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Windows 8: What It Is and Why You May Not Want It

I’ve been away from this blog for a while. Mostly because things have been in turmoil here at Casa de Campeogni. So today we are going to unravel Windows 8; what it is, how it works, where the experts say it is going to lead us to, and more importantly…do you need to run out and get a copy or if it comes on your new computer, do you need to wipe it out and downgrade back to Windows 7.

Hardware to firmware to EFI to the OS loads

Block diagram of the Intel and Microsoft UEFI firmware interface. This is stopping people from installing Linux on brand new computers the user has purchased.

First things first, if you are putting Windows 8 on an older system with an older motherboard and know how to properly configure your firewall, you’ll be in good enough shape to use it. I’ve been playing with it now since Beta 2 and I’m okay with the way it looks and feels. If you really want (or like me need) a “Start Menu” there are a couple of excellent utilities. The first is Start8 by Windows Blinds manufacturer, Stardock. It’s a $5 investment and in my humble estimation, worth it.

Option #2 a free version of a tool called Classic Shell created by a group of developers at MIT. It’s available at Sourceforge.net (links to both will be at the bottom of this article).

Functionality aside, let’s take a look at what is in it for Microsoft if you have a newer system and choose to stay with Windows 8. The crux of this argument is a replacement for your 30+ year old basic input output system (aka your BIOS). It’s old and it’s well passed its time in the sun. In the beginning it was never meant to be upgraded or flashed. Over the years, we just figured out ways to upgrade (flash) it and with that came a whole host of users who broke their computers (that is what happened to my last Sony laptop).

UEFI, uniform extensible firmware interface, is an upgradeable, programmable piece of software that runs before anything else does. With its current design and its current schema, when Microsoft and Intel (the only two companies planning the UEFI future currently), decide to ramp up the security and close off the Windows garden, and get updates on software signatures and approved license keys you’ll hear talk about using this to stop viruses, malware, spam, botnets, and other bad things we all loathe. When that happens, and it’s not a matter of if it will happen as much as it is a matter of when it will happen), many pirated copies of software will also cease running. Many bootleg copies of music, movies, or images will no longer be accessible. The possibilities for this technology is endless.

Sure..it’ll be Microsoft and Intel who will be doing the lion’s share of the work initially but with AMD, HP, Dell, Apple, and many many others onboard and the list growing, it is simply a matter of time before all major software manfacturer’s start paying the WinTel ransom to block their pirated software from running.

So…that’s part one of my theory on UEFI. If you have one, please let me know and I’ll post your 2ยข on its own separate post. I’ll write more about this issue next week…and I promise…no more long outages.

I’m back and posting; more Symantec code stolen; and why your Apple really needs an antivirus

After a nine month hiatus, I am back and posting. No I did not have a baby but I did change jobs. I’m no longer the DOD contractor geek but now I’m a full time college professor teaching, among other things, security.

So let’s get started…Symantec initially said that hackers may have stolen their code base but it was for old products. Well that was not entirely truthful. Symantec’s latest announcement said that source code for Norton Antivirus Corporate Edition, Norton Internet Security, pcAnywhere, and Norton GoBack had been taken. This is in addition to the Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0 and Symantec Antivirus 10.2 that the company acknowledged two weeks ago.

What does this mean? Well if you are one of the many who use Symantec products, it means that you will need to be very careful about what updates for the Symantec software you download. Some of it could be fake.

Also puncturing a hole in a mythical secure operating system, is F-Secure’s announcement that the number of trojans, malware, and loaders for Apple MacOS products climbed this week.

Last year, F-Secure noted that Apple products enjoyed a roller-coaster ride of security. With some months being better than others. Best bet…if you have a Mac, get an antivirus.

And finally…I will be revamping this site a little now that I have more time to devote to it. Remember that the key to keeping crap off of your home computer is to be smart and not download or visit sites that are known for pushing malware on to user’s PC’s. Use Firefox with the NoScript add-in and above all else…stay away from porn and gambling sites.