WinInfo Short Takes: Week of April 1

An irreverent look at some of the week's other news....

No Virginia, Windows XP Is Not a Server
This would be hilarious if it wasn't so infuriatingly obvious: An embarrassing report published on the Web earlier this week suggested that a few Registry tweaks could change Windows XP into .NET Server and vice versa. If you've been around a while, you know that this sort of claim is made with virtually every new NT version, with the idea that Microsoft must be simply screwing its customers by offering various products based on the same kernel. Well, if you haven't been around awhile, I guess you might sucked into believing that tweaking your XP system this way would open up new worlds of performance improvements, as if Microsoft wouldn't have wanted XP to operate efficiently from the get-go for some reason. In the event that you're still not clear on the concept, allow me to rephrase a statement that Microsoft PR was sadly forced to make this week: No, you cannot change XP into a server product and no, you will not get better performance out of your system by attempting such a thing. Shame!

New OpenOffice Available
The folks at OpenOffice, the open source version of Star Office, have issued the final beta release of the product expected before the 1.0 release in May. OpenOffice build 641d runs on Windows, Linux, and the Sparc version of Solaris, offering word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, data charting, formula editing, and file conversion facilities (including Microsoft Office formats). It's totally free, it's actually good stuff, and it even supports some pretty advanced Microsoft Office features, such as revisioning. Check it out now on the OpenOffice.org Web site.

IE Cumulative Patch of the Week Available
Didn't Microsoft just release a cumulative patch for Internet Explorer? Well no matter, because now we've got another one and this one fixes two new "critical" bugs along with every other IE vulnerability ever discovered. For more information (including a complex matrix of which IE and Windows versions support this patch) and the free download, check out the Microsoft Web site.

New NT/2000 Hack Emerges
And speaking of insecure Microsoft software, a new Windows NT/2000 vulnerability was just discovered and it's a doosy. Then again, aren't they all? Anyway, this latest vulnerability allows a hacker to elevate his privileges on an NT/2000 system and take the system over, thanks to a bug in the way these OSes handle debugging (that might be irony; I'm looking into it). Microsoft says that it will have a patch available soon, but the good news is that no exploit for the vulnerability is known to exist (yet). A workaround is available, however, from the following Web site:

MS Remedy Hearings: Novell Offered to Help Microsoft
I just love the fact that Novell was playing both sides of the fence in the Microsoft antitrust case, and if I could, I'd high-five every person on their executive staff and carry them around the ballpark like they just beat the Yankees in the World Series. Wait, what are we talking about again? Ah yes: Just days after Microsoft revealed that Novell had worked with the State of Utah to craft proposed remedies against Microsoft comes news that Novell was simultaneously offering to help Microsoft in its case against the government if Microsoft would just open up Windows. This type of activity is just so unremittingly evil that it just has to bring a smile to your face. Nice!

UNIX? We Don't Need No Stinkin' UNIX!
Microsoft and high-end hardware partner Unisys are spending $25 million to promote Windows Datacenter server as a viable alternative to UNIX. "We have the way out," one ad reads. "No wonder Unix makes you feel boxed in. It ties you to an inflexible system. It requires you to pay for expensive experts. It makes you struggle daily with a server environment that's more complex than ever." Almost as humorous is the response of Sun Microsystems, which sells the high-end UNIX systems Microsoft and Unisys is targeting. "Sun does not see Microsoft as a real threat in the data center market where reliability, availability, serviceability and security are key," a Sun statement reads. "As for UNIX being 'inflexible,' 'expensive,' and 'complex,' we feel those are terms much better suited to the closed and proprietary world of Windows." Ahahaha. Just sit back and watch the two hissing cats circle each other: This one could get ugly.

Microsoft Remedy Hearings: Now That We've Got Microsoft's Attention...
A Palm executive said this week that its participation in the Microsoft antitrust remedy hearings had cost Palm dearly. Palm executive Michael Mace told US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that Microsoft was just about to share a key programming tool with Palm when it discovered that Palm was going to testify against it. The tool--which would have allowed Palm to integrate its own tools into the crucial Visual Studio .NET development environment--was then denied to Palm, despite the fact that it was ostensibly open to any company. Adding salt to the wound, Microsoft then demanded that Palm deploy Microsoft .NET technologies in exchange for access to the tool. Palm refused, and explained that it felt Microsoft was trying to hold access to the tool over Palm in an effort to extend its monopoly by forcing Palm to adopt other Microsoft technology. Curiously, this comment netted Palm access to the tool. Who's the tool now?

Walter Hewlett Up to His Old Tricks
Like a bitter bridge troll who just got his comeuppance, Walter Hewlett is suing Hewlett-Packard (HP) for improperly securing votes in favor of the company's planned $20 billion merger with Compaq. Hewlett, who strongly opposed the deal and divided the company in one of the ugliest shareholder votes in history, says that HP's management secured a slim merger victory by soliciting votes improperly. Walter, give it up. You're embarrassing yourself and the "HP Way" you supposedly care so much about.

How to Compensate Executives in the Economic Downturn 101
What does a company do in these supposedly trying economic times when it needs to compensate its executive staff? In the good old days, yearly bonuses were the order of the day, but today, its stock options. Lots of stock options. Companies such as AOL Time Warner and EMC are bequeathing these options to executives at an alarming rate, but their effect differs from company to company. At AOL, executives exercised hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stock options last year, making the absence of yearly bonuses irrelevant. But at EMC, where the stock price is hovering near a lowly $10, an abundance of options is simply a hedge against the future, and executives there will need to improve their company's standing to reap the benefits. You know, that almost makes sense.

Useless Interactive TV Company Acquired
At CES in January, everyone was ga-ga over the Moxi, what I determined was "yet another TV set top box." Well, the reality never did live up to the hype and the company that makes the Moxi--or should I say, the company that would have supposedly made the Moxi--was just sold to a Silicon Valley startup owned by Microsoft-cofounder and resident billionaire Paul Allen. The idea behind Moxi is sound, if a bit derivative: It would have combined the functionality of a cable set top box, Digital Video Recorder (DVR), digital music jukebox, DVD player and Internet gateway into a single consumer electronics box that you placed next to the TV. And heck, maybe it will actually happen now that someone with a lot of money is finally backing it. But you know what? It doesn't matter: If consumers can't flock to $300 DVRs, they're not interested in $1000-1500 device either.

2.4 GHz Pentium 4 Set to Roll Over Competition Next Week
The Megahertz Myth notwithstanding, Intel will roll out its fastest desktop chip ever next week, the 2.4 GHz Pentium 4, which will also feature a smaller, cooler form factor and new accompanying chipsets that add integrated graphics and USB 2 support. One version of the chipset will use standard SDRAM memory, while the other uses double-speed DDR-RAM. Current systems will feature a 400 MHz system bus, but Intel plans to up that to 533 MHz in May. What's amazing about all this is that the new manufacturing process lets Intel create more chips using the same amount of material, which it can then sell for less than previous versions. So we can expect to see over 10 times as many Pentium 4 chips on sale this quarter as occurred during the same quarter last year. Yikes.

Mozilla Enters the Final Lap to 1.0
The open source Mozilla project is finally closing in on the crucial 1.0 release of its Web browser suite, just four years after it began. The Mozilla 1.0 development "tree" was closed Thursday, meaning that no major changes will be accepted, and only bugs will be fixed over the next two to four weeks. The Mozilla project started off as something of an embarrassment, but recent versions of this browser and its HTML rendering engine--Gecko--are quite nice. If you haven't checked it out recently, I strongly recommend it.

Sun: At Least We're Stealing from the Best
Sun got all bent when Microsoft changed its Java version to perform better on Windows, but when Apple did the same thing, it elected to roll some of the changes into its own Java Virtual Machine (JVM). To be fair, there are a few major differences between the two events, of course: Apple offered up the changes to Sun, for one, and the changes could improve other Java versions, not just the one Apple developed for the Mac. Oh, and Sun doesn't hate Apple. That might have figured into it as well.

Psst: Don't Tell Anyone, But the Recession Ended in October 2001
The economy is everyone's favorite whipping boy these days, but here's a little secret: The recession we're all so worried about actually ended last October, when the US economy began growing again, at a rather measly rate of 1.7 percent during fourth quarter 2001. But this contrasts rather sharply with the third quarter, when the economy shrank by 1.3 percent. With economic improvements set to accelerate over the next few quarters, when we'll see 3 to 6 percent growth, we could finally be out of the woods. Now all we need to do is figure out a way to get companies from blaming the economy every time they want to initiate layoffs, pay cuts and other cost-cutting measures.

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