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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of August 22

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including R2 RC0, Google stock sale fears, RSS MESS, Visual Studio 2005 rush to market, Pentium D rush to market, YASVIE, blogging from Word, AOL, and many, many more acronyms...

WinInfo Blog

We're getting Verizon's Fios service soon; it looks sweet. Fios is a new cable modem competitor that offers 15Mbps of bandwidth (2Mbps upstream) for $50 a month, which is quite a bit better than the 7Mbps down/800Kbps up I'm getting now with RCN. I'll let you know how it goes, but my guess is nothing will change other than the bragging rights.

I recently bought an HP LightScribe DVD writer, which lets you burn images onto the label side of specially made LightScribe DVDs. It's pretty cool, but what's really amazing is the cost: This puppy is just $90 and features DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and CD-R/CD-RW compatibility, writes DVDs at 16x speeds, and is dual-layer compatible. Folks, technology has never been cheaper. If you're still chugging along with a CD-RW drive, it's time to upgrade.

I'm thinking about moving my daily blog to the SuperSite for Windows and opening it up to comments. Let me know what you think about that.

Is it me or has the summer just flown by? A couple of unseasonably cool days reminded me this week that fall is coming, and you know what? I'm not ready.

Speaking of which, it's been a big year for travel, and for once most of it isn't business related. After our wildly successful trip to Quebec City and at the prompting of quite a few readers, I should note, we've decided to spend three days in Montreal this October. But I have a few trips before that happens, including a week in Los Angeles for the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2005 (where my wife and some friends from Phoenix will join me for a long weekend) and several days in Seattle. After that: Paris in November. Yeah, it's crazy.

Short Takes

Windows Server 2003 R2 Nears Completion
   This week, Microsoft's next Windows Server revision, Windows Server 2003 R2 (for Release 2) hit the release candidate (RC) stage with the release (ahem) of its Release Candidate 0 (RC0) version to beta testers. (How often do you get to use the word release so often in one sentence?) Microsoft has seriously scaled back R2 since its inception, and many Microsoft customers probably won't see the release (sorry) as a big deal. However, R2--which includes the Service Pack 1 (SP1) security enhancements and a handful of niche market features--will replace Windows 2003 in the channel as the "current" Windows Server release. Expect R2 to be released to customers in October or November. Release. There, I said it again.

Google Stock Sale Raises Competitors' Fears
   Google set off DEFCON 2 alarms around the tech industry this week when it announced that it plans to sell off 14.2 million shares of stock to raise more than $4 billion in cash for general purposes, including acquisitions. Companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo! are bracing for what is expected to be an acquisition orgy in which Google will position itself to better compete in existing and, perhaps most damaging, new markets. You can almost hear the whispers in Redmond: What if Google buys an office productivity suite? An OS? A Web browser? It's all scary stuff--if you're Microsoft, that is. For the rest of us, it's all just old-fashioned fun. Grab some popcorn; this should be fun to watch.

Microsoft in RSS Mess
   Oh, Microsoft, can you see now how even the smallest things can set off a world of hurt? In its release of Windows Vista Beta 1, Microsoft referred to Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds as Web feeds in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0, setting off a storm of geek controversy. That dark underbelly of the Web that invented and started using RSS doesn't want Microsoft to rename its beloved technology because, you know, "RSS feeds" is so much more obvious than "Web feeds" to the hundreds of millions of typical people who will use Vista. But as so many have now noted, RSS feeds aren't called RSS feeds in most RSS-compatible applications. Open-source darling Mozilla Firefox calls them Live Bookmarks. Beloved RSS aggregator NewsGator simply calls them feeds. And calls them syndication. Frankly, I'd call them Web subscriptions, but what the heck, I don't get to name these things. Anyway, heads up to the six trolls who haven't seen the sun in 8 years and still think RSS is a good name. That stuff might fly with the geeks you surround yourself with, but it won't work with the other 99 percent of the planet. Get a life, move on, and embrace progress. You do want your precious technology to be used by real people, right?

Visual Studio.NET 2005 Coming in November, Ready or Not
   I've often railed against the release-date mentality at Microsoft, and here's the latest example of why hitting arbitrary dates isn't a good thing. When Microsoft recently announced its November 7 ship date for Visual Studio.NET 2005--a perpetually delayed product that would be renamed Visual Studio.NET 2006 if Microsoft actually followed its own naming conventions--beta testers reacted in a most unexpected way. They first asked--then begged--Microsoft to delay the release to 2006. The reason? The current beta version has far too many bugs and performance problems, testers say, and they think it needs more time. Shush, you rebels. Why should Microsoft meet arbitrary quality bars when it has a concrete date to meet? Sheesh. The company has a product wave to catch. Or something.

Intel Rep Acknowledges That Dual-Core Pentium 4 Was a Rush Job
   When Intel announced its plans for the dual-core Pentium 4 processor, since renamed Pentium D, executives from rival chipmaker AMD argued that Intel's design was inferior and included performance-hampering features that AMD's dual-core chips lacked. Turns out that AMD was right. But what's more impressive is that Intel is admitting that fact. This week, Intel engineer Jonathan Douglas told attendees at a microprocessor conference that the Pentium D chip was rushed to market and is, in effect, a technical hack job. To get the Pentium D out the door quickly, he said, Intel had to retain the memory bus from the Pentium 4, which creates a performance bottleneck in the dual-core Pentium D processor. This bottleneck, as AMD noted, doesn't exist in AMD's chips. Intel will fix this and other Pentium D performance problems in a future upgrade, but for now, AMD users can rest easy: AMD's dual-core desktop chips are better. Just ask Intel.

New IE Vulnerability Probed
   When are people going to figure out that using IE is about as safe as driving a car while simultaneously chatting on a cell phone, watching TV, and eating a hot dinner in their laps? This week, a YASVIE (yet another security vulnerability in IE) was discovered, and yes, once again, the vulnerability is heightened by the browser's integration with Windows. Hackers have already exploited the flaw, which could let them remotely control unsuspecting users' PCs, and the code is floating around out there in the nebulous cloud we call the Internet. IE users can protect themselves by not visiting untrusted Web sites and disabling ActiveX, or they can use my favorite approach: a safer browser. I use and recommend Firefox. How many robberies will it take before you start locking the door?

Stardock Releases Windows Vista Customization Tool
   Those savvy Windows customizers at Stardock have already released the first Vista Beta 1 UI customization tool, dubbed Stardock StyleVista. "StyleVista is a simple program that lets users alter the new Aero user interface," the Stardock Web site states. "Users can set the color and opacity of the foreground widow and the background window. Future builds will include even more features. Stay tuned!" Sounds good to me. If you're lucky enough to have the Beta 1 bits, head on over to Stardock's Web site to check it out.

Google Offers Blogging from Microsoft Word
   It's so obvious that you have to wonder why Microsoft never thought of it. Oh wait, Microsoft doesn't think of anything, does it? OK, sorry that was a low blow, but how do I just know that we're going to see a tool like this for MSN Spaces any day now? Anyway, users of Google's free Blogger tool--which I use for my Internet Nexus blog
( )--will want to check out the new Blogger for Word add-on, which lets you edit and create posts from Microsoft Office Word for Windows (version 2000 and newer). The add-on appears to work pretty well, and honestly, most blogs could use a little spell checking.

Google Isn't Amused with Yahoo!'s Search Index Numbers
   Speaking of Google, the search giant isn't amused by Yahoo!'s latest Web searching claim. According to Yahoo!, the Yahoo! Search engine now indexes more than 19 billion Web pages, which is a lot more than the 8.2 billion pages Google claims it searches. Google doesn't have a problem with the disparity, per say, but with the number itself. According to Google, that 19 billion number is "mathematically impossible" or some such nonsense. Meanwhile, Microsoft, which indexes about 5 billion Web pages through MSN Search, is being silent on the matter. Maybe it's mulling over the math.

AOL Identity Thief Gets 15 Months in Prison
   The boob who stole millions of AOL customer account email addresses last year was sentenced to 15 months in prison this week. He will also receive 3 years of supervised release, although he can shorten that time to 2 years if he pays $84,000 in restitution. "I know I've done something very wrong, and I've tried to find why, and it's something I've not come up with an answer for," the defendant said, in a quote that sounds suspiciously like something my 7-year-old son would say if I asked him why he whacked his sister with a stick. The boob previously worked in AOL's Virginia offices, where he used another employee's logon to access AOL's computer systems and download more than 90 million AOL email addresses. Ah, white collar crime.

NetApplications: Firefox Slipped Up in July
   According to a NetApplications survey, Firefox actually lost market share to IE in July--the first time that's ever happened. Firefox use dropped from 8.7 percent to 8.1 percent last month, the company says, whereas IE use rose from 86.6 percent to 87.2 percent. August should be a "telling month," according to NetApplications. Indeed. But all isn't lost for Firefox. Many Web sites, including some of the most influential on the Internet, are reporting that Firefox use is much, much higher than might be expected. PC World's Harry McCracken reported this week that Firefox use on his company's Web site is at a whopping 21 percent, compared with 72 percent for IE. What does this all mean? The fight isn't over, at least not yet.

Dell Customer Satisfaction Rating Plummets as Apple Scores
   PC giant Dell recently got some bad news when the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released its yearly ratings for PC maker customer satisfaction. Dell customers rated the company just a 74--down from its 79 rating a year ago--because of poor customer service (Dell's products, meanwhile, were highly rated). By comparison, the darling of the report, Apple Computer, rated 81, and once again took the top spot in the survey, although Apple's insanely loyal customer base probably skewed those numbers. For what it's worth, Gateway fared even worse than Dell, with a 72 score, and HP came in at 73. (HP's Compaq product service rated just 67.)

MSN Tests Roaming IE Favorites Tool
   This week, Microsoft's MSN unit began beta testing an add-on for the MSN Toolbar called Roaming Favorites, which lets you manage, search, and access IE Favorites, even when you're not at your PC (not sure how that last one works). Basically, the add-on synchronizes your IE Favorites to a central server, which you can then access from anywhere on the Web (using a Passport logon, of course). This sounds like a neat little tool, although it's currently not available to the public. I'll try to take a look at it soon.

OK, go have a weekend. Seriously; get out of here.

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