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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of May 9

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...

I'm going to try a little experiment this week--something I've been meaning to do ever since I started writing Short Takes years ago. Instead of the structured format you're used to (and might love, God help you), I'm switching to *a more open and conversational format* that I think will better express not only what I'm trying to say but also the relative frivolity I'm trying to convey. (And note the use of asterisks for emphasis.) Since its beginning 10 long years ago, WinInfo Daily UPDATE hasn't been about pedantically reciting each and every news story, but rather about creating a digest of the most important Windows-related stories. Short Takes is about the stories that fall through the cracks each week. More often than not, it's about heckling the absurd--and having a little fun. It's Friday, folks, and I'm not sure what that's like for you, but for me it's like a sigh of relief, and I intend to celebrate that feeling.

I'm also looking into somehow integrating a regular *blog* into WinInfo, although how that will work is currently unclear. It could be similar to my Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) blogs. Perhaps I'll do a bit each day, then wrap it all into Short Takes at the end of the week. We'll see. None of this is set in stone, and I'd appreciate any feedback you want to provide about the new format.

In my never-ending quest to be a junior league *Jerry Pournelle*, I recently purchased a Safari vest (also known as a photo vest because its many pockets are perfect for holding all the paraphernalia you need for professional photography), which I successfully used on my trip to WinHEC 2005, both on the plane and during the show. The vest is great for holding digital gadgets such as MP3 players, headphones, Secure Digital (SD) cards, USB thumb drives, and cameras, so it was perfect for WinHEC's multimedia needs. And I carted around two laptops in my bag, which didn't leave a lot of room for gadgets. On the down side, I got a lot of looks--and not the good kind.

According to Sun Microsystems, the company will release the latest version of its Microsoft Office-like office productivity suite, StarOffice, this July. StarOffice 8.0 will offer dramatically improved compatibility with Microsoft Office document formats. But the big news with this release, from what I can tell, is that it looks and acts just like Microsoft Office 2003. I've been trying to get companies to try this approach *for a long time*. The biggest barrier to switching from heavily used technology products is familiarity. That StarOffice runs on Linux and Solaris as well as Windows is just the icing on the cake. Now where's the Mac OS X version?

I get a lot of *swag* (i.e., giveaways from companies), so I'm going to start talking about it. This week's best swag came from AMD, which sent me--seriously--a lava lamp with an AMD64 logo on its base. I really like the thing (and my son has twice tried to steal it for his bedroom), but ... a lava lamp? It starts up slowly, then gets overly hot. It isn't exactly the type of thing you want to use to remind you about a company's microprocessor.

Microsoft hasn't revealed which *product editions* the company will provide for Longhorn, but Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates did say in his WinHEC keynote address last week that the company's plans include a Tablet PC Edition of Longhorn. Gates also said he was going to ship Longhorn in early 2005, so maybe we should give his latest prediction a pass.

I'm currently testing a *TiVo Series 2* device and, despite being a long-time Media Center user, I'm finding that the TiVo is really starting to grow on me. I can see why Apple Computer wanted to buy the company. The device is simple to set up and operate, doesn't include any confusing buttons or switches on its front panel, and even makes cute, Macintosh-like booping sounds when you navigate around the UI. It lacks high-end video outputs, but it's reliable as all get out, which is something I can't say about the Media Center Extender that the TiVo sits next to in my den. I'll post a full review on Connected Home Media ( ) soon, and I might make a permanent switch. If I do, I'm going "Office Space" on that Media Center Extender.

That last comment begs a follow-up. I've considered adding blurbs to my reviews on the SuperSite for Windows that reflect how my opinions of products I've reviewed have changed over time. I'm thinking about calling it "*28 Days Later* in honor of the hit horror film, but I'm open to suggestions. Certainly, I've downgraded my opinion of the Media Center Extender and some other products over time.

According to recently released court documents, Apple Computer will face off against Apple Corporation, the Beatles' record label, in March 2006. The long-awaited *Apple vs. Apple* suit deals with Apple Computer's broken promise to stay out of the music business after Apple Corporation sued in 1991. Apple Corporation says that Apple Computer broke its agreement and alleges trademark abuse. Look, I'm as big a fan of Apple's iPod and iTunes as anyone, but this case is pretty clear-cut, isn't it? Apple Computer agreed to stay out of the music business. It didn't. Case closed.

Riddle me this, Batman. Microsoft says that the final version of Longhorn will run just fine on today's mid-level PCs. But the *Longhorn preview build* we got this week runs like a dog and is based on XP display technology. What's going to happen when Microsoft adds all the new Longhorn features, plus the new Longhorn rendering engine? Does anyone really believe Longhorn is going to magically speed up or something? Anyone?

My Great Carmack moment of the week: Microsoft will issue *only one security bulletin* next week as part of the company's regularly scheduled monthly security bulletins. It will be rated important.

I should have mentioned this last week. The Mozilla Foundation recently celebrated *50 million downloads* of its Firefox Web browser. Bravo.

Former US Vice President *Al Gore* gets a lot of undeserved flack for taking partial credit for developing the Internet. There's just one problem: He actually did play a role in promoting the growth of the Internet. He also popularized the term "information superhighway." Now he's going to get a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for three decades of contributions to the Internet, according to Webby Founder Tiffany Shlain. Vinton Cerf, one of the inventors of the Internet, will hand Gore his award. "He is indeed due some thanks and consideration for his early contributions," Cerf said. Good for Gore.

Microsoft quietly updated Windows XP Service Pack 2's (SP2's) wireless networking features this week when the company shipped to Windows Update an update for the *Wi-Fi Protected Access 2* (WPA2) wireless networking security feature. Previously, XP only partially supported the WPA2 specification and a related technology called Wireless Provisioning Services Information Element (WPS IE), the latter of which caused many XP SP2 machines to sometimes have problems logging on to Wi-Fi hotspots.

RealNetworks released its latest quarterly earnings this week, surprising some analysts. The company posted strong gains to its *Rhapsody subscription music service*, noting that Rhapsody now has 1.85 million subscribers (although that figure also includes about 900,000 Comcast users who can access the service for free). Rhapsody's music-related revenues doubled year-over-year to $22 million. Does this mean that subscription music services are starting to show signs of life? I think so. When you combine these figures with the millions of people who subscribe to satellite radio and Napster-like music services, it's pretty clear that subscription music services are on the way up.

Web search giant *Google* has started offering a new service called Web Accelerator, which seeks to make Web pages load faster by predicting which Web page a user will want next and preloading it into cache. There's just one problem: Customers who use Web Accelerator request Web pages through Google's servers, raising privacy concerns. In a bit of uncharacteristic clarity, Google agreed that's a valid concern. "There is a bit of a privacy tradeoff," a Google spokesperson said. "We're making the Web faster, but in exchange we do need to know what you're doing." But fear not--Google has no "immediate plans" to use the data. So they say.

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