Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE—brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine, the leading publication for IT professionals deploying Windows and related technologies.
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June 4, 2002—In this issue:
- And the Winner of the 64-bit Wars Is ...
2. HOT OFF THE PRESS
- SEC Announces Microsoft Settlement
3. KEEPING UP WITH WIN2K AND NT
- Security Audit Records Might Be Lost
- Security Hotfix Closes Privilege Elevation Vulnerability
- Password Complexity Loophole
- Bogus Disk Defrag Error
- Get Valuable Info for Free with IT Consultant Newsletter
- Raising Windows 2000 Availability—Free Webinar
5. HOT RELEASES (ADVERTISEMENTS)
- "Graphical Task Scheduler"
- IMail Server(tm) by Ipswitch
6. INSTANT POLL
- Results of Previous Poll: Service Pack Frequency
- New Instant Poll: Desktop OS
- Featured Thread: User Policy
- Tip: Displaying Long Pathnames in Windows Explorer
8. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Windows 2000 and .NET Audio Seminar CD
- Envira 1.1 for Windows
- Submit Top Product Ideas
9. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected])
A battle is brewing for the hearts, minds, and wallets of the computer industry that features some familiar companies gearing up, once again, for war. But as we slowly move to 64-bit computing, the expected winner, Intel, has stumbled badly, with its Itanium family selling poorly and underwhelming potential customers. Meanwhile, perennial runner-up AMD has unleashed plans for a 64-bit successor to its Intel x86-compatible chips; the new chip provides all the benefits of a 64-bit code base without any of the compatibility issues the Itanium faces. Determining how the market might respond to an epic battle such as this would usually be difficult, but this time, subtle clues indicate that Intel is about to be handed defeat. And if I'm reading these clues correctly, this battle hinges largely on the opinion of one person—David Cutler.
Most UPDATE readers have probably never heard of Cutler, but he's had a profound effect on anyone who's used or administered a Windows NT-based product. Cutler is the original architect of NT. He's an ex-Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) veteran who had previously spearheaded the development of VMS but then left the company in late 1988 after DEC cancelled his next OS project, code-named Prism. Developers designed both VMS and NT to overcome the weaknesses of UNIX, which Cutler once described as a "junk OS designed by a committee of Ph.D.s." NT's original design—especially its hardware abstraction design paradigm, multiplatform portability, and kernel—was Cutler's baby, and although he's never sought (or welcomed) any press coverage during his tenure at Microsoft, Cutler is the man most responsible for making NT happen.
Coming from the mainframe world, Cutler's never been a fan of the PC. He considered the Intel x86 line of microprocessors and the OSs that relied on that chip family, to be something of a joke. So in the early days of NT development, circa 1988 to 1990, Cutler focused on a RISC-based chip from MIPS and demanded that his programmers write code that would work on any processor, rather than Intel x86-specific code, which might have been faster but would have been less portable. Cutler's disdain for the x86 continued through the 1990s, as Microsoft ported its NT code-base to other platforms, including DEC's Alpha and IBM's PowerPC.
Of course, NT's cross-platform capabilities didn't seem to matter much by the late 1990s as Microsoft canceled almost every non-x86 port. Cutler's beloved MIPS chip fell first, followed by the PowerPC, and, finally, the Alpha, which had been sold as part of DEC to Compaq. But during this time, Cutler transitioned to a different role at Microsoft, where he continued his work on cross-platform NT. When I asked about him at an NT 5.0 (Windows 2000) Beta 2 technical workshop in August 1998, I learned that he was working on 64-bit NT versions. I assumed at the time that this meant he was working on porting 64-bit NT to the Alpha, but a year later Microsoft killed that port. Naturally, one might gather that Cutler had actually been working on porting NT/Win2K to Intel's Itanium, which was just then starting to bloom. But now I'm not so sure. Cutler has never said anything publicly about Itanium. However, the press-shy Cutler provided a quote when AMD announced plans for its own 64-bit product, which will be called Opteron when the chip begins shipping later this year.
The quote appears in a May AMD press release. "At Microsoft, our vision for 64-bit computing is a highly scalable and affordable platform that is easy to deploy, easy to manage, and easy to develop applications for," said Dave Cutler, Sr. Distinguished Engineer, Microsoft's Windows Team, and one of the world's foremost software architects. "AMD's 8th-generation architecture gives customers great 32-bit performance and 64-bit capabilities on a single system. Together, AMD's 8th-generation processors and Windows should provide customers a flexible platform and a compelling value proposition."
Why is this quote surprising? Knowing Cutler's history, one would logically assume that he'd be more excited by Intel's Itanium, which eschews x86 compatibility for a new design that is supposedly technically superior to any previous chip designs. (Some x86 software still runs on the Itanium, using a Windows on Windows—WoW—like emulation layer.) The Opteron, meanwhile, retains x86 compatibility and adds 64-bit coding extensions that AMD dubs x86-64. From a technical standpoint, x86-64 is sort of a hack, especially when you consider that the x86 has humble technical roots and numerous limitations. But Cutler not only backed the Opteron, he did so publicly—an extremely rare occurrence.
Microsoft can support 64-bit operations in the company's existing 32-bit Windows products, which means Microsoft doesn't have to release a special Opteron-compatible Windows version, as Microsoft does for Itanium. As a result, the company can support Opteron more cheaply and efficiently.
Intel is so nervous about the Opteron that the company has launched its own secretive x86/64-bit hybrid design, code-named Yamhill, that the company will launch if its partners finally give up on Itanium, or the Opteron achieves significant market momentum. Frankly, Intel has a lot to worry about. With Itanium selling far below estimates—some analysts place total chip sales at several thousand units or less—and NT architect David Cutler backing a product that appears to be technologically inferior, Intel's future market position is in serious danger. Does AMD have what it takes to seize the top spot and topple one of the computer industry's most enduring and seemingly unbeatable powerhouses?
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2. HOT OFF THE PRESS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revealed Friday that it has agreed to settle its accounting-practices case against Microsoft. The agency had launched an investigation to determine whether Microsoft misled shareholders by understating earnings so that the company could pad future, less lucrative, reporting periods. Microsoft won't need to admit any wrongdoing or pay a fine, but the company must permanently cease using the controversial accounting practice called smoothing, revenue deferral, or cookie-jar accounting (depending on which legal expert you ask). For the complete story, visit the following URL:
3. KEEPING UP WITH WIN2K AND NT
(contributed by Paula Sharick, [email protected])
A recently discovered bug in the Event Log service has potentially serious consequences for sites that implement security auditing. According to Microsoft, the service incorrectly reports that the event log is full before you reach the maximum log-file size; the system simply stops writing new records when you enable the "Do not overwrite events" option, and the event log reaches a size of 200MB to 600MB (even when you define a log-file size greater than this range). If you also enable the option to shut down the system when the event log is full, this bug causes a system to shut down sooner than expected. Although missing events in the application log might not pose a serious problem, lost events in the security log mean you might not immediately learn about logon failures, account management changes, and other crucial security events.
You can install a new version of the Event Log service that automatically creates a backup of each event log when the log is full and the service can't overwrite existing records. You implement the automatic backup feature by manually adding registry values for each log file. When the service determines a log is full, the service copies the log contents to a backup file named for the type of log (e.g., system, security, application) plus the time and date and clears the primary file to allow posting of new events. You'll find directions for the registry keys and values you need to add in the Microsoft article "The Event Log Stops Logging Events Before Reaching the Maximum Log Size". Because of the potential consequences of lost security audit records, I recommend you call Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS) and ask for the new version of eventlog.dll with a file release date of May 2. Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 (SP3) won't include this patch.
WEB-EXCLUSIVE ARTICLES: The following items are posted on the Windows & .NET Magazine Web site. For the complete story, use the following link and scroll to the appropriate article.
A vulnerability in how the Windows debugger authenticates access on Windows 2000, Windows NT, and Windows NT Terminal Server Edition systems can let a user gain unrestricted access to any valid user account. For details and a fix, visit the following URL:
A loophole in the password complexity Group Policy shows up when you use the Add User Wizard to create a new user. The wizard will generate a password for the new user but doesn't enforce the complexity policy. For more information, visit the following URL:
When the Windows 2000 defrag utility can't move a cluster of data during a disk optimization procedure, the utility logs a bogus error in the System log. For details and a workaround, visit the following URL:
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6. INSTANT POLL
The voting has closed in Windows & .NET Magazine's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "Would you prefer that Microsoft release more frequent but smaller product service packs?" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 275 votes:
- 62% Yes, I prefer smaller, more frequent service packs
- 20% No, I prefer large, less frequent service packs
- 18% I think the company's current service pack release schedule is fine
The next Instant Poll question is, "Which OS do most of your organization's desktops run?" Go to the Windows & .NET Magazine home page and submit your vote for a) Windows Me or Win9x, b) Windows NT, c) Windows 2000, d) Windows XP, or e) Other.
Troy's organization uses Active Directory (AD) with Group Policy in a Windows 2000 environment. He wants to know how to have all users in a certain group use the same Start Menu, desktop icons, My Documents, and Outlook Express folder. Can you help? Join the discussion at the following URL:
(contributed by John Savill, http://www.windows2000faq.com)
Q. Why can't the Windows 2000 version of Windows Explorer display files or folders that have a path longer than 259 characters?
A. A bug in the Win2K version of Windows Explorer and the search feature prevent the OS from displaying files or folders in paths longer than 259 characters. This bug affects only searches you perform on your local system; it doesn't affect users who connect over a network. To work around this problem, you can take any of the following steps:
- From a command prompt session, use the 8.3 file-naming convention to access files or folders.
- Use the Net Use command to create a network path to your local drive.
- Use the Subst command to create a new drive letter to a point in the path. For example,
subst g: d:\path\path2\path3
8. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Bob Kretschman, [email protected])
MR&D released the audio CD version of Mark Minasi's "Mastering Windows 2000/.NET Server: A Guide to Planning, Installing, and Running Windows 2000 and .NET Server in Your Network." The audio seminar includes 11 hours of lecture on 10 audio CDs and accompanying lecture notes. The audio format lets network professionals experience the class without traveling and lets them learn at their own pace. The audio seminar package costs $225. For more information, contact MR&D at [email protected]
Cobasoft has released Envira 1.1 for Windows, software for editing Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows NT environment variables. The product enables easy addition, renaming, and removal of environment variables and helps administrators understand, modify, and set variable values. Administrators can run Envira directly from the Internet, without explicit download or installation. XCOPY deployment is also possible. Envira 1.1 for Windows costs $9.95 for a single-user license, and volume rebates are available. For more information, email [email protected]
Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Do you know of a terrific product that others should know about? Tell us! We want to write about the product in a future What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions to [email protected]
9. CONTACT US
Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:
- ABOUT THE COMMENTARY — [email protected]
- ABOUT KEEPING UP WITH WIN2K AND NT — [email protected]
- ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER IN GENERAL — [email protected]
(please mention the newsletter name in the subject line)
- TECHNICAL QUESTIONS — http://www.winnetmag.net/forums
- PRODUCT NEWS — [email protected]
- QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE SUBSCRIPTION?
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