Monday tech roundup - focus on windows 10Last week Windows 10 seemed to steal the spotlight from every news headline as features, screenshots, and upgrade processes were released which in turn fuelled lots of internet chatter and a fair share of speculation. Windows 10 is now going into broader testing and is expected to be released this summer. In our Tech Roundup this week we talk about the who, what, where and when of Windows 10 together with news of China admitting to a cyber-warfare unit and we also reveal some words of wisdom Snowden has for IT Pros.

First up, Windows 10!

Who is getting Windows 10 test software?

Windows 10 is now at a stage called a preview build, once called alpha software. In fact, there used to be alpha, beta software and gold code. Microsoft replaces these with a litany of terms starting with Preview, then moving up to Community Technology Previews – this even has an acronym, CTP – which essentially, is a more stable preview. Then there is still alpha and beta, but after that comes the Release Candidates (acronym RC), followed by the gold code, which now has been replaced by Release to Manufacturing (RTM). As Windows 10 is still in preview mode, it is going to be a challenge to meet the shipment date for this summer as Microsoft had intended. As seen above, there are many steps between Preview and the shipping of the product. What we know for sure is that the latest preview is now in the hands of so-called ‘fast-ring’ testers, which are those that are willing to look at frequent builds.

What is with the Windows 10 name?

When I first started writing about Microsoft, Windows was still a year away from seeing the light of day. I’ve covered Microsoft on and off since 1984 — during my first visit to the Redmond campus there were only two buildings. Now there are what, at least 50 in Redmond alone? The first version of Windows was logically called Windows 1.0. Then there was 2.0 and 3.0.  It all made perfect sense. Suddenly Microsoft switched gears and went with Windows 95 and 98 and Windows 2000. Oh, and there was Windows ME thrown in as well. The naming consistency by then had completely evaporated. Next, we had XP and Vista – a totally random departure. Seeing the error in its ways perhaps, Microsoft went back to its original plan and released Windows 7, then Windows 8. So we should be expecting Windows 9, right? That would make too much sense. No, Microsoft in its infinite naming wisdom is calling the next release Windows 10. The name or number of the version after that is anyone’s guess.

Where is Windows 10 heading? To the pirates, that’s where!

Windows 10 extends the legacy of Windows 8 in terms of tablet friendliness and the new tiled UI. As it takes holds, this offers not just a threat to the iPad, which is just a tablet but keeps the Mac in its place since the Mac is just a PC. Microsoft, as it always has, wants the entire world to be on Windows, be it on a PC, tablet or phone.

That even extends to the ethically-challenged. In a rather surprising announcement, those that pirated Windows can become legit with a free upgrade to Windows 10 – a kind of an amnesty. Is Microsoft adopting the charitable streak that now defines its founder Bill Gates? Not really. Microsoft knows there are millions upon millions of pirated and counterfeit copies out there, copies that present a monumental security risk. However, there are also real dollars and cents at play here. Once someone is in the Windows camp, Microsoft can upsell storage, Office 365 and a wealth of other services.

When is Windows 10 shipping?

As mentioned earlier, Microsoft intends to ship Windows 10 this summer, about three years after the release of Windows 8. Three years between this kind of OS upgrade is typical of Microsoft.

Based on early reviews, Windows 10 looks to be in good shape, even though it is only a preview and has several more stages to go through before it heads to manufacturing. Years ago I’d say the OS would be at least a year away given where it is, but Microsoft today has far more developer discipline than it used to, and its ship dates consequently are far more predictable and doable. This will make for a very interesting summer!

IT staffers now spy targets

When Edward Snowden blew the lid off the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spying scandal, we learned the agency (as well as similar agencies within other countries) spied on suspected wrongdoers, foreign governments and even ordinary citizens.  Now these agencies are setting their sights on IT pros, or so says Snowden. “It’s not that they are looking for terrorists, it’s not that they are looking for bad guys, it’s that they are looking for people with access to infrastructure. They are looking for service providers, they are looking for systems administrators, they’re looking for engineers,” he argued via a video link at the recent CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany.

“They are looking for the people who are in this room right now: you will be the target. Not because you are a terrorist, not because you are suspected of any criminal wrongdoing, but because you have access to systems, you have access to infrastructure, you have access to the private records, people’s private lives. These are the things that they want. It is important for us to come together and prevent that from happening.”

So how do IT pros avoid being spied on? Use strong encryption end-to-end on anything you want kept private – that’s how. “We have to protect communications while they are in transit, we have to improve the security of the endpoints and make this transparent to users,” Snowden advised.

China admits to organized cyber-warfare unit

The U.S. has done its fair share of cyber spying, and when it comes to aggressive cyber-warfare America throws plenty of stones at China. Now China officially admitted the open secret – that it indeed has such a cyber-group. China released this information in an official government publication “The Science of Military Strategy”, according to recent reports. China may not be late to the cyber-warfare game, but it is tardy at admitting it, at least by U.S. government standards who admitted to cyber-warfare long ago. Cyber-warfare isn’t only about governments against other governments.

There is an economic battleground as well, and this is where businesses must worry. Not just worry, but also take protective measures. So far, most commercial-related attacks blamed on China have been against strategic businesses such as energy, but these hacking resources can also be aimed at companies where the damage is purely financial such as theft of intellectual property. Best tighten those defenses, folks.