WinInfo Short Takes: Week of December 4 - 01 Dec 2000

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

Office 2000 SP2 issues and a nasty surprise for Outlook users

I've received a number of emails from readers concerned about the recently released Office 2000 SP2 patch, and I think I can clear up a few issues. First, the patch includes the much-reviled Outlook Security Patch, so if you're not interested in that, be aware that it's in there and you can't remove it (Microsoft is adding this to Outlook 10 as well, by the way). Also, the descriptive text in the About dialogs for all of the Office applications will still read as "SR-1" but the version number changes to let you know that the update worked. Pre-SP2, the version was 9.0.0.3821. After the patch is installed, the version should change to 9.0.0.4527. Also, make sure you install the SR-1 or SR-1a update before installing SP-2; this is required.

Linux bashing now considered a hate crime

An excellent article in online humor magazine BBSpot points out that Linux bashing is a hate crime, meaning that anyone convicted of Linux bashing can now face federal charges. In an admittedly NRA-like stance on the issue, I should point out that I don't hate Linux, just the people that use Linux. OK, I'm kidding. Sort of.

Stephen King temporarily shelves The Plant

Best-selling author Stephen King will temporarily cease production of the eBook serial novel, "The Plant," after the sixth installment, which will be made available later this month. King had promised to continue producing installments of the book as long as at least 75 percent of readers paid the $2 fee per installment. Through part four, King's readers did just that, but payments fell to 46 percent for part five. As a reward to his loyal readers, part six will be free, and then King will return to some more traditional paper-based projects. But don't give up on The Plant, King says, as the beginning of the story was first written twenty years ago. If he can pick it up after that much time, he could easily do so again in a few years.

Dell drops AOL for MSN

So much for AOL's market power: The company lost a lucrative contract with the nation's biggest PC seller when Dell Computer announced this week that it would be giving away MSN accounts with all new PCs effective immediately. Oddly enough, the reason is surprisingly similar to why AOL chose Microsoft's IE over Netscape a few years back: Microsoft's offering (MSN in this case) is more customizable than the competition, giving Dell an easy way to co-brand the service. Dubbed DellNet by MSN, the service will be provided free for one year to all new Dell consumer customers.

L&H hears financial silence

Speech recognition software maker Lernout & Hauspie (L&H) announced this week that it was filing for bankruptcy protection in Delaware this week, in an effort to reverse its problematic financials. The company, which will seek similar protection in its native Belgium, has had an odd string of financial setbacks this year, most relating to creative accounting. But I met with the company at COMDEX Fall last month, and its product lineup is strong and varied. I expect L&H to make a nice comeback.

Microsoft to offer XML encryption

And who better than Microsoft to tack security onto the interoperability standard of the future? Microsoft introduced a security specification for XML this week that will simplify the integration of authentication, digital signature, and encryption services with applications based on XML. Dubbed XKMS (XML Key Management Specification), the new specification is on route to the W3C and other standards bodies.

Microsoft launches .NET advocacy sites

Microsoft quietly changed the name of ASP+ to ASP.NET in November and launched a pair of advocacy sites to promote it and other .NET related technologies. If you're into this kind of thing, head on over to the ASP.NET homepage and the .NET Framework Community Website and go nuts. But please, get out into the real world occasionally. Please.

Tired of Microsoft? Sun and Oracle want to help

They just want to help, and only you can admit that you have a problem. Oracle and Sun Microsystems will host a series of eSeminars that will help Microsoft-weary users migrate their systems from Windows NT and SQL Server to Solaris and Oracle 8i. Aside from the obvious internal healing the companies hope to provide, I suspect that they stand to gain monetarily from this as well. Maybe I'm just being paranoid.

HP, Micron, Apple & Compaq fall with Gateway

After Gateway announced earlier this week that its holiday sales season was going to fall short by half a billion dollars, much of the high tech community joined the company in the financial cellar, with stock prices diving and a series of similar pronouncements from a variety of companies. HP, Micron, Apple, Compaq, and even Microsoft saw their stock tank this week, thanks to investor skittishness about the high tech sector. Fun, fun, fun.

Dell invests in Linux UI company Eazel

PC giant Dell Computer announced this week that it has invested in Linux startup Eazel, which is designing a new user interface and a set of software services for the open source software operating system. Dell will share revenues with Eazel from customers who sign up for Eazel's services, while distributing the company's software with its Linux-based systems. Historically, Dell has been a staunch supporter of Microsoft and its Windows operating systems, but the company has been making many Linux-oriented moves of late, and is even offering the system on some of its non-server products for the first time. Dell will begin preloading Eazel software on selected systems sometime in the next few months.

Poe's message from the grave revealed

Macabre author Edgar Allen Poe apparently left two encoded "cipher" messages for his readers in 1841, the last of which was finally deciphered in October. According to an article on MSNBC, Poe wrote the messages as "Mr. W.B. Tyler," and had them published in a newspaper, challenging readers to break their codes. The first of two was broken in 1992; it was found to be a passage from Joseph Addison's play "Cato." But the second code remained unsolved until October until a 27 year old computer programmer from Toronto cracked the code. I won't spoil the surprise--mostly because no one knows what the resulting banal text means anyway--but check out the full article to find out how it all turns out. Very interesting.

And you thought I was paranoid

Here's another story you can tack onto the "Whacky Internet Myths" category. Nicholas Petreley, who has been using the Windows alternative du jour since there was a Windows (let's see: First it was OS/2. Then...) introduced an amazing bit of paranoia this week that would be hilarious if he wasn't trying to be serious. Petreley says that recent versions of Windows (a.k.a Windows 2000) are more stable than older versions because, get this, Microsoft has analyzed the source code to Linux and rewrote it to work in Windows. Now let that one settle in a bit ("Hey, it could be true: It makes sense!"). Nick, please get help

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