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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of October 10

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including FIOS arrives, various non-news blurbs, Office 12 beta, AOL/MSN, Windows safety humor, EU watchdogs, Peter Jackson and Halo, Massachusetts vs. Microsoft, and so much more ...

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Verizon is finally coming today to install the FiOS fiber-optic Internet service here at Thurrott Central. The service became available while I was in Los Angeles for Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2005, but we had houseguests for a week after that, and then my Seattle trip. But I'm home for the next few weeks, so I called Verizon and scheduled the setup for this week. For a few days, I'll have both RCN's 7Mbps cable service and Verizon's 15Mbps FiOS service running simultaneously, so I can compare them. In keeping with my general outlook on life, I expect little, but hope for the best. I'll let you know how it goes.


I've been experimenting with a new way to release content on the SuperSite for Windows. In the 7 years since I started the site, I've tended to issue long-form articles all at once in one long page, rather than break them down into smaller sections. I'm going to see how doing the reverse works and have been posting parts of articles, with a promise to add new parts when they become available.


I can already see the problems with this approach, however. First, the articles I write aren't static and aren't written in sequence. I've already seen instances in which I want to write major updates to parts that I've already published. Second, because they're not written in sequence, there are major blocks of text already written for upcoming parts of articles, which isn't exactly efficient. Let me know what you think. The biggest problem is what happens when I don't finish articles. In the past, you wouldn't see the many articles I've started but never finished. But now they're hanging out there like little wounds waiting to be healed. Maybe that will inspire me to finish them.


This week, a rather curious and rare thing happened: I wrote an article about Microsoft's alleged plans to create a new DVD format that includes Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM). There was just one problem: Microsoft had no such plans. This raises some interesting concerns, which I want to address.


First, I don't work for "The New York Times." That is, WinInfo Daily UPDATE is a news digest, not an international news organization with teams of fact checkers. I gather information from sources that are largely online, as well as from direct communication with various Microsoft representatives. (I average two to three phone meetings per week, one to three in-person meetings per month, and one to three Microsoft Office Live Meeting meetings per month.) And we exchange email all day long.) When I can find only one source for a story, I'll use language such as "according to online reports" or "according to a report in \[name of publication here\]." When two or more sources exist, I drop that type of language. In the case of the DVD story, I found two sources, but I turned my article into a bit of an opinion piece because I thought it was such a horrible idea and couldn't believe Microsoft would do such a thing. It turns out that one of the two sources simply ripped off the other source without crediting the original. When it became obvious that the story was bogus, I wrote a follow-up article and linked to it from the original article. I didn't remove the original story or edit it to change the meaning after the fact. I believe that my actions were the responsible way to handle the situation, and Microsoft was satisfied with the way I dealt with it, for whatever that's worth.


Second, I caught a bit of flack from a couple of blogger ne'er-do-wells, who have proven to me once again that it's much easier to snipe and criticize from the sidelines than to actually create content. So, my message to those people is simple: Get a life. I've been doing this for more than 10 years, and my record of accurately breaking exclusive news stories--Apple Computer's move to Intel hardware and Microsoft's product-edition lineup for Windows Vista are two of the most obvious from recent days--speaks for itself. People who trust WinInfo do so for good reasons. I care about this stuff and will always care. And I'm guessing that most people who read this don't need to be reminded of that. I'm open to criticism. I'm not open to stupidity.

Short Takes

Not News: Microsoft Will Ship Windows XP SP3
   This week, several news reports trumpeted the fact that Microsoft had verified that it will release XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) sometime next year. This isn't news. XP SP3 has been in the works for quite a while, it's been reported far and wide, and it will be limited to fixes with no new features, as previously reported. As I said, this isn't news. And while we're at it, yes, Microsoft will release a second service pack for Windows Server 2003, as well. That's not news either.

Not News: Office 12 Beta in November
   In another bit of non-news, various articles appeared this week about a November beta of Microsoft Office 12. This news was widely reported at Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2005 in early September. Office 12 Beta 1, however, will be a much wider beta than the Beta 1 releases for earlier Office versions. But heck, even that's not news: I wrote about that in early September.

Microsoft, Time Warner Continue AOL Talks
   How stupid does someone have to be to be an AOL subscriber these days? Well, all of AOL's exclusive content is available online for free, and AOL's dial-up service is among the most expensive on earth. So anyone still using AOL is, well, a diehard, to say the least. I've heard that many of these people simply want to maintain their email address, which is also somewhat hilarious when you consider that AOL's email program is widely acknowledged to be the worst email client on the planet. Anyway, Microsoft apparently wants a piece of that action, and a report in "The Wall Street Journal" states that the company is talking with AOL's parent company, Time Warner, about ways to combine AOL with MSN. To be fair, the report really says that the companies are looking at merging their Internet search services, but I just love making fun of AOL users.

Windows: Safer Than You Think?
   No offense to fans of President Bush, but why does this news bit remind me of the administration's ongoing efforts to explain that the war in Iraq is both justified and going well? This month, Microsoft launched a "trust-building initiative," in which it asserted that Windows might be safer than you think. News flash, guys: It would almost have to be. That said, I do think we should applaud Microsoft's security efforts. But we've been stung so much and so hard, it will take a few years for the trust to return.

EU Assigns an Antitrust Watchdog to Microsoft
   In the absence of US antitrust news, European Union (EU) antitrust news will have to do. The EU's European Commission this week announced that it has assigned Professor Neil Barrett as a monitoring trustee (read "antitrust watchdog") in the Microsoft antitrust case. Barrett will work to ensure that Microsoft honors the requirements of the 2004 EU antitrust ruling against the company. Microsoft immediately announced that it's looking forward to "working constructively" with Barrett to ensure compliance. The company then promptly sent CEO Steve Ballmer over to give Barrett a "power wedgie" and wet-towel snap to welcome him to his new role.

Peter Jackson to Helm Halo Movie
   Movies based on video games almost invariably stink, but the Halo movie suddenly has a chance to be different. The Oscar-winning creative team behind "The Lord of the Rings" movies, including director Peter Jackson, will produce the Halo film, which is based on Microsoft's Halo video games for the Xbox. Jackson and his wife, Fran Walsh, will serve as executive producers for the movie, which is due in mid-2007. Like "The Lord of the Rings" movies, Halo will be filmed in New Zealand, which is apparently the most pristine and pretty place on earth. I hope an influx of Hollywood types doesn't ruin the place.

Massachusetts Moves Ahead on Plans to Axe Microsoft Office
   Ah, Massachusetts, how you toy with my heartstrings. This week, everyone's favorite commonwealth moved ahead on its plans to switch to the Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) by 2007, thus shutting out Microsoft and its Office productivity suite. One has to wonder whether this whole thing isn't just a high-stakes game of chicken. I almost expect to discover that Massachusetts is simply trying to get Microsoft to give it the lowest-possible Office licensing fee and that this talk about moving to OpenDocument is just a well-designed farce. But maybe not. Massachusetts said this week that it expects to migrate away from Office completely by January 2007. We'll see.

Microsoft Does Right by Permatemps
   Remember the permatemps? They were the temporary contractors that worked at Microsoft for years without gaining "real" employment at the company, and, thus, none of the benefits that Microsoft employees receive. Well, their day has come. This week, Microsoft will begin paying $72 million to nearly 8600 former permatemps who were part of a successful class-action lawsuit against the software giant. A 2001 ruling against Microsoft forced the company to change its temporary worker policies and limit the length of time permatemps could work without becoming full-time employees. What's sad is that the original ruling was for $97 million, not $72 million: The difference went to legal fees, processing costs, and some early payouts to a small subset of plaintiffs. Each plaintiff isn't getting much money, considering the length of the abuse.

Unpatched Office Flaw Exploited
   Malicious intruders have exploited an unpatched security flaw in a Microsoft product? Baloney, you say. Duck and cover, I say. A new Trojan horse attack was hatched this week that exploits an unpatched flaw in a technology that's distributed with Office, leaving users open to possible electronic attacks. Microsoft has known about the problem since at least April, and Symantec rates the flaw as highly critical. The good news: It affects the Jet database technology in Microsoft Access, which is used by approximately 17 people (if you discount the Access MVPs). I'm sure Microsoft will get right on this threat. After all, the company just launched a trust-building initiative. Who doesn't trust Microsoft?

Larry Ellison in Unusual Court Settlement
   I must be honest. I really miss writing about Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. I wish he'd do something controversial, like he did in the good old days. But given his (for Larry) unusually low profile recently, I'll settle for this: In a recent court case, a California judge refused to approve a bizarre settlement in which Ellison tried to make insider-trading charges disappear by donating $100 million to charity without admitting wrongdoing. That's right: He was playing the "get out of jail free" card that's open to very rich people, but not to you or me. Ellison, for the record, is the fifth-richest American and an active philanthropist. His kickback record is, shall we say, less well documented.

Motorola CEO in "Screw Nano" Furor
   And you thought Microsoft was a bad partner. Motorola CEO Ed Zander is suddenly finding out what ex-HP CEO Carly Fiorina found out, much to the detriment of her career. Partnering with Apple Computer is much like partnering with a female black widow spider: After the initial excitement is over, you're food. Motorola just launched a surprisingly lackluster iTunes phone, the ROKR, which Apple purposefully hobbled so it won't compete effectively with Apple's iPod devices. Then, Apple introduced a gorgeous new iPod, the iPod nano, on the same day that Motorola introduced the ROKR, making the sickly nature of the ROKR even more obvious. "Screw the nano," Zander was heard to say in a press conference later. "What the hell does the nano do? Who listens to 1000 songs?" Zander later claimed the comments were taken out of context, but I do have one question. In what other ways can the phrase "screw the nano" be meant?

YAIEE: The Sound You Make When IE Is Responsible for a Hack
   Thanks to Geoff Vass, who suggested that I drop the use of the term YAIEF ("Yet Another Internet Explorer Flaw") to describe, well, yet another IE flaw. Instead, Geoff suggests the term "Yet Another Internet Explorer Exploit, or YAIEE, which is of course what administrators scream when they find another compromised box on their networks. LOL. Consider it done.

Video iPod Coming Next Week? Maybe
   Give Apple credit for building excitement. The company has announced a mysterious "one more thing" media event that will be held next week. The announcement has led to much speculation. Will Apple unveil the video iPod? New fifth-generation iPods? New PowerBooks? New dual-core PowerMac G5s? Some combination of these devices? It's hard to say. But that hasn't stopped the Apple rumor mill from generating article after article of baseless speculation. Even major publications such as "USA Today" are getting in on the fun. Frankly, I don't understand what the big deal is.

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