WinInfo Short Takes: Week of December 17 - 14 Dec 2001

Windows NT Server 4.0 on the Way Out
Microsoft has announced that support for Windows NT Server 4.0, its aging enterprise-class OS, will be phased out beginning January 1, 2003, when customers will be unable to get free hot fixes. Then, on January 1, 2004, NT 4 hot fixes will cease to be made available altogether and the company will stop supporting the product. Interestingly, Microsoft will cease support for the older NT 3.5x Server products at the end of the year. Is there anyone out there still running NT 3.5x?

Take That, Java: .NET, C# Get Standards Endorsements
An international standards organization has ratified Microsoft's Java-like C# programming language and .NET Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) technology as standards. The European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) ratification comes a year after Microsoft submitted the technologies, a jab of sorts at Sun, which makes Java and has thus far refused to submit that language to a standards body. Microsoft hopes that by standardizing key parts of .NET, it can usurp Java as the platform of choice for developing Web-enabled applications and services.

Important IE Security Patch Released
If you're running a newer version of Internet Explorer, you're going to want to download this patch. Now. Microsoft has issued a critical cumulative security patch for IE 6.0 or 5.5 that addresses a number of vulnerabilities in those products. Microsoft's recommendation, and let's face it, this isn't a company that gets all excited about security until it's too late: "Customers using IE \[5.5 or 6\] should install the patch immediately." For more information and the free download, please visit the Microsoft Web site. Now.

Microsoft Ships Over 1 Million XBoxen
Microsoft reported earlier this week that it has shipped over 1 million Xboxen since the system was released November 15, with 300,000 more expected by the end of the holiday season. All in all, the company hopes to sell up to 1.5 million units this year, and upstage Nintendo, which had previously claimed to have sold the most video game consoles so far. Nintendo says it will sell 1.3 GameCube million units this year.

Microsoft Gets Patent on Anti-Piracy OS
It's going to sound like I'm making this one up, but Microsoft has been granted a patent on an anti-piracy operating system which uses Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies. According to the patent, Microsoft now owns "a computerized method for a digital rights management operating system comprising: assuming a trusted identity; executing a trusted application; loading rights-managed data into memory for access by the trusted application; and protecting the rights-managed data from access by an untrusted program while the trusted application is executing." There isn't much more information available than that, but I think it's telling that one of the patent application authors includes the design lead of the company's Secure PC initiative at Microsoft Research. And who is this mystery masked man, you asked? Yup, you guessed it, Frank Stallone.

Pagers Bite the Dust
Back in the early 1990's, pagers (or "beepers") were all the rage at high schools and offices. But don't get caught with one now: In an era of cell phones, PDAs, and Blackberry devices, pagers are no longer the accoutrement of coolness they once were. In fact, pagers are about as hot right now as rotary phones and black and white TVs: According to pager manufacturers like Motorola, sales of the devices have nosedived in recent years and are expected to bottom out within ten years.

Israeli Youths Admit to Goner Attacks
A group of Israeli teenagers has admitted to creating and spreading the "Goner" worm that affected numerous Outlook inboxes and ICQ instant messaging (IM) clients earlier this months. Under Israeli law, the youths could face up to five years in jail, which contrasts subtly with the situation here in the United States, where they would probably be offered jobs at the US Department of Defense.

FBI Admits Its Working on "Magic Lantern"
And speaking of the federal government, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) admitted this week that it is working on surveillance software called "Magic Lantern" that would allow it to infiltrate remote computers, log keystrokes, and crack the passwords used by suspected felons. There aren't a lot of details yet, naturally--and there probably won't be until we're using radically different technology--but the usual concerns about privacy and civil liberties are being raised by the usual groups. Hey, I think I know another place where those Israeli kids could get jobs.

Flat Panel iMac Expected Next Month
With Steve Jobs pushing his January 2002 MacWorld San Francisco keynote address up one day, excitement abounds in the Mac camp over rumors of a flat panel iMac and, possibly, another digital media devices along the same vein as the iPod. The iMac rumors, in particular, are based somewhat in fact: Taiwanese laptop maker Quanta has reportedly won a bid to produce 100,000 new iMacs a month beginning in January. Expect the new iMac to resemble the company's popular iBook, in a slightly less portable enclosure.

Ellison Invites Ire with "Unbreakable" Claim
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison received bemused responses to his recent "unbreakable" claims about the Oracle 9i database and application server products, but it seems even the folks at Oracle weren't too excited about the idea. "Are you crazy?" one executive asked Ellison. "Why don't you just invite all hackers to just stop what they are doing and attack our sites?" But Ellison, as always, had a response. "Everybody from the Soviet Union to Redmond, Washington is going to be attacking our site," he said. "\[Microsoft's\] Xbox is going to come with a special 'send a billion messages to Oracle' spam game."

Russian Programmer Off the Hook
And speaking of the Soviet Union (which doesn't exist anymore, Larry), a Russian programmer who landed in a US jail after cracking the copy protection on Adobe's eBook software, has been allowed to return home. Dmitry Sklyarov was captured after Adobe complained to the FBI, but the company later lost heart and asked that he be released back in August. That didn't happen, though Sklyarov did post bail and has been out of jail since then. Instead, Sklyarov has reached a deal with the feds in which he will simply testify to what happened and agree to stop violating US copyright laws. You know, there might be a job for Dmitry...

Itanium Sales Nosediving
How bad are Itanium sales? Let's just say that they're not even threatening PowerPC sales and leave it at that. In fact, sales are so bad that Dell recently cancelled its Itanium-based Precision 730 Workstation, which went into production this summer. Even servers based on the high-end chip are proving to be uncompelling: International Data Corporation (IDC) says that less than 1 percent of server sales use the new chip. The current Itanium is a first generation processor that's set to be replaced by a faster version, code-named McKinley, next spring. Something tells me that this, coupled with a lack of software, is the big problem.

Google Archives the Net
This one is too cool for words. Web search company Google has integrated 20 years of USENET newsgroup archives into its Google Groups site , allowing anyone and everyone to go back in time and see how the Internet worked before the World Wide Web arrived (and some would say, still does). My first USENET posting, according to Google, was in 1994, when I debated with early Net goers such heated topics as OS/2 vs. Chicago (Windows 95), DOOM vs. Duke Nukem, and other things to geeky to mention. I'm gathering some of my own USENET bloopers (sample: "ActiveX is secure") for a future Short Takes Special Edition, but in the meantime, check out the history of the Net on Google's Web site.

Behold, the First Web Site
And speaking of NET history, the first American Web site celebrated its tenth anniversary this week. Physicist Paul Kunz installed the first Web server in America on December 12, 1991, using an IBM mainframe computer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). The site wasn't exactly multimedia friendly: It consisted on three lines of text and two hyperlinks, and only ran on a fledgling NeXT-based browser. But it connected to a database backend and let researchers search using keywords. Come to think of it, that's more sophisticated than most of the Web sites I've created. Hmm...

Write the DOJ to Comment on MS/DOJ Settlement
I've gotten a number of requests from readers both for and against the company's proposed antitrust case settlement about how they can contact the US Department of Justice (DOJ) during the 60 day public feedback phase. Due to various problems with snail mail, the agency prefers email, which can be sent to [email protected]. But if you'd like to write the DOJ a more traditional letter, here's the address:

To: Renata B. Hesse
Antitrust Division
U.S. Department of Justice
601 D Street NW
Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20530-0001

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