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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of February 4

Windows More Secure Than Linux? Yep!
Thanks to David Byrne for this tip: For at least the first 8 months of 2001, open-source poster child Linux was far less secure than Windows, according to the reputable NTBugTraq, which is hosted by SecurityFocus, the leading provider of security information about the Internet. (The company's 2001 statistics are available only through August 2001 for the time being.) According to NTBugTraq, Windows 2000 Server had less than half as many security vulnerabilities as Linux during the reported period. When you break the numbers down by Linux distribution, Win2K had fewer vulnerabilities than RedHat Linux 7.0 or MandrakeSoft Mandrake Linux 7.2, and it tied with UNIX-leader Sun Microsystems Solaris 8.0 and 7.0. A look at the previous 5 years--for which the data is more complete--also shows that each year, Win2K and Windows NT had far fewer security vulnerabilities than Linux, despite the fact that Windows is deployed on a far wider basis than any version of Linux. So once again, folks, you have to ask yourselves: Is Windows really less secure than Linux? Or is this one of those incredible perception issues? For more information and the complete stats, visit the SecurityFocus Web site. I'll check back on this story to see how all of 2001 shapes up.

Microsoft Releases USB 2.0 Drivers for Windows XP
As promised in December, Microsoft has released the final version of its Windows XP USB 2.0 drivers; they're now available on Windows Update. According to Microsoft, USB 2.0 significantly increases the available bandwidth of the USB bus to 480Mbps, making USB 2.0 particularly suitable for high-performance (PC-attached) peripheral devices such as high-quality video-conferencing cameras, high-resolution scanners, and high-density storage devices.

Judge: Any Last-Minute Changes to Antitrust Settlement?
Think before speaking ... think before speaking ... Perhaps sensing that the public reaction to the proposed Department of Justice (DOJ) and Microsoft settlement isn't exactly, um, positive, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has asked both entities to file a status report next Friday and summarize any last-minute changes they want to make. Why would they want to make changes, you ask? Well, if the judge rules that the settlement isn't in the public interest, we're back to square one and the settlement is off. So it might behoove both sides to take a careful look at the public responses to the settlement and see if they can't make a few small changes. Should be interesting to see what, if anything, comes out of the request. Stay tuned.

US States Reimbursed for Legal Fees in Microsoft Antitrust Case
Microsoft is paying the legal bills for the US states that agreed to its proposed settlement with the DOJ, and the price tag comes to about $10 million. The largest benefactors from this pay-off include the state of New York, which gets more than $4.4 million, and the state of Wisconsin, which gets $1.7 million. The biggest losers, however, are the residents of the settling states, given the states' embarrassing capitulation before a convicted illegal monopolist. Shame!

Microsoft Hires Security Pooh-Bah
This week, Microsoft hired a new security pooh-bah (or chief security strategist in Microsoft-speak), and predictably, the hire came from outside the company. Scott Charney, formerly of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Cybercrime Prevention and Response Practice (say that three times fast), will take up the mantle on April 1, an appropriate day for any Microsoft security announcement when you think about it (or not; see my previous blurb about Linux security). If I understand the situation correctly, Charney will focus on chewing out Microsoft programmers for decades of code abuse. And that task is "irresistible," according to Charney. Good luck, Scott.

United States Goes After Deceptive Email
Finally. The federal government has turned its unblinking, all-seeing Eye of Sauron (tm) toward deceptive email practices and will soon begin prosecuting individuals who use email spam to fool consumers into spending their hard-earned cash. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that it is launching a "systemic attack" on spam and will focus on illegal pyramid schemes, Internet chain letters, and promotions that sell email-address lists. Now if the feds would just focus a bit on all the newbies who sent me party photos this week, I'd really be happy.

Gates Philanthropy Makes Newsweek Cover Story
A Newsweek cover story this week about Bill and Melinda Gates examined the couple's $24 billion worth of charitable contributions, along with the effects the money is having on global health issues. Say what you will about Gates, you have to give him credit for his philanthropy. And this story makes an earlier Time cover story about the new iMac look pretty silly by comparison, doesn't it?

EU Says Yes to HP and Compaq Merger
The European Union's (EU's) trade-regulation arm, the European Commission (EC), announced this week that it won't block the proposed merger between computing giants Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Compaq, setting the stage for a final showdown with the agency's US counterpart, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The funny thing is, critics of the merger are using the EC approval as proof that the combined companies won't be a global technology leader, as critics claim. Geesh.

Exchange Server Hits 100 Million Users
Microsoft announced this week that it has successfully dominated yet another market; its email and collaboration server product, Exchange Server, sold its 100 millionth seat (where seat equates to license, presumably). Given that the company announced its 75 millionth seat just this past October, that's a lot of new seats. There's a joke here waiting to happen, but I don't know what it is.

AOL Shouts Down File-Sharing Service
File-sharing service Aimster has been renamed Madster after AOL Time Warner won an arbitration battle over its domain name, ending months of expensive legal battles. I enjoy seeing a global superpower like AOL beating up on one of the little guys. If we're lucky, we'll get to see a similar battle when admittedly smaller Roxio beats up on Poiksoft, the maker of EZ CD-DA Extractor, which the company says infringes on its Easy CD Creator products' trademark. We live in a pathetic little world sometimes, don't we?

Palm Releases Second-Generation Wireless Device
This week, Palm released its second major stab at the emerging wireless market--the fetchingly named i705 handheld. Featuring a built-in antenna with always-on access to email and instant messaging, the new Palm device is expensive ($450) and targets the same enterprise market that the Pocket PC has been dominating. Palm's share of the handheld market fell from 53 percent in 2000 to 43 percent by the end of 2001, so the fact that the company is making such a move isn't surprising. However, you have to wonder why anyone would use this device instead of the superior RIM Blackberry, which features a useable keyboard. The answer: They won't.

Gateway Goes Crazy Eddie
Faced with falling market share, PC-maker Gateway has slashed prices on several of its laptop and desktop systems by $100 to $200, giving the company some of the lowest prices for fully-equipped PCs. You can now buy a 256MB, DVD-equipped Gateway laptop for as little as $999 and a basic Gateway server machine for only $500. If you're searching for a low-cost system, a Gateway is a much better choice than the eMachines or other bargain-basement boxes you might find in retail stores.

AMD Aims at Laptop Market
Wallowing in the success of the previous holiday season, in which it gained on market-leader Intel, microprocessor-maker AMD announced this week that it will soon sell new processors aimed at the laptop market. The 1.3GHz AMD Athlon 1500+ is now available, and it's faster than any of the Intel mobile chips. Expect to see an interesting response from 800-pound gorilla Intel, which doesn't appreciate this kind of one-upmanship.

Microsoft Visio Division in Fraud Flap
A software-development company in Utah is suing Microsoft for stealing its technology: Code Zebra says that it revealed patented CAD technology to Visio when the two companies discussed cross licensing. But after the deal fell through, Microsoft bought Visio and reportedly sold Visio-based products that use the Code Zebra technology. And Microsoft continued to do so (again, reportedly) after Code Zebra notified the company that it was illegally using the technology. We so rarely see a company accuse Microsoft of stealing technology that I don't know what to make of this development.

The Register Reads WinInfo, Writes Story
I've been ripped off before--a lot--but this is ridiculous. In a story marked "Exclusive" on the home page of UK-based IT journal The Register, a reporter dusts off weeks-old stories from WinInfo Daily UPDATE and the SuperSite for Windows to tell breathless readers about the wonders of Longhorn ("XP successor Longhorn goes SQL, P2P--Microsoft leaks"). If the article reads like a summary of what I've already (ahem, exclusively) written about Longhorn, that's because it is. And frankly, summarizing other people's stories is what The Register does best, I guess. If you want the real deal, you know where to turn. I first wrote about the SQL Server file system in 1998 and covered Longhorn extensively in another article about 2 weeks ago. Irritating? Sure. Surprising? No.

Apple Ships 1GHz Power Mac Systems
I ride Apple a lot, but the company recently demonstrated what it can do when it doesn't over-promise. Apple quietly shipped new dual-processor 1GHz versions of its Power Mac G4 desktops this week, dramatically expanding the power of its aging desktop line for the first time. Apple's hardware is stuck in a perpetual loop these days, thanks to the waning development of the Motorola Power PC chips that power the boxes. Now that the company has finally hit 1GHz (almost 2 years after AMD and Intel first did it), it can make up some lost ground. Then again, Intel just hit 2.2GHz.

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