Thursday, May 1, 2014


Microsoft vs. ??


An article titled Microsoft in double trouble after reports by gov’t, Israeli start-up tells readers to

(A) Abandon Internet Explorer (IE) V6 through V11 and

(B) Abandon Microsoft Office applications

It suggests that rather than use Office applications (e.g., Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word), people who need a suite should look to the cloud.



According to the article, the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), IE versions 6 through 11 contain a major vulnerability that could allow a remote user to execute arbitrary code on a vulnerable system.

The problem with dumping IE is that too many web pages are written specifically - and, I think, stupidly - for IE. Even though Microsoft insists on mucking about with the Graphical User Interface (GUI) with every new version, IE still has most of the bells and whistles most users think they want.

Cern contends that "By convincing a user to view a specially crafted HTML document (e.g., a web page or an HTML email message or attachment), an attacker may be able to execute arbitrary code. However, it added “we are currently unaware of a practical solution to this problem.
The simple a answer to the IE problem - at least for those who cannot or will not abandon IE, is to install software that checks requested web sights on the fly and both blocks and warns users that the desired site may be dangerous. Add some user common sense . . .

There are a number of very good software applications that can do the job; two I can recommend are AVG and Avast!. They "play together nicely" and can coexist on the same machine; unlike some better known applications that insist on exclusive access to the machine.

If replacing IE is an option, there are several worthwhile browsers available for free download: Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome to name but two.



I'll make my prejudice know up front: I don't like having applications - or data files - available only in/on/from a cloud.

There are a number of what I consider good reasons to look for cloudless skies.

    ONE: Internet connectivity is required. No internet, no applications and no retrieval of data files - word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, et al.

    TWO: No guarantee a commercial cloud will be there when you need it. Businesses - especially in the world of bits and bytes - come and go between blinks of an eye. The Apples, Microsofts, Googles, and a few others are exceptions to the rule.

    THREE: Some cloud apps have to be purchased.

There are numerous application suites that offer everything Microsoft Office offers and they are available for free. Gratis. Some even run on the free Ubuntu/Linux operating system. (Windows and Mac OS X are operating systems; an operating system is required to run applications.)

The free OpenOffice suite runs on Windows boxes, Mac machines, and GNU/Linux platforms. OpenOffice is able to import Microsoft Office files and files created in OpenOffice can be opened/edited in Microsoft Office applications. OpenOffice seems to have everything MS Office has.



If email is via a Microsoft Exchange server, there are few options, the main one being Thunderbird. Pegasus Mail won't connect to Exchange, but it is highly rated by Tech Republic as an app that will protect you from even the worst HTML-borne viruses and exploits. Both Thunderbird and Pegasus Mail are free.

The bottom line is that no one should feel wed to Microsoft products. There are alternatives. But if you are thinking cloud-based applications such as offered by Google and its Chrome machine are the answer, let me suggest that while the cloud might be OK for file backup (I still prefer an external hard drive), sans connectivity, the backup will be useless. No connectivity = no access to the cloud.

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