Ruinous Text Format; watch those attachments!

Subject: General Tech | March 25, 2014 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: rtf, microsoft, outlook, word, fud

Users of Microsoft Word 2003 to the current version on PC or the 2011 version for Mac, which means any version of Outlook or other Microsoft application in which Word is the default text editor may want to avoid RTF attachments for the next while.  There is an exploit in the wild which could allow a nefariously modified RTF file to give an attacker access to the machine which it was opened on at the same level as the user.  This does mean that those who follow the advice of most Windows admins and do not log in to an administrator level account for day to day work need not worry overly but those who ignore the advice may find themselves compromised.  As The Register points out, just previewing the attachment in Outlook is enough to trigger a possible infection.

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"Microsoft has warned its Word software is vulnerable to a newly discovered dangerous bug – which is being exploited right now in "limited, targeted attacks" in the wild. There is no patch available at this time."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Microsoft Offering Free 12-Month Xbox Live Gold Subscription To Yearly Office 365 Customers

Subject: General Tech | July 21, 2013 - 02:21 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, productivity, outlook, office 365, microsoft, gaming, deals

Microsoft recently posted a new offer that seeks to sweeten the pot for customers interested in trying out the company’s Office 365 Home Premium subscription. Under the new promotional offer, users that purchase an annual Office 365 subscriptions will also receive a year of Xbox Live Gold for free. Not a bad deal, at all considering Office 365 Home Premium is $100 a year and Xbox Live Gold is $60 by itself.

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The offer is eligible for customers in the United States who purchase a yearly subscription to Office 365 Home Premium. The promo runs from July 18, 2013 to September 28, 2013. That eligible version of Office 365 Home Premium normally includes a basic suite of Office applications for up to five PCs and five mobile devices, 20GB of additional SkyDrive storage, 60 Skype minutes (per month), and a web version of Office.

Office applications include:

  • Word 2013
  • Excel 2013
  • PowerPoint 2013
  • Outlook 2013
  • OneNote 2013
  • Access 2013
  • Publisher 2013

With the promo, users can get a year of XBL Gold as well. Once Office 365 has been purchased, users will need to activate the subscription and then log into Office.com/xbox (before October 31, 2013) with the same Microsoft account that purchased the subscription to get a code that can be redeemed on Xbox.com or the console itself for a year of XBL Gold which gives users access to streaming services and multi-player gaming for the company’s Xbox 360 (and presumably the upcoming Xbox One) gaming console.

To find the full list of terms and conditionss for the promo, head over to this FAQ page.

Source: Microsoft

RIP Hotmail, Long Live Outlook.com

Subject: General Tech | May 3, 2013 - 04:50 PM |
Tagged: webmail, outlook, microsoft, hotmail, email

Microsoft has completed the transition to its new Outlook.com email service. The successor (and replacement) to Hotmail, Outlook.com now has more than 400 million active subscribers. Microsoft opened the Outlook.com service in beta form last year, and finally took it out of preview mode in February. Since then, the company has been moving everyone’s accounts over to the new service. In all, the company moved more than 300 million accounts from the old Hotmail databases to the new Outlook service. Over a six week period, Microsoft moved more than 150 Petabytes of user data to the new service!

From now on, users will now log in to Outlook.com and interact with the new Modern UI-esque user interface. Users that were part of the company’s Hotmail service will get to keep their existing @hotmail.com accounts and no configuration setting changes will be necessary. New users will only get @outlook.com addresses, however. Any Hotmail Plus users will get to keep their paid status and enjoy a version of Outlook.com without any sidebar ads.

Microsoft Outlook Webmail.jpg

Now that the transition is complete, Microsoft is working on adding new features to Outlook.com. Right now, the company is working on introducing deeper integration with SkyDrive as well as tweaking the sending of email from alternate accounts. Both new features will be gradually rolled out to users over the next few weeks.

The SkyDrive integration will be bolstered by adding a new attachment option when sending an email that will allow users to attach files stored on SkyDrive. Outlook will then add a link to the email and automatically assign the correct permissions to allow the email recipient to download the file. If you attach a photo from SkyDrive, it will automatically create a thumbnail or gallery of photos within the email body.

The new SMTP send feature tweaks the way Outlook sends mail via an alternative email account (for example, if you added an old Gmail or Yahoo mail account to your Hotmail or Outlook.com email account) such that it no longer shows your Hotmail address “on behalf of” your alternative email. Once the new features is rolled out, email recipients will only see your alternative email address and your Hotmail/Outlook email will not be revealed.

If you are curious about the new Outlook.com interface, check out my Outlook.com preview article.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Revamps its Webmail with Metro-Inspired Design, Rebrands It Outlook.com

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 1, 2012 - 09:11 AM |
Tagged: webmail, outlook, microsoft, metro ui, hotmail, email

Hotmail, the latest iteration of Microsoft's web-based email service will soon be getting a user interface overhaul that takes many cues from the company's upcoming metro-ized Windows 8 operating system. In fact, it very closely resembles the new Mail client in Windows 8 as well as the new Outlook client in the Customer Preview of Office 2013 that I have been using for a a couple of weeks now.

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Along with the (in my opinion, much needed) user interface updates comes yet another rebranding. Microsoft is ditching the "Hotmail" name in favor of the more professional-sounding "Outlook.com" webmail name. Now in public beta, users can switch over to the new Outlook.com webmail if they want, but it is not yet mandatory. Reportedly, all Hotmail users will eventually be moved over the new Outlook webmail once the service is in final stages of development. As Ars Technica points out, this is not Microsoft's first rebranding. In fact, it is somewhere around the fifth rebranding/iteration. Here's hoping that it is the last and that they manage to successfully brand the service–and do not tarnish the Outlook name.

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I decided to take a look at the new Outlook.com interface for myself, and you can too. To switch over, log into your current Hotmail account, click on the "Options" link in the upper-right-hand side of the window and choose "Upgrade to Outlook.com." 

The new interface is very flat, and much more simplified versus the old Hotmail. The current Hotmail UI leaves a lot to be desired. It has a rather large advertising panel on the right, rather unattractive scroll bars that do not really fit in with the design's color scheme, and links along the top for other Microsoft services and email functions (like reply, junk, and categories) that can be difficult to read and find. It is a rather dated design by today's standards, especially considering Microsoft's hard push for updated UIs on other platforms–hence the Outlook.com refresh.

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As mentioned before, the Outlook.com webmail UI is very similar to the Metro Mail application that comes with Windows 8. It is broken into a four panel design. The folders and quick views links from Hotmail and the email header list is carried over and given a flat Metro design with stylized scroll bars and a folder list with a light gray background. The third panel serves as the reading pane and sits in between the email list and advertising panel–which thankfully moves to text-based ads only. The contents of your emails are displayed in this panel. It is not a fully responsive HTML design, but it does scale fairly well as the browser window is resized.

Along the top of the screen is a blue bar that holds links for email actions (reply, junk, delete, ect), an Outlook button, Messenger button, Settings button, and account settings (when clicking on your name in the upper-right). The white text on the blue background is much easier to read than the current Hotmail design thanks to the slightly larger text and the better contrast.

When hovering over the Outlook button, a small arrow appears. If you click on that arrow, you get a pop up menu with tiles much like Windows 8's Metro UI for Mail, People, Calendar, and SkyDrive. Unfortunately, the Calendar and SkyDrive links simply go to the respective web sites. And those web sites have not been updated with the new Outlook design.

new_outlook_skydrive_integration.jpg

The following screenshot shows the interface used for creating a new email. Again, you get a flat two panel design with a top navigation bar. On the left, you can add recipients from your contacts or by typing them in manually, while on the right you can use the text editor to add rich text and HTML or compose plain text emails.

new_outlook_new_message.jpg

Outlook.com has a new People tab as well, where you can manage contacts and chat using the built-in messenger client. It is the only other tile that has received a facelift, the calendar and SkyDrive pages are still using the old/current design. It forgoes the blue and white theme for an orange and white color scheme, but maintains the paneled design. On the left you have a list of contacts, and in the middle it lists details the selected contacts. The right-most panel does away with advertisement in favor of a web-based messaging client.

new_outlook_people_1.jpg

One nice new feature is further integration with the various social networks (if you are into that sort of thing, of course). You can now add contacts from your Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter profile(s). Further, the messenger client support talking with Windows Messenger, Facebook Chat, and Skype (coming in a future update) contacts.

new_outlook_people.jpg

In short, the new Microsoft webmail interface is a much welcomed update. Scrolling and navigation is noticeably smoother than the current Hotmail UI. Opening messages feels quicker as well. Opening the Messaging tab actually replaces the advertising panel completely, which is a nice touch. As mentioned above, the scroll bars are different. They appear to be a bit wider, and very much two dimensional, but the bars actually look much better than the current Hotmail design as they fit nicely into the aesthetic and color scheme.

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The only (rather minor) issue is that, because of the larger text, I cannot, at a glance, check for new messages in the various folders I use. On the other hand, the text is easier to read and the scrolling is fast enough that it's only a minor thing. Further, despite the new Outlook.com name Microsoft's webmail does not support IMAP protocols. And being web-based, if your internet connection goes down you lose access to your email–there is no Google Gears support here.

While the new interface is not enough to bring me away from using a desktop client (which funnily enough is Outlook 2013), it is vastly improved versus the current Hotmail website and is worth switching over to. For being a webmail client, it is a very smooth, and dare I say slick, experience.

More information on Outlook 2013 desktop client–which Outlook 2013 seems to take inspiration from design-wise– I mentioned can be found using the outlook and office 2013 tags. Stay tuned for more Outlook.com information as the beta progresses. What features would you like to see? (I'd like to see the new UI carried over to the SkyDrive site!) Once you have gotten a chance to try the new Outlook.com beta, let us know what you think of it in the comments below (no registration required).

Microsoft Releases Office 2013 Customer Preview

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2012 - 06:56 AM |
Tagged: office, microsoft, windows, Metro, windows 8, software, outlook, office 2013, customer preview

Microsoft’s next generation Windows 8 operating system is due out later this year, which generally means a refreshed version of Microsoft Office – the company’s productivity software – is also on its way. To show off the new interface and updated features, Microsoft has decided to release what it is calling a Customer Preview of Office 2013 that will allow you to try out the new versions of Access, Excel, Word, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word.

Office 2013 Title.jpg

The new Office programs feature a refreshed interface that does away with the aero glass windows in favor of the flat metro look, and integrates into Microsoft’s Skydrive cloud storage service. By default, you log into your Skydrive account during installation, and from then on it will store your documents and other files in your Skydrive folder. In addition, Office will allow you to log into the various social networks to retrieve contact data, which is a nice addition to the Outlook email client (in my opinion). You can also utilize the chat features to communicate with friends or coworkers from within the Office 2013 applications. Of course, being designed for Windows 8, Office 2013 has several new ways to interact with the applications using touch controls or a stylus.

The other major change with Office 2013 is the introduction of several new subscription service. While Microsoft has had the Office 365 subscription brand for awhile, they have not really advertised it. With Office 2013, you can choose from four tiers including Office 365 Home Premium, Small Business Premium, ProPlus, and Enterprise. The Home Premium tier is the one that will interest the majority of people as it provides an extra 20GB of Skydrive storage space, a synced Office experience on up to five computers, the ability to stream the Office 2013 applications to another Internet connected computer with Office on Demand, and sixty minutes (every month) of Skype calling minutes. From there, the Small Business Premium and above tiers add business-centric features like HD conferencing, encrypted email, archiving, and other goodies.

Outlook 2013_ Main UI.jpg

Outlook 2013. As you can see, Office 2013's interface has been heavily influenced by Windows 8's Metro UI.

We’ll be playing around with the Office 2013 Customer Preview this week and will report back, so stay tuned. If you want to try it out for yourself, you can grab the Customer Preview download from the Microsoft website (an Internet connection is required during installation). It can be installed on computers running either Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Also, according to Tom’s Hardware, a version of Office 2013 – specifically Office Home and Student 2013 RT – will come pre-installed on all Windows 8 RT (ARM-based) computers, so that is a nice touch (especially since it’s basically the only traditional desktop application that the ARM tablets will be able to run, at least at launch).

Source: Microsoft