Security Advisor

Test Drive Microsoft's Fix It Center Pro

Plus: Password changes for Windows 8, mobile data transparency.

Microsoft has gone beta crazy. Today saw test versions of Windows 8, Windows Server 8, Visual Studio 11, .Net Framework 4.6 and VS 11 Team Foundation Server arrive to all that like to poke around with shiny, new and undercooked software.

But what about those security-minded people that like to poke around with shiny, new and undercooked services? Microsoft also has you covered with Tuesday's release of Fix it Center Pro.

Microsoft is aiming this service to be the one-stop-shop for all your diagnosis and troubleshooting needs. Give it access to your borked machine for about an hour and it will pinpoint where your error is coming from, whether that's security-, hardware- or configuration-related.

And, out of the goodness of its heart, Microsoft will even charge you to fix it! Thanks!

While most PC pros (or anyone who can utilize an Internet search bar) will skip out on paying Microsoft to fix your PC, usually knowing what's causing the problem is the hardest step in fixing it. And it looks like this will be absolutely free.

For those who want to give the service a spin, get your Windows Live ID ready and head over here. Also, if you're in a sharing mood, let the readers and me know what you think by sending your thoughts to cpaoli@1105media.com.

Doodle Your Password to Proceed
Microsoft MVP and Redmondmag.com columnist Brien Posey took some time to educate on what to expect in Windows 8 with regards to passwords. He's quick to point out that while almost every aspect of Windows has changed over the years, we're still inputting our on-screen passwords with numerical combinations. How primitive!

Well, it's time to change that, and Microsoft is toying with two options for its next version of Windows.

The first is a possible facial recognition scanner that would make any futurist giddy (unless it could be easily tricked by holding up a photograph of the PC's user in front of the camera).

The second sounds a bit more interesting. Windows would have you draw a pre-defined pattern on a photo to unlock your computer. Brien explains it best: "For example, in a Microsoft demo video someone used a picture of their family as the basis for a picture password. They circled their father's head, drew a line from one sister's nose to another sister's nose, and then tapped their mother's nose. These gestures were used as a password."

Sound's pretty neat. Check out the rest of Brien Posey's column here.

What do you think? Would you discard your old-timey passwords for one of these? Let me know at cpaoli@1105media.com.

Know Where Your Mobile Data Is Going
Last week Google, Microsoft, Amazon, HP, Apple and RIM all agreed to bring some transparency of what info is being siphoned from you when using mobile apps.

The idea is that consumers would act as watch dogs, and report any app developer who is collecting user data without being upfront about it. Apparently only five percent of mobile apps currently follow this practice.

The rest could be accessing your personal info and selling it to the highest bidder as soon as an app is loaded up.

While I agree that developers should be up front with customers, this accord doesn't go far enough. There's no opt-out option if you are unhappy at what the application is taking (besides just not installing the app in question).

This also doesn't define clear guidelines on what developers should and shouldn't take. It just says that it has to tell you when it's taking your precious info.

Just like a chatty bank robber.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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