An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Earlier this month, I sat down with three key members of the Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) development team and got the inside scoop on the project. The question-and-answer session with Microsoft's Ryan Burkhardt, Jon Murchinson, and Todd Wanke is now available on the SuperSite for Windows, featuring never-before-revealed information about how a small "virtual" team worked outside the company's usually strict hierarchical system and made SP2 one of the highest-quality releases Microsoft has ever issued.
BitTorrent Goes Dark
The main public hubs for BitTorrent, the world's most popular file-sharing system, basically went dark this week when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) launched a massive legal attack against the people who run the network infrastructure. Just recently hailed as invulnerable to this type of pressure by "Wired Magazine," the BitTorrent hubs in fact fell faster than Baghdad, with the sudden and unexpected shutdown surprising file sharers around the globe. The MPAA says it went after BitTorrent because the site is responsible for about 40 percent of all illegally traded online content, including Hollywood blockbuster movies. As always, I expect digital thieves to continue thriving, and BitTorrent will continue as a much-reduced force. But they'll have to find a different method, at least for now.
Google Fixes Security Problem in Desktop Search Tool
Yet another serious security hole has been discovered in Google's suddenly dubious Google Desktop Search tool, leading to questions about the viability of moving a Web-based product to user desktops. According to researchers at Rice University, a flaw in Google Desktop Search could let malicious attackers access users' search results, giving attackers information about the files on their machines. Google says that it has fixed the problem and can roll out the fix to users who use the tool's auto-update functionality. The fix took almost a month to arrive; the company was notified about the problem in late November.
Microsoft Sets Date with Office Developers
Microsoft will launch its first-ever Microsoft Office developer conference in February, although the event will be a much smaller gathering than the typical trade show. To be held at a conference center on Microsoft's Redmond campus, the Microsoft Office System Developer Conference will host about 800 developers and provide information about building enterprise-class solutions for Office products such as Live Communications Server, Microsoft Project Server, Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server, and Visual Studio Tools for Office, as well as the traditional Office desktop applications.
Microsoft Ships Media Center Extender Update Rollup 1
This week, Microsoft shipped Update Rollup 1 for Microsoft Media Center Extender for Windows XP Media Center, with versions of the fix available to customers of both HP and Linksys Media Center Extenders. (A version of the fix will ship in January for Media Center Extender for Xbox users.) The update rollup is a must-have for all Extender customers because it lets you stream content, such as Cinemax and HBO content, that's protected with Copy Generation Management System/Analog (CGMS/A). The update rollup also fixes several other problems and appeared to work well when I tested it this week. You can find out more about this fix and grab the free download from the Microsoft Web site.
HMV Partners with Microsoft for Online Music Store
Add European music retail giant HMV to the ever-growing list of companies that have picked Microsoft's widely compatible Windows Media Audio (WMA) format for their online music stores. HMV Online will launch in late 2005 in the UK, according to HMV, and the company's 200 UK stores will heavily promote the service. Because HMV will use WMA, music purchased from the service will be compatible with more than 75 portable devices--but not with Apple Computer's iPod, which continues to support only the proprietary Apple iTunes Music Store.
Exchange Edge Services? Just Kidding!
Although Microsoft promised to ship a product called Exchange Edge Services in 2005, this week the company basically said that it was just kidding and will instead move some of the expected Edge Services functionality into Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2), which is due in late 2005. I guess you could look at this situation one of two ways. For the positive thinkers, the new functionality--which includes various antispam technologies and support for the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) identification standard--will now be free. For the grinches, Microsoft just delayed Edge Services by at least 6 months. So which is it, people? Cheers or brickbats?
Is Holiday Season 2004 a Bust?
Blame the economy, the jobless rate, or a certain guy in the White House, but one fact has become increasingly clear: Retail sales during the crucial month of December, when most retailers make up to 50 percent of their yearly income, are down dramatically from previous years. As a result, retail stores that had pledged to hold the line on prices have instead starting marking down items with a ferocity that would startle even Sam Walton. The goal, at this point, is to bring 2004's numbers at least even with 2003. But I have to say, from my own limited experience trolling the highways and malls of eastern Massachusetts, that stores seem pretty busy. The lines at some cash registers resemble lines for the rides at Disneyland when I was young.
Penton Technology Media is closed tomorrow for the holidays, so we won't publish WinInfo Daily UPDATE again until Monday. If you're celebrating, have a safe and happy holiday. We'll be back next week.