Short Takes

Microsoft Executive Threatening Oracle Automobiles
This spring, Microsoft Senior Vice President Brian Valentine was in Silicon Valley, California, visiting business partners. Having arrived 30 minutes early for an appointment, he was sitting in his car in the Oracle parking lot working on his Windows XP beta 2­equipped laptop. He discovered that the car alarm in the BMW next to him went off whenever he lifted the laptop above the edge of his car window. After some investigation, he determined that the infrared (IR) port on the laptop was triggering the car alarm. Valentine was having so much fun that he forgot about work and drove around the parking lot, in his words, "looking for other cars that feel threatened by XP." In an email he sent to Microsoft's executive staff, he joked, "Sun \[Microsystems\] is just up the street, and I'm sure I can find lots of cars there that are scared to death of XP."

Microsoft Vows to Make Windows More Secure
At a security conference in San Francisco this spring, Microsoft vowed to make Windows more secure. Responding to criticism that its products are a Swiss cheese of vulnerabilities, Microsoft Security Manager Scott Culp said, "We've made a clean break with our past policy on security. We recognize that every piece of software has vulnerabilities and bugs. We have to deal with them." So do the customers. A suggestion for improved security is to provide a consistent method for Microsoft products to automatically download and install security fixes on the fly without rebooting.

Is Microsoft Scheming to Kill MP3?
According to a Wall Street Journal report, RealNetworks and Microsoft are scheming to eliminate the popular MP3 audio format, which is a decade old, lacks piracy-protection features, and offers fairly low-quality performance with large file sizes. The reason that the article gave for the change is that Microsoft has created a file format similar to MP3, Windows Media Player 8, which offers far better sound quality at lower resolutions and file sizes. However, the report is sensational and inaccurate. For example, the report leads readers to believe that Windows Media Player 8 will support Windows Media Audio (WMA) encoding at any resolution but limit MP3 encoding support to 56Kbps. The truth is that Microsoft is only testing an MP3 plugin in Windows Media Player 8's beta phase and won't offer MP3 encoding in the final release. (However, Windows Media Player 8 will offer MP3 playback.) Instead, third-party vendors (mostly PC makers) can add MP3 encoding support to systems as they see fit.

The FTC Gives Microsoft and HP a Slap on the Wrist
The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has forced Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard (HP) to pull advertisements that claim that the PocketPC has built-in wireless Internet capabilities. The ads stated that the PocketPC had anywhere, anytime Internet access and misrepresents the product's actual capabilities. The PocketPC doesn't ship with wireless Internet access functionality; this capability is an add-on that costs anywhere from $150 to $350 plus monthly charges. "It is critical these ads stick to the facts and accurately reflect a PDA's capabilities," said Jodie Bernstein, the director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection. "These settlements will help ensure that consumers understand what a PDA can and cannot do before they make a purchase."

TAGS: Security
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