WinInfo Daily UPDATE, May 11, 2004

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In the News

- Microsoft: No XP SP2 for Pirated Copies
- Second Alleged Virus Author Arrested in Germany
- EA Announces Support for Xbox Live
- Intel Launches Powerful New Pentium M Processors, Cancels Next-Generation Pentium 4

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft: No XP SP2 for Pirated Copies

This week, Microsoft verified that Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), the company's long-awaited security update, won't install on pirated copies of the best-selling OS. Press reports had suggested that Microsoft was going to let pirated versions install the update but the company says that XP SP2 will behave exactly like its predecessor, XP SP1, in that regard.
"Recent press reports indicating Windows XP Service Pack 2 will install on pirated or illegal copies of Windows XP are not true," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "Instead, prior to installing, SP2 will check the operating system's product ID against a list of known pirated product IDs. If the product ID is found to be invalid, SP2 will not install."
Microsoft recently delayed the long-awaited XP SP2 from the first half of 2004 to July or August, mostly because the company discovered incompatibilities between the update and some software applications and services. XP SP2 includes various new security-oriented features, such as a new on-by-default software firewall and other technologies that combat electronic attacks.
Although Microsoft is adopting an XP SP1-like stance, the company's decision to prevent pirated copies from installing the XP SP2 update wasn't an obvious one, Microsoft sources told me last week. The situation is complex: Although the company obviously wants to prevent pirates from reaping the benefits of XP SP2, what happens when electronic attackers use unpatched, pirated copies of XP as worm or virus "zombies" in distributed attacks on legitimate computer users? In the end, Microsoft decided that the benefits of preventing pirates from updating their XP copies outweigh the benefits of protecting those systems. Let's hope that the company made the right decision.

Second Alleged Virus Author Arrested in Germany

German authorities arrested a second alleged virus author Friday, Microsoft announced yesterday, but the arrest was unrelated to the alleged author of the Sasser worm's arrest, which also occurred on Friday. The second arrest concerns the alleged author of the Agobot worm, which attackers can use to gain control of remote computers. Microsoft wouldn't confirm whether any other individuals were arrested in the Agobot case, but press reports suggest that German authorities have detained at least two other people.
Microsoft verified that it aided German law enforcement in both the Agobot and Sasser cases but explained that the two investigations were separate and unrelated. "Two different paths led to two different cases which resulted in arrests around the same time," a Microsoft spokesperson said. Unlike the Sasser case, informants weren't responsible for the arrest in the Agobat case, although Microsoft declined to reveal how German authorities discovered the alleged Agobot author.
Meanwhile, a fifth version of the Sasser worm was discovered after German authorities captured its alleged author, but press reports correctly indicate that the 18-year-old German man who is in custody couldn't have created the new worm. The German teenager has admitted to writing the Sasser worm and all 28 variants of the Netsky virus, which assaulted computers worldwide in February.

EA Announces Support for Xbox Live

Ending more than a year of acrimony, Electronic Arts (EA) and Microsoft have agreed to terms that will let EA publish versions of its best-selling video games that run on Microsoft's popular Xbox Live online gaming service. When Microsoft launched the service in late 2002, EA declined to participate for a variety of reasons. At the time, EA's primary complaint was that it saw no reason to give Microsoft access to its customers.
Today, the story is dramatically different. At an Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) 2004 preconference press event yesterday, EA and Microsoft announced that the two companies have resolved their differences and will work together to promote EA's games on Xbox Live. EA said that it will ship 15 Xbox Live-compatible games by the end of the year. The games include some of the industry's best-selling titles, such as Madden NFL 2005, NBA Live 2005, NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup, and GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. The first EA-produced Xbox Live game will ship in August.
The delay in getting EA's games on Xbox Live has cost Microsoft. Largely because EA's best-selling online game titles were available only on the PlayStation 2, Sony was able to sell millions of its PlayStation 2 network adapters, which let PlayStation 2 owners play games online. Microsoft claims that it still offers the best online gaming experience, however, and said this week that almost 1 million customers have subscribed to the Xbox Live service, up from 750,000 at the end of last year. No doubt the availability of EA's games will also help the service.

Intel Launches Powerful New Pentium M Processors, Cancels Next-Generation Pentium 4

This week, Intel significantly boosted the performance of the Intel Centrino mobile microprocessor products with the introduction of new Pentium M processors that feature faster clock speeds and system buses and larger cache sizes. The company also announced that it's canceling the development of two next-generation desktop-based microprocessors so it can concentrate on more powerful dual-core microprocessors. Both announcements are a boon for PC users because Intel pledges to keep up its recent pace of innovation and speed the development of its processors and related chipsets.
The new Pentium M designs, which are code-named Dothan, will ship this week in a variety of notebook computers and Tablet PCs. The Dothan family currently includes three new processors, all of which feature a smaller 90nm process (compared with the earlier-generation Pentium M chips' 130nm process), resulting in smaller sizes, less power consumption, less heat, and lower costs. However, because the new chips use the same socket design that the earlier-generation chips used, PC makers can immediately integrate the Dothan CPUs into their existing mobile computers.
The Dothan processors are also the first products to use Intel's new chip-naming conventions. The Intel Pentium M processor 735, for example, runs at 1.7GHz and costs $294 per chip (in quantity). The other two models include the Pentium M processor 745, which runs at 1.8GHz and costs $423, and the high-end Pentium M processor 755, which runs at 2GHz and costs $637. The number 7 in these product names denotes the Dothan generation of chips, whereas the latter two numbers specify relative performance. The Pentium M processor 755, for example, has higher-level performance than the Pentium M processor 735.
Meanwhile, Intel also announced that it will halt development of the Tejas Pentium 4 and Jayhawk Xeon processors. Both CPUs featured single-processor cores, and the company says it will now concentrate only on dual-core processors, which feature increased performance. "We are reprioritizing and revamping our roadmap," an Intel spokesperson said. "This is a competitive move." Dual-core processors appear as two different processors to compatible OSs such as Windows and often perform as well as two separate processors, without the resulting costs, heat, and noise. Intel says it will ship next-generation, dual-core desktop and server processors next year.

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