Right then, let’s begin with my take on the new Widows Defender Beta 2 product. Available in 32-bit (Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP1) and 64-bit (Windows XP, Windows Server 2003) versions for validated serial numbers only. The the software checks if your serial number is authetic and will declines to install if the serial number is invalid. If you purchased your computer with Windows XP/2003 installed use Windows Genuine Advantage to check if your serial is indeed valid. If not, don’t be in a hurry to uninstall Windows AntiSpyware.
That said, the new Defender Beta 2 is a considerable revamp on its predecessor. Now instead of using a System Tray icon, Defender Beta 2 runs as a service in keeping with Microsoft’s new UI mantra that security products should be less annoying than the very spyware they target. Even the annoying (and frequent) pop-ups are gone. The odd one still appears if Defender feels the user needs to take action. But that’s it.
There’s a separate, available on demand (run-to-use) front end whose UI (user interface) is much like Windows Vista and integrates into the selected Theme (windows XP/2003 only). However despite this sleek UI, the default screen could be better optimized.
At top are very stylized back and forward navigation buttons, followed by Home, Scan, History, Tools and Help. Scan and Help also offer additional menu option accessed via drop-down menu links. But the default view used for the Quick Scan and Scan-On-Demand where the action is concentrated in the upper half of the window. You still get an entire screen overlaying any open/focused application. The only time you need the full window is when accessing Options, or viewing running processes.
Part of the reason for the rebuild was the coding platform used by AntiSpyware. This was developed with Visual Basic and was limited to 32-bit Windows. Another AntiSpyware shortcoming was its was an application and would only execute when run. The new Defender is built in Visual C++ and is wholly integrated into Windows. As a service it start automatically with Windows, running in the background while constantly monitoring and defending Windows. Eventually, by the time Windows Vista is released, both Defender and Microsoft’s separate OneCare antivirus product, along with the planned PC Health subscription-based service and possibly the already available Windows Firewall will be managed from a single interface.
When setup, Defender asked if I wanted to continue with the default settings for SpyNet participation or choose other options. After competing the install, the software very politely prompted to check for antispyware signature updates. Subsequent updates are not controlled from Defender. Instead they are part of Windows Automatic Update process. A move that I’m sure places less connection stress on Microsoft’s servers.
The Scan button starts a Quick Scan. But you can also begin more detailed scanning via the drop-down menu option. You may also choose Custom Scan of selected drives and folders. History displays a complete list of Defender activities including action taken. The Tools button open a new settings and tools screen for General Settings (configuration), SpyNet, Quarantined Items Blocked from running), Allowed Items (where you have accorded explicit run permission), Software Explorer and a link to the Defender Web site. Overall there’s less screen clutter and its harder to get lost while tweaking your configuration.
The Software Explorer is the real Defender control center. As it displays a list not just of running processes. But also offers a drill-down view of individual programs running within a executable container. Typically the Task Manager view displays multiple instances of svchost.exe. Defender’s System Explorer describes what each of these threads is doing.
The Defender core has been improved with a new heuristics-based detector. The scan process also supports archive file formats. And integrates with Internet Explorer 6 and 7 on Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 with SP1 to scan files being downloaded or block access to infected content. Of course, as always Windows allows user override of such security controls.
From my Geek perspective it took me a little while to understand that I didn’t need Defender to be visible in the System Tray! But other less-nerdy users found it a boon as they weren’t distracted by yet another Tray icon. I downloaded and used the default English version, but web scuttle butt has it that eventually the product will be available in all Windows language versions.
Other new software this week includes another Opera 9 Beta Build 8246 version. However if you visit lots of Flash sites, avoid this build that crashes with Flash. However, you can also disabled Flash if you want to take advantage of other improvements like an improved BitTorrent disk cache, DCC file transfers displayed as link in a private chat window, support for onmousewheel events, fixed canvas gradients and blur, ability to download files larger than 4GB as well as several SVG (scalable vector graphics) tweaks.
Also new in another uTorrent 1.4.2 Beta Build 432 that adds a few more usability tweaks and bug fixes. And adds an Easter Egg (if you are into that form of fun). Overall my two favorite BitTorrent download clients are uTorrent and the included Opera BitTorrent client.
And finally the UI for planned Firefox 2.0 release may look a lot different to what you’ve grown to use. There’s a detailed thread on Changes to Fx2 Chrome at Mozilla.dev.apps.firefox. Of course, this is the default view. You can change the browser appearance by applying a Theme. Then customizing this further with your own sub-layout. My suggestion for a new Firefox 2.0 layout would be to mimic the way Opera reuses its icons. The stop and refresh icons are one and change display state.
That’s it for the week. More next time.