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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.

Could it be true? A Mac OS trojan?


Sophos’ Naked Security blog is reporting that they have discovered a Mac OS X backdoor trojan.

Now in plain English…people have flocked to Macs in part because they feel like they are safer and to a degree that is correct. There are fewer viruses, malware, and junk written for the Mac OS in part because the Mac OS X is based on the Unix platform.

That means that it is that much harder for writers of these tricks have to get the same payoff they would get on the Windows OS.

Now the difference between a Mac and a Windows PC is now only software. Mac’s are made on Intel chips, with the same integrated products that may be on your personal Windows computer right now. In fact…check our Franken-macs and see how some innovative users are finding ways to install the Mac OS X operating system on to their home made computers.

So why is it harder to build a virus/trojan/malware/or junk for a Mac? Well in part, think about who you are using your Windows computer as. You are running it as the system administrator most of the time. You are not running this as a plain user which has no installation or administration rights. This means that a piece of software that can load on to a Windows system is pretty much guaranteed on installing itself with Administrator privileges and thus it can run without your knowledge or permission.

Microsoft tried to correct this with a clunky User Access Control (UAC for short) but so many people complained because it wasn’t convenient enough and that it balked at everything they tried to do. Well imagine how that would have happened in a plain user scenario. The user would not be allowed to install anything so they probably would never be pushed to grant permission for an image to load or for a javascript to run.

But running your Windows PC as an Admin means you will likely never know that software with bad intent has landed on your machine. So where does that leave you?

Yup…wishing you had a Mac. But now Mac users are having to think a little harder and find a tool that will help protect their system. Most rely on just the MAC/Unix OS to protect them and their data but a trojan, which is a piece of software pretending to be something useful, can gain a foothold on your system and begin chipping away at your Mac’s known insecurity levels.

So what’s a Mac user to do? Well there are many Mac anti-virus programs available. Many are available for free.

My research has indicated that iAntivirus would be the best bet because it’s definitions and routines are meant solely for the Mac OS and will not include any Windows information.

There are other freebie anti-virus tools for you as well: ClamAV, Avast, BitDefender, and others. Norton/Symantec makes what my research shows as the weakest protection for your Mac.

What about the guys who are getting credit for uncovering this trojan, Sophos? Well they are useful to the consumer but they are expensive and they are designed to be a business/enterprise anti-virus that home users can use. So you should ask yourself…do I need enterprise level protection in my daily activities?

Plus you should do your own research. Don’t take my word on everything…read some for yourself and because your own expert and advocate.

You can find all of these anti-virus tools on CNet’s Download.com

Download.com’s AV list