WinInfo Short Takes - 25 May 2007

This week, Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast, so that should be up soon. After a week off, there was a lot to talk about.

It's supposed to be more than 90 degrees today in Boston, which is unusually warm but somewhat welcome given all the yard work we've been doing this week. (On a related note: Power washing a vinyl fence is surprisingly fun.) The problem with the heat will be tonight: It's not supposed to get below 67 degrees all night, which was the high temperature just a few days ago. Time to break out those window air conditioners, I guess.

Monday is Memorial Day in the United States, so we'll be taking the day off and attending barbecues and whatnot. See you again on Tuesday.

A 2007 XP SP3 Release? Just Kidding!

An otherwise unrelated Microsoft press release this week quietly noted that Windows XP SP3, the long-awaited final service pack for the OS that Microsoft is pretending doesn't exist anymore, would actually ship later this year alongside Windows Server 2008. This press release contradicted Microsoft's previous public statements about XP SP3, which placed the XP SP3 release somewhere in the mid-22nd century. So I asked the company what was up. I still haven't heard back from Microsoft yet, but "Computerworld" apparently did. Microsoft told "Computerworld" that XP SP3 is still due in the first half of 2008 and that the recent press release was mistaken. Oh well.

Wal-Mart Only the First Retailer, Dell Says

This week's announcement that direct sales pioneer Dell will sell a limited selection of its PCs via Wal-Mart was indeed big news, but Dell said it's only the beginning. The company isn't abandoning its direct sales roots but will begin selling its PCs via several other retailers in the days ahead as well. However, the company expects most of its sales to come in directly, as before. And really, that's no surprise: Wal-Mart will sell only two Dell PC configurations, a far cry from the myriad of options available on the Dell Web site.

Microsoft Continues Selling the Zune

Microsoft continues its monthly Zune updates, and this time, the latest update didn't coincide with a major Apple release. According to Microsoft, the Zune accounted for 9.2 percent of all hard disk drive-based portable MP3 players in April, which I believe lets the Zune keep its number two spot in that subset of the market. (Microsoft didn't specify that for some reason.) The new pink Zune model is now the number two selling Zune, the company said, ahead of white and brown but behind black. Also, a new red Zune model will go on sale in June. It's all coming up roses for the Zune, I guess.

PDC 2007 Has Been Canceled

This week, Microsoft canceled its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2007, which was set for October 2-5 in Los Angeles. Although this cancellation simplifies my travel plans, it also suggests that the suddenly secretive Windows client division at Microsoft isn't going to talk about the next Windows version any time soon, even though the earliest release expectations are for some time in late 2008. Microsoft blamed the PDC cancellation on timing: By October, most of its 2007-era developer-oriented technologies, such as Windows Server 2008, SQL Server Katmai, Visual Studio Orcas, and Silverlight, will almost be completed and ready for launch anyway. Makes sense, but that sounds like an obvious time to get developers going on those products, doesn't it? Microsoft pointed to several other third-party developer shows in late 2007 as alternatives. I'd pencil in DevConnections (November 5 in Las Vegas) as the obvious place for Microsoft to launch Windows Server 2008.

Jack Thompson Threatens "Halo 3" Lawsuits

This week, Jack Thompson, a lawyer who's famous solely for his high-profile attacks on violent video games, threatened Microsoft over the impending and widely anticipated release of "Halo 3" for the Xbox 360. Thompson is concerned that Microsoft will market "Halo 3" to those under the age of 17, even though the game should receive a "Mature" rating (which is interesting, given that the game hasn't even been completed yet). "Either Microsoft undertakes dramatic, real steps, through its marketing, wholesale, and retail operations to assure that 'Halo 3' is not sold, via the Internet and in stores, directly to anyone under 17, or I shall proceed to make sure that Microsoft is held to that standard by appropriate legal means," a letter from Thompson to Microsoft allegedly reads. "I have done that before successfully as to Best Buy, and I shall do so again as to Microsoft and all retailers of 'Halo 3'." So there.

Ubuntu Founder Warns that Microsoft is in the Same Patent Boat

If there's one guy I really admire in the Linux community (and frankly, there might be only one guy), it has to be Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical and the Ubuntu Linux distribution. This week, Shuttleworth offered up the following opinion about the recent Microsoft/open source patent battle: "I'm pretty certain that, within a few years, Microsoft themselves will be strong advocates against software patents," Shuttleworth wrote in his blog. "Microsoft is irrevocably committed to shipping new software every year, and software patents represent landmines in their roadmap which they are going to step on, like it or not, with increasing regularity." In other words, Microsoft is the "perfect target" for software patent attacks, which makes the software giant's recent patent rumblings all the more curious. Shuttleworth even has a solution: Fix the patent system so that software patents are no longer valid. Amen.

Microsoft Fixes the Way Office Fixes Itself on Vista

Or something. Apparently, almost all of the Microsoft Office 2007 security fixes that were released in last month's regularly scheduled Microsoft security patch were problematic, especially for users running Windows Vista. So Microsoft has fixed the fixes, so to speak, and will ensure that future fixes don't suffer from the same problems. "There has been no change to the actual binaries in the updates themselves," Microsoft Security Program Manager Mark Griesi wrote in the Security Response Center blog. "If you have already successfully installed the updates using Microsoft Update, you will not be offered the update again." Apparently, the detection logic previously used prevented some updates from being delivered to users that needed them. That should no longer be a problem.

Sony Upgrades PlayStation 3 Capabilities with Free Update

Taking a page from Microsoft's playbook, Sony addressed some major shortcomings in its PlayStation 3 video game console this week by shipping a free software patch. The PlayStation firmware update improves the quality of older PlayStation games and DVDs by upconverting them so that they look better on HDTVs. The update also lets PlayStation 3 owners with PlayStation Portable (PSP) devices browse for videos, music, and photos wirelessly via the Internet. I guess it's time to update my console comparison on the SuperSite for Windows.

Google Doubles Gmail Attachment Size to 20MB

This week, Google doubled the attachment size allowed on email messages sent through its free Gmail service from 10MB to 20MB, matching the attachment size Microsoft allows through the paid version of Hotmail, called Windows Live Hotmail Plus. Apparently, even the 20MB limit isn't hard-coded: Google notes that, as the previous 10MB limit was "forgiving," the new limit is "at least 20MB," so there's some wiggle room. But there's one problem with the 20MB limit: Most email services can't even access attachments that large, so if you're a Gmail user, you might want to make sure that you're sending those attachments only to other Gmail users.

Microsoft Delays "Halo 2" for Vista Yet Again

"Halo 2" has been delayed almost as much as Vista. Originally due concurrently with Vista in January 2007, "Halo 2" was first delayed to May 8, then May 22, then May 25, and now it's been delayed to June 8. Sigh. Come on guys, this game is almost three years old.

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