET on Server Core and improved "componentization," letting administrators install only the parts of the operating system they plan to use.

A detailed list of what's new is available here (scroll down to bottom of page). Systems requirements are available here.

More information on the Windows Server 2008 download can be found here.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Zend Updates PHP Framework and Tools

By John K. Waters07/29/2009 Zend Technologies, the creator and commercial maintainer of PHP, today released upgraded versions of its development environment, Zend Studio, and the open-source Zend Framework.

The release of Zend Studio Version 7.0 comes as PHP, one of the most popular dynamic scripting languages, continues to grow in popularity. PHP has been making significant inroads into the enterprise, according to industry analysts.

The first Zend Framework was released in 2004, and there have been four minor releases since then. Versions 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, and now 1.9 came out in rapid succession; all were backward compatible. Version 1.6 and 1.7 added Dojo, JavaScript, and Flash support to address growing interest in rich Internet applications (RIAs). Version 1.8, which was released early this spring, added enhancements for rapid application development (RAD). All of those releases came out of the work in the open source community, and what Kent Mitchell, Zend’s director of product management, called “aggressive contributions” from such companies as Microsoft, Adobe, Google, and British Telecom.

“We’ve come a long way from the days when people used PHP to create little counters on Web sites,” Mitchell said. “I think the reason for that is the Zend Framework is a more professionally run open source project, and the emphasis on full unit test of every single component. With a solid set of tests, people could be confident that it wasn’t going to regress. The quality is what has brought a lot of people to the table.”

The popularity of PHP among enterprise developers reflects the growing importance of web development in those environments, said Redmonk analyst Michael CotГ©. “There's a whole generation of developers who are вЂWeb developers,’” he said, “meaning that their primary UI is the Web. Web applications are simply how new application development is done nowadays, no matter what side of the firewall you're on. PHP, of course, has long been one of the quick, easy, and effective ways to develop web apps, so it's little wonder that corporate developers would have more interest in PHP, especially as the .Net/Java mind-share hegemony has been loosening up of late.”

Zend’s Mitchell agreed: “PHP is really gaining a lot of ground in real companies,” he said. “GE, Fox Interactive, and lots of companies are looking at PHP simply because it’s a better technology for them to do these Web-facing apps.”

The Zend Server integration of the Studio tools and the Framework is another sign of PHP’s evolution into the enterprise, said Cote. “The server’s roadmap has seen it move more and more into the general application server category of late,” he said, “which fits, conceptually, with the what corporate developers expect on the backend of their applications: some sort of container or runtime that their applications not only вЂlive’ in, but laced with services (like message buses) that their applications use.”

Version 7.0 of the Zend Studio IDE adds support for the latest version of PHP (v5.3) and integrates more fully with the Zend Framework and Zend’s Web app server product, among other enhancements. The new version of Zend’s open source, object-oriented Web-app Framework (v1.9) also supports PHP 5.3, and adds automated routing and detection of RESTful web services, messaging enhancements, support for Microsoft Active Directory, and new unit-testing capabilities.

Coté said Zend’s decision to include message queues and REST improvements in its Framework is also a noteworthy step. "As you get more into the enterprise these are the parts of a framework developers need: SOAP-driven SOA components have been in there a long time, but shoring up REST APIs aligns well with how many developers prefer to code SOAs,” he said.

The list of new features in Zend Framework 1.9 includes:

Complete PHP 5.3 support. (also supports PHP 5.2)Support for RESTful web servicesSupport for message queuing services: Amazon SQS, MemcacheQ, ApacheMQUpdated LDAP protocol support for Microsoft ActiveDirectory and Novell eDirectorySupport for RSS and Atom feeds via a common API and higher performance cached HTTPDBUnit capabilities added to database testing

The Zend Framework 1.9 is available now for download.

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Microsoft To Push Out IE 8 via WSUS on Tuesday

By Kurt Mackie08/24/2009

Internet Explorer 8 will arrive as an "update rollup" via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) on Tuesday, Aug. 25, Microsoft announced.

IT pros who use WSUS and who have turned on automatic updates for roll-ups in WSUS will get the IE 8 update starting on that date. However, if that proves problematic because some desktops should not get the upgrade, Microsoft described a workaround: Simply turn off the auto-approve option for update roll-ups before Aug. 25.

Even after that date, there's still a way to block the IE 8 upgrade. Microsoft prescribed the following steps in a blog:

"1. Synchronize your WSUS server

2. Decline the Internet Explorer 8 updates

3. If business requirements are to auto-approve update rollup packages, you can re-enable auto update for 'Update rollups'"

Microsoft offers a toolkit to block the delivery of IE 8, but it comes with a catch. The toolkit is designed to only block the delivery of IE 8 via Automatic Update, as well as via the Microsoft Update and Windows Update Web sites. The toolkit is not designed for users of WSUS, Software Update Services or Systems Management Server, and won't work in those cases.

Users of Microsoft Small Business Server products who elected to install them using the default setting will still have to manually approve the delivery of IE 8 "in the SBS Console or WSUS Console," according to an SBS blog.

Microsoft officials tend to emphasize better security and performance with IE 8, especially over its older products like IE 6, which shipped with Windows XP. However, IT pros still may have applications that depend on using an older version of the browser -- hence the need to block the upgrade.

Microsoft claims that tests by NSS Labs have shown superior security marks for IE 8 compared with other leading browsers. Those findings were described in two July NSS Labs reports, which compared browser protection against malware and phishing schemes. The reports apparently were sponsored by Microsoft, according to an Ars Technica article.

IT pros can customize IE 8 packages for bulk delivery to end users using Microsoft's Internet Explorer Administration Kit 8 (IEAK 8), which can be accessed here.

IEAK 8 allows IT pros to set defaults for the browser. For instance, the kit can be used to customize IE 8's "Accelerator" feature, which pops up with a list of options when users highlight text. Similarly, IEAK 8 can be used to add Web Slices to the browser. Web Slices represent content from other Web pages that gets updated. Also, the kit can set IE 8's primary browsing mode (IE 8 or IE 7) by selecting the browser's "Compatibility View" setting.

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Microsoft Rolls Out App Compatibility Support Line

By Kurt Mackie08/26/2009

Microsoft started a new pilot help program last week for IT professionals and developers facing application compatibility issues.

The program, which is part of Microsoft's Advisory Services, provides phone support for those having difficulties with "product migration, code review or new program development," according to a Microsoft blog.

However, those beset by such problems need to be prepared to open the wallet to get such support. Microsoft's Advisory Services help costs $210 per hour, and is available for up to 20 hours. The program doesn't provide any on-site support.

Details on the new application compatibility support program are described here. Before providing assistance, Microsoft typically asks IT pros or developers a series of questions about the type of applications involved, operating systems used and the compatibility problems experienced.

Microsoft's engineers then run a series of tools to try to determine why the application compatibility problems are happening. One of those tools, the Application Compatibility Toolkit, checks on third-party applications running on Windows Vista or Windows 7. Another tool, the Internet Explorer Compatibility Test Tool, checks IE 7 and IE 8 compatibility.

The Application Compatibility Toolkit can be downloaded for free.

Microsoft also runs a Setup Analysis Tool to check Windows installers and third-party installers. A Standard User Analyzer tool is used to check application programming interface compatibility with a Windows 7 security feature called "user account control," or UAC. Finally, to test if applications will work with the next version of Windows, Microsoft provides its Compatibility Administrator Tool.

Microsoft has already released Windows 7 to equipment vendors, partners and IT pros who subscribe to MSDN and TechNet services. The general public release of Windows 7 is scheduled for Oct. 22.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Microsoft Bridges PHP to ADO.NET Data Services

By Jeffrey Schwartz08/25/2009

In its latest bid to show its support for PHP, Microsoft late last week released a toolkit that will bridge the popular scripting language to .NET-based data-driven applications.

Microsoft's PHP ToolKit for ADO.NET Data Services is an open source project sponsored by the company and developed by Persistent Systems, a venture-backed provider of outsourced software development services.

The toolkit, available for download on Microsoft's open source hosting site CodePlex, is designed to let PHP developers invoke Microsoft's ADO.NET Data Services, formerly known as Project Astoria.

ADO.NET Data Services, added last year to the .NET Framework 3.5, exposes numerous data sources ranging from traditional relational databases to XML files through RESTful Web services, said Claudio Caldato, a senior program manager for Microsoft's Interoperability Technical Strategy team in a blog posting Friday.

"The goal is to make it easier for PHP developers to consume data that is exposed through ADO.NET Data Services," Caldata said in a video presentation embedded in the blog posting.

The bridge will be critical for interoperability between PHP and .NET-based data-driven applications, said Stephen Forte chief strategy officer at Telerik, in an email. "This will make Astoria (ADO.NET Data Services) easier to use for PHP developers, helping Astoria adoption," Forete noted. "Supporting PHP is also an admission that Microsoft is serious about interoperability and views PHP as important."

IDC analyst Al Hilwa agreed. "This technology is neat and shows Microsoft is paying attention to PHP and the 'other side' of Web developers it typically has not paid attention to in the past." Hilwa said in an email.

Microsoft has been ramping up its PHP support of late, most recently for Azure and SQL Server, Hilwa noted. "This particular [tool] caters to a style of interoperability that is really becoming more popular, namely connecting through REST interfaces."

Nevertheless most agree that Microsoft's PHP support is an acknowledgement that customers are looking to reduce costs. "I think it's recession-related," said Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twenty New York. В "Software companies seem to invest more in supporting heterogeniety when they know their customers have to make due with the mixed environments that they have."

In his blog posting, Caldeta pointed to two key aspects of the PHP toolkit: first it generates proxy classes based on metadata exposed via ADO.NET Data Services.
Secondly, at run time, developers can call PHP proxy classes from their code making it easier program against the ADO.NET Data Service using local PHP classes. "Using RESTful services over HTTP, the communication between the PHP application and ADO.NET Data Services is taken care of by the PHP proxy classes and the Toolkit libraries," he noted, "but of course you can look at (or edit) this code."
The toolkit can be downloaded here.

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Nine Security Patches To Come on Tuesday

By Jabulani Leffall08/07/2009

Expect nine patches in Microsoft's August security update, according to an advanced notification from Redmond, which suggested that five "critical" and four "important" bulletins will be seen on Tuesday.

The potential heavy hit comes after IT pros reel from two off-cycle Microsoft security bulletins released just last week. From a patching perspective, it's as if July slid into August without a break.

The usual suspects are expected to appear in the August slate, including remote code execution (RCE), elevation-of-privilege and denial-of-service risk considerations. All the fixes will be for Windows and related components.

What's unique for this month will be a critical cluster fix involving Microsoft Office, Visual Studio, Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, and BizTalk Server. This particular security bulletin likely will raise eyebrows among security pros, since Visual Studio and ISA Server were both patched in July.

Critical Patches
Microsoft provided a preview of the five critical fixes expected in its monthly security update.

The first critical fix will be for Office Web Components in Microsoft Office 2000 and 2003, as well as in Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006. However, this fix also relates to Visual Studio .NET 2003, ISA Server 2004 and 2006, plus BizTalk Server 2002. The patch is designed to thwart RCE exploits in all these different products.

The second critical fix will address RCE exploits in supported Windows OS versions ranging from Windows 2000 to Windows Vista, as well as Windows Server 2003 and 2008. It also will plug holes in the Windows Client for Mac, which is a remote desktop function allowing users to connect to Windows-based workstations on a Mac.

Critical fix No. 3 only affects Windows Server 2000 and Windows Server 2003. The fourth critical patch affects all supported Windows OS versions.

The fifth and final critical patch will be for Outlook Express and Windows Media Player on every supported Windows OS version.

Important Patches
Microsoft also provided a peek at some of the important patches to expect next Tuesday.

Important fix No. 1 will have elevation-of-privilege considerations. Left unpatched, hackers may be able to use this vulnerability to promote their user status, or that of their automated proxies, to super-user status on a given system. XP, Vista and Windows Server 2003 and 2008 are all scheduled to get this patch.

The second important bulletin also will be an elevation-of-privilege patch. It will affect every Windows OS except for Windows Server 2008.

The third important item will deal with Redmond's .NET Framework for Vista and Windows Server 2008. It's designed to stave off denial-of-service attacks. Left unpatched, the exploit could leave administrators and Web developers locked out of the system.

The fourth and final fix in the important roster of security bulletins will affect all supported Windows OSes. It's designed to hold RCE exploits at bay in an as-yet-unspecified Windows component.

IT pros can expect to be kept busy with this upcoming August security update. Only the .NET Framework patch will not require a restart, according to Microsoft.

Meanwhile, IT pros can get a jump-start on Redmond's nonsecurity updates coming this month through Windows Update, Microsoft Update and Windows Server Update Services. A good place to start is this knowledgebase article.

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Survey: Cloud Dev Efforts on the Rise

By Herb Torrens08/05/2009

The move to the Internet cloud will pick up steam in the next year for developers, according to a new survey from Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Evans Data Corp.

Nearly half (48 percent plus) of the 500-plus developers surveyed expects to deploy private cloud applications in the coming year. Development for the cloud is also happening now. More than 29 percent said they are currently building applications for a private cloud.

Evans Data announced some of the results on Tuesday, but the company's "Cloud Development Survey 2009" publication is expected to be released sometime next week. The survey also examines public cloud trends among developers.

About 48 percent of developers are using Java for cloud development, with C# coming in as the second language of choice, according to the survey. Half of those surveyed are using Amazon's suite of cloud services.

"Private clouds seem to be appealing for the easier methods of deploying and automating software delivery rather than the elasticity, and different pricing, that drove the initial fervor in public clouds," commented Michael Cote, software industry analyst for Redmonk, in an e-mail.

He noted that the migration path for development in the cloud appears similar to the adoption of virtualization by the development community. That is, cloud development began with experimentation, and has since moved on to secondary applications. The next step will be the development of true mission-critical applications for the cloud, Cote said.

Michael Dortch, acting director of research at Focus, said he was not surprised by the number of developers moving into the cloud environment.

"Frankly, I'm surprised it's only 48 percent of developers, given that software as a service and other cloud-based elements are the only piece of the current software marketplace showing consistent, significant growth," he said, in an e-mail.

Economic conditions are driving companies to look for cost savings in hardware and software deployments typically associated with SaaS or cloud-based services, according to Dortch.

"The ability to consume business-enabling IT resources as needed and on demand provides these and other benefits, which is why SaaS and the cloud are so popular among users and developers alike," Dortch said.

Today's cloud computing use amounts to an implementation of best practices, explained David Hakala, a colleague at Focus. And so far, it has been limited to simpler applications such as CRM.

"Extremely complex custom applications that provide competitive advantage, such as a travel reservation system, can't be implemented on a cloud's paradoxically flexible yet rigid platform," Hakala stated in an article. "In the future, though, cloud computing vendors will make their applications more customizable by end users. Then corporations will move mission-critical unique applications into the cloud."

Dortch said there is a continued concern about information security, reliability of resource access and vendor stability that have driven many larger cloud adopters to build private clouds, or use private cloud services from the likes of IBM or Amazon.

However, as cloud development evolves, and as hybrid public/private clouds emerge, there may be a business risk in cloud migration strategies, according to Cote.

"The buying community is setting themselves up for another cloud spending moment once they decide public clouds are okay and move from private clouds," Cote said. "While security and regulatory concerns are very real, companies would do well to spend time asserting how they might skip some of their computing needs over the public clouds and avoid paying twice for everything."

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Monday, August 24, 2009

UPDATE: Court Tells Microsoft To Stop Selling Word in U.S.

By Kurt Mackie08/12/2009

Microsoft lost a patent dispute with Toronto-based i4i LP, and has now been ordered to stop selling Microsoft Word in U.S. markets.

The issue concerned the use of "custom XML" in Word in the Microsoft Office 2003 and Microsoft Office 2007 productivity suites. A final judgment (PDF) issued on Aug. 11 by Leonard Davis, U.S. District Judge for East Texas, found that Microsoft "willfully" infringed on i4i's patent (U.S. Patent No. 5,787,449). A jury had handed down the verdict back in May.

The judgment orders Microsoft to stop selling Word products "that have the capability of opening a .XML, .DOCX, or .DOCM file ('an XML file') containing custom XML." In addition, Microsoft must pay $290 million in damages to i4i, as well as interest and other costs.

The ruling takes effect 60 days from the date of the judge's order, so if the ruling holds, Microsoft would have to stop selling Word in the United States by around Oct. 10, based on the court's conditions.

Microsoft didn't provide details on the case, but Microsoft spokesperson Kevin Kutz suggested that the company plans to fight the judgment.

"We are disappointed by the court’s ruling," Kutz stated in an e-mailed response. "We believe the evidence clearly demonstrated that we do not infringe and that the i4i patent is invalid. We will appeal the verdict."

Beyond XML
XML is a recommendation of the Worldwide Web Consortium and consequently is an open specification. However, i4i received a patent on a method of manipulating an XML document's content and architecture separately from each other.

"The invention does not use embedded metacoding to differentiate the content of the document, but rather, the metacodes of the document are separated from the content and held in distinct storage in a structure called a metacode map, whereas document content is held in a mapped content area," according to i4i's filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The invention sounds a lot like using a schema to describe metadata for an XML file. However, it's apparently more complex and centers around i4i's custom XML.

"XML is clearly in the public domain," said i4i's Chairman Loudon Owen. "What we have developed at i4i is what's customarily referred to as 'customer-centric' or 'custom XML,' which is allowing people to create customer-driven schema -- we'll call it templates or forms. So, while XML is used to tag and to mark the data that's created, our technology is used to create the whole schema and the management of the data."

The invention goes beyond XML, according to Owen.

"XML in and of itself -- just like the letters in the alphabet -- is not terribly useful," he said. "This implementation leverages XML."

The dispute concerned Microsoft Word, but Owen suggested that other applications using the technology might be next.

"Clearly, if there are other applications using it and other parties using it, and we have validation of the integrity of the patent itself, it could have a wider ranging application."

Other Implications
The court's final judgment might even affect Microsoft's broader Office Open XML document format technology, which has been approved as an international standard (ISO/IEC 29500). Microsoft currently uses an earlier form of OOXML technology in Microsoft Office 2007 applications, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Michel Vulpe, the inventor of the patented i4i technology and founder of i4i, suggested that ISO/IEC 29500 might be affected.

"i4i will do its utmost to support custom XML users, which is particularly important to implement the ISO 29500 OOXML standard," Vulpe stated in a press release.

Owen provided further explanation about what Vulpe's statement might mean relative to ISO/IEC 29500.

"One, we are well aware of the standard and we clearly believe that it's a very important standard," Owen said. "Secondly, we believe this [patent] is potentially integral to the standard. And we've been in business since 1993. We're going to do whatever we can as a business to help people comply with the standard and support custom XML users."

Guy Creese, vice president and research director at the Burton Group, explained that the patent probably would not affect the OpenDocument Format (ODF), which is another international standard for document formats. The current version, ODF 1.1, doesn't use this custom XML approach. The next version, ODF 1.2, "supports a much richer metadata mechanism, but it's not custom XML-based, but rather RDF-based [Resource Description Framework]," he noted in a blog post. RDF achieves much the same effect as i4i's custom XML approach but it uses a different method, he explained.

The whole move toward using XML for document formats started in the first place because older binary file formats were proprietary to the software companies that devised them, resulting in document files that became unreadable as applications disappeared from general use, Creese noted.

On the idea that the Microsoft's other Office apps might be subject to litigation, Owen said that "we have not brought any other cases at this point."

i4i currently provides its XML technologies to life sciences companies such as Amgen, Merck and Bayer, Owen said, as well as other industries. For instance, the technology is used to help maintain the integrity of drug label data. The USPTO itself is a client and gave i4i an award for what they've done, he added.

Ironically, earlier this month, Microsoft was granted a U.S. patent on a technology that's also concerned preserving document formats using XML.

"The present invention is directed at providing a word-processing document in a native XML file format that may be understood by an application that understands XML," states the filing for Microsoft's patent (U.S. Patent No. 7,571,169), "or to enable another application or service to create a rich document in XML so that the word-processing application can open it as if it was one of its own documents."

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Adobe Bugs Linked to Microsoft ATL Flaw

By Jabulani Leffall07/31/2009

When Adobe Systems Inc. announced that it would periodically have Patch Tuesday releases of its own to coincide with Microsoft's monthly patch rollout, it became clear that Windows plays a vital role in the third-party software firm's security repertoire. That role became even more apparent with the security advisory Adobe released late Thursday.

In the advisory, Adobe said it would patch 12 bugs, three of which, the company implied, caused by vulnerabilities in Windows products. For example, regarding one of the fixes, the advisory said: "The update for Adobe Flash Player resolves the vulnerable version of the Microsoft Active Template Library (ATL) described in Microsoft Security Advisory this past Tuesday."

The bugs could allow hackers to take control of infected systems, resulting in "hijacked systems" or with malware from hackers being implemented on a machine, according to reports.

The vulnerabilities affect the Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems on which users deploy the Flash Player application.

Adobe's announcement comes after Microsoft's out-of-band patch release on Tuesday to fix the ATL vulnerability in Visual Studio and Internet Explorer. The software giant admitted it had known of multiple ATL vulnerabilities since 2008.

Critics in the security community, such as Tyler Reguly of nCircle, contend that although Microsoft has protected against the kill-bit bypass and has patched the public ATL vulnerabilities, "there has been no mention or reference to fixing the issue in msvidctl.dll itself."

Reguly added that while Microsoft has assured users that the ATL patch will help protect them, the company has "not officially stated that a proper patch is available or will be made available."

For instance, though Microsoft issued a patch for Visual Studio to eliminate the bugs in ATL, that update does not fix software developed using the flawed library. Instead, vendors must use the patched Visual Studio to recompile their code, then distribute the new, secure software

Microsoft tried to explain away some of the confusion in a blog post on Monday, as part of its disclosure blitz during the Black Hat security conference. In the post, Microsoft explained that the ATL, which originated in 1997, is parsed out as source code with Visual Studio. ATL, Microsoft explained, "is aimed at simplifying various programming tasks for developers. It provides, among other things, helper functionality that is utilized by most ActiveX components, which is where the vulnerabilities we are disclosing reside."

It appears that this is what may have happened to Adobe's Flash product.

In that vein, Microsoft's blog post suggested that third-party developers and individual users who had "utilized the relevant ATL code in their ActiveX controls" any time during the past 12 years were at risk of being susceptible to bugs, as they may have "inadvertently incorporated these vulnerabilities into their own products."

"It is great to see third parties releasing coverage so quickly," Reguly said.В "However, I would imagine that Adobe was one of the vendors that Microsoft shared the patch with early in order to expedite the release. The same will not be true for smaller vendors, and now is a great time to remind people to keep an eye out for updates to those smaller products."

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Microsoft Proposes Browser 'Ballot' to European Commission

By Kurt Mackie07/27/2009

Microsoft issued a proposal last week that attempts to address European Commission (EC) concerns about its bundling of Internet Explorer (IE) with Windows.

The EC considers such a product combination to be anticompetitive in the European Union because Windows already has a near monopoly grip on the operating system market. The Commission initiated a statement in January alleging that Microsoft had illegally excluded other browser competitors from the market.

In response, Microsoft is proposing to continue to include IE in Windows 7, but also provide a "ballot screen" that will allow users to install competing browsers, as well as remove IE. In addition, original equipment manufacturers will be able to install whichever browser they wish on new PCs. There's also language in Microsoft's proposal that states Microsoft will not retaliate against OEMs that install competing browsers over Microsoft's IE.

The EC is currently considering Microsoft's ballot screen proposal, as well as second one from Microsoft on interoperability.

Not every browser will make the ballot screen list, according to Microsoft's proposal.

"The Ballot Screen will be populated with the most widely-used web browsers that run on Windows with a usage share of equal to or more than 0.5% in the EEA [European Economic Area] as measured semi-annually by a source commonly agreed between Microsoft and the European Commission (see paragraph 13), but not more than ten (not counting different versions of one and the same browser)," the proposal explains.

In addition, the browser maker has to be "actively" offering the browser for it to be included on the ballot screen.

Although Microsoft took actions earlier to make IE "removable" through a control in Windows 7, that action doesn't seem to have appeased the EC.

"As the Commission indicated in June (see MEMO/09/272 ), the Commission was concerned that, should Microsoft's conduct prove to have been abusive, Microsoft's intention to separate Internet Explorer from Windows, without measures such as a ballot screen, would not necessarily have achieved greater consumer choice in practice and would not have been an effective remedy," the EC explained in a press release.

In an earlier case, the EC compelled Microsoft to unbundle Windows Media Player from Windows. However, Microsoft ended up selling two versions of Windows in the European Union -- one with Media Player included and one without it. People may have preferred the inclusive product, so the EC's remedy may have failed to broaden media player competition in that case.

Microsoft currently has plans to distribute an "E" (for Europe) edition of Windows 7 when the operating system is released on Oct. 22. The E edition will not automatically install IE when Windows 7 is added to a PC.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Microsoft Targets Retailers With Dynamics POS 2009

By Herb Torrens08/03/2009

Microsoft unveiled a point-of-sales solution for midmarket retailers on Monday as part of its Dynamics product line.

Microsoft Dynamics POS 2009 is a standalone, premises-based offering that rides atop SQL Server Express. The software has out-of-the-box functionality that can be customized by Microsoft's partners using a software development kit (SDK).

"[Dynamics POS 2009] is flexible enough to address specific vertical markets and it is designed to reduce training, and provides a great user experience as well as enhanced customer services," said Michael Griffiths, group product manager at Microsoft, in a telephone interview.

The out-of-the-box features include a smart search capability, security-enhanced payment processing based on Payment Card Industry standards, real-time inventory management and reporting, and the SDK.

Griffiths said that partners can use the SDK to develop add-ons and integrate with Dynamics CRM and Dynamics ERP, as well as some third-party ERP solutions.

"This is not a rigid application," Griffiths said. "If you want to extend its capabilities, you can. In fact, it is built with migration in mind so that businesses that are growing won't have to go out and buy all new software when they're ready to expand. It is version resilient and we will keep customers up-to-date with complete product road maps for the future."

The new application represents a complete rewrite of Microsoft's previous on-premise POS offerings -- Dynamics POS 2.0 and Retail Management System, according to Rob Helm, vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft.

"Dynamics POS 2009 sharpens Microsoft's focus on retail store management," noted Helms in an e-mail. "And, it is a showcase for the .NET Framework by enabling partners to add their own capabilities to the product."

Available through the Microsoft channel partner network, Dynamics POS 2009 requires no special subscriptions. Licenses are sold per "POS register," and include a mandatory one-year Business Needs Enhancement Plan along with the standard Microsoft training and support programs, according to Griffiths.

"This is a standalone product that provides great integration with Microsoft offerings such as Office and Visual Studio," Griffiths said. "It includes built-in features that store and track customer data, and it can be enhanced to include mobility and multichannel functionality."

Microsoft Dynamics POS 2009 is currently available in English-only versions in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, according to Microsoft's announcement.

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Microsoft Combines Groups to Bring Database Development and Modeling Together

By Jeffrey Schwartz08/20/2009

Microsoft is realigning its next generation modeling and Web services technology by bringing it together with its data programmability stack.

The company this week revealed it is merging its Data Programmability team (which covers its Entity Data Model, (EDM), Entity Framework, Project Astoria, XML, ADO.NET, and related tools and designers) with its Connected Systems group, which includes its modeling and Web services design teams. One of Connected Systems high profile efforts is Project Oslo, Microsoft's next-generation modeling platform.

The two groups are more deeply aligned, according to Doug Purdy, the Oslo product unit manager for Oslo. Purdy announced the combination of the two groups in a blog posting Monday. Purdy said there is a misconception that Oslo is intended as a services oriented architectures, or SOA, which is no longer the case.

Merging the two is logical, he noted, because metadata generated from Oslo is stored within SQL Server or some other database. "If you look at the Repository, it has always been 'just a SQL Server database' containing application metadata," Purdy wrote. 

Likewise, the "M" modeling language and the Quadrant, intended to provide visual browsing of models, were conceived to make the database simpler to use, Purdy added.
Indeed Oslo has been through a number of changes, Purdy noted.

When Microsoft first revealed Oslo two years ago, the company described it as "a multiyear, multiproduct effort to simplify the application development lifecycle by enhancing .NET, Visual Studio, BizTalk and SQL Server," Purdy recalled.

Purdy lamented that using the name "Oslo" to describe a new version of BizTalk, a new tool, and workflow engine "really confused customers." Subsequently, Oslo was meant to describe the modeling platform components that would be rolled out in the .NET 4 release cycle. Microsoft released a preview of Quadrant in May, as reported.В  Look for the Oslo name to be phased out by this November's PDC, he noted.

Combining the two groups made sense, said Ovum analyst Tony Baer. "Oslo was designed for data driven applications," Baer said in an interview. "Aligning more closely to the SQL Server side for them makes sense given where they started from. Oslo was never about SOA. That's not to say you couldn’t use it to develop services, but that wasn't its original prime function in life."

Developers had mixed reactions to the news. Julie Lerman, a .NET developer who is writing a book on the Entity Framework 4, viewed it as a positive move. "When I first saw Oslo I was very excited because it was so clearly the next step in that direction," Lerman said in an email.

"As technologies that are based on modeling, Oslo and EF go together. The merger goes so far beyond that of bringing together all of Connected Systems with the entire storage group shows a much bigger vision. It’s all data, whether it’s a description of a class, an instruction to credit a bank account, or a customer’s mailing address. Now we just have to see the parallels whether it’s being moved around between systems or persisted into a database or other means of storage."

But Jim Wooley, an Atlanta-based MVP and expert on data driven programming technologies, said he wants to hear more. "The details of this merger are fairly sparse at the moment," he said in an email. "I can see how the merger of the modeling components of Oslo fit in with the EDMX and how Oslo's close integration with SQL Server make bringing them closer makes sense. I remain somewhat skeptical as to the over all vision of Oslo, but refrain from making judgments until I see what they have to say at PDC."

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In Major Shift, Microsoft Contributes Code to Linux Community

By Jeffrey Schwartz07/21/2009

In its latest embrace of open source software, Microsoft has taken the once unthinkable step of contributing 20,000 lines of code to the Linux community under the General Public License (GPL) version 2.

The code, released Monday, covers three device drivers that will allow any commercial or community distribution of Linux to run as a virtual machine on top of Hyper-V virtualization stack. It marks the first time Microsoft has released its code to the Linux community free of any patent or licensing restrictions within the framework of the GPLv2.

Microsoft was historically a vocal opponent of releasing its code to the open source community, particularly under the GPL. But the realities of enterprise software distribution has forced Microsoft's hand, said 451 Group analyst Jay Lyman.

"This is a reflection of the reality that Linux and GPLv2 are commonplace in today's enterprise and if Microsoft wants to be commonplace as well, they need to play by those rules, and one of those rules is GPL," Lyman said in an interview.

In a Channel 9 video recording announcing the plan, Tom Hanrahan, director of Microsoft's Open Source Technology Center (OSCT), acknowledged this was a significant change of heart for the company but a move the company is committed to.

"It's a contribution to the Linux kernel and it is one we expect and are planning to be actively involved in," Hanrahan said. "We're not just turning the code over but our engineers will continue to work on the development of its device drivers."

The agreement came four months after the Linux Driver Project, a community of 400 developers that build and maintain Linux drivers for any type of device, approached Microsoft about releasing its code.

Greg Kroah-Hartman, a Novell fellow and highly regarded contributor in the Linux kernel community, played a key role in bringing Microsoft to the table. In an interview, Hartman acknowledged Microsoft's willingness to contribute the source code to the Linux kernel source tree based on the GPLv2 was an ambitious goal. "It's a big departure from what previously Microsoft has said publicly," Hartman said.

"Microsoft is becoming a full-fledged member of the Linux kernel community," he added. "They are going to maintain the code and I am going to work with them to clean it up and get it merged into the proper portion of the kernel." It will likely appear in the Linux 2.6.32 kernel later, scheduled to be finalized around the end of the year, he said, though developers can download the code at any time.

For its part, Microsoft has tasked Hank Janseen, who has spent 20 years as a developer and kernel programmer working with Unix and Linux starting at AT&T Bell Laboratories, to oversee the code and its handover to Hartman.

Even for Janseen, Microsoft's contribution to the Linux community was more than he envisioned he would see when he joined Microsoft three years ago. "I have to say, even I would have been hard-pressed to think three years ago that we would consider contributing to the Linux Kernel," Janseen wrote in a blog posting on Microsft's Port 25 site.

Microsoft's OSTC was asked to provide the drivers, known as the Linux Integration Components, code designed to let Linux run win what Microsoft calls an "enlightened mode" on Hyper-V. In other words, it allows Linux to perform with Hyper-V on par with Windows Server.

"Without this driver code, Linux can run on top of Windows, but without the same high-performance levels," Janseen noted, adding this release is not a just a one-time release of the code.

Indeed, a key motivator for Microsoft is to give Hyper-V an edge over the hypervisor technology offered by rival VMware, 451 Group's Lyman said. "Microsoft isn't doing this for a Linux company, it's not doing it for the open source software community, it's doing this for itself," Lyman said.

"If Microsoft wants to be in HPC or embedded devices or the enterprise server market, and wants to continue its success in that market, it's going to have to deal with Linux and the GPLv2."

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Friday, August 21, 2009

UPDATE: Windows 7 Available to TechNet, MSDN Subscribers

By Kurt Mackie08/06/2009

Subscribers to Microsoft's professional services -- TechNet and the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) -- can begin downloading Windows 7 release to manufacturing (RTM) editions starting today.

The products can be downloaded via the TechNet or MSDN Web portals (subscription and Windows Live ID required). The downloads are English-language versions of the OSes. Microsoft plans to make Windows 7 RTM available in other languages on Oct. 1.

Expect downloads as large as nearly 3GB on the client side, which is the size of the Windows 7 Enterprise edition (x64). The OS can be installed and run for up to 30 days without a product key. For those looking for Windows 7 support resources, Microsoft's Springboard Web portal is the place to find them.

The RTM represents the finished Windows 7 product. PC manufacturers previously got access to the bits about two weeks ago and are in the process of loading images of the new OS onto new machines.

For those who aren't an OEM or subscriber, Microsoft has a few other Windows 7 RTM release dates to remember.

Tomorrow (Aug. 7) is the date that Microsoft's Volume License customers with the Software Assurance option will be able to get the English-language version of Windows 7 RTM. Microsoft says that other language versions will be available "within a couple of weeks" (around Aug. 21). The product can be downloaded from the Volume License Service Center here (requires license and Windows Live ID). Software Assurance ensures that licensees can jump to the next software upgrade if it occurs within a three-year contract span.

For those who are Microsoft Volume License customers without Software Assurance, the Windows 7 RTM product will be available for purchase on Sept. 1.

The next date of note is Aug. 16, which is when members of Microsoft's Partner Program will be able to download the English-language version of Windows 7 RTM. Partners who want it in other languages have to wait until Oct. 1. Partners will be able to get the new OS via the Microsoft Partner Network Web site here.

Aug. 23 will be the day to remember for Microsoft Action Pack subscribers; that's when the English-language version of Windows 7 RTM will be available to them. Other language versions of the OS will be available on Oct. 1. The Action Pack is a collection of Microsoft software for those who want to run test implementations. You have to be a Microsoft partner to subscribe and get the Action Pack.

Finally, Windows 7 for everyone else is scheduled to be publicly available on Oct. 22. That's when people will start to see new PCs with Windows 7 in retail stores.

Microsoft has announced that it plans to open its own retail stores this fall in time for the Windows 7 general release date of Oct. 22. The first stores will be in Scottsdale, Ariz. and Mission Viejo, Calif. The Mission Viejo store will be near an Apple store in the same shopping mall.

Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM will be on a slightly later release schedule than Windows 7.

Microsoft's Windows Server blog explains that "Developers with MSDN Subscriptions will be able to download Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM in English, French, German, Japanese, Italian, and Spanish on August 14th and all remaining languages starting August 21st." The same dates apply for Microsoft TechNet subscribers, as well as Microsoft's ISV and OEM partners.

Those Microsoft Volume License customers with Software Assurance will be able to download Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM on Aug. 19. Volume License customers lacking Software Assurance must wait until Sept. 1 to get the server.

General availability of Windows Server 2008 R2 is scheduled for Sept. 14. Enthusiasts can get a 180-day trial version of the server on Aug. 20 here.

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VMware Reaches for the Clouds with Deal to Acquire SpringSource

By John K. Waters08/10/2009

In a move intended at furthering its push into the burgeoning market of private cloud-based infrastructures, virtualization market leader VMware will acquire SpringSource, the chief commercial sponsor of the open-source Spring Framework project.  The deal, already agreed upon by shareholders of closely held SpringSource, is valued at approximately $362 million in cash and equity.

The two companies plan to combine their technologies to create an integrated, build-run-manage solution for the data center and private and public clouds, VMware’s president and CEO Paul Maritz said during a conference call announcing the deal late Monday.

"The phrase that is being used for this these days is вЂPlatform as a Service’ (PaaS)," Maritz said. "We expect to be a very strong player in this emerging market."

The plan, according to Maritz, is to bring together the virtualization layer, which touches and controls the hardware, with the application framework layer, which touches the applications. Allowing "those two layers to cooperate," he said, provides a much more seamless, automatic, lower cost environment.

"Virtualization these days is really about coordination and management," Maritz said. "Allowing customers to run applications more seamlessly and automatically will be the wave of the future."

VMware views SpringSource as a major player in the app server market, Maritz said, pointing to the company's "very big following in the open source developer world." Maritz cited analyst estimates that half of all new Java application development work is being done in the Spring environment, and that 2 million developers "have been touched by Spring."

Spring is a layered Java/J2EE framework based on code published in the book Expert One-on-One Java EE Design and Development (Wrox Press, October 2002), by Rod Johnson, CEO and co-founder of SpringSource. Johnson also wrote the first version of the framework.

"Both of these companies grew up around great technology," Johnson said in a separate interview Monday evening. "We believe that the technology synergies are very, very strong, and that they will allow us to do incredibly exciting things with Platform as a Service and Java cloud technologies." Johnson posted a long blog about the acquisition Monday at the time of the announcement.

The feedback from the open source Spring community about the acquisition has, so far, been positive, Johnson said. "The reality is that SpringSource is a business," he said. "And fundamentally there has to be a successful business someplace, or you’re not going to get that level of investment that we’ve made in open source. VMware has deeper pockets than SpringSource, and can potentially bring greater resources where appropriate. That’s gotta be a good thing."

Ovum analyst Tony Baer agreed "You can’t always be David," Baer said. "At some point you have make peace with Goliath, to decide whether you are going to take your business to the next level. Now SpringSource has access to VMware’s considerable resources. That’s very likely to be good for the framework."

VMware and SpringSource have actually been working together for about nine months "on a technical basis," said Raghu Raghuram, VP and GM of VMware’s Server Business Unit. VMware invested about $2 million in the company in April. "As we worked together it just became clear to everyone that this would become one company," Raghuram said.

"The Spring Framework has been around for a while now, and it’s been very successful and continuously evolving," he added. "As these cloud architectures and cloud-type infrastructures evolve, the framework can take advantage of those infrastructures and target applications to run on them."

VMware sparked a virtualization grass fire about a decade ago when it revived interest in virtualization technology once relegated to mainframes, and introduced the idea of implementing it on the x86 architecture. But the emergence of competitors and the commoditization of that original hypervisor technology have lead to a shift in the virtualization space, said Forrester analyst John Rymer. Today, it’s "a race up the stack," Rymer said.

"VMware has stated its intention to move up the stack and provide a platform," Rymer added. "And here they are. These technologies are disconnected right now, but there’s no doubt that this acquisition provides the missing piece of a complete platform. The trick is bringing those two things together without diluting the value that they have separately."

The acquisition also strengthens the open source alternatives for Java developers, Rymer said. "It has been just JBoss and Sun," he said. "Sun has probably gone away with the Oracle acquisition. This raises the profile of SpringSource significantly in the Java world."

Although SpringSource has been a Java-focused operation, the company has ported its framework to .NET. "We are seeing significant adoption of Spring.NET, but generally in one area," Johnson said in a previous interview (see SpringSource Releases New App Server). "In the Java space, most of our customers are companies developing business applications; with .NET, a lot of our customers are software vendors using Spring.NET for shrink-wrap software."

SpringSource has a big footprint among developers, and the company has been expanding its offerings to provide management, runtimes, and development tools. The merger gives them the resources they need to pursue that agenda more effectively. Rymer said.

The deal is set to close in the third quarter of this year.

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