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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of July 11

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a fixed memory leak in XP Tablet PC, London, AMD, a new digital movie service, a Sasser conviction, Red Hat revenues, Google toolbar for Firefox, spyware vs. PC users, and so much more...

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What is it about short weeks that make them seem busier than normal weeks? Thanks to Independence Day on Monday, we compacted the rest of the work week into 4 days, or at least that's what it felt like. Combine that with lousy weather this past week--only one beach day all week--and I'm suddenly ready for summer to come back.

Next week is MacWorld Boston, and since I live near Boston, I'll probably attend most of the show. I guess I can't assume that many people who read this will be going (ahem), but if you are, drop me a note.

I have a pet peeve about Web sites and email newsletters that veer off course. For example, there's no reason for tech news sites to arbitrarily cover world events. But I would like to quickly comment on the events that happened in London this week. After the euphoria of its winning bid to host the 2012 Olympics, London was rocked by a terrorist attack yesterday morning, as I'm sure you know. My heart goes out to the city--one of the greatest in the world--but I'm also impressed by the strength and resolve of the people there. We don't always respond to things in the best way, but Londoners have a lot to be proud of this week. As an American, it's interesting to watch.

On a more technical note, why can't Digital Visual Interface (DVI)-based KVM switches typically work with resolutions above 1600 x 1200? VGA-based KVM switches degrade video quality but can work at virtually any resolution, whereas DVI switches, which don't kill the video quality, can't. I find this odd--and somewhat limiting, since my screen runs at 1920 x 1200. I'm trying to reduce the number of devices in my office, not increase it.

Thanks to everyone that wrote in with info about Quebec City and email hosting solutions. I was a little unsure about mentioning that stuff, but the responses were incredible. Thank you.

Short Takes

Microsoft Finally Fixes Tablet PC Memory Leak <BR>
   So Microsoft's Tablet PC software is great and everything, but what the heck took them so long on this one? A widely reported memory leak in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 was finally fixed this week, several months after it was discovered. All Tablet PC users should download the fix (see the URL below). But they should be outraged as well. As Microsoft writes in its description of this problem, it causes a "gradual ... degradation in system performance. When this behavior occurs, the user must restart the computer. This problem is caused by a memory leak." Boo. Hiss. <BR>

AMD Needs Your Help <BR>
   I love AMD. I mean, I really, really love AMD. These are the guys who took on Intel, who started the whole 64-bit x86 platform we now call x64, and who turned the microprocessor market on its head with lowball pricing and technological innovation. And yet. They continue to struggle against the leviathan that is Intel, and last week the company revealed that much of its struggle was due to Intel's illegal monopolistic behavior. So it's suing Intel. There's just one problem. Outside the tech industry, virtually no one knows a thing about AMD. So AMD has created a Web page that describes, in plain English, what the Intel suit is all about. It's a model of clarity. And if you care about this stuff at all, maybe you should read it. All companies should learn to communicate this effectively. Credit AMD with yet another innovation. <BR>

Intel, Movie Studios: Legal Movie Downloads Happening with Windows Media<BR>
   This week, Intel and actor Morgan Freeman (the guy who played basically the exact same character in "Kiss the Girls," "Seven," "The Sum of All Fears," and countless other movies) teamed up to announce that they have formed a new company, ClickStar, which will digitally deliver DVD-quality movies to customers starting next year. ClickStar is a great idea: it will make Hollywood blockbusters available for purchase and rent online the day that they hit theaters, letting customers download them to their PCs and watch them on computers and TV-based set-top boxes. The movies will be protected by Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, naturally. Freeman says the new venture is needed because traditional DVD releases aren't meeting customer needs. Sounds good to me. The question, of course, is whether the movie industry can do the right thing--the music industry failed completely. My guess is that the movie industry is ready to learn from the mistakes of the past and offer customers legal digital content rather than watch that market evaporate thanks to file-sharing networks.

Sasser Writer Convicted<BR>
   The pumpkin-head who wrote the Sasser worm that devastated tens of thousands of computers last year was convicted this week in a German court. Sven Jaschan, a 19-year-old hacker, confessed to creating the worm and received a suspended sentence of 1 year and 9 months for his efforts. Additionally, he must perform 30 hours of community service at a local hospital or home for the elderly. Jaschan, you may recall, was captured after Microsoft received tips from two individuals seeking the $250,000 reward. Those people split the reward and, I'm pretty sure, were the only winners in this case.

That was the big secret? Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, BizTalk 2006 to debut on November 7<BR>
   Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk 2006 would ship publicly "the week of November 7." Last month, at a reviewer's workshop for these products, we were sworn to secrecy: The products would actually ship on November 7, that exact day, we were told, but we weren't allowed to discuss that under the terms of our nondisclosure agreement (NDA). You can sort of see why that would be a huge secret. After all, you wouldn't want anyone knowing the exact date that your product will ship, even after you've publicly mentioned that exact date. Ah well. This week, Microsoft announced that Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk 2006 would ship publicly on November 7. So the secret is out. Now you can feel like part of the inner circle. I know I do.

Red Hat Revenues Surge<BR>
   How do you make money selling a free product? Why, volume, of course. But that doesn't explain Linux maker Red Hat's recent financial surge. The company posted revenue growth of 45.5 percent in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter last year. That translates to revenues of $60.8 million in the quarter ending May 31, up from $41.8 million last year. Red Hat makes most of its money from software subscription sales of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, a server package that competes with Windows Server 2003 and Unix holdouts such as Sun Solaris.

Google Ships Toolbar for Firefox<BR>
   Today, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) users have one more reason to switch to Mozilla Firefox (actually, two reasons, if you count this week's new IE security flaw): Google has released a beta version of its Google Toolbar that's designed specifically for Firefox. The Google Toolbar for Firefox looks and acts almost exactly like its IE cousin, but it's built on top of a browser that won't silently load up your PC with spyware while you're innocently navigating the Web. I consider that a good feature. To grab the new toolbar, use Firefox to navigate to the Google Toolbar Web site, and you'll get the right version automatically. <BR>

Spyware Takes its Toll<BR>
   And speaking of spyware, Internet users are finally starting to succumb to the devastating effects of this malicious new brand of malware and are altering their online habits accordingly. According to a report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 91 percent of Internet users have been affected by spyware (curious that that figure would match the Windows installed base), 80 percent have stopped opening email attachments, and 48 percent have stopped visiting unknown Web sites. OK, so maybe people are overreacting, right? Well, consider this statistic: According to the UK security firm Sophos, a typical Windows PC has a 50-50 chance of being infested with malicious software within 12 minutes of being connected to the Internet. Maybe we should have paid more attention to those Apple Switcher ads after all.

Microsoft, France Telecom Announce New Partnership<BR>
   This week, Microsoft and telecommunications giant France Telecom announced a partnership in which the two companies will develop products to deliver voice, data, and video services over phone networks. The first products are still 12 to 18 months away--think Longhorn time frames here, people--so don't get too excited yet. But the companies say they are working on one product called LivePhone, which merges a cell phone with Wi-Fi features, and another called Homezone, a Windows Powered smart phone with cellular, Wi-Fi, and VoIP features.

Text Messaging Survives London Blasts<BR>
   As London weathered the latest round of terrorist attacks, cell phone networks once again proved to be unsuitable in an emergency, as frantic callers were denied service for up to 3 hours. Interestingly, however, text messaging never went down, and many Londoners were able to send and receive messages in this format, alerting loved ones that they were OK. Some third generation (3G) phones--which add photo, video, and music services--also continued transmitting, and users were able to send photo and video images of the events to family, friends, and the media. Why did these technologies continue working? Text messages use only a part of the bandwidth that's reserved for data, so they're less affected by a large number of voice users. And 3G phones are simply used less often than more traditional phones and don't use the same network. Fewer users means less congestion. There's a message here, and if I'm not mistaken, it's related to fewer users and better security. In fact, this has been a theme for a few of these blurbs today. I need to mull this one over.

Coming next week: Three security bulletins<BR>
   And speaking of security, next Tuesday is that time of the month we all look forward to, when Microsoft releases its monthly security bulletins. Next week's shipment is a veritable bouillabaisse of three security fixes for Windows and Office, two of which will be rated critical. I can't wait to see which two they are. See you next week.

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