WinInfo Short Takes: Week of January 29 - 26 Jan 2001

Exclusive: Whistler, Office 10 Names Still in Flux

Reports from several sources suggest that the final names for Whistler and Office 10 are very much in flux. I recently heard that Bill Gates himself has nixed the name Office 2002 for Office 10, along with various other names, such as Office X and Office Millennium Edition. Instead, it appears, Microsoft will go with the name Office XP or Office eXPerienced. Meanwhile, the original name choice for Whistler--Windows 2002--is no longer definite, but is still the top candidate. Why the 2002 name would be OK for Windows and not Office is unclear.

Microsoft to Provide Java-to-C# Porting Tools

This week, Microsoft announced a controversial program to migrate users of its Java-based Visual J++ tool to C#, its new Java-like programming language. The program, which was announced exactly one day after Microsoft settled its Java lawsuit with Sun, encourages Java programmers to "JUMP to .NET." The package includes ways to move Visual J++ programs to .NET, a set of Visual Studio.NET tools that lets developers use Java in that environment, a tool to automate the conversion of Java code to C#, and more. If you're a Java developer who targets Windows, and you feel left out in the cold by .NET and the recent settlement, head over to the Microsoft Web site and check it out.

No Surprise Here: New Macs Don't Even Exist Yet

Continuing a tradition of sorts that began when Steve Jobs took over Apple, the company quietly acknowledged this week that its recently announced computers--the PowerBook G4 and new, higher-speed G4 desktop systems--will ship much later than promised. Despite Jobs' claims earlier this month at MacWorld, these systems weren't even close to production at the time of the announcement, and they're not much closer now. The first PowerBook deliveries have slipped from 3 weeks to 7 weeks, while G4 desktops are still a whopping 7 to 10 weeks (!) away from shipping. Apple's ability to pre-announce product is well documented, but surely its customers (or in this case, aspiring customers) are getting tired of this behavior.

Sun Hit by PC Doldrums

The company doesn't make PCs, of course, but even server-maker Sun Microsystems has been hard hit by the recent tech slide. This week, Sun joined the ranks of PC makers when the company announced that it expects lower sales for its fiscal year, sending Sun stock reeling. But Sun isn't in a particularly bad spot; it's just a matter of perceptions. The company will likely continue to dominate the server sector and will experience the best growth rate in the industry. The problem, like that Microsoft faces, is that the growth is simply slowing. It had to happen sometime. Besides, it's nice to think that these two companies have so much in common.

Microsoft, Yahoo Web Sites Temporarily Diverted

Last weekend, before this week's problems with Microsoft's Web sites materialized, a smaller, related incident affected both Microsoft and Yahoo. On Saturday, users who tried to reach microsoft.com or yahoo.com were rerouted to mydomains.com, which had inadvertently released a buggy DNS table. DNS (blamed for Microsoft's wider problems the following Wednesday) lets domain names such as microsoft.com be resolved into the IP addresses actually used by servers on the Internet. The problem lasted about 12 hours, but it brings up a good point about the Internet's inherent instability when a small hosting company's erroneous information can be replicated on DNS servers across the world. This happens because many ISPs don't correctly configure their own systems.

Microsoft New Zealand Also Hacked

And speaking of Microsoft site outages, Tuesday, vandals defaced the company's New Zealand Web site, noting that "security wuz broke'n!" A group of scholars called Prime Suspectz, which has vandalized sites such as eBay and Visa, apparently was responsible for the attack. According to reports, the attack could have been prevented had Microsoft New Zealand simply installed one of the company's own security patches. Ah, the irony.

Win2K-Compatible GameVoice 1.2 Beta Available

Microsoft has released a Windows 2000-compatible version of the software used to drive its GameVoice hardware; the software lets gamers communicate with each other vocally, in real time, while playing games over the Internet. In addition to Win2K compatibility, the new software provides a host of other improvements. For more information, visit the GameVoice Web site.

IE 5.5 SP1 Temporarily Unavailable

If you've been trying to download Internet Explorer (IE) 5.5 Service Pack 1 (SP1), you might have noticed a problem; the program is temporarily unavailable. Microsoft says that the company needed to update a few files in the service pack and will have the download back up "soon."

Here Come the Price Cuts

According to reports, next week, in an effort to boost slowing sales, microprocessor giant Intel is prepared to lower prices on its chips by as much as 43 percent. A 1GHz Pentium III, for example, now sells for $465; next week this chip's price will drop to $271. The price cuts should affect just about every microprocessor the company makes, including Pentium III designs for desktops and notebooks, Celeron chips, and the Pentium 4. The price drop should similarly affect PC prices soon.

Job Cuts at AOL Time Warner

In a bid to boost earnings, AOL Time Warner will cut 2000 jobs in the company's music business, AOL division, movie studios, and Time magazine. And the company will probably close its Warner Bros. retail outlets, which have been pawning stuffed Bugs Bunnies and Superman savings banks on mall-goers for the past half-decade; this step could result in the loss of an additional 3800 jobs. But don't worry, folks, the company has no plans to stop foisting those silver coasters on us anytime soon.

Compaq Comes On Strong, Beats Expectations

The world's largest computer maker reported better-than-expected revenues for its fourth quarter, given Wall Street's reduced expectations. Compaq earned $515 million on revenues of $11.53 billion, an increase of 10 percent from the same quarter a year before. The company says that a strong enterprise business and international growth largely offset the problems in North America, where PC sales abruptly nose-dived.

Will Sega Drop the Dreamcast? Assessing the Rumors

Sega hasn't issued what I'd call a definitive statement refuting this, but rumors abound that the company will drop its Dreamcast system to focus on licensing the technology to set-top box makers. Sega has never been secretive about its desire to exit the hardware market, and if the rumors are true, we might soon see various devices that can play Dreamcast games, while the company works on porting its popular software line to other devices, such as the Xbox and Sony PS/2. Since the early 1990s, when the company dominated the video game market with the Genesis system, Sega has had mixed results. Its 32-bit Saturn system was an utter disaster, but the follow-up, the Dreamcast, has sold millions of units, and its games compete well with the first-generation titles available for the PS/2. But the sales haven't been high enough for Sega, which has lost millions of dollars during the past year. Expect closure on this issue soon.

Lack of PS/2 Parts Kills Sony's Financials

And speaking of the PS/2, Sony's latest wunderkind has been an absolute bust for the company, thanks to a parts shortage that severely limited production during the crucial holiday season. Sony's net income dropped 23 percent in the quarter ending December 31, with the company reporting a year-to-year drop in revenues. The company cites its failure to meet demand for the PS/2 as the reason, but the bad news doesn't stop there. Sony now says the company also won't be able to meet this year's goal of producing 10 million units. Couple that with complaints from developers that the Sony unit is hard to program, and it looks like Microsoft's Xbox has a hole to fill.

L&H Gets Financing

Beleaguered voice-recognition software maker L&H has reached a preliminary agreement with a lender to bail out the company to the tune of $60 million in financing. Last fall, the Belgian company was forced to declare bankruptcy after a mysterious $100 million cash shortfall caused L&H to restate its quarterly earnings. L&H makes voice software such as Voice Xpress and Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Responses to the Outlook Security Workaround

In response to last week's mention, several readers sent me ways to bypass the annoying Outlook Security Update. Russell H. noted that a Windows Registry Guide hack solves the problem nicely. 

For users of Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 9x, Ben Wahlquist recommends using the Microsoft Exchange client, which can typically be found in C:\Program Files\Windows Messaging\EXCHNG32.EXE. Just close Outlook, open Exchange, get the file, and go back to Outlook. Because all of Outlook's settings and PST files are already part of Exchange, no copies or imports are necessary.

And finally, Bill Kennedy notes that Microsoft actually has a fix for this problem, although it's buried in the Knowledge Base . Under Installation Considerations, the article says, "If you want to uninstall the update, you must completely uninstall the software that Outlook was installed from. For example, if Outlook was installed as part of Microsoft Office Premium Edition, you must uninstall and then reinstall Microsoft Office Premium Edition to uninstall the update; you cannot just uninstall and then reinstall Outlook." So the fix is simple, if somewhat painful. If necessary, save your Office settings to the Web, uninstall Office2K, reinstall Office2K, and then apply the fixes up to Service Release 1 (SR1) only. Voila . . . no more Outlook Security Update.

For other workarounds, see the Windows 2000 Magazine FAQ site

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