WinInfo Short Takes: Week of December 12

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Kameo, Windows Vista December CTP, Aero display modes, IE 7 public beta, Rhapsody in Web, Skype, Wikipedia, PC idiots, and so much more...

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Windows Vista December CTP: Build 5276

The December Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Windows Vista will be build 5276, plus or minus one build, I was told today. Beta testers, Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers, and TechNet members can expect to see the December CTP in a week or 10 days. It includes many new features compared with the previous CTP in October, but it isn't the feature-complete version of Vista that Microsoft promised to deliver in December. Microsoft will deliver that version internally this month, but testers won't see a feature-complete CTP until January or February.

Microsoft Cuts Vista UI to Two Display Modes
Speaking of Vista, you might recall that Microsoft had originally planned to deliver three versions of the new UI, called Aero Glass, Aero Express, and Aero To Go. Those plans have been revised. Now, Microsoft will offer two modes only, called Windows Vista Aero (which includes the glass effects) and Windows Vista Basic, which is roughly like the Windows XP display. However, the capabilities of the three previous modes are still there: Vista Aero is the equivalent of Aero Glass, and you can get the equivalent of Aero Express by turning off the translucency effects while running Vista Aero. The best news? Contrary to rumors, you'll need only a 64MB video card with 3-D capabilities to run Vista Aero on a typical PC (higher resolution displays will require more video RAM).

Next IE 7 Public Beta Pushed Back to 2006
Microsoft has pushed back the public preview version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7 for XP to early 2006. I was told that the release would most likely happen in January or February. The IE 7 public preview will be feature-complete and will include many new features, some of which Microsoft hasn't publicly demonstrated yet. Stay tuned for more details.

RealNetworks Takes Rhapsody Service to the Web
Last week, RealNetworks announced a new version of its Rhapsody subscription music service, which includes a Web-based interface that doesn't require users to download the full Rhapsody client application. This change enables several new scenarios, the most interesting of which is that Linux and Mac OS X users can now access Rhapsody. The service costs about $10 a month, but RealNetworks is offering 25 free song plays to snag new customers. It's certainly worth checking out, and the sound quality seems to be quite good.

Judge Praises Microsoft's "Proactive" Approach
Here's something you don't see all that often: US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (it's amazing how easily that name still types) recently praised Microsoft for its "proactive" approach to adhering to the requirements of its 2001 antitrust settlement. This praise comes just 2 months after Kollar-Kotelly complained that Microsoft was taking too long to meet its settlement requirements, so I'm still trying to figure out whether she is just fickle or has a short-term memory problem. Microsoft, Judge Kollar-Kotelly said, has shown "renewed vigor" for meeting its antitrust requirements. Tell that to South Korea.

Microsoft To Double Size of European Research Team
Maybe Microsoft should research how to operate within European Union (EU) fair trade laws. This week, Microsoft revealed that over the next 2 years it intends to double the size of its European-based research team in an effort to push innovation. Microsoft indicated that the research push will also benefit the European economy, since its efforts will create more jobs in Europe. Not to beat Microsoft's antitrust problems to death, but I'm sure the EU antitrust ruling against Microsoft helped the European economy even more than the software giant's research efforts. After all, lawyers don't come cheap.

Wikipedia Is Evil, Must Be Stopped
As a music fan, I was dismayed to discover that Gracenote service (the developers of CD Data Base--CDDB--technology), which lets music jukebox applications such as iTunes automatically fill in audio CD information, was horribly flawed. The reason? The service lets individuals provide the fill-in audio information, which means the information often contains typos, varying case styles, and bad information. Now take this kind of problem and magnify it by 10 million, and you've discovered Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia based on the term "Encyclopedia Galactica" that Isaac Asimov used in his "Foundation" trilogy series, but with a twist. Because anyone can edit entries in Wikipedia, many of the entries are horribly wrong. Although Wikipedia is in the process of trying to make it more difficult for people to change the content online, I have to ask: Isn't it already too late?

More Features Coming to Gmail
Google is quietly adding more features to its highly regarded GMail Web mail service. Soon, GMail users will be able to view Adobe PDF, Microsoft Office, and OpenOffice attachments as basic HTML, a boon for those accessing their account from a public PC. Google is also releasing a new feature named Web Clips, which lets GMail users view clips from Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds. These features follow the recent unveiling of a somewhat non-configurable antivirus scanning feature that puts GMail on par with the 1998 version of Hotmail.

Study: Most PC Users Are Idiots
It's painful, but it's true: According to a survey by America Online (AOL) and the National Cyber Security Alliance, more than 81 percent of all PCs lack basic security features such as firewall or updated antivirus software, making most of these machines easy targets for online criminals, hackers, and other malicious users. Using a Windows PC that doesn’t have basic security software installed is like speeding in an open convertible on a slippery road with no seat belt on. This leads me to think that most PCs without security software that get hacked these days are pretty much asking for it. Seriously, guys, how many times do you have to get bitten before you decide to protect your PC?

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