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August 2, 2002—In this issue:
1. SHORT TAKES
- Sideshow Isn't Longhorn
- Want an Early Peek at the Longhorn 3-D Display? Check Out Mac OS x 10.2
- Ahem, Microsoft Did Delay Win2K SP3
- Win2K SP3 Downloads and Other Information
- Win.NET Server RC1 CPP Available
- OS X Gets OpenOffice.Org X But Not StarOffice
- Joel Klein Gets New York Schools Job
- SP3 Licensing Controversy Is No Controversy
- Does Win2K SP3 Have Problems?
- If You Have an Urgent or Annoying Windows 2000/NT Problem
- Get One Step Closer to Certification at CertTutor.net
3. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. SHORT TAKES
(An irreverent look at some of the week's other stories, contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
When your only source of information is user feedback on a rumors site, you know you're in trouble. But that fact didn't stop an otherwise respectable technical publication (which shall remain nameless) from publishing a story this week that erroneously tied some current Microsoft beta products to Longhorn, the next Windows version. These products include Sideshow, a Microsoft internal test product that places Internet links in a locked toolbar on the side of your screen, and MSN 8, which uses a new Dashboard component (incorrectly called a "task shelf" in the report) to provide MSN-services-based links either in the MSN browser or directly on the desktop. So what's the connection to Longhorn, you ask? Longhorn will reportedly include a Start Menu replacement that will, yes, change the menu into a "shelf" or docked toolbar that's always onscreen and provide links to local services and Microsoft .NET-based Web services. The report cites "tester sources" (people who downloaded these leaked products) who say that these products are all "based on the same technology." That's quite a leap of faith, isn't it? Sure, the products all basically perform the same function, but that function is a solution to the fairly obvious problem of Active Desktop, which is that the content it exposes is usually hidden under a user's applications. So moving this content to a pane, shelf, dock, or whatever you want to call it (some interface element that's always on screen) solves that problem nicely, in a very obvious way. This solution is also the reason that, in Windows XP, Windows Messenger exposes Web services—and not through Active Desktop, incidentally. And it's the reason all these disparate solutions are in the works now. But these products aren't related in any concrete way but instead solve the same general problem in an obvious and, yes, similar way.
Another confusing Longhorn feature is its 3-D-based UI—some people believe that Longhorn will somehow feature a spatial UI, similar to the one in the Michael Crichton novel "Disclosure." That idea is nice, but it isn't feasible yet. Instead, Longhorn will feature a desktop-based, task-driven UI based on Windows XP's UI but substantially updated. The 3-D element comes into play through Longhorn's incorporation of Direct3D, Microsoft's 3-D display technology (used today primarily in games), which Longhorn will use to render desktop objects. Interestingly, Apple will also incorporate a similar display approach into the next Mac OS X version, code-named Jaguar, which will ship later this month. Of course, Jaguar uses Open GL instead of Direct3D for what Apple calls its Quartz Extreme display, but the net effect is the same: Under each OS, the desktop is essentially a 3-D scene that renders objects as textured polygons. And although users with low-end hardware will see desktop effects similar to today's OSs, Longhorn and Jaguar users with decent 3-D video cards will see dramatic performance and display-appearance improvements, similar to the effect such users would expect when playing modern 3-D games. Good stuff, and yes, Apple's delivering it first.
Early in July, I wrote a story about Microsoft delaying Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 (SP3) because of an internal debate about whether to include Microsoft Installer (MSI) 2.0, a component that the company had been shipping separately for Windows users since last year. For some reason, several people questioned the validity of this story, but I still have the internal Microsoft email thread that spells out the problem pretty succinctly. "In the past week, we have experienced bugs caused by MSI 2.0 in some way or form," the July 5 internal email reads. "Some of our bigger customers, like Gateway, and widely used applications, like Corel Draw, Corel WordPerfect, OmniPage, and PC-Cillin, etc., are affected. Even though MSI 2.0 has crossed the one million plus download mark, we are still facing MSI 2.0-related issues. As we speak, our devs and test are triaging bugs that might be affected by MSI 2.0 ... Before we move ahead with a \[MSI 2.0\] retraction plan, we want to make sure that we are doing the right thing for our customers ... This will have a bad hit to \[Win2K\] SP3 schedule ... Either direction we take, we will miss our deadlines." From a timeline perspective, SP3 was supposed to ship in mid-July, but Microsoft just released the service pack this week. And to answer the most obvious question about SP3, yes, Microsoft eventually included MSI 2.0 in the release.
Speaking of Win2K SP3, you can now download the massive bug-fix update from Microsoft. Here is the Microsoft SP3 URL and a few related links:
Win2K SP3 bug list:
Win2K SP3 deployment tools:
Win2K SP3 support tools:
Microsoft's freely downloadable version of Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server) Release Candidate 1 (RC1)—the Customer Preview Program (CPP)—is now available, the company says. Users who sign up for CPP can download Windows .NET Standard Server (Win.NET Standard Server—formerly Windows 2000 Server) RC1 and Windows .NET Enterprise Server (Win.NET Enterprise Server—formerly Win2K Advanced Server) RC1, as well as other support tools and documents. CPP members should have received an email that describes the download instructions.
That's what I get for trusting C\NET. This week, Sun Microsystems officials denied a C\NET report that stated that the company planned to release a version of its StarOffice suite for Mac OS X. In fact, Sun is planning an official OS X port of its open-source OpenOffice.org office suite, which forms the basis of the commercial StarOffice product. Sun says that even people inside the company are confused about the differences between OpenOffice.org and StarOffice and that the Sun executive quoted in the C\NET report was misinformed (and, presumably, summarily executed). Apparently, Sun forced the poor guy to clarify his remarks in a way that resembles the US Air Force's explanation of the weather balloon found in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. "\[My comments were\] some wishful thinking, and these were misinterpreted and taken out of context, and gave altogether the wrong impression of my offline discussion," Tony Siress, Sun's senior director of desktop marketing solutions, wrote. "We do not have a version of StarOffice for Mac OS X." Maybe Sun should code-name the OpenOffice.org port for OS X as Project Blue Book.
After taking Microsoft to school in the original Microsoft antitrust trial, former Department of Justice (DOJ) trustbuster Joel Klein has accepted a job running New York's public school system. There's no word on what qualifications Klein has for this job beyond, of course, his experience slapping down the schoolboy-like antics of America's favorite high-tech monopoly. But seriously, folks, I'm sure the New York public school system is in good hands. Good luck to Mr. Klein.
This week, an uninformed complaint about the Win2K SP3 End User License Agreement (EULA) is making the rounds, spreading some mistruths about information Microsoft is allegedly collecting after you install the patch. According to the complaint, the SP3 EULA gives Microsoft the right to collect your OS version number and Product Identification number, IE version number, other software's version numbers, and hardware devices' plug-and-play ID numbers. The complaint says this action is sneaky, underhanded, and any number of adjectives you'd care to add to the list. The truth, as ever, is far less fascinating. First, the system passes this information to Windows Update so that the service can provide the correct product updates for your system. But the EULA clearly states that the OS doesn't save this information or pass it along to Microsoft. "Windows Update does not collect your name, address, email address, or any other form of personally identifiable information," the EULA reads. "The configuration information collected is used only for the period of time that you are visiting the site and is not saved."
What's not so easily explained is a small rash of blue screens that some users have experienced when they update to Win2K SP3. I've heard a few complaints from people stating that specific Win2K systems are having problems with SP3, but I haven't heard anything concrete and haven't experienced the problem myself. More alarmingly, perhaps, I haven't been able to identify any common element in the affected systems. I'll let you know when or if I find out more about this potential problem.
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