Windows Client UPDATE--The Windows Media Player 10 Beta--Worth a Look?--July 8, 2004

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1. Commentary: The Windows Media Player 10 Beta--Worth a Look?

2. Reader Challenge
- June 2004 Reader Challenge Winners
- July 2004 Reader Challenge

3. News & Views
- Browser Wars II? Alternative Browser Downloads Surge in Wake of IE Exploits

4. Resources
- Tip: Give Windows Messenger the Boot
- Featured Thread: Slow XP Home Performance on a Notebook 5. New and Improved - Altiris, Fujitsu Partner to Offer Client Management Products - Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary: The Windows Media Player 10 Beta--Worth a Look? ====
by David Chernicoff, [email protected]

As usual, when Microsoft releases new beta software, I start receiving email from readers about using it. Before we delve into this software release, let me reiterate my usual caveat about beta software:

Don't install beta software on production computers or on any system that you're not ready and willing to completely restore to the point where you installed the beta software.

This time around, the software is Windows Media Player (WMP) 10, and it's available as a technical beta from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/mp10/default.aspx. By technical beta, Microsoft means that it's an unsupported software release that the company wants to get feedback about. The software has known problems that Microsoft will resolve in a future release, but Microsoft provides no guarantee that you'll be able to simply upgrade this release to the final release version. To obtain support and provide feedback, use Microsoft's online support and feedback forum for the beta at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/mp10/communityandsupport.aspx.

There aren't a lot of compelling reasons to rush right out and try out the WMP 10 beta, although it does contain many new features that are worth examining. WMP 10 provides a framework for some interesting content-purchasing applications--designed, one would think, to compete with the iTunes services. Synchronization with media devices is now integrated into WMP 10, but because few people are likely to be using multiple different devices, this integration doesn't seem to be much of an improvement over devices that worked with WMP 9. I currently use a Dell Digital Jukebox (DJ) 20, and when I tried out the WMP 10 beta I saw no real improvement in the way the DJ 20 handles files, although the DJ 20 is featured prominently in the WMP 10 promotional material. As with earlier versions of WMP, users who want to view DVDs or rip MP3 files will need add-on products to support such capabilities in WMP 10.

In my case, I've been looking for improved performance in scanning for music and manipulating large collections (more than 20,000 tracks) of media files. The WMP 10 beta seems to offer few improvements in these areas, although I don't expect such improvements to be in the product until WMP 10 is released (functionality first, then performance).

My impression of WMP 10 is that Microsoft wants it to be the central console for your digital media experience: recorded music, TV shows recorded by Windows Media Center Edition 2004, DVD playback, pictures from your digital camera--all to be found and managed from the WMP 10 console. Although the playback experience isn't bad, I still find managing a large amount of content through the WMP interface to be a less-than-ideal experience; it still takes a long time to load the library, for example, even with a gigabyte of RAM. For someone who doesn't have thousands of files of every type supported by WMP, it might not be a bad tool. However, given the amount of digital content even the average user is starting to acquire, it will be quite a while before any single tool can adequately serve the needs of most users.

Identifying URLs Revisited

On a different topic, I received plenty of reader feedback on my column "Commentary: On the Net, Awareness = Safety" (http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=43067), about tricks for safely browsing the Web. Many readers wrote back with the following tip: Save the URL for any Web page and give it a name, such as "Check Web Address." On the Favorites menu, right-click the URL name and select Properties. Then take the following snip of JavaScript:

javascript:alert("Actual URL address: " + location.protocol +
"//" + location.hostname + "/");

and insert it as the actual URL. By clicking the saved favorite, you can check the actual URL of any page you're currently on. Thanks to the half-dozen readers who made this suggestion.

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==== 2. Reader Challenge ====
by Kathy Ivens, [email protected]

June 2004 Reader Challenge Winners
Congratulations to Brad Johnson of Mountain View, California, whose correct answer wins first prize in our June 2004 Reader Challenge. Second prize goes to Byron Lochridge of McKinney, Texas. Both winning entries receive a copy of "Windows Server Undocumented Solutions: Beyond the Knowledge Base," by Serdar Yegulalp (McGraw-Hill Publishing). Visit http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=42943 to read the answer to the June Reader Challenge.

July 2004 Reader Challenge

Solve this month's Windows Client challenge, and you might win a prize! Email your solution (don't use an attachment) to [email protected] by July 22, 2004. You must include your full name and street mailing address (without that information, we can't send you a prize if you win).

I choose winners at random from the pool of correct entries. Because I receive so many entries each month, I can't reply to respondents, and I never respond to a request for a receipt. Look for the solutions to this month's problem at http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=43190 on July 23, 2004.

The July 2004 Challenge:

Many of the responses I receive each month for this Challenge column request one of my home networking books as the prize (if the writer wins). Frequently, these requests mention overcoming the difficulties of running a domain at work and a peer-to-peer network at home. Apparently, many IT pros who work in large companies maintain peer-to-peer home networks, and quite a few IT pros are working in small or midsized businesses that run peer-to-peer networks--whereas most books and magazine articles assume a domain. So, I thought I'd try challenging you about your knowledge of peer-to-peer or home networking.

Question 1:
Your home network shares your Internet connection by using Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). Without a router, how does Windows assign IP addresses and resolve those addresses to computer names?

Question 2:
Every computer on your home network runs Windows XP. You have a router connected to a cable modem to share Internet access. You ran XP's Network Setup Wizard on each computer and indicated that you had an always-on connection. Every computer can access the Internet, but the computers can't access each other's shared resources. Each computer is configured for file and printer sharing, and each contains shared folders that are configured for sharing with the network. What's the most likely cause of the "access denied" problem?

Question 3:
On a Windows XP Home Edition computer that runs NTFS, you've created a folder that holds the novel you're writing, and you don't want anyone to see the folder's contents. You share the computer with other users (typical in a home network). You want to use the nifty XP feature "Make this folder private," which denies folder access to any users on the computer (except you, of course) or on the network. You right-click the folder, select Sharing and Security, and discover that the "Make this folder private" option is inaccessible. Why can't you make the folder private?

==== 3. News & Views ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Browser Wars II? Alternative Browser Downloads Surge in Wake of IE Exploits

The long-stagnant Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) might command about 95 percent of the Web browser market, but a recent spate of security vulnerabilities seems to be finally helping IE's competitors make some inroads into the market. Even the usually staid United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has taken the unusual step of advising users to switch to a different browser because of IE's many attacks. The result has been a bonanza for safer browser alternatives such as Mozilla and Opera.

The Mozilla Foundation reports that daily downloads of its Mozilla browser suite and Firefox Web browser have doubled since US-CERT's recommendation; on the day of the US-CERT announcement, the foundation says that users downloaded the products more than 200,000 times. "More people seem to have reached their threshold level of frustration dealing with problems with IE and Windows and have found the Mozilla software a good solution to solving those problems," said Chris Hofmann, The Mozilla Foundation's director of engineering. "US-CERT's recommendation is just a reflection of the trend we have seen for quite some time."

Experts point to several obvious problems with IE. First, the browser is so widely used that it's a natural attack point. Second, IE is integrated directly into the Windows OS, a curious and ultimately damaging decision that made a previously secure Windows NT-based system vulnerable to new types of attacks. Third, IE technologies such as ActiveX have proven to be highly insecure, and many IE attacks exploit ActiveX-related vulnerabilities. Microsoft will address the latter concern in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), but the company has no plans to provide this functionality in other Windows versions or to completely decouple the browser from its OSs.

The Mozilla Foundation and Opera Software say that they have solutions for the first problem. If the current download rates continue, the browser alternatives might soon be nibbling away at IE's massive market share. If that happens, Web designers will have to take those browsers into account more often when they design Web sites. And because Mozilla and Opera adhere more closely to Web standards than IE does, that situation could eventually lead to dramatic changes on the Web in general. Perhaps future IE versions would also be more standards-compliant as a result, which would make the process of developing Web sites much easier because developers could simply target one standard. Today, IE's market share causes Web developers to target IE's nonstandard technical idiosyncrasies first.

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==== 4. Resources ====

Tip: Give Windows Messenger the Boot
(contributed by David Chernicoff, [email protected])

One question I often get from readers is how to get rid of Windows Messenger, or at least turn off the auto-run function in the registry. Doing so is simple:

  1. Launch the registry editor.
  2. Open the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run subkey.
  3. In the right pane, delete the value MSMSGS.
  4. Close the editor.

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