I Hate to Say I Told You So…

But you probably know I’m gonna.

Many years ago, Midas Muffler used to air commercials where they had a mechanic come on letting you know that, no. You didn’t have to have them work on your breaks, tune your car or install one of their premium mufflers and exhaust systems for you. You could save the money; for now. But if you didn’t use their preventive and premium services, it would likely cost you more money in the future. Their slogan was, “you can pay me now…OR, you can pay me later.”

I LOVE that slogan. I use it often in life and at work.

I test software for a living. Many organizations spend a great deal of money on development but don’t always invest in a robust testing operation, as testing is a cost center, where development is a profit center. QA organizations burn cash but can save your bacon when something ugly is found before it hits production. In many cases, it’s an insurance policy, and I don’t know about you, but insurance is expensive, and you don’t always make use of all of its benefits.

The same can be said of testing and other quality organizations. The good QA manager or director knows how to sell an organization on the team’s value and insures that value is delivered and the services used and used often. This is one of the reasons why I have a huge problem with the news I saw on 2013-08-15 of Microsoft pulling previously released patches it released two days ago in the August Patch Tuesday.

patched_microsoft2

Actually, it really grinds my gears.

In summary, Microsoft has removed a series of updates issued during yesterday’s Patch Tuesday because they could stop Active Directory Federation Services from working.

Microsoft released 3 patches related to KB 2843638, KB 2843639, and KB 2868846. The updates were for Windows Servers 2008 and 2012. They were intended to block vulnerabilities that could reveal information about the service account being used by Active Directory Federation Services.

This is the second batch of updates from this month’s Patch Tuesday to be pulled by Microsoft. An earlier patch reported to have caused damage to content in Exchange Server 2013 was also pulled.

To be blunt, this is inexcusable. Microsoft’s test plans obviously need to broader and more robust. They need to catch critters like this, before they escape into the wild and cause problems for users in the enterprise.

It’s been widely reported that Microsoft’s revenues are down and their latest earnings call revealed a near $1B write off for Surface products that haven’t sold. Issues like the patch bug issues I’m speaking of here are totally preventable and well within Microsoft’s ability to catch prior to release. The testing and release processes at Microsoft are quite complex. There are a number of different testing cycles and reviews in place. Many people had to be asleep for this to have happened…and as I mentioned, it’s not the first time this month or ever, for that matter. It’s happened with other Windows Update/ Patch Tuesday releases.

I use Microsoft software every day at work. I use it to write for Soft32 and other publications. My kids use it in school and Windows powers more than 90% of all corporations worldwide.

This… is simply inexcusable. It looks like there are other changes besides the recent reorganization that need to take place at Microsoft; and if I were responsible for testing organizations there, I’d be asking some very, VERY tough questions right now…

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Keep your Windows up to date with Windows Updates Downloader

In case you are a Windows user, you are struggling day by day  with updates, especially if you just installed your new copy of Windows. Managing the right updates for you, waiting for them to be downloaded, and stumble upon them every time you want to close your computer can be frustrating. In case you are fed up with all these, try another solution. The Windows Update Downloader was created by a regular participant of the MSFN.org forums, helping visitors with questions and problems regarding unattended Windows installations.

The problem with new installs is the length of time it can take to download and install updates. Windows Update Downloader collects all the latest patches into update lists, helping system administrators and power users deploy installations much faster.

Some people question the validity of this program when comparing it to alternatives, including Microsoft’s own automatic update utility. The basic function is the same in that it will download updates and install them, but the way in which it does it is much more convenient for advanced users looking to do multiple installs or upgrades. There is no waiting for updates to be drip-fed and the entire list of saved updates can be referenced and used immediately.

The Windows Update Downloader will appeal to power users looking to minimize the time spent on multiple installations with custom configurations. With ongoing active support and updates via the MSFN forums, users can resolve any issues quickly and easily. It has competition from other apps offering a similar service, but the support offered by the publisher for this freeware app may give it the winning edge.

read the full review | download Windows Updates Downloader

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Instantly install and run all of today’s games with Steam

A few years ago, gaming wasn’t a big deal. Most computer users were focused on productivity and well, we thought that gaming PC’s were expensive toys for over indulged children.  I mean, wasn’t that what gaming consoles were for? It’s totally different today.  Gaming is now driving much of the PC innovation seen today, and game development is a multibillion dollar industry. That’s one of the reasons why I really like Steam. It’s one of the best ways to get today’s most popular games on a PC near you.

Steam gives you the ability to purchase, download, and play over 1,100 games from any computer. You can easily check out new releases, indie hits, casual favorites and everything in between.  If you’re bored and need a playing partner, it’s easy to find someone to play with, meet up with friends, connect with groups of similar interests, or host and join chats, matches, and tournaments.

Communication is key during gaming campaigns, and Steam allows you to chat with your friends while you’re gaming.  You can see when your friends come online or are playing games.  You can  and easily join the same games together. During play, you can chat with your buddies, or use your microphone to communicate in any game.

One of the biggest problems with gaming is keeping up with patches and updates. With Steam, that’s all taken care of for you.  With automatic game updates, hunting for patches and downloading from unorganized web sites is a thing of the past. On Steam, your games stay up-to-date by themselves.

If you’re a Mac and want to play your favorite games, don’t worry.  Steam brings PC’s biggest gaming platform and games to the Mac.  You can download your games to your Mac and play against your PC friends in multiplayer games.  If you’ve got an Android or iOS device, you can also play games on the go. Steam Mobile gives you access on your tablet or smartphone.

read full review | download Steam

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Internet Explorer New Auto-Update Plan

Microsoft Internet Explorer is one of the most established and popular web browsers, with more than one in five people globally choosing it to surf their favourite sites. While the software is no strange to updates and developments, Microsoft has announced one of the biggest changes in its setup to date which will come into effect from January 2012.

From next month, Internet Explorer (IE) will introduce automatic browser upgrades across PCs operating Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. According to the official Microsoft’s Ryan Gavin, users will automatically be upgraded to latest version of IE available for their systems, “to make sure that Windows customers have the most up-to-date and safest browsing experience possible”.

Why is Microsoft introducing automatic updates?

Currently, Microsoft issues Internet Explorer software changes on an opt-in basis, through the Windows Update service. This, however, means that many users are running old versions of the browser – after all, everyone is guilty of ignoring notifications now and then.

While some updates are introduced for aesthetic purposes or to make navigation easier, many are developed as patches to security vulnerabilities that have been identified. As a result, previous releases could leave users’ systems open to abuse. On the firm’s official blog, Gavin explained: “We want to make updating to the best protection possible as fast and simple as we can for Windows customers.” To achieve this, updates will be forcibly patched onto browsers from now on.

What versions of Windows will automatic updates be applied to?

All PC users running Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 will receive automatic updates for IE. Older Microsoft operating systems – including Windows 98 and Windows 2000 – will not be affected, as they are not capable of running the newer incarnations of IE. Windows XP users will be upgraded to IE8, while Windows Vista and Windows 7 users will be given IE9 – the most recent release.

How will the changes affect IE6 and IE7 usage?

IE6 was introduced in 2001 on Windows XP and can still be operated with the Service Pack 3 version of that operating. However, Microsoft no longer updates IE6 and has officially declared it “time to say goodbye” to the iconic software version, as it is incapable of running more developed coding.

IE7 was released in 2006 and is still available for download on operating systems up to and including Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Windows XP users who still use IE6 and IE7 will be upgraded to IE8, meaning usage will drop significantly. However, if customers have opted not to upgrade previously, they will not be subject to an automatic upgrade.

How will the changes be rolled out?

From January, customers in Australia and Brazil who have turned on automatic updating via Windows Update will receive the new upgrading system. It will then gradually be extended to include users in other territories.

Microsoft says it recognises that businesses and organisations may have reasons for introducing browser updates at their own pace and, alongside the planned rollout, have introduced the IE8 and IE9 Automatic Update Blocker toolkits. In addition, all customers can uninstall updates retrospectively.

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