WinInfo Short Takes: New Year Special Edition

An often irreverent look at some of this short week's other news, including 15 years of WinInfo, Xbox Live on Windows Mobile, Office 2010 on netbooks, a major IE vulnerability, an IIS non-event, Adobe vulnerabilities in the New Year, and much, much more...

WinInfo Blog

It's another short week, this time because of New Year's Day. So we're doing Short Takes a day early this time and will be off until Monday again. This year as is now the tradition, we're having friends over on New Year's Eve (tonight) for fondue and Champagne and I suspect I'll be in rough shape Friday morning, which is inconvenient because we could be getting another Category 5 Death Storm over the weekend. Ah, the holidays.

By the way, 2010 marks the 15 year anniversary of this newsletter, which began as casual emails sent to coworkers at Scottsdale Community College. My friend Joe told me he could turn it into a formal email newsletter using the college's VAX system, which he did, and then some of the teachers there asked if we could open it up to their students, which we also did. That led to people asking if they could get friends outside of the school onboard, so we just opened it up. I kept doing WinInfo after leaving SCC, and my boss at Big Tent (Adam Ray) in 1996 told me it was time to write it all myself (previously, it was a like a blog where I would reference other stories and comment on them). WinInfo was published through WUGNET for a few years and was then purchased by Duke Communications (publisher of Windows IT Pro Magazine) in 1999, along with the SuperSite for Windows (which I started in August 1998). And of course, it's just trudged along over the years. I don't recall when it became a daily thing, but most likely that started in late 1995, certainly by 1996 at the very latest. In any event, it's part of my daily schedule, and one of the first things I do every day. Thanks for being part of it.

Leo and I will record a special New Year episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday (today) at the usual time (2pm ET), and it should be available sometime by the end weekend as usual.

But wait, there's more. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, and the SuperSite Blog.

Short Takes

Xbox Live coming to Windows Mobile
Not that anyone would notice. I'm always amused when the blogosphere gets excited by a non-event, and this happens all too often with the kiddie-run and kiddie-oriented gadget blogs, which then get picked up all too often by mainstream news outlets for some reason. Case in point: Microsoft is integrating its Xbox Live service into Windows Mobile sometime in the future, if a job posting on is being parsed correctly. Which would be exciting if, a) they hadn't already done much of this with the Zune device to absolutely no effect, and, b) if anyone actually used or cared about Windows Mobile. If Microsoft really wanted to make a splash with Xbox Live on mobile devices, it would make the service work on the iPod Touch and iPhone. Now, that would be a news item worth peeing yourself over, eh gadget guys? Too bad it's never going to happen.

Sorry, but there's no mystery to Microsoft's netbook plans for Office 2010
Infoworld has a weird story that describes Microsoft's "unique" packaging plans for Office 2010 on netbook computers, noting that the software giant "won't get precise with details" but has plans to go after netbook users. Well, allow me to part the curtain and tell you exact what they're doing, because this information is both public knowledge and readily available: Microsoft is going to offer a free, stripped down version of Office called Office 2010 Starter that will only be made available on new PCs, including netbooks. It consists of stripped down versions of Word and Excel only, but provides simple, in-product upgrades to "real" Office 2010 versions, electronically. It's a classic up-sell, and a good idea. And we've known about it for months. Just saying.

IE vulnerability will be patched Tuesday
So just don't use your browser until then. Microsoft's next Patch Tuesday happens this coming week and one of the patches we'll get will address a dangerous vulnerability in Internet Explorer 6 and 7 that could lead to remote code execution. This is apparently a very serious issue, and the only reason the company waited until Patch Tuesday to fix it is that no known exploits are in the wild. Of course, there are other ways to solve this problem, such as upgrading to IE 8 or, even better, using a faster, more capable, and safer browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. By the way, Microsoft will be fixing 12 vulnerabilities next week, and all of the Windows fixes will require reboots. "So please plan accordingly," says Jerry Bryant of the Microsoft Security Response Center. Exactly.

Microsoft denies IIS vulnerability claims
Meaning, I assume, that you can in fact continue to use your web server. IE may be hosed, but IIS--Internet Information Server, Microsoft's web server--apparently is not. The software giant this week denied reports that IIS 6 has a flaw that can lead to server-based code execution. Instead, after investigating the issue, Microsoft found that the so-called vulnerability is just a case of admins improperly configuring the server. Ah, the good ol' human error excuse. Someday, when robots are checking out at the robot grocery store and it's taking a little longer than usual, the robot checkout clerk will shake its robot head and say, "humans, you know how they are." And the robot will know exactly how we are, because we can never get anything right. And then inside the register, the human that is running on a hamster wheel-like conveyance will get a final burst of energy and produce enough electricity to complete the robot transaction. You know it's coming.

Adobe to be targeted more in 2010 than Microsoft, security experts say
Which kind of dulls the excitement of the "we're number one" chants over at Adobe, I'd imagine. According to security experts at McAfee, vulnerabilities in Adobe Reader and Flash will be the top electronic threats of 2010, surpassing issues with Microsoft Office. This, of course, is simply an indication of a wider trend, that of hackers targeting applications instead of operating systems. And with Adobe Reader and Flash being the top two most widely deployed applications worldwide, attacking them at least makes sense. McAfee says we will also see threats against social networking sites and HTML 5 in 2010. It's only a matter of time before we're required to take off our shoes and walk through a metal detector before we can use a browser.

Microsoft set to invade China ... for search
Like General MacArthur--past its prime, that is--Microsoft seeks to invade China, but this time using its Bing search engine. The reason is simple: There are 350 million Internet users in China and that number is only going to go up, despite the country's infamous protections against multi-child households. That means there are already more Internet users there than in the US (where there are 307 million users online), and let's face it, Bing's not exactly kicking butt in the US. I just hope that Bing doesn't mean something scatological in Chinese. Like it does in English.

No big surprise here, but Microsoft is getting old
Mary Jo Foley raises an excellent point this week: Is Microsoft too old to be successful? The average age of workers at the company has gone up over the years, but more recently, and more alarmingly, the ages of the company's top leaders are up dramatically, with many now in their 50's. Do these codgers just not "get" it? Foley quotes from a Microsoft study in which the software giant admits it's not doing enough to attract and keep younger workers. Workers who, by the way, are no doubt ending up at younger, faster-moving, and more innovative competitors. For all the talk about Microsoft becoming the next IBM, as I have argued they are, this may in fact represent the best explanation of why it is happening. Sadly, those old enough to think about this effectively are already too old, while those young enough to make a difference don't have the attention span to think it through. It's kind of a Catch-22.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is most pirated game of 2009
I just wish I knew two months ago that I never had to pay for it. According to TorrentFreak (which, as its name suggests, knows a thing or two about torrent-based downloads, the central and wretched hive of villainy and scum on the Internet), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) has been downloaded illegally over 4.1 million times, over twice as many times as the most pirated game of 2008. And that's just the PC version. The Xbox 360 version has been downloaded almost a million times a well. Wait, what? You can pirate Xbox 360 games? When did this happen?

Happy New Year!
Be silly but safe. See you Monday. --Paul

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