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Windows 8: Things that every IT professional should know about Microsoft's new OS

Windows 8 features that you should know about I've recently purchased a Windows 8 tablet and upgraded my development machine to Windows 8.  I'm absolutely thrilled with this operating system.  I'm still getting used to the tablet paradigm which is to be expected.  The tablet goes from power button to "start screen" in 14 seconds!  I primarily use the desktop mode on my development machine and the speed of the operating system is incredible.  I upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8 and the difference in speed is as if I'm using a different machine!   It's well known by now that the new OS starts in "Tile Mode" and that there is now a Windows App store.  in this post, I'd like to cover some of the lesser known aspects of the new operating system that I believe will be useful to IT professionals. Advancements in security UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface)                                                                                                                                                   The UEFI technology allows the implementation of security policies in your system's firmware.  Windows 8 utilizes UEFI by way of the secure boot protocol to verify the authenticity of your low level system components at boot time pre-OS.  Malware like Rootkits will attack the boot loading process and infect critical operating system files which can then bring havock to your system and can be very difficult to identify and remove.  If enabled, Secure boot will facilitate the validation of digital signatures of the OS components responsible for booting the system.  If a digital signature or key is incorrect, this indicates that it has been tampered with at which time the "Recovery Environment" will load and attempt to resolve the discovered issues.  Secure boot is a protocol of UEFI.  The UEFI technology is staged to replace the BIOS found in PC's today.  This will allow firmware developers more flexibility in designing hardware.  One of the key changes will be the replacement of the IRQ based CPU interrupt mechanism found in today's BIOS for an event driven architecture for modern firmware. For more information regarding UEFI, Secure boo, and the Windows 8 secured boot architecture, visit the following msdn blog article by Steven Sinofsky here . SmartScreen filter The SmartScreen technology utilizes a reputation based system for website URLs as well as file downloads.  When you visit a webpage in IE, the URL will be checked against the SmartScreen database.  If the URL has been marked as malicious then the browser will display a warning to the user.   The download manager will warn you of any file downloads that have been marked as unsafe by previous user's.  The SmartScreen filter is a very efficient method of protecting against phishing attacks and malware.  The feature can be enabled or disabled.  User's can contribute to the accuracy of the SmartScreen database by providing feedback on URL's and file downloads.  You can read about the SmartScreen feature at the following Microsoft website. System exploit mitigation improvements                                                                                                                                             Windows 8 has many improvements in the area of exploit mitigation.  Windows Vista introduced Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) which is a technique that randomly moves the location of executing code and data in memory.  This was an attempt at mitigating the infamous buffer overrun exploit.  Malicious hackers have found ways to beat ASLR and Windows 8 has improved the process by speeding up the randomization mechanism.  There are other improvements such as changes to the Windows kernel and the memory heap which include integrity checks and approaches similar to ASLR.  Internet Explorer 10 has the Enhanced Protected Mode sandbox as well as ASLR support by way of a ForceASLR option that will randomize all loaded modules. Improved Task manager One of my favorite additions to Windows 8 is the new and improved Task Manager.  If you've used Sysinternals ProcessExplorer then the new interface may look familiar to you.  It provides very clear and concise displays for system resource consumption.  Here are a couple of screen shots.   I'd recommend Windows 8 to anyone.  And at $39 for an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro, how can you not want to upgrade? Buy the upgrade here  kick it on    

Windows 8: The twitter buzz

Opinions are like Twitter accounts And judging by the tweets I'm reading, Windows 8 opinions are roaring in.  I've written an application in C# using an open source twitter streaming API that will search twitter for all references to #windows8 and #win8.  You should see the console app as it scrolls with data.  I've designed the application to save each tweet to a database so I can go back and review all of the tweets and maybe run some statistics on the reviews.  The only thing that I can say at this point in regards to the opinions is that there are a lot of them.  I've seen plenty of good and bad tweets regarding the new operating system.  I think I'll share just a few of my favorite tweets that I've seen thus far. "Windows 8 is better than we thought it would be" - “amazed at how #Windows8 multitasks” 2 month old laptop w/ fast i7 chip and tons of RAM, still slooooow #windows8 upgrade. Many reboots, had to uninstall  Sell your #Microsoft stock now and buy some #apple stock.  I predict widespread consumer rejection of #windows8 one giant windows phone  #windows8 | hope I don't regret this. Well, #Windows8 is out. I'm gonna sit back and watch the insanity ensue as the masses figure out it sucks! Upgrading to #Windows8 taking too long. Been about 2 hours now. So, I purchased #Windows8 yesterday ( yes, release day) I'm pretty satisfied so far... its modern, relevant and super customizable. #Windows8 is a little like the Beatles getting back together, but finding out that the guy from Foreigner is on bass. Got #Windows8 running on my MacBook Pro! jQuery15206952005941420794_1351308656351jQuery15209289378202520311_1351308819962jQuery15209881514110602438_1351309413941 Ask you can see, the jury is still out on this bold move by Microsoft.   Let us not forget that many people hated Windows 95 when it came out and the negative response was a lot like we are seeing now with Windows 8. I'm currently waiting for my tablet to come in the mail and then I plan to write a full review on my experience with Windows 8. Happy computing! kick it on

Navigation design for Windows Store apps and other Windows 8 design resources

Windows 8 Developer resources If you are a Windows developer then I'm sure you will agree that we are living in a very interesting time.  In light of the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft has launched a very ambitious campaign in an effort to win the interest of developers.  What's most impressive is the amount of developer resources that Microsoft has developed to teach developers how to design and develop applications for Windows 8 and the Windows App Store. I recently ran across a site that dedicated to helping developers create a Windows 8 application and publish to the App store in 30 days.  This Microsoft funded site has divided 30 days into daily tasks and articles that will lead you on the way to developing your first Windows 8 application.  They've even offered a free 1:1 consultation with an expert developer via telephone to assist with development.  They've provided Windows 8 PhotoShop design templates for download, example applications and tons of other design and development resources. The official Windows 8 release is just around the corner but Microsoft has provided a full featured 90 day trial version of Windows 8 for developers to download so they don't have to wait to begin developing their applications.   I think Microsoft is taking all the right steps to get our attention and I'm excited about the road ahead.  I would like to see a little more along the lines of .NET development in the world of Windows 8 as well as more resources for learning WinRT.  In any case, Microsoft, I say kudos to you.  I plan to take advantage of the resources and I will track my 30 day application experience in a series of blog posts.  Stay tuned.   Resources      Dev Center - Windows Store apps   Navigation design for Windows Store apps  kick it on        

About the author

My name is Buddy James.  I'm a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer from the Nashville, TN area.  I'm a Software Engineer, an author, a blogger (, a mentor, a thought leader, a technologist, a data scientist, and a husband.  I enjoy working with design patterns, data mining, c#, WPF, Silverlight, WinRT, XAML, ASP.NET, python, CouchDB, RavenDB, Hadoop, Android(MonoDroid), iOS (MonoTouch), and Machine Learning. I love technology and I love to develop software, collect data, analyze the data, and learn from the data.  When I'm not coding,  I'm determined to make a difference in the world by using data and machine learning techniques. (follow me at @budbjames).  

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