Archive for the ‘Microsoft’ category

Video: Microsoft Zune

September 15, 2006


 This USA Today article features a video of the Zune in action.

Microsoft Talks about New iPod Rival

This device looks so sweet:

image006_low.jpg  image020_low.jpg 

I love that its screen can be viewed in portrait or landscape mode.  Sharing music and files wirelessly with other Zune owners within range? How cool is that?  I am so looking forward to buying this device later this year.


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How to Sort Sheets in Excel

August 11, 2006

You’re plowing through a project in Excel.  You’re averaging and adding and dividing and returning depreciations like nobody’s business.  You’re inserting new sheets and naming the tabs without even thinking about it.  Suddenly, it occurs to you that maybe, just maybe, it would be cool if those tabs were in alphabetical order.  No sweat, you think to yourself.  I’ll just mosey on over to the Data menu, select Sort and. . .hmmm.  It has to be in here somewhere.  Well, I AM working with sheets, you remind yourself.  Maybe if I just right-click one of these here tabs. . .  Nope, not there either.  You head on over to the Help section, I mean, one can’t be expected to know everything in Excel, right?  Hmmm.  No answer there, either. 

Annoyance starts to set in at this point.  Why on earth, you ask yourself, is it so #&@$ing hard to sort my worksheets?

Newsflash: Excel does not provide an option to sort sheets alphanumerically!  I don’t know what manner of insanity this is, but there is hope.  You can create a macro and sort sheets in ascending or descending or until your heart’s content.

1.  Click Tools –> Macro –> Macros.

2.  Name the Macro (Remember, no spaces! Try SortSheets as a name).

3.  Click the Create button.  This will open the Visual Basic editor.

4.  Highlight the text in the code window.  It should read ‘Sub SortSheets() End Sub’

5.  Copy and replace the highlighted text with the following code:

Sub Sort_Active_Book()  
Dim i As Integer  
Dim j As Integer  
Dim iAnswer As VbMsgBoxResult  
' Prompt the user as which direction they wish to  
' sort the worksheets.  
   iAnswer = MsgBox("Sort Sheets in Ascending Order?" & Chr(10) _  
     & "Clicking No will sort in Descending Order", _  
     vbYesNoCancel + vbQuestion + vbDefaultButton1, "Sort Worksheets")  
   For i = 1 To Sheets.Count  
      For j = 1 To Sheets.Count - 1  
' If the answer is Yes, then sort in ascending order.  
         If iAnswer = vbYes Then  
            If UCase$(Sheets(j).Name) > UCase$(Sheets(j + 1).Name) Then  
               Sheets(j).Move After:=Sheets(j + 1)  
            End If  
' If the answer is No, then sort in descending order.  
         ElseIf iAnswer = vbNo Then  
            If UCase$(Sheets(j).Name) < UCase$(Sheets(j + 1).Name) Then  
               Sheets(j).Move After:=Sheets(j + 1)  
            End If  
         End If  
      Next j  
   Next i  
End Sub

5.  Click File --> Close and return to Microsoft Excel.

Now run your macro by clicking Tools –> Macro –> Macros.  Highlight Sort_Active_Book and click Run.  When prompted, select Yes or No to sort your sheets in ascending or descending order. 

Nifty, huh?

The macro will only be available in the active workbook.  There are ways to create a template, save it to the XLStart menu and have the macro be available for all your workbooks, but you’d have to lower your macro security level or digitally sign your macro.

See the following Microsoft Office Assistance and Knowledge Base (MS KB) articles for my sources and more information:

How to Sort Sheets in a Workbook

How to run the sample code for the Office XP programs from Knowledge Base articles

About Excel templates

Happy sorting from a random broad.

Good luck and happy taking care of things from a random broad.

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Microsoft’s Answer to the iPod? The Zune.

July 20, 2006

It looks like Microsoft’s so-called iPod-killer will be called the Zune.  BetaNews is reporting it may be released as early as this October.  The Zune seems to be the software giant’s flagship product; there may be another, smaller, more scaled-down device called the Pyxis.  It will rival Apple’s iPod nano.

The entire initiative falls under the name “Project Argo,” and insiders believe Microsoft is working on at least two portable players. Zune, which first surfaced in June, is believed to be the iPod-like device that would include wireless connectivity in a design very reminiscent of the Apple iPod.

Sources have confirmed to BetaNews that a second player exists, known by the code-name “Pyxis.” While details are scant on the player’s features, it is being billed as a competitor to the iPod nano in both size and functionality, with the addition of video support. Talk of a third device has not been verified.

As posted to this blog July 14, the Zune will offer Wi-Fi capabilities.  Gizmodo reports Internet radio streaming may be a feature Microsoft will offer:

Microsoft’s concentrating on features the iPod doesn’thave, instead of trying to beat Apple at their own game. The tipmeister reiterates that ad-hoc networkingfeature will be there, as well as a possible buffered internet radio streaming feature. If you’re within range of a WiFi signal and you’re listening to a station, the device will snatch as much of the feed as it can so when you wander out of WiFi signal, it’ll keep playing the stream as if you were in range. This might not make its way into the final product, so don’t get your hopes up too high.

The folks over at Engadget posted a picture of the device:

The Zune?

The device sports a clean design.  Will its OS be a sleek as its outside?  This random broad sure hopes so!

Microsoft to Release PowerPoint Patch by August 8, 2006

July 18, 2006

InformationWeek is reporting Microsoft is slated to release a patch in response to an zero-day bug discovered in PowerPoint recently.  The bug has been exploited by a Trojan horse called PPDDropper.b:

The attack is carried out by a Trojan horse with the moniker “PPDDropper.b,” which hides inside a malicious PowerPoint file attached to an e-mail with a Google Gmail return address. PPDDropper.b, in turn, drops a backdoor component, dubbed “Bifrose.e”by Symantec. Bifrose.e then injects a malicious routine into Windows’ EXLORER.EXE process, and overwrites the malformed PowerPoint file with a new, clean presentation document.

Microsoft has had to issue patches for both Word 2003 and Excel 2003 in response to dangerous vulnerabilities.  The Excel bug was very similar in nature to the PowerPoint bug, and was even exploited by the same type of Trojan horse.  The PowerPoint bug, however, is present in versions 2000, 2002 and 2003.

In an advisory published July 17, 2006, Microsoft warns users not open Office files unless you’re expecting them:

Do not open or save Microsoft Office files that you receive from un-trusted sources or that you received unexpectedly from trusted sources.

The InformationWeek article suggests using PowerPoint Viewer to view presentations you may need to open.  You can download PowerPoint Viewer 2003 from Microsoft by following this link.

**Update** Click here to learn more about the security update that patches this exploit and downloading options on

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Microsoft and Yahoo To Allow Messenger Users To IM One Another

July 14, 2006

InformationWeek is reporting Microsoft and Yahoo are working together to allow their respective users to IM each other:

Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. on Thursday said they have opened their instant-messaging networks to each other in a limited public test.

The two companies will begin by offering up the new open messaging networks to users with the latest version of Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. This test phase is meant to ensure the networks can handle the combined accounts of approximately 350 million worldwide, the companies said in a statement.

This partnership could be viable competition for AOL’s AIM, which dominates the IM market share.   CNet’s reports, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, AOL has about as many unique users as Yahoo and Microsoft (via MSN Messenger and Live Messenger) combined:

AIM dominates the instant-messaging arena in the United States, with 51.5 million users in September, compared with MSN’s 27.3 million and Yahoo’s 21.9 million, according to research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

Experts speculate both companies could have partnered in the interest of self-preservation.  Google has entered the IM game with Google Talk.  While they still don’t have the numbers to be a threat, perhaps Microsoft and Yahoo aren’t willing to take any chances:

“In my opinion, the biggest external driver for this announcement must be MSN and Yahoo’s mutual need to defend themselves in the long term against Google,” John Delaney, an analyst at Ovum, wrote in a research alert. “Google is a relatively recent insurgent in these services, but it is clearly determined to grow its presence there aggressively,” Delaney said.

Microsoft and Yahoo’s foray into interoperability will initially be on a trial basis.  If the two are attempting to take on AOL, and get the added benefit of keeping users away from Google Talk, the results could be very interesting.

Microsoft’s Argo to Rival Apple’s iPod

July 11, 2006

More reports are coming in about Microsoft’s so-called iPod-killer, code-named the Argo.  Bloomberg News reports the device may be available for the 2006 holiday season.  J Allard, founding member of the Xbox platform project, and Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment and Devices Division, are governing the project.  Their successful launches of the Xbox and Xbox 360 bode well for the iPod rival. 

Microsoft Xbox Vice President J Allard is overseeing the development of the company’s digital player, the people familiar with Microsoft’s plans said. It also is being developed under the supervision of Robbie Bach, who leads the unit that produces the Xbox video-game console. Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer last year tapped Bach to take on the added role of overseeing Microsoft’s music strategy. With the Xbox, Bach had overseen the most significant of Microsoft’s few forays into building its own hardware.

Microsoft has traditionally opted to partner with other companies rather than develop hardware.  With the exception of the Xbox and the Xbox 360, most Microsoft hardware offerings haven’t done so well.  They discontinued their broadband routers and NICs (Network Interface Cards) and seem to have no intention to wade back into those markets.

The Argo will allow consumers to download media files via Wi-Fi, a feature iPod devices lack.  The ability to download songs on the go is an extremely attractive difference.  The Wi-fi capability will also allow users to connect to other Argo devices  Microsoft has had plans to develop a new online media service, called URGE, since late lst year.  The company is working hard to garner fresh content for its service:

Microsoft hired music industry executive Chris Stephenson, who is among Microsoft officials who have met with music and Hollywood companies to seek licenses for their content, according to industry officials with knowledge of the plans. J Allard, 37, a Microsoft Xbox vice president, is overseeing the development of the device, the people said.

Microsoft met with music companies including EMI Group Plc and Universal Music Group, and TV broadcasters NBC, Fox and CBS Corp. to gain content for a music and video store to compete with Apple’s iTunes, according to people familiar with the meetings. Sally Julien, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, declined to comment, as did representatives of the music companies and TV networks.  

Apple has quite a hold on the portable media device market.  The team leading the Argo project, however, has a proven track record for success.  It will be interesting to see how the two giants stack up this holiday season.

Month of Browser Bugs Project Underway

July 5, 2006

Everyday for the entire month of July, Browser Fun will release a new browser hack.  The blog is The Metasploit Project‘s second blog, their official blog being their first.  According to Metasploit’s H D Moore, the Month of Browser Bugs (MoBB) project does have a purpose:

Over the last few months, I have taken an interest in web browser security flaws. […] The vendors have been notified and the time has come to start publishing the results. I will publish one new vulnerability each day during the month of July as part of the Month of Browser Bugs project. This information is being published to create awareness about the types of bugs that plague modern browsers and to demonstrate the techniques I used to discover them. Enjoy!

So far, posts to the blog have documented vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox.  Each post contains a brief description of the bug, a link to its entry in the OSVDb (Open Source Vulnerability Database) and even a demonstration–that’s right, you can run the exploit to crash your browser (fun!).

The Metasploit Project provides tools and information for legal penetration testing (such as software and OS), security vulnerabilities and IDS (Intrusion Detection System) signature development.  They serve as a resource for exploit developers.  Metasploit’s creator, Moore,  was invited by Microsoft to a conference during which he was asked to exploit their product’s vulnerabilities.  Top Tech News, in an article titled Microsoft Begs to Be Hacked, reports:

Both groups walked away from the conference with more of a psychological as well as technical understanding of each other. Despite feeling somewhat shown-up by their invited guests, Microsoft engineers watched in fascination as Moore demonstrated a VNC injection exploit.

The engineers realized that hackers are no longer geeky teenagers with nothing better to do, but educated and seasoned technology professionals just like themselves. Likewise, security researchers gained a better perspective of the processes Microsoft engineers must go through when faced with vulnerabilities divulged by the hacking community.

Remember, many vulnerabilities and bugs can be neutralized by patches.  Regular application of patches and updates is crucial to keeping your software and operating systems secure and performing at their best.  Taking advantage of automatic update settings and educating yourself about what bug(s) a recommended patch will fix are good habits to get into.