WinInfo Short Takes: Week of November 15

LIKE THE GROUNDHOG on his big day, I'll creeping out of my cave and departing for points West this weekend to attend my sixth consecutive Fall Comdex in Las Vegas. This year should be special; it's the 20th anniversary of Comdex and and Keith Furman and I are celebrating with up-to-the minute reports from the show floor, which will be posted to the Web site continuously during the week. Also, Olympus is providing us with a free digital camera for the week so that we can get our images online as quickly as possible. As usual, we'll be hitting all the big parties and major industry events, so stay tuned to the WinInfo Web site next week for the latest news from Comdex: We've set up a special Comdex99 site to hold the updates and photos. Of course, we'll also be publishing each day's reports in the email newsletter as well.

THE SECURITY PATCH I mentioned yesterday for the "Active Setup Control" vulnerability doesn't actually fix the BubbleBoy problem, though I correctly mentioned previously that an earlier IE security fix does solve the problem. Thanks to everyone that wrote in about that. Also, Will Mott was nice enough to supply a much easier way to get the Active Setup Control patch: Microsoft's Internet Explorer Security Area, which is a recommended bookmark for anyone using IE (of course, if you're using IE, that'd be a "Favorite," but you know what I mean...)

I'VE BEEN WRITING WinInfo for a long, long time and every once in a while a certain subject just generates a lot of email. But nothing, and I mean nothing, has generated as much mail as the Microsoft antitrust trial findings of fact. Kudos and damnations have rained down on me from around the globe this week, making me wonder whether I'm ever going to have enough time to respond to everyone. If you wrote me this week, I'm going to try and respond, I promise. It's just going to take a while, sorry. Hopefully, I'll have some time in Vegas to get offline and just answer mail.

JERRY POURNELLE IS a sort of personal hero of mine, a prolific writer, science fiction author, and decades-long journalist for Byte Magazine, which recently made a comeback in electronic form. On that note, Jerry Pournelle completely disagrees with my take on the recent release of the findings of fact in the Microsoft antitrust case, so I present this link in an attempt to provide an opposing viewpoint that is balanced, well thought out and nicely documented.

ON A DAY that was full of news about the Microsoft antitrust trial findings of fact and nothing else, RealNetworks had the temerity to release a new version of its RealPlayer software and some other Web services. Chalk it up to bad timing, but the new RealPlayer 7 is actually kind of sweet, so I'll mention it again just in case you missed it in last week's massive missive about the findings. (If anyone actually got all the way through that issue without skipping ahead, well thanks!) Check out RealPlayer 7 beta at the RealNetworks Web site.

IT LOOKS LIKE I'm not the only one who was dead wrong about the RC3 release date. Despite rumors that November 10th was THE DAY, that date came and went without the release of RC3. I think they're doing this to make us all look bad, but RC3 is still somewhere in the future. Which makes me wonder: How much time do they really need between RC3 and the golden master? Will Microsoft be able to make its new self-imposed deadline? (Answer: Duh. The February 17th "roll out" is happening come hell or high water). Maybe we'll hear something at Comdex.

A COUPLE OF weeks ago, I received a number of emails from people who had been accepted into the "Mars" beta, which included a non disclosure agreement (NDA) for Internet Explorer 5.5. Naturally, I assumed that Mars and IE 5.5 were one and the same, but I've gotten enough contrary information now to wonder: It's now looking like IE 5.5, which is a minor upgrade at best, is separate from Mars, though they will both be components of Millennium, the next consumer Windows. Mars seems to be some sort of networking/DUN infrastructure (It's listed as a "communications system" in certain places), while IE 5.5 is, of course, a Web browser (excuse me, "integrated Windows technology"). So what's new in IE 5.5? Not much: It's got a pretty new Print Preview mode and a bunch of bug fixes, but that's about it. If Netscape had gotten its act together, they probably would have called IE 6.0, but that's not to be: IE 5.5 will be the Web browser that ships in Millennium, however (Windows 2000 is stuck with IE 5.01, which just went gold this week).

DON'T EXPECT BILL Gates to talk up Millennium during his Fall Comdex 99 keynote address Sunday; instead, the beleaguered CEO of Microsoft will keep his speech firmly centered on Windows 2000, which will finally arrive on store shelves early next year. On the show floor, it's going to be all Windows 2000 as well, sort of a hi-tech version of that MasterCard commercial where the old guy from Maine recites hundreds of lobster recipes: "There's Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Ready PCs, Windows 2000 Corporate Preview Program, Windows 2000 showcase, Windows 2000 partners, Windows 2000..." But I bet Microsoft does take American Express!

PERENNIAL PUNCHING BAG Apple Computer has done it again by quietly eliminating its 30-day satisfaction guarantee: If you buy anything from Apple now, you're stuck with it: "Apple only permits the return of products due to an Apple shipping or order processing error and that all other sales are final." Is this what they mean by "think different"?

QUOTE OF THE week: Unlike the misattributed "640K is enough for everyone" quote, here's something that Bill Gates actually did say: "This antitrust thing will blow over" (July 1995). And I thought my prognosticating powers were bad

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