Windows IT Pro UPDATE--Microsoft Responds to IE Complaints--November 16, 2004

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1. Commentary
- Microsoft Responds to IE Complaints

2. Hot Off the Press
- Sun Announces Open-Source Solaris 10

3. Networking Perspectives
- Windows Server 2003 Installation and Domain Consolidation

4. Resources
- Featured Thread: Firewall Configuration Woes
- Tip: I'm creating a PC image that will contain the Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 Advanced Client. How can I ensure that SMS site assignment occurs dynamically when the imaged machine starts?

5. New and Improved
- Manage Your Support Department
- Monitor Your Network

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==== 1. Commentary: Microsoft Responds to IE Complaints ====
by Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

For the past few weeks, Microsoft officials have been doing something the company hasn't done in a long time: talk up Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). The timing for these discussions couldn't be more transparent. The Mozilla Foundation just released version 1.0 of its eagerly awaited Firefox Web browser, which is responsible for wresting 3 percent to 6 percent of IE's market share away over the past several months. But I'll give Microsoft credit for this much: The company is being honest about the fact that it hasn't done a good job of explaining exactly why it believes IE is still the best Web browser available. So now the company is trying to stem the flow of positive Mozilla stories--some of which, frankly, were generated by yours truly--and introduce a contrary argument.

Last week, I spoke with Gary Schare, the director of Windows Product Management at Microsoft. Schare told me that some misconceptions exist about IE and Firefox and that some tech reporters were jumping on the Firefox bandwagon without fully exploring the concerns. For its part, Microsoft hasn't done a good job of explaining its IE strategy, he said.

"It pains us a bit," Schare said. "A bad reputation is hard to turn around, and it won't happen over night. We have to tell the story. Things have changed. And our commitment to security is bearing fruit." No other company, Schare said, let alone any browser maker, is making the kind of commitment to security that Microsoft is. And although he didn't say it this way, he seemed to agree with my opinion that some aspects of Firefox's development are troubling. First, who are the people writing Firefox, and why do we trust them more than Microsoft to write good software? IE, after all, is mature. Second, is Firefox benefiting more from "security through obscurity" than it is from being well-designed? That is, will Firefox vulnerabilities dramatically rise if more people begin using that browser?

Although Microsoft is able to make a strong case for IE, it has some more explaining to do about the situation with Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). With SP2, Microsoft has released a significantly updated version of IE that includes many low-level improvements as well as the widely reported pop-up blocker and plug-in manager. But this version of IE isn't available to non-XP users and won't ever be made available outside of SP2. "You need to separate security updates and patches from features and enhancements," Schare said. "We will continue to release security updates and patches for all supported Windows and IE platforms. However, we do not plan to retrofit the old \[IE\] versions with the new features from SP2." Those features, apparently, are a benefit to those users who adopt XP. That's fine for XP users but unlikely to please Windows 2000 and Windows 9x users.

The improvements in the IE version that ships with XP SP2 are dramatic. Microsoft has made low-level changes to the security zone architecture that make it more difficult for malicious software (malware) to cross zones and wreak havoc under the security settings of the local user. The company also locked down the Local Machine Zone (LMZ), which was previously the most open zone; now, if malware is able to somehow access the LMZ, it will be unable to cause any damage because the LMZ is now the more secure of the zones. "Most of the IE exploits we saw in the past won't work now," Schare said, noting that Microsoft also changed the very APIs on which IE is based. The new APIs are much safer than the old APIs, which will be phased out over time. "The new APIs came through for us just last week," Schare explained, discussing the recent IE IFRAME vulnerability. "\[The exploit\] didn't affect SP2 at all. Many people think that happened because we had added a certain fix to SP2, but that's not the case. It doesn't work on SP2 because of the new APIs. That entire class of vulnerabilities is automatically mitigated by the new architecture."

Next week, I'll continue my discussion of IE and why Microsoft believes it to be the best browser available, especially for businesses. In the meantime, I'm curious: I've heard from a lot of Firefox fans, but if you're sticking with IE for specific reasons, I'd like to hear about it. Why do you use IE?


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==== 2. Hot Off the Press ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Sun Announces Open-Source Solaris 10
Yesterday, Sun Microsystems announced its plans for Solaris 10, the most recent version of the company's flagship UNIX-based OS. Unlike earlier releases, however, Solaris 10 will include a major new feature that's sure to cause tremors in open-source circles. Sun will issue at least one version of Solaris 10 to customers for free under an open-source license, similar to the way the UNIX-like Linux OS is distributed. Sun hopes that by rethinking its Solaris licensing strategy, the company can rekindle sales in related products and services and gain back some market share it lost to Linux in recent years. For the complete story, visit the following URL:

==== 3. Networking Perspectives ====
by Alan Sugano, [email protected]

Windows Server 2003 Installation and Domain Consolidation
I recently upgraded a client's network. The client has two offices--one in Los Angeles and one in New York--which, prior to the upgrade, weren't connected. The network upgrade plan included establishing a VPN to connect the two offices; setting up two new Windows Server 2003 servers (one serving as a file server and one running Microsoft Exchange Server 2003) in Los Angeles; and consolidating two Windows 2000 domains. Before the project began, each office was in a separate Win2K domain. Each domain was in native mode, and no active Windows NT 4.0 domain controllers (DCs) were on the network. Because the New York domain had more users (100), I decided to consolidate the Los Angeles domain (20 users) into the New York domain. To read the entire story, visit the following URL:

==== Announcements ====
(from Windows IT Pro and its partners)

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==== Instant Poll ====

Results of Previous Poll:
The voting has closed in Windows IT Pro's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "Do you like Microsoft's monthly security-patch-release schedule?" Here are the results from the 211 votes:
- 54% Yes
- 46% No

New Instant Poll:
The next Instant Poll question is, "Does your company plan to switch to Mozilla's Firefox Web browser?" Go to the Windows IT Pro home page and submit your vote for a) Yes, we already have switched, b) Yes, we plan to switch in the near future, c) We'll wait and see, or d) No, we'll stick with our current browser.

==== 4. Resources ====

Featured Thread: Firewall Configuration Woes
Forum user Captainshane is running Symantec's Norton Ghost 8.0 on Windows Server 2003. He's having difficulty configuring the firewall to let clients establish a connection to the server. Read the details and offer your help at the following URL:

Tip: I'm creating a PC image that will contain the Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 Advanced Client. How can I ensure that SMS site assignment occurs dynamically when the imaged machine starts?
by John Savill,

The best way to accomplish this is to install the client without configuring site assignment--that is, you should make sure that the SMSSITECODE=auto switch is set. Before the PC is imaged, run the CCMDelCert command on the system that's being imaged to remove machine-specific SMS information. Doing so ensures that every new image generates a brand-new client certificate the first time the imaged system is started.

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==== 5. New and Improved ====
by Angie Brew, [email protected]

Manage Your Support Department
Servantix released TSC2 Help Desk 4.0, a suite of integrated tools that helps manage a technical support department. The program includes work order management, equipment inventory, scheduling, reporting, network auditing, and a Web interface. TSC2 Help Desk features an Email Command Server that lets end users submit and update their own support problems by email. The program assigns due dates and technicians to each task. You can attach screenshots, files, or documents to any work order. Version 4.0 includes the ability to build customized email notification templates, the ability to filter work orders by status, a new single-window mode, and a task bar that shows all open windows and lets you move among them with a single click. Pricing starts at $299. Contact Servantix at [email protected]

Monitor Your Network
Paessler released PRTG Traffic Grapher 4.0, software that monitors network and bandwidth usage and other network parameters, such as memory and CPU usage. Version 4.0 includes a new, fully multithreaded monitoring engine and a new database system. The product produces detailed graphs and tables that you can view in a Windows interface or in Web pages. PRTG Traffic Grapher is free for one license, and you can purchase commercial editions for more than one license. For pricing, contact Paessler at [email protected]

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