Windows Presentation Foundation: what, why and where?!

Picture the scene. You’re happily surfing the net over the weekend and suddenly this baby pops up:

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Lots of things might be running through your head: What is it? Where did it come from? Why me?! Basically, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) is part of the Windows .NET framework. According to Microsoft, WPF combines “application UI, documents, and media content, while exploiting the full power of the computer”. In layman’s terms, it is a graphics plug-in.

Some people are in a huff because Windows didn’t ask for explicit permission to install the plug-in and instead sneaked it in as part of the NET Framework 3.5 SP1 update. Geeks have been on the case for a while, and claim that it is not the first time Windows has done something similar, having previously installed the Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant. It only came to the attention of most users, however, when Firefox plonked a giant warning on their screens. The plug-in has been automatically disabled, as Mozilla believes it creates a security problem that leaves Firefox open to a ‘remote code execution vulnerability’ – in other words, makes it susceptible to drive-by spyware picked up while browsing.

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For the moment, Mozilla has dealt with the problem, but many will be left wondering if Windows should go around installing things without our explicit permission. If you were reading a software review and the reviewer mentioned that the program sneakily installed things without asking, you’d be rightly suspicious. Should the rules be any different for Microsoft?

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