This week in Microsoft news

This week was a pretty busy week for Microsoft. We saw the release of the new Powershell ISE Script Browser, the end of support for Windows XP, a new Exchange Deployment Assistant, new version of Windows Phone, some more HeartBleed news, information about future Windows Service Packs, as well as some Xbox One (XBone, as we lovingly call it) gaming news.

Read on for the details...

This week, Microsoft released the Script Browser for Powershell ISE. This addon allows you to search all the script samples that are on the Microsoft TechNet Script Center to allow you to use their code snippets in your own cmdlets. The download is available here and a friendly neighborhood powershell user posted up some installation tips and pre-requisites.

In other news, Microsoft finally ended public support for Windows XP. This means that there will be no more security updates of any kind for XP. While I think this is a necessary move, there will still be a bunch of XP holdouts that will try to stretch their usage of XP as long as they can. Among those holdouts are places where you'd think security would be a bit important, and unsurprisingly, government agencies such as the IRS get to waste our money holding on to XP. But worry not, it's not just the US, but also the Dutch and British governments that are going to pay Microsoft mountains of money to keep XP alive just for them. As much as I'd like to fully put the blame on government inefficiencies, the sad truth is that many companies that we rely on simply do not want to put their own money toward building new drivers for newer operating systems or updating the software that people rely on to run on things newer than XP. One of my current clients still runs some NT servers because the banking institutions rely on software made in 1994, and it's too much of a headache to update it (in their mind).

Microsoft also released a new version of the Exchange Deployment Assistant with support for the Exchange 2013 Edge Transport role as well as a new automated method of requesting product keys.

Windows phone was in the news as well, with the new 8.1 version being made available to developers and (through some trickery) to the masses. This was a huge update, probably deserving of something more than a .1 update, adding the Cortana personal assistant, new tile placement options, new keyboards, a new action center, support for VPN, as well as better support for managing battery life and data caps.

In not-fully-Microsoft news, the Heartbleed vulnerability finally gives the Microsoft camp some good news, since IIS does not use OpenSSL and is therefore not vulnerable to these vulnerabilities. Heartbleed, however, is a very serious flaw, and has already been exploited in the wild (with some arrests already taking place). So please, make sure that you change your passwords on any sites that use OpenSSL, after checking to make sure that they have revoked their certificates and updated their version of OpenSSL. If you would like to know whether or not the sites you use were vulnerable, Netcraft has released a toolbar that will identify sites that use OpenSSL, point out sites that are still vulnerable, and check to make sure that SSL certificates were re-issued. Be warned, the toolbar is ugly, but if you need the additional re-assurance, it doesn't hurt to install it temporarily to run some quick checks. I would also recommend the use of a password manager such as KeePass (works great paired with OneDrive, since your passwords will be available across all your devices) or LastPass (not free, but eliminates the need for OneDrive/DropBox trickery).

Microsoft also released the much anticipated Windows 8.1 update with improvements to mouse and keyboard usability, the return of the power button, the ability to right click on Live Tiles, and many more new features that are appealing to the power user. However, that's not what I want to discuss here. I want to point out that Windows 8.1 was not Windows 8 SP1, and that any future updates will require 8.1, and will not apply to plain old Windows 8. This is a bit of a step away from how Microsoft used to do things, with microsoft only allowing a 30 day period to apply the .1 update in order to receive new patches. Recently, however, in response to customer outcry, they extended that time period to just over 90 days, but as Ars breaks it down, this could mean the end of the old Service Pack methodology, as we welcome our new "point upgrades" fast development lifecycle.

There is also some new Office 365 pricing available now. Instead of the old subscription model of $100 a year for 5 devices, you can now have a lower cost plan for $70 a year that gives you access to one PC and one mobile device.

Finally, the Xbox One has surpassed 5 million units sold. While this is still behind the PS4, this is good news for Microsoft as they try to expand their gaming markets.

P.S. The NHL playoffs have started, so it's playoff beard time. I hope our customers don't mind us looking slightly homeless while the Flyers are still in it.

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