Build Conference 2015 and Significance of Windows 10

I really wanted to make this post in time for the Build 2015 Conference that opens tomorrow in San Francisco. Windows 10 will be in the spotlight. Why is Windows 10 important? It is not about the new UI features and the return of the start menu for me. It is all about security improvements. I’ve helped numerous friends and family members over the years to deal with various types of malware. It made me learn several fascinating subjects in the area of cyber security. Windows 10 seem to be closing many of the security vulnerabilities and some of the well-known attack vectors. One of my FB friends got her PC user files fully encrypted by a malware couple of weeks ago. Someone on FB went as far as to suggest using Linux. I wanted to see for myself what was done in the latest Windows builds to mitigate the attacks. I spent a couple of weeks hammering on what I could find (it included the latest Windows 10 and 8.1 builds) using some well-known hacking tools. I would strongly recommend to anyone on older versions of Windows to upgrade if you care about security. For example, in-memory credentials theft using tools like mimikatz by total genius Benjamin Delpy is no longer possible unless you are explicitly enabling legacy providers on your PC. Windows 7 and even Windows 2012 Server (non-R2) still has in memory credentials vulnerability. The one vector that still worked on Windows 10 was PTH. I explored this scenario in depth. The scary part was that in one of the scenarios that I tried I re-set the test account password that I used in the session that I took over, but the token from a week old session still worked and allowed me to access resources available to that account. This last attack requires administrator privilege though. If someone gets privilege elevation and admin access it is pretty much over for the local machine anyway. I’m sure there will be PTH defenses for the networked environments and will make another post when I will get more research done on this subject. PTH threat is still out there, but at least Windows 10 and latest builds of 8.1 make your credentials much safer. At least if you will run Windows 10 you will be sending script kitties to look elsewhere to practice their hacking skills.

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XLStyles Tool store app works great on latest Windows 10 build 9926

I installed Windows 10 Technical Preview today and went through all XLStyles Tool usage paths. All issues that came up in the previous build have been fixed (e.g., file picker started working as expected, cancelling file open action no longer pops an error message, etc…). I haven’t found a reason to re-compile the most recent build of the app yet. Windows 10 feels very clean, fast and responsive.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 190,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 8 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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XLStyles Tool for Win8.1 (release 4) submitted to the app store

Why and what is in this release? A user from Norway mentioned that he can’t see XLStyles Tool in the app store. This was weird because all apps are always published for all markets. App store tech support took about 10 days to get back to me. The issue was on their end and required re-publishing of the app package. It is in the certification process now. I will update this post on the results. If you are in a recently added to the MS App Store market and didn’t see the app, this release should take care of it. I really appreciate the user bringing the issue to my attention. If I hear about a problem I can fix it. Considering I’ve been to Norway only once in 2005 (beautiful place, but a glass of beer is about $12) and not for the purpose of downloading my own app chances of me ever learning about this situation on my own were very slim.

UPDATE [11/28/14]: App update passed certification today. I had hard time getting the update to show up on my machine. Here are the manual steps to get the updates right away. Win8.1 version should be available in all markets now. Please let me know if there are any issues. I already spent 2+ hours with support reps to resolve reported issues and I will gladly continue to work with them more if necessary. Grand irony: there was no need for code changes. I put some small layout tweaks in just because I had to go through the updates. I’m not sure I like this new centrally controlled app world because it is not productive use of my or anyone else’s time for that matter. Central planning and excessive control led to the eventual demise of the USSR.

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XLStyles Tool on Windows 10 Technical Preview

Happy to report that Windows App Store version of the XLStyles Tool app successfully tested on the latest version of Windows 10 technical preview. The builds before 9840 had an issue in full screen mode: file picker would remain hidden (new “windowed” mode worked just fine). Latest update has a fix for that. The issue wasn’t XLStyles Tool specific. File picker was hidden for all modern apps (e.g., Adobe Reader) when launched in full screen mode which I personally prefer for modern apps.

UPDATE [11/25/14]: Windows 10 build 9879 has new file picker dialog for modern apps that run windowed desktop mode. This change breaks all modern apps that use file picker when the user clicks cancel (i.e., user decided not to pick a file). If it doesn’t get fixed by RTM I may have to publish an update. Please report any other issues if you are using Windows 10 Technical Preview.

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Creating Rolling Periods Dimension in PowerPivot or Tabular models

If you created trend reports in Power View and then created some more and then when the next month came you cursed at yourself for being so prolific, then you will really benefit from the latest article I co-authored with Derek Daniels: Benefits of Dynamic Rolling Twelve Month Dimension in Tabular Models. The article talks about how you can have fully automatic update of the rolling periods (i.e., no manual update steps). Derek is the primary author of this really cool time saving concept.

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Windows XP is no Longer Supported

As of today Windows XP won’t be getting any updates or security patches. If you didn’t upgrade because you didn’t want to move your files here is free Windows XP data migration tool.

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