Critical SQL Server Patches for Meltdown and Spectre

There are two new possible viruses Meltdown and Spectre that can lead to dangerous situations on your SQL server by attacks. The following summary allows you to review and decide how to patch your systems.  All SQL DBAs need to take action to make sure that they have backups as well as protecting the current systems.

Microsoft SQL Server 2016

 

SQL Server Versions Affected

This is a hardware issue, so every system is affected. SQL Server running on x86 and x64 for these versions:

  • SQL Server 2008
  • SQL Server 2008R2
  • SQL Server 2012
  • SQL Server 2014
  • SQL Server 2016
  • SQL Server 2017
  • Azure SQL Database

It is likely that SQL Server 2005, SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 7, SQL Server 6.5 are all affected. No SQL Server patches are coming due to the age and since they have been out of commission for the past few years.

Note: according to Microsoft, IA64 systems are not believed to be affected. If you have SQL Server 2008, 2008 R2, 2012, 2014 you’ll have to wait on SQL Server patches.  You can continue to visit the Microsoft web site for when the patches will become available.

SQL Server Patches

There is a KB (4073225) that discusses the attacks. You can read that in

Here are the patches as of this time:

We will update as more patches become available.

OS Patches

The Window KB for guidance is 4072698.

Here are the OS patches that I’ve been able to find.

 

Windows 10 SDK Fall Creators Update SDK

Downloads and tools for Windows 10

Visual Studio 2017

  • The latest version of Visual Studio, released October 2017
  • The latest Windows Standalone SDK (ver. 10.0.16299.15)
  • Templates for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps for tablet, phone, PC, Windows IoT, or Xbox
  • Templates for Windows desktop applications
  • Windows 10 Mobile emulators

Log in and take a chance

*No Purchase Necessary. Open only to Universal Windows Apps developers 18+. Sweepstakes ends November 17, 2017. For details, see Official Rules

Download the Windows 10—Fall Creators Update SDK today. Want to learn more about what’s in it? Get the overview by watching the Windows Developer Day keynote and dive deeper with over 18 sessions on Windows 10 features and capabilities here.
And don’t forget to enter an epic sweepstakes with amazing prizes. When you submit or update a Windows Store app targeting Windows 10—Fall Creators Update (build 16299), you’ll have a chance to win one of five prize packages—each valued at over $8,000 USD.* You’ll receive one entry for each app or game you create or update that meets the criteria.

Do you need to know Javascript ?

JavaScript

Web site maintenance or development has led to the need for software developers to know and understand how to write or read JavaScript.  The need for professional JavaScript developers is growing at a fast rate.  Now that does not mean there will be college courses dealing with JavaScript 101 but there is a vast amount of on-line knowledge areas for self taught on how to use JavaScript.

The beauty of JavaScript is that you do not need a degree where it is a free technology that requires no installation and no configuration.  You can easily open up a HTML page and quickly write a function to send out the famous “Hello World!”

Hello World Sample

<!DOCTYPE HTML>
<html>

<body>

<p>Simple JavaScript</p>

<script>
alert( ‘Hello, world!’ );
</script>

<p>Not hard ?</p>

</body>

</html>

As displayed above, the code shows the necessary tags to create a nicely formatted HTML page which will open an alert window to display ‘Hello World’.

Advantages of learning JavaScript

A major advantage to JavaScript is the fact that it is not strictly an interactive programming language but it is platform-independent.  This means you can write the code and insert it on any machine, Android, iOS, iMac, Windows, etc.  The next important thing to take into account is that it is case sensitive which the function HelloWorld is not the same as helloworld. Be very careful about this.

The final advantage of JavaScript is the event loop. When an event is triggered in the browser, JavaScript run-time stores information in the message queue. If a callback function existed with this stored information, it will be executed the next time it is encountered within the loop. The end result is that the application is able to handle multiple operations on a single thread, which grants the developer freedom from additional programming of all the different application states.

To wrap up, it is your best interest to learn JavaScript at least to a very basic level.   It is extremely easy to pick up and use in less than an hour and finally you can not go wrong with mastering JavaScript.

Visual Studio 2017 Version 15.3 Released

Visual Studio 2017

For Visual Studio 2017 version 15.3, Microsoft focused on improving accessibility, particularly using Visual Studio with the most popular screen readers. Microsoft made over 1,700 improvements but if you are using Visual Studio 2017 in a low-vision or no-vision mode, a lot has improved.

Couple of the more major things Microsoft improved.

  • Debugging is much more accessible. Debugger windows like the Call Stack, Locals, Autos, and Watch windows were inaccessible to screen readers. That’s now fixed.
  • The VS editor’s text adornments let developers know about features available at particular points on a line of code, such as breakpoints, lightbulbs, and error and warning “squiggles.” Customers can now discover and navigate between these adornments via the new “Show Line Annotations” command set, which you can find on the editor context menu.

In addition to accessibility,  many fixes for reliability issues to improve performance, many of which were reported through report-a-problem. Here are some of the more notable ones that had high votes that were fixed:

  • A crash that could occur in C# and VB projects when editing linked files, files in Shared Projects, or files used in projects targeting multiple runtimes.
  • A race condition when debugging C# or VB projects that could cause Visual Studio to crash when ending the debugging session.
  • A crash in C# or VB projects when malformed metadata is encountered in the code file.
  • A crash that could occur when compiling a local function in C#.

Additional key improvements

  • Azure Functions Support. 
  • Broad Azure sign-in support.
  • Improved container support.
  • Continuous Delivery Tools now included.

For the full list of improvements check out the release notes for Visual Studio 2017 version 15.3.

Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are going to work together

Phone

Amazon and Microsoft announced on Wednesday that they’ve been working on a partnership to allow their respective voice assistants, Alexa and Cortana, to speak to one another.

Starting later this year, owners of Amazon Echos and other Alexa-powered devices will be able to say: “Alexa, open Cortana” to start querying Microsoft’s voice assistant. Owners of devices running Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system will be able to summon Alexa via Cortana in a similar manner.

Why would customers want that — especially with the relatively clunky nature of the necessary voice command? The companies say that each voice assistant has its strengths — features like Microsoft Outlook and Exchange email integration for Cortana and smart-home controls or shopping for Alexa — and that customers of both companies would benefit from an integration.

It’s not clear if the two assistants will share voice data in an effort to make each digital assistant smarter. But there is the hope that someday these artificial agents will be intelligent enough to route requests to the best virtual assistant for the task without a specific “Alexa” or “Cortana” command.

What about Apple ?

The new partnership throws a wrinkle into the narrative of the emerging world of voice assistants, where Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Apple have been competing to build the operating system of the future. Google, of course, has Google Assistant built into the Google Home speaker as well as select Android phones. Apple’s Siri has been the digital assistant inside iPhones for years and will power the forthcoming HomePod.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft chief Satya Nadella told the New York Times they would welcome such cooperation. But, as the Times notes, such a future may be unlikely since Google and Apple see their AIs as key differentiators for their mobile phone operating systems.

As Windows always wanted was to have a house completely working with their OS so now that you have Alexa involved or linked that dream may come true.

New Microsoft debugger WinDbg available in preview!

Debugging Tools for Windows

Preview

Microsoft is excited to announce a preview version of a brand new WinDbg a Windows debugger.  WinDbg has more modern visuals, faster windows, a full-fledged scripting experience, built with the easily extensible debugger data model front and center.

Things to know

  • Installation - You can install the WinDbg Preview from the store if you have Windows 10 Anniversary Update or newer at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/windbg/9pgjgd53tn86 – WinDbg Preview uses some features from the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, so that’s required for now.
  • Feedback - Familiarize yourself a bit with the Feedback Hub!  Microsoft will be using the Feedback Hub to help prioritize what you want Microsoft to work on! The Windows Insider website has a great overview on how to give good feedback – https://insider.windows.com/en-us/how-to-feedback Once you’ve read that, just hit the ‘Feedback Hub’ button on the home ribbon.
  • Questions - Send feedback in the Feedback Hub, or tweet @aluhrs13 for answers. A FAQ on the blog sometime in the upcoming weeks will be posted.
  • Documentation - Microsoft has some early documentation up on MSDN that’s preliminary and subject to change at https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?linkid=854349, you can give Microsoft feedback or propose edits to that documentation by hitting “Comments” or “Edit” on any page. Keep your eyes on the MSDN blog – https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/windbg – for more updates and tips.
  • Videos - You can view on Channel 9 studio with recorded episodes of Defrag Tools to help explain some of the basics of WinDbg Preview.
    • Defrag Tools #182 – Basics of WinDbg Preview and some of the features
    • Defrag Tools #183 – WinDbg Preview and a quick demo
    • Coming Soon – Defrag Tools #184 – A walk through the scripting features in WinDbg Preview

Restrictions and other things worth noting

  • At this point in the preview, Microsoft is only offering WinDbg Preview through the Windows Store. That means only devices running Windows 10 Anniversary Update can install it.
  • You might hit errors when trying to do something that requires elevation. You’ll have to manually launch WinDbg Preview elevated.
  • The concept of a workspace is going to be changing a lot. A workspace in WinDbg Preview is vastly different from one in WinDbg. The MSDN documentation linked above has more information.

NYPD dropping Window Phone for iPhone

Phone

A New York Post report that one of Microsoft’s more celebrated U.S. business customers for Windows Phone is dumping the platform raises some interesting questions about Redmond’s future mobility plans.

The Post reported on August 28 that the New York Police Department (NYPD) is going to scrap the 36,000 Nokia phonesrunning the Windows Phone OS that it has been rolling out for the past two years.

Microsoft dropped support for Windows Mobile 8.1 in July 2017. But the two handset models the NYPD purchased, the Lumia 640XL and Lumia 830, both were among the Windows Phones that were upgradable to Windows 10 Mobile. (Of these two, only the newer 640XL will also be eligible for the coming Fall Windows 10 Mobile update, however.)

As of October 2016, the NYPD was planning ot migrate to Windows Phones running Windows 10 Mobile. But the New York Post is reporting that the NYPD, instead, is likely to move to iPhones by the end of this calendar year.

Microsoft has been working to get out of the phone business for the past couple of years. The company is not currently manufacturing any new Windows Phones. And Windows Phones that are still being used won’t get the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update coming out later this year. Instead, some subset of existing models will only get something internally known as “Feature 2,” which is believed to be a dead-end branch of Windows 10 Mobile.

So if NYPD does not share Microsoft’s mobile productivity as well as the other features, is there any point in keeping the Windows Phone alive and compete against Android and iPhone ?

At the moment the Windows Phone user base sold since 2016 is less than .5 percent while 99.6 percent are purchasing Android and iPhones.  Maybe the writing is on the wall that this is a dead product and time to put it to rest.

Half of Windows 7 machines do not run AV software

AV

It has been disclosed by Microsoft that Windows older desktop operating systems remains more vulnerable to malware as of today.  The majority of users are still running older versions of Windows, without necessarily using up to date security software which is Anti-Virus packages.

In its latest Security Intelligence Report, the company revealed that among all Windows 7 and Windows Vista PCs reporting statuses other than “Protected” to Microsoft, more than half of them have no type of protected software installed at all, which is pretty massive.

Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft decided to turn on Windows Defender by default when no other anti-malware software is present. The majority of unprotected Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 PCs have their anti-malware software turned off. “This is not always deliberate: a number of prevalent malware families are capable of disabling some security products, potentially without the user even knowing,” explained Microsoft. The situation is not that much better with unprotected Windows 10 PCs: A big chunk of those machines are running with out-of-date signatures, and a significant part of the user base is also lacking full protection due to real-time monitoring being “snoozed.”

Anti-Virus packages not installed mostly in Russia

In this other image, you can see which are the countries and regions with the highest percentage of computers reporting as protected by real-time security software in March 2017: these include Finland (92.%), Portugal (90.3%) and Denmark (90.2%).

AV

 

If your PC is connected to the Internet, it’s worth reminding that it’s always recommended to install Windows security updates and make sure that your antivirus software is up to date. We invite you to check the full report for more insights about the latest security threats.

Baron Software does recommend to use Symantec Anti-Virus as well as MalwareBytes to at least reduce the amount of possible attacks.  Finally you must be very careful when reading emails and not to open up attachments from users you do not recognize.

 TechRewardsMicrosoft Killing TechRewards Learning Program

Microsoft will be ending its TechRewards learning program for developers and IT pros.  In the business world this is just reducing overhead or fat from the budget.  There are similar programs offered by Microsoft to all developers and IT staff.

Developers the Visual Studio Dev Essentials is a better path since it does provide countless software tools and webinars on how to use a particular Microsoft tool.

The Visual Studio Dev Essentials is a free program for anyone who wishes to join.  The TechRewards program was small and is easily replace by the other programs offered by Microsoft.

The TechRewards program formally will end on Jan. 6, 2017 and for the most part it is essentially defunct at the moment.  As of Oct. 6, 2016, it’s no longer possible to earn points under the program. Participants with accumulated points will be able to redeem them until the end date of the TechRewards program.

Microsoft has published a TechRewards Closure FAQ, which describes all of those details.

What and who are the loses the benefits ?

The TechRewards program rewarded participants with “badges” and experience points for completing certain learning tasks. The experience points bumped up the participant’s status on leader boards.  They also could be redeemed for gift certificates or even sessions with Microsoft experts.

As Microsoft described “Microsoft TechRewards aimed to help Developers and IT Professionals learn, experiment, and build projects with Microsoft technologies. We believe other Microsoft Programs more closely associated with products and services can best support users in their technical journey.”

Microsoft has always provided a huge warehouse of webinars, videos, documents and software that allow your company to make a decision on a feature they may wish to implement in the future.   Hopefully software developers and IT staff will be able to migrate over to the other solutions.

The death of Microsoft Visual Basic 6 has been tremendously exaggerated as the saying goes.  VB6 is still used as of today by developers that find it easy to use and can develop a quick 32 bit Windows application.  The issues that pertain to VB6 are components that are no longer supported since either the vendors have gone out of business or no longer support VB6.

Visual Basic 6.0 (enterprise or professional) was released in 1998 and support was dropped in 2005.  Since then Microsoft has pushed the Visual Basic.NET version that works with various Windows platforms but is extremely different then what the older VB6 Developer was use to.

There is a Visual Basic 6 petition available by clicking here.
The web site does have issues and doesn’t always work but if you could get your name on it, it would represent another developer whom wishes to let Microsoft know they made a mistake by not extending the life cycle of VB6.

There are still millions of applications designed and developed using VB6 and the migration with VB.NET was not always clean leading to many folks getting upset that the port over to the latest version just had way too many issues to fix instead of just maintaining the VB6 application.

Some of the gotchas working with a language that is over 10 years old that no longer has support is the older components or Crystal Reports 9 which was pretty much the last version that worked cleanly with VB6. Remember Sheridan ActiveX components well the company is gone but the components can still be purchased from Infragistics. Does that mean you should update your components, no it only means that they are available unless you are still selling products designed with VB6 then it may be a good idea to update for enhancements or bug fixes.

With Visual Basic 14 or Visual Studio 2015 coming out in the next few months I am sure people will upgrade their versions. Visual Basic 6 is still loaded on a Lenovo Windows XP notebook that allows maintenance on viable products developed with it.