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back to article Disable Gadgets NOW says Redmond

Microsoft has advised Vista and Windows 7 users to put Gadgets and the Windows Sidebar to the sword, following the revelation of yet-to-be-detailed remote code execution vulnerabilities in the features. Redmond issued this advisory ahead of an upcoming Black Hat presentation by Mickey Shkatov and Toby Kohlenberg. The two have …

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Anonymous Coward

Gadgets were always horrid and tacky. Did anyone really use them?

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I do

I have a clock, a CPU meter, my daily Dilbert cartoon, the current moon phase, and where the sun is currently shining on the earth.

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I actually prefered them in vista to win 7

To me the vista sidebar made some sense, a place to dock small accessory programs with the maximise behaviour of other programs tweaked to ensure that both your main program and gadgets stay un-obscured and usable.

Getting rid of the sidebar in win 7 made gadget behaviour not really any different to things like the clock which was provided in windows 3.0.

(I realise its unusual to say nice things about vista, but don't worry I can't think of any others).

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I did - I like the little weather applet and the mini system monitor.

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Anonymous Coward

Of course!

That's the best way to install Xeyes and thus pretend I'm using (Linu)X!

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Anonymous Coward

I don't

but guess I don't need to have a clock, what with having on in the bottom right hand corner (as well as on my desk phone, and my mobile phones), no need for a cpu one, (using up the cpu) I know when my machines running slow; for weather, I look out the window .

As for side bar, always found rocketdock to be more stable and more useful.

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Pint

I don't now..

But when I used Vista at work I had the whole sidebar filled with Sticky Notes. The only actually useful gadget. The rest are just silly. Who cares how much CPU time or RAM I'm using?

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Facepalm

Re: I don't now..

@ Piro - exactly, back when an extra 5MHz on your processor was a decent wedge of an increase, or eeking out an extra 20MB of memory was the difference between something running and not, I might have cared. Nowadays we have such a glut of compute power, so who really cares, other than when something is going wrong?!

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National Rail Enquiries - saves me dashing for a train that's actually running late/cancelled.

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Happy

Re: I actually prefered them in vista to win 7

You aren't alone in finding nothing really wrong with Vista (assuming SP2) but the gadget bar did cause probs. I like to bung my recycle bin @ bottom right of the screen in Win7. Can't do that in Vista. Actually you can kind of position it there (at least, I've managed it) but then you can't right-click to empty! Awesome foolishness or what.

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Re: Of course!

"That's the best way to install Xeyes and thus pretend I'm using (Linu)X!"

Xeyes is included in Cygwin/X

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Devil

Once upon a time...

The Magic 8 Ball widget was useful for techsupport/lunch questions - the analog Magic 8 Ball took up valuable desk space.....

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@AC

The gadgets are even quite well programmed.

I keep a weather & picture gadget on my desktop, even though I don't use a wide screen monitor. I'm especially impressed with the picture gadget because it doesn't only use what's on my PC; it can access my network storages as well.

As such it /truly/ shows me snapshots of /all/ my favourite pictures.

I'm not going to give up on this. And just learning that this will be stripped from Win8 as well (the previews still had this) is yet /another/ reason for me to completely ignore it.

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Re: I do

I didn't like the clock, but I found the calendar useful.

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GPU gadget really useful

When my PC started to misbehave playing a game then suddenly the screen going blank and 3 little beeps on restart. Googling suggested GPU overheat. Install nice little gadget. Start game play, then switch out to desktop and there is temperature of GPU climbing far too high. Quick clean on fans on graphics card and retry and GPU temperature stays OK whatever I stress it with.

Maybe there are other tools but this was nice a small and just sat there doing what I needed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I do

I have 5 clocks. Any other thick people out there, who have to cope with talking to people over multiple timezones with a better solution than my 5 desktop clocks?

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Joke

Re: I do

Why would you need to know where the sun is? If you're in IT, people are trying to blow sunshine up your skirt all the time...

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Joke

Re: I do

Yeah. Make everyone in those other offices use GMT when they're designating conference-call dates and times.

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Linux

Re: I don't now.. (@ Timmay)

"Nowadays we have such a glut of compute power, so who really cares, other than when something is going wrong?!"

Sorry to disagree. There are a good many programs that have serious trouble handling shortages of CPU or RAM, causing either BSODs or program failures. Nevertheless, you point of view seems to have been prevalent among developers, who seldom bother to optimize their code*. The result is that doing lots of common tasks-e.g. word processing, compiling executables, searching for files- with your flashy new computer takes just as long as it did twenty years ago.

*:I know it's just economy. Optimizing code costs time and money, and companies using too much of those in optimizing their code will probably make less money and be less competitive, and probably disappear. This sounds as a good argument for OSS.

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Joke

Re: I do

"who have to cope with talking to people over multiple timezones with a better solution than my 5 desktop clocks?"

Yeah! Compile a list of the time differences in all those locations relative to your base. Something like this:

" Geneva +2, Madrid +1, Tuvalu -17,..."

Then you can put it in a post-it note in your gadgets and... Oh wait!

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FAIL

but

Even if nobody did use them they had to have them because Mac OS X had them. Vista is simply Microsoft copying Mac OS X poorly. Lucky the came to their senses and realized with 90%+ of the market they do best copying themselves but doing it better.

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Re: I do

On Windows 7 if you adjust the date/time from the taskbar you can add two zones using the Additional Clocks tab. The additional times appear when you hover over the clock.

Other than that you can use ZoneTick to show pretty much what you want on the taskbar.

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yea i have gadgets for twitter, weather, cpu load/temp/ram uasage, network info, gpu load/temp/etc.

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Pint

Been there, done that (long time ago)

As in, started doing that with all new Vista boxes back in the day.

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Re: Been there, done that (long time ago)

Yep - Item 2 on the clean build action list "Switch off all the unneccessary crap". Gadgets and sidebar disabled, never to return.

Item 1: install AV

Item 3: Run windows update & reboot. Repeat for items 4,5,6,7,8,9...

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Stop

Re: Been there, done that (long time ago)

..General:Enable accelerator underlining, minimum keyboard repeat delay, increase speed of key repeat. Turn off bitmap on work machines to free up RAM. Turn off fancy graphical desktop effects on virtual machines. Turn off Clear Type. Disable powersaving/screen savers on Virtual Machines.

..Explorer:One click opening, display full path in title, one thread per window, don't hide extensions of known file types.

..Servers:Nuke IESec. Disable shtudown prompts.

..Domain controllers:Nuke password requirements (I only ever set up test domains so security is not a problem).

I swear that with every new version of Windows there's more and more shit that has to be disabled or tweaked every time I create a new machine. Due to testing requirements that happens quite a lot :(

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WTF?

My spin goes up to 11

The MS "Gadget Gallery" page goes beyond coyly suggesting that gadgets from "untrusted sources" are problematic. They've vaped all of the official ones too - but it's ok, it's because...

Because we want to focus on the exciting possibilities of the newest version of Windows, the Windows website no longer hosts the gadget gallery.

You can now use your HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript skills to build Metro style apps for Windows 8 Release Preview. To get started developing Metro style apps, go to Windows Dev Center.

So either they're blythely lying about the threat perimeter or they're so desperate for Win8 migration that they've killed a (admittedly crappy, but that doesn't distinguish it much from Metro) feature of the current commercial release.

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Re: My spin goes up to 11

I too am suspicious that they're just trying to kill off gadgets.

Its a shame really, I think they missed an oportunity. When I first heard Windows 8 was going to have closer ties to Windows Phone I hoped for something rather different than what we've got: I thought they might have implemented a way to run a phone application as a gadget on a desktop/laptop (possibly with recompilation).

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Windows

Re: My spin goes up to 11

Gadgets are the new Active Desktop. I love Microsoft technology that's here just for one or two releases then suddenly disappears. It really makes users feel like they're using a stable platform and developers willing to invest in it.

(Is there a sarcasm icon somewhere?)

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Re: My spin goes up to 11

They had that notice up about a month ago at least. It's almost certainly not a response to this, therefore. I think they're just getting people to do things under Metro instead.

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@Mongo

Would make perfect sense...

Scare the public out of using Gadgets from 3rd parties (the only way you can get these now) and then get them all onto the metro bandwagon (where "gadgeteers" can only distribute their gadgets when coughing up some big bucks to MS to be included with their metro marketplace).

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Re: My spin goes up to 11

"So either they're blythely lying about the threat perimeter or they're so desperate for Win8 migration that they've killed a (admittedly crappy, but that doesn't distinguish it much from Metro) feature of the current commercial release."

I think you have nailed it there. Chances are that, if there really is a "security flaw" in gadgets, they don't want to spend the time needed to correct the problem and, even if there isn't a flaw, they are all too keen to push us all onto the blatant crap that is Metro.

In other words, and as I've mentioned before, Microsoft are done with giving us choices and just want to net-nanny us, all for "the greater good."

...the greater good, the greater good, the greater good, the greater good, the greater good, etc...

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Re: Metro style apps for Windows 8

Amounts to rev 3 of the Micro$oft Gallery of Shit programming.

Anyone care to identify rev 1 and 2???

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FAIL

New fangled Microsoft strategy...

"Remove our software, it's so buggy we don't know how to fix it."

I don't think they ran this idea by the PR department...

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Joke

Re: New fangled Microsoft strategy...

Surely 'Upgrade to Windows8 - the most secure Windows yet!' would be the line :o)

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Re: New fangled Microsoft strategy...

If they know a threat is already out there or will be out there before they can test a fix to the insanely high levels of QA such things need, this is the sensible thing to tell people.

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Re: New fangled Microsoft strategy...

"Remove our software, it's so buggy we don't know how to fix it."

You know, I followed that strategy a few years ago when I scraped WindBlowZE eXtremely Pathetic from the hard drive of a H^HDell Optiplex.

In its place went Ubuntu, and I never looked back.

Recently, I picked up an Acer with WindblowZE 7 on it; physically removed that hard drive, and placed in in a biohazard bag. I went out an got a 2 TB drive, and Ubuntu 12.04, along with a test install of 12.10 have so much room to play!! It is so hard to believe that Ubuntu only needs less than 6 GB of hard drive space for an install. Yet, the (Acer) OEM reinstall discs amount to 3 DVD's. Talk about bloatware!!!

I wish more people would succumb to this strategy and ditch WindblowZE, the world would be a better and safer place if they did.

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Holmes

So basically...

...install a program from an untrusted source (which in this case just happens to be a gadget) and it will have access to resources on your computer, with your access rights.

This is new how?

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Anonymous Coward

Microsoft are desperate to start shutting stuff down in Win7 nudging people towards 8

Who remembers the removing of the address toolbar in XP because of 'licencing' or some crap

(It re-appeared in Win7)

transparent is transparent

Agree with ScottK also

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Facepalm

The Address Bar disappeared in XP SP3 'cos some arsehat of a Eurocrat couldn't tell the difference between a browser address bar and a seperate .dll that invokes the default browser (whatever that may be) when a web address is entered. Thus it fell foul of the integration shenanigans and took a holiday while the Redmond legal eagles translated a detailed technical proof of "it isn't part of the browser at all" into fuckwit-friendly language for them.

Reinstating the browseui.dll from SP2 puts it back with no ill effects.

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Pirate

Egg Meet Face

Jesus. This is just a bit much. I spend months selling a company on 750+ seats and for better or worse the Gadgets pretty much sealed the deal. Now they've got to disable them to be secure??? Gah! I'm seriously considering not even telling my clients.

Damn it. Gadgets are such a benign thing. Why in God's name would those ass/blackhats attack that? My Grams likes her Gadgets & now I'm supposed to tell her she can't have them unless she upgrades.

Feckin hackers think they are cute. Where I'm from we just belt people like that square in the gob & let them think about their actions while they look for their missing tooth. If I thought I could find them I'd charter a flight to Russia & curb stomp them all, one at a time. Shitbricks.

End of rant. Thanks for reading.

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Anonymous Coward

@Don Jefe

"Where I'm from we just belt people like that square in the gob & let them think about their actions while they look for their missing tooth."

Liverpool? Great rant by the way!

"If I thought I could find them I'd charter a flight to Russia & curb stomp them all, one at a time."

Trouble is that quite a lot of the criminal hacker gangs are based there anyway, judging by the many articles here on El Reg that suggest that to be the case. Sending more over there would only make it worse. Perhaps we should cut all the wires heading that way!?!

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Re: Egg Meet Face

Everyone on the internet is a tough guy ( with a big dick) but let's face it, if they came to your mother's basement to have a word with you then you'd probably wet yourself.

The world doesn't revolve around your gram but there is an easy solution. Get OS X or linux. Bothare far more secure and not nearly as soul destroying as windows.

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Mushroom

I wouldnt wet myself, I'm not into that

I'd rather have a fight (and a penis measurement session) in a basement than use OSX.

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Happy

Re: Egg Meet Face

@ Mr J,

Fear not. I think MS are saying that whilst the Gadget platform yeilds a juicy attack vector for asshats, it's gadgets from 'unknown' sources that 'could' compromise your system. I for one (awesome cliche) will remove my default MS-branded clock and weather jobbies when they pry them from my cold, dead hands...

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JDX
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Re: Egg Meet Face

I'd use W7 over OSX any day - I DO run both. I never ran a graphical version of Linux to compare.

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Meh

Re: Egg Meet Face

My mother passed on 14 years ago & she never had a basement. Fucko. How old are you? Maybe 22?

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FAIL

Re: Egg Meet Face

Methinks your rage is misdirected. One would think that the "world's largest software company" would be more competent. I suppose history, however, would prove sufficient to allay such suspicions.

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Now I'm confused

I thought metro was the new sidebar.

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Happy

Re: I thought metro was the new sidebar.

You sir are a comedy genius

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