WinInfo Short Takes: Week of October 2

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

Free, free, set them free
U.S Representative Rick Boucher would like to set MP3 free. By that, I mean that Boucher has introduced a bill called the Music Owners' Listening Rights Act that would amend U.S. copyright laws to allow consumers to store digital copies of their music collections on computers and listen to them over the Internet from a remote location. And of course, these people would need to be able to prove that they owned the music to begin with. Needless to say, the recording industry is against this bill, which would allow people to listen to the music they already purchase in a convenient fashion. Free, free, set them free...

Cinemaware makes a comeback with new Defender of the Crown
The guys that made "Defender of the Crown", "It Came From the Desert," "Wings", and many other incredible games for the Commodore Amiga have announced that they're back, and now making new games for the PC! As someone who has played each of these games and loved every second of it, I can't even begin to express what good news this is. For more information, please visit the Cinemaware Web site

Windows Me does "two strikes, you're out" for power management
Thanks to Abel Vazquez for the tip, which explains why Windows Me sometimes turns off some power management features. Apparently, you are given two attempts to resuscitate a machine that's gone into "deep sleep," a thriftier version of the normal ACPI sleep mode. If the machine can't come back from this type of sleep two times, sleep is simply disabled. Retail copies of Windows Me turn this type of sleep on by default, and PC makers can determine at installation whether deep sleep or "normal" sleep is more appropriate. Where is this information all stored, you ask? In the Registry, of course. This feature was also present in Windows 98 SE.

And the first step to .NET is, of course, Windows CE. Huh?
Microsoft announced this week an Add-on Pack for Windows CE that provides embedded developers with new networking and communication technologies, more advanced system analysis tools, new extensibility software development kits (SDKs), and support for XML. The company is touting this Add-on Pack as a stepping stone to .NET. I think we all knew that .NET would revolve around Windows CE, right?

Red Hat announces Red Hat Linux 7
Red Hat Software announced the immediate availability of Red Hat 7, the latest version of its popular Linux distribution. According to the company, Red Hat Linux 7 provides enhanced security, new ease-of-use features, optimized software for higher-end Intel chips and increased 3D support, along with dozens of new enterprise-ready applications, extending its lead as the most powerful and widely used open source server environment in the world. So there you go. For more information, please visit the Red Hat Web site.

Microsoft fights against FireWire
We knew Apple and Microsoft weren't really getting along, but this is ridiculous: Microsoft is apparently fighting to have Apple's IEEE-1394 ("FireWire") peripheral interface removed as a requirement for interactive TV set-top boxes that will be sold in the United States. The FCC has announced that it will create three classes of "digital cable-ready" devices, and Microsoft doesn't want FireWire to be part of the specification for any of them. Instead, Microsoft would like to see something called Digital Visual Interface (DVI) used instead. Both of these interfaces would allow high-speed devices to be attached to the set-top boxes we'll all use in a semi-coma state in the near future.

Microsoft launches yet another Meet Me Sweepstakes
Microsoft is promoting its Windows Me operating system through another online sweepstakes, this one just weeks after a controversial contest which seemed to be unavailable more often than not. In the latest sweepstakes, Microsoft is offering prizes such as a trips to Hollywood and Discovery Cove in Florida, "ultimate PCs," digital camcorders, games, and more. Head on over to the Meet Me Sweepstakes and take your chances.

Microsoft reports success with Windows Media Player 7
Microsoft issued what I refer to as a "meatball" press release this week stating that its Media Player 7 software had achieved 10 million downloads in only six weeks. The company says that this download rate shatters previous records set by software such as IE 5. I happen to like Windows Media Player 7, but I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority: Everyone I've talked to thinks that this thing is a bloated mess. Maybe a more interesting statistic would be user retention: How many of those 10 million downloads are still in use, I wonder?

Microsoft offers DSL, satellite Internet access through Radio Shack
Microsoft has expanded its relationship with Radio Shack to include the sale of MSN-based DSL and broadband satellite Internet services. Dubbed MSN HighSpeed, the services are available exclusively through MSN's "store within a store" kiosks in Radio Shack's 5800 locations around the country. Radio Shack used to be a great destination for early PC hardware tinkerers and that segment of the population who was interested in cheap knock-offs of that year's hottest toys. But the chain has had somewhat of a resurgence in recent years after dropping its Computer City and Incredible Universe stores.

Brian Livingston touts first global online election
Author Brian Livingston (see my interview with him on the SuperSite) is talking up the first truly global election this week, which will determine who makes up the Internet's most powerful governing body, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). For more information, please visit Brian Livingston's site on InfoWorld.

WDM SB Live drivers for Windows Me now available
Windows Me users who are waiting in agony for Windows Me-compatible "WDM" drivers for their Soundblaster Live! sound cards need wait no more: The drivers are available right now on the Gateway Web site, of all places:

Boo hoo! Intel delays Pentium 4 until later in Q4
So much for Halloween: Intel announced this week that it would ship the Pentium 4 in Q4 2000 as scheduled, but would not have the chips available for October 30, as previously expected. The company is denying that this is a delay, as it had only officially promised the chips by the end of the year. Intel says that a release the week of November 20 or later is probable.

Paul Allen steps down from Microsoft board
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen will step down from his position on the Microsoft Board of Directors and assume a new role as "senior strategy advisor" to top Microsoft executives. Allen left the day-to-day operations of the company in 1983 after being diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness, which he later overcame. Today, Allen is one of the richest men in the world: He owns the Portland Trailblazers and is involved in a number of investments, including numerous high tech operations.

Colored plastics makers in shock as Apple warns of falling sales
As expected, Apple Computer announced this week that its earnings for the current quarter were far below projections. The company blames three factors: Lower than expected September sales, slow sales of the overpriced G4 cube, and a massive drop-off in educational sales, which usually bolster the August-September sales picture for the company. We might simplify this list to, "people stopped buying their products." Apple shares fell almost 50% when the news was released, from $55 to $29. Apple expects to make $110 million this quarter, instead of the previously expected $165 million.

Non-news of the week: Palm dominates handheld market
The latest PDA sales figures confirm that the Palm OS is dominating the market, which Windows CE-based devices have made little headway. The numbers for August show that Palm Inc.'s shared of the handheld market increased almost 10 percent to percent of the total market, while Handspring suffered a 10 percent loss to 15.5 percent. So, overall, the Palm OS retained its position with over 88% of the overall market. Analysts credit Palm's resurgence to the low-cost M100 model. Meanwhile, Compaq's cool new iPAQ device, which is based on Windows CE, grabbed 6.6 percent of the market. But the iPAQ is the only CE device to show appreciable share: Compaq has already promised to ramp up the production on this popular machine.

The rich get richer
Microsoft executives Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer received little or no salary increases this year, but don't feel bad for them just yet. Gates, who made $623,373 in salary and bonus last year, was actually outflanked by Ballmer, who made $628,414. But Gates owns over 13 percent of the company and Ballmer owns 4.5 percent, and the men are among the richest in the world. Gates is worth over $60 billion, while Ballmer is worth a paltry $15.5 billion. Something tells me that these guys don't splurge for a night out at McDonalds all that often

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