Archive for the ‘Windows Vista’ Category

Testing 64-bit Vista and Windows 7

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

This story was significantly updated with added detail during the first 2.5 weeks after it was launched. Those additions did not fundamentally change the thrust of any of the original points I made. They were aimed at clarity, added support for points made, and the addition of new details as I’ve continued to use Windows 7 Beta 1.

If you’ve been reading Scot’s Newsletter of late, you’re probably aware that I’ve been giving Windows 7 a close look. Several of my stories have been about Windows 7 performance. Since I’ve been more critical than most on that point — using what I consider to be typical hardware for Windows XP users (the vast majority of Windows users) — I decided that I needed to approach the question of Windows 7 performance from a different perspective.

The Best Firewall Software of 2008: Online Armor

Monday, March 24th, 2008

The decision is in. After a year and a half of testing, and with the help of more than a thousand Scot’s Newsletter readers who’ve written detailed descriptions of their software firewall experiences, I’m happy to announce that Tall Emu’s Online Armor 2.1 is The Scot’s Newsletter Blog Best Firewall Software of 2008.

There are many reasons why I’ve selected Online Armor (OA) as the best software firewall for Windows users; the rest of this story delivers the details. But boiled down to a single thought, the most important reason is this: Online Armor offers the best blend of a high degree of protection with a high level of usability.

That may sound simplistic, but in this software category such a balance is the toughest thing for a software development company to achieve. It’s very easy to throw up a blizzard of pop-up user-prompts. You can make your system so secure that you’ll never want to use it again. It’s also easy to dumb down the security so much that you’ll rarely, if ever, see a pop up — and in the process, render the firewall ineffective. The trick is to offer solid protection with minimal user interruptions. OA 2.1 is the only firewall software I’ve tested that delivers a near-perfect balance.


What to Do About Vista Service Pack 1

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Vista SP1 has been running on a couple of my test machines for the past month and a half or so. I’ve encountered nothing remarkable in that time, other than some initial driver configuration issues. I wrote about my initial experiences last month.

Now that Vista SP1 is on its way to you, and some people may have been offered it via Windows Update, here are my recommendations:

1. You don’t need this thing right away. If you’ve kept up with Vista security patches, then you’re fine. There’s no need to rush into it.

2. On the other hand, the biggest pain you’re likely to encounter with SP1 is driver issues during or after installation. The driver problem is so acute, though, that Microsoft has taken the unusual step of preventing machines whose hardware profiles include components for which Vista SP1 doesn’t have an adequate driver from offering SP1 via Windows Update or via Automatic Updates. For more detail on this, and a specific example of the kind of driver problem you might encounter, check this Preston Gralla blog entry: My Nightmare Trying to Upgrade to Vista SP1.


Testing Windows Vista SP1 RTM Code

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Although I don’t currently recommend Vista, I will continue to cover new versions of Microsoft’s operating system. I can’t very well recommend against a version of Windows without testing its latest service pack. You never know, perhaps some future version of Vista might win me over.

But not this one. While I need more time with the SP1 code, my first few days with the final version of Vista’s first service pack were, well, underwhelming. The one thing that I can definitively say at this point is that if you secretly installed Vista SP1 on a friend’s PC while he or she was out to lunch, 9 out of 10 friends wouldn’t have a clue when they came back.


New Versions of Comodo and Online Armor

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

The Scot’s Newsletter Software-Firewall Comparo (you know, the series-review that just won’t die) continues to evolve. That’s largely because the makers of Comodo Firewall and Online Armor — the two products under consideration — are actively updating their products. If these guys would just slow down a bit, I could make a final judgment. But that’s one of the reasons these are the two best products in the race, neither company is resting on its laurels.

I recently security tested Comodo (“Advanced Install”) and a late beta of a new version of Online Armor that I believe will arrive shortly. Both products came through with flying colors — passing every test I threw at them. So I can confirm that newer versions of both products continue to test as well as the somewhat older versions tested by


Windows XP or Vista?

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

There are two main types of Windows users in the world. Which kind are you:

Windows XP or Windows Vista?

The recent news that testers at Devil Mountain Software found Microsoft’s beta of Windows XP Service Pack 3 to be 10% faster than XP SP2 has pushed me over the edge.

I honestly find no advantage to Windows Vista, and there are some downsides. For example, no matter what Vista advocates say, Vista requires Vista-level hardware. Pentium M/Centrino single-core notebook hardware just doesn’t run it well. Pentium 4 desktop hardware runs it better, but usually that class of hardware needs a video upgrade. I’ve personally seen instabilities with the shipping version of the Vista code: applications freezing, Windows services slowing to a crawl, even OS crashes. I’m not saying everyone is having these problems, but I see no real improvement over Windows XP. While the architecture of Vista is a little better, Vista adds a lot of overhead to support quite a bit of new and sometimes questionable functionality. Vista is a lot more complex than Windows XP. It’s probably more secure, but it still needs a raft of third-party security software and hardware. I don’t trust its anti-malware protection or its firewall. And it doesn’t have an onboard antivirus product.


Hands On: Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Beta

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

It will come as no to surprise to those of you who’ve been at this computer technology thang for a while that — given that Vista sales haven’t been great over the nearly one year since Microsoft released it to manufacturing on November 8, 2006 — Microsoft has to do something. And that something appears to be Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1), which the company intends to ship sometime in the first quarter of 2008.

On Friday I interviewed Microsoft Vista SP1 production manager David Zipkin. And while Zipkin insisted that SP1 isn’t just a roll-up of patches, updates, and security fixes that you’re already getting on Windows Update, he was hard pressed to tell just what exactly is new in the forthcoming service pack. The truth is there are new things, but very few that you or I really care about.

In the end, maybe it’s all a moot point anyway, since most people will get SP1 when they buy a new PC or download it as part of Windows Update, where it will be about a 55MB download. Microsoft will be distributing it on DVD, both to enterprises with license agreements and to consumers who are willing to sign up for it on a Web form, pay a modest fee for shipping, and wait several weeks. But my guess is that waiting won’t be a huge hardship.


The Vista Firewall Situation

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

Windows Vista is far more secure than Windows XP, but is it completely buttoned up? The answer is no. You still need both anti-malware and firewall protection for Vista. Microsoft’s failure to solve this problem may, in fact, be a mistake that comes back to haunt the company. On the other hand, at least it didn’t put a whole bunch of additional software companies out of business.

I’ve previously recommended Eset’s Nod32 version 2.7 for all current versions of Windows, including Vista. Nod32 is a done deal, a no-brainer, just get it.

But the firewall picture for Vista is nowhere near as obvious. As I’ve written many times before, every computer connected to the Internet should be sitting behind some sort of hardware firewall that adds NAT (network access translation) stealthing and SPI (stateful packet inspection), both of which help protect against inbound threats. Good security is about layers, though, and a good software firewall complements the hardware firewall by adding application controls for outbound transmissions and network protections. The combination of hardware and software is very powerful. The problem is, very few popular software firewalls currently support Vista.


Eset’s Nod32 2.7: Best Antivirus Product of 2007

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

A number of people criticized my selection last year of F-Secure’s Anti-Virus 2006 as the Best Antivirus Product of 2006 for Windows. And now I’m going to have to eat crow, because in 2007, those people are right.

Eset’s Nod32 2.5 came in second last year, despite the fact that I had several criticisms of it. My assessment last year was based on a series of factors. But the most important criterion was that the utility run without bogging down the system and, basically, do no harm to your computer. Of course, catching the bad stuff was very important too.

Even though F-Secure’s 2006 product skirted the primary requirement pretty finely, the user interface and the included anti-spyware module combined, in my mind, to make it a great value. What’s more, F-Secure took me through a real-world test — one that I didn’t plan — with flying colors. (Nod32 got other people through the exact same real-world test, by the way.)

But F-Secure has an Achilles’ heel. It doesn’t play nicely with other security apps. It has a tendency to create a mess if other security products are present — even if they’re not running. It has a tendency to pop up dialogs informing you that it can’t install unless you uninstall this or that specific program. This was something I came across with F-Secure Anti-Virus 2006 only when I purposely installed it while AVG was running. And the process of uninstalling AVG worked so well in my test, that I felt comfortable recommending F-Secure.