WinInfo Short Takes: Week of November 10

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

IE 6.05, Pop-Up Ad Blocking to Debut in Windows XP SP2
   You won't need to wait for Longhorn in late 2005 to get pop-up ad blocking in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). Microsoft will release IE 6.05 as part of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), which is due in the first half of 2004. Whether IE 6.05 will include some of the other new IE features, such as the new download manager, found in the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2003 Longhorn build is unclear. But pop-up ad blocking is definitely among the changes we can expect, as are other new security features such as more locked-down Internet security zones.

Microsoft Settles North Carolina Lawsuit for $89 Million
   In a deal similar to Microsoft's other recent class-action lawsuit settlements, the company announced this week that it has settled a class-action lawsuit in North Carolina for $89 million in computer software and hardware vouchers. The deal was actually consummated a month ago. This week, the North Carolina Business Court approved the settlement, which covers consumers who purchased Windows, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word, or Microsoft Excel between 1995 and 2003. Including North Carolina, Microsoft has settled 10 class-action suits but still has cases pending in Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

Here Comes Virtual PC 2004; There Goes Linux Support
  
Next week, Microsoft will finalize the code for Microsoft Virtual PC 2004, the most recent version of the virtual machine (VM) technology the company purchased from Connectix earlier this year. I've been a Virtual PC customer for years, and although I was happy to see Microsoft select what I feel is the superior VM technology, I'm now distressed to see how the company is changing the program. Previously, Virtual PC was an excellent platform for testing alternative OSs such as Linux. But Microsoft has killed support for Linux and other non-Microsoft systems, although the company curiously still supports OS/2. The reason? Microsoft is positioning Virtual PC as a way to run legacy Windows NT and Windows 9x applications in VM environments on modern Windows versions, an interesting addition to its consolidation strategy. Although I understand why the company is doing this, I think it stinks.

Germany Installs 110,000 New PCs. Windows PCs. Running Office 2003.
  
We've been hearing a lot about Germany installing Linux PCs this year--even though most of them will run Windows applications inside a VMWare VM environment--but this week, Microsoft revealed that it continues to grab the lion's share of software installations in a country that the mainstream press would have you believe is "going Linux." Microsoft will install Office 2003 on 110,000 PCs in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the largest and most populated state in Germany. NRW said that it chose Office 2003 largely for its XML capabilities.

Cyberattackers Wanted: Dead or Alive
   Microsoft's announcement this week that it will pay massive cash bounties for the capture and conviction of cyberattackers who create viruses and worms is interesting on several levels and will probably be a fairly effective tool against electronic attacks. But am I the only person who gets a weird Wild West vibe from this maneuver?

FBI: Sorry, but Security Vulnerabilities Aren't Microsoft's Fault
   According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Carnegie Mellon University, all the complaints about Microsoft having security problems are bunk. In fact, a report from the two organizations specifically calls for all the finger-pointing to stop because all technology is inherently vulnerable, and simply blaming Microsoft for everything obscures a bigger problem: Microsoft doesn't own or control the Internet infrastructure, which is extremely vulnerable to attack. Furthermore, the report says, more than 90 percent of all Microsoft-related attacks--including the two most infamous recent attacks, MSBlaster and SoBig.F--involved vulnerabilities that the company had already fixed.

Microsoft Quietly Offers Wireless Security Rollup
   Last week, with literally no fanfare, Microsoft issued a wireless security rollup package that combines several previously released fixes into one easily installed update. The Wireless Update Rollup Package for Windows XP includes fixes for Wireless Product Access (WPA), 802.1x, and other wireless technologies. You can find more information about the update and the free download on the Microsoft Web site.

Update Office 2003
   And speaking of Microsoft software fixes, the company's recently issued Office 2003 suite of applications already has its first critical patch. The update fixes a problem that occurs when you open or save a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, Word document, or Excel spreadsheet that includes an OfficeArt graphic object that an earlier version of Office modified and saved. This action could cause the document to become corrupted, irreparably damaging the data it contains. The fix is available from the Office Online Web site.

Red Hat CEO: Use Windows--It's Better
  
You just can't make up this stuff. Matthew Szulik, CEO of Linux maker Red Hat Linux, said this week that Windows is a better choice on the desktop than--yes--Linux. "I would say that for the consumer marketplace, Windows probably continues to be the right product line," Szulik said. "From the device-driver standpoint and perhaps some of the other traditional functionality, for that classic consumer purchaser, it is my view that \[Linux\] needs to mature a little bit more." Szulik even discussed the horrors of what would happen if his own father tried to purchase a computer running Linux. "We know painfully well what happens," he said. "He will try to get it installed and either \[won't have\] a positive experience or \[will put\] a lot of pressure on ... support systems." But don't despair, Linux lovers: Szulik says that Linux will be good enough for mainstream PC desktops in a few years and is perfectly capable today for many business scenarios. "We think that the enterprise desktop market place is much more strategic and has buyers whose needs we can exceed," he added.

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