An Often-Irreverent Look at Some of the Week's Other Stories
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Short Takes Blog
- Update Rollup 2 for XP Media Center 2005 Arrives
- Surprise ... Apple Copies Media Center
- Not News: XP to get Vista Gadgets
- Xbox 360 to Be in Short Supply
- EU Examines Microsoft's Security Moves
- No Office Suite from Us, Says Google
- Ex-Microsoftie Gets 2.5 Years for Theft
- Yahoo! Embraces Podcasts
- Now Google Looks at Purchasing AOL
- Palm Markets Palm in New Products
- We Got Nine, Count 'Em, Nine Security Bulletins This Week
- OpenOffice.org 2.0 Now Due Next Week
- Ubuntu Linux 5.1 Released
==== Short Takes Blog ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]
Last week, I mentioned that I was getting FiOS fiber-optic Internet service installed, and although that's still true, it's happening this week, not last week. It seems I misfiled the appointment. Anyway, the installers are here now, and it's a multi-hour exercise that reminds me, not so fondly, of the day I got cable modem in Phoenix about 10 years ago. First, someone showed up earlier in the week to work on the fiber optics outside of my house, because that's time consuming and they don't run fiber the last leg to a house until the customer asks for the service. Then, FiOS requires a battery backup to be installed so that the phone still works if the power goes out. Anyway, I'm up and running. I'll have some performance data next week. So far, it looks insanely fast.
Although this will never approach the devastation that happened recently in the American south, the weather here in New England, for the past week, has been decidedly biblical. We haven't seen the sun in more than 7 days, and the rain is going to last for at least the next 3 days, we're told. Places are flooding. Tempers are flaring. Suddenly, I understand why the suicide rate in places such as Seattle is so high: Gray just gets old. I do enjoy the rain, though, and the pragmatic part of me knows we need it. But we can't use the hot tub when the weather's like this, let alone go outside. Please stop. Please.
I was going to travel to New York yesterday for DigitalLife, a digital media trade show, but I canceled my plans at the last moment because of a pending software release that's a bit more important. The timing is bad: I'm going to Montreal on Sunday, so I'll be more out of touch than usual for most of next week. But that means I need to get a bunch of updates done today and Saturday, which made the New York trip impossible. And unlike most recent trade shows, DigitalLife looked to be pretty good. Ah well.
==== Short Takes ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]
Update Rollup 2 for XP Media Center 2005 Arrives
At the DigitalLife show in New York City today, Microsoft will unveil its much-anticipated Update Rollup 2 (UR2) for Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2005, the company's last significant update to Media Center before it's completely subsumed into Windows Vista. Actually, I'm told that two-thirds of all former Microsoft eHome employees (who were responsible for Media Center) have been working on the Vista Media Center software (code-named Diamond) and not UR2 (code-named Emerald), all year so that change has been underway for quite some time. If you're interested in UR2, I have a full review on the SuperSite for Windows. It's a minor update, but it's free and will be widely available on the Web later today.
Surprise ... Apple Copies Media Center
Speaking of Media Center, I'm surprised that there wasn't more outrage over Apple Computer's Front Row software, which is a complete Media Center rip-off (albeit one that offers only a subset of Media Center features). Joe Belfiore, the general manager of Microsoft's eHome division, is in New York this week for Digital Life for the soft-launch of XP MCE 2005 UR2, and he's surprised about a completely different issue. "I was surprised that it took them as long as this to do a feature like Media Center," he said. Indeed. But this lengthy gestation--Media Center has been out for more than 3 years now--suggests that Apple isn't all-powerful. Furthermore, Apple is only now dealing with problems Microsoft solved 4 years ago--infrared (IR) interfaces, for starters--and has yet to figure out all the issues involved with TV tuner cards, TV recording, and so forth. In short, Apple has a long way to go to catch up with Media Center. Most tellingly, perhaps: Why is Apple's interface so text-based? It looks sad next to Microsoft's highly visual approach. Which, frankly, is what you want with digital media content. Just a thought.
Not News: XP to get Vista Gadgets
In what is quickly becoming a long-standing tradition, this week I must take exception with another bit of non-news that's been widely reported on the Web. In his blog this week, Microsoft Group Product Manager Sean Alexander noted that Windows Gadgets designed for Vista's new (and lamer) Sidebar feature will also run on Windows XP. This was picked up by a variety of news sites as "confirmation" that Gadgets would run on XP. But this was always the plan, and Microsoft announced this plan publicly at Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2005 in September. More to the point, why are these gadgets even happening? And where the heck did the real Sidebar go? That thing used to be cool.
Xbox 360 to Be in Short Supply
I can't imagine that this is going to be a huge surprise to anyone, but Microsoft's eagerly anticipated Xbox 360 video game console will be in extremely short supply through the holidays. Set for a November 22 global launch, Xbox 360 will likely be disappointing hopeful owners ... worldwide. "We're going to have some disappointment in terms of what we can provide to retail and ultimately to the consumers this year," said Microsoft Corporate Vice President J Allard this week. "We're going to take a little bit of heat on allocations, frankly, in all the territories." It's only a matter of time before people start camping out in front of local CompUSA and Best Buy stores.
EU Examines Microsoft's Security Moves
In a "jump the shark" moment that threatens to forever raise questions about the sanity of European Union (EU) antitrust regulators, the EU this week started raising questions about Microsoft's recent entry into the security market. Heads-up, people. We can make an argument about media players and Web browsers not needing to be integrated with Microsoft's OSs. There's no such argument--at all--about security. Microsoft's first priority should be to protect its users from harm, and if that means a few companies who have frankly been milking the security market for all its worth will suffer as a result, so be it. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Users come first.
No Office Suite from Us, Says Google
Google this week very quietly denied rumors that it's going to compete with Microsoft directly in the office productivity market, squashing hopes that Google would offer customers a Web-based version of OpenOffice.org. "We don't have any plans \[for that\]," Google cofounder Sergey Brin said at the Web 2.0 conference last weekend. "I don't really think that the thing is to take a previous generation of technology and port them directly." Instead, Brin noted that newly created Web services could offer "new and better things" than traditional Microsoft Office applications. You know, things such as weather updates and video blogs.
Ex-Microsoftie Gets 2.5 Years for Theft
A former Microsoft employee who stole software from the company and then sold it on the street, has been sentenced to 2.5 years in jail. Frank Philips used Microsoft's internal software ordering system to snag expensive software systems, which he then sold for a profit of more than $100,000. Actually, he's going to post a loss on those transactions because he was also ordered to pay $666,000 in restitution, an interesting sum.
Yahoo! Embraces Podcasts
This week, Yahoo! launched a pretty extensive podcast service, logically dubbed Yahoo! Podcasts, that lets users find, download, subscribe to, and rate podcasts, which are basically the audio version of blogs. Akin to recorded radio shows, podcasts vary as much in quality as they do in content selection, with everything from professionally produced shows to static-laden disasters that sound like they were recorded in someone's closet (because, of course, they were). In my recent exploration of podcasts, I've found that podcast versions of traditional radio shows tend to be the most interesting, but there's something for everyone, so take a peek. They're particularly good for commuters who can use iPods or other MP3 players to listen to the shows on the way to and from work.
Now Google Looks at Purchasing AOL
Last week, the tech news world was abuzz with rumors that Microsoft was looking into combining MSN with Time Warner's AOL service. This week brings news that Google is now looking into purchasing or investing in AOL as well (likely in a bid to simply aggravate Microsoft or at least drive up the price). What's amazing about AOL's sudden wellspring of suitors, of course, is that subscribers can't leave AOL fast enough, and the service is quickly becoming in danger of sinking under its own weight. Furthermore, this week, AOL opened up all its previously exclusive services to the Web, for free. Why the heck is anyone even interested in this?
Palm Markets Palm in New Products
This week, Palm updated its consumer-oriented Zire and business-oriented Tungsten product lines, but dropped the Zire and Tungsten brands in the process. The goal is to promote the Palm name above any particular product brands, so the new devices, dubbed Palm Z22 and Palm TX, reflect that change. "Now that we own the Palm brand again, we are more focused on promoting it," said Palm Product Line Manager Raj Doshi. "People know us more for Palm than they do for Tungsten or Zire." Good point. But people know you even more for conceding the PDA market to Microsoft. When are you going to address that issue?
We Got Nine, Count 'Em, Nine Security Bulletins This Week
This is kind of odd, but when Microsoft released a whopping nine security bulletins earlier this week, I, uh, forgot to write about it. Part of the problem of course, is that this kind of thing is tiring. Every month, we get an amazing collection of mind-numbing security fixes, and it's always the same thing: Windows blah blah blah, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) blah blah blah. Also, it was sort of a busy week, and as with terror alerts these days, security bulletins just don't get the attention they used to get. Maybe we're getting numb to it. Anyway, chances are you've got updates waiting on Windows Update, unless of course you wisely enabled Automatic Updates. Be safe. (Editors note: You can read a Randy Franklin Smith article about the nine security patches on the Windows IT Pro Web site.)
OpenOffice.org 2.0 Now Due Next Week
Eagled-eyed readers know that Sun Microsystems released its StarOffice 8.0 office productivity suite in late September, but the OpenOffice.org release on which it's based--OpenOffice.org 2.0--has yet to ship. Well, that will finally be rectified next week, when the open-source office productivity suite hits the streets. Like StarOffice 8.0, OpenOffice.org 2.0 supports the suddenly important Open Document format natively, offers a Microsoft Office 2003-like UI, and can export PDF files. But unlike Star Office 8.0, OpenOffice.org 2.0 will be completely free, which certainly has its benefits.
Ubuntu Linux 5.1 Released
And speaking of important new free software, Ubuntu Linux, my favorite Linux distribution, was just updated to version 5.1. The new Ubuntu includes GNOME 2.12.1, OpenOffice.org 2.0 Beta 2, audio CD-writing support, editable system menus, and more. The big deal with Ubuntu, of course, is its people-oriented vibe, dedication to simplicity, and commitment to regular releases. It's the best Linux out there and a great place to start if you're interested in seeing what all the fuss is about.
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