WinInfo Short Takes: Week of June 20

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Raw Image Viewer for XP, Michael Dell and Mac OS X, Microsoft vs. BitTorrent, HP printers and PCs, IE 7, MSN vs. China, Windows 2000 vs. XP, MacTel, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

New England is anything but predictable but this year has been crazy. After one of the snowiest winters in history and a wicked May, summer really took hold here, and we hit 90 degrees, or near 90 degrees, for almost a week. I even went swimming a few times in a local pond, which is a first for this early in the season. Then this week came. Temperatures in the 50's every day, or over 20 degrees below normal, and over 35 degrees lower than the previous weekend. Honestly, people. My heat came on the other day. This is no way to run a climate.

Next week: Yet another pilgrimage to Seattle. I've got a number of things planned, so it should be interesting. I usually triage these things over on my blog (, but for the record I'm in the middle of a "less is more" kick and I'm trying to travel with the smallest number of items possible. It's tough for me because I don't travel light as a rule, though I'd like to. I'll get there.

I've finally got the hardware I need for over-the-air (OTA) hi-definition television (HDTV) now (via a Media Center PC), so that should be something interesting to test, though I'll have to wait until I get back from the trip. The concept of free over-the-air TV shouldn't be so confusing to me, since that's how all TV was delivered when I was a kid, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the notion that I just stick this antennae on my house and it will work. Has anyone else tried this yet?

Quote of the day: I've got my 20-sided die and I'm ready to roll.

Short Takes

Microsoft Ships Raw Image Viewer for XP
As promised, Microsoft this week shipped its Raw Image Viewer for Windows XP, a new PowerToy that gives Windows XP the ability to view, organize, and print certain Raw image formats. You may recall that high-end digital cameras can optionally produce non-compressed Raw images, but that each camera maker uses their own completely incompatible formats. In Windows Longhorn, you'll be able to edit these images as well. If you're not using Raw images, please don't bother with this download: The PowerToy appears to do some screwy stuff with file associations, and I'm not a big fan of the way it killed the image document icons on my system.

Michael Dell Thinks Different
Credit Dell Chairman and founder Michael Dell with thinking different. This week, he told "Fortune" magazine that he'd be happy to sell Apple's Mac OS X system with his company's PCs if Apple would just open it up to other PC makers. "If Apple decides to open the Mac OS to others, we would be happy to offer it to our customers," he said. Dell is one of the few PC companies with enough sales volume and clout to really stick something like this in Microsoft's eye: In addition to the obvious Windows machines, the company also sells PCs loaded with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell SuSe Linux and Netware. The company even sold Linux on notebook computers for a while, but then stopped doing so because the market was so small. What's really interesting about this, of course, is that Dell infamously said a few years back that Apple should just back its bags and close up shop. "We all know how this story ends," he said at the time. Of course, the makings of a happy ending notwithstanding, Apple has publicly said that it would not allow the upcoming Intel-compatible Mac OS X versions to run on non-Apple hardware, so this is all sort of academic. Remember, Apple makes more money from computer hardware sales than it does from anything else it sells, including iPods. If that changes, well, I guess we'll see how savvy Apple CEO Steve Jobs really is.

Microsoft Buries BitTorrent in an Avalanche
Microsoft researchers have created a new peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing system that's similar, but superior, to the widely used BitTorrent system. Researchers at the software giant say that their system, codenamed Avalanche, is 20-30 percent faster than BitTorrent. Like BitTorrent, Avalanche breaks up large files into tiny chunks, which are distributed to the users that want the file. As users complete the download, their systems are used in a distributed manner as servers as well, and other users download the chunks from a variety of systems simultaneously. This speeds the download process for many users. There's a PDF whitepaper describing the technology on the Microsoft Research Web site.

HP Separates PC, Printer Businesses
You may recall that HP combined its printer and PC businesses five months ago, apparently in a bid to hide the PC business losses amid the piles of cash that the printer business makes. Well, try to scratch that memory out of your head: This week, HP split the two businesses again, and put ex-PalmONE CEO Todd Bradley (who had previously worked at Gateway as well) in charge of the new PC group. This type of change is what passes for dramatic at the stoic HP now run by boring uncle Mark Hurd. I'd assume you recall him taking charge of the company back in March, but then this is Mark Hurd we're talking about: I don't remember him doing anything either. But to be fair, that's what HP wants these days. After the acrimonious exit of "rock star" CEO Carly Fiorina, it's natural that the company would seek a lower profile. But how low can you go? I'm getting ready to attach a heart monitor to this company just in case.

IE 7 Details Emerge
As the days turn into weeks and then finally months, we wait and wait for a public (or heck, even private) beta version of Internet Explorer (IE) 7, the browser that will turn the tables on Firefox and reignite the excitement about a product that Microsoft, quite frankly, wished would simply go away. Or something. Instead, we're treated to dribs and drabs of information about IE 7 over time. And it's getting pretty clear that this isn't going to be a hugely important release. This week, we learn that IE 7 will be engineered to resist common spyware and phishing attacks. Eh? That sounds cool. There's just one problem: That feature will only be in the Longhorn version, and not the one that ships later this year for XP with SP2. Ugh.

Microsoft Censors Chinese Bloggers
Bloggers utilizing Microsoft's MSN Spaces service in China now face restrictions on the topics they can write about, thanks to new laws in China that forbid the use of certain words and phrases. MSN is coming under fire for bowing to these laws, but let's be fair: That's how things work, people. They can't simply ignore the EU because they don't agree with EU antitrust policy, and they can't ignore the Chinese government because of a petty squabble over basic human rights either. Some of the blocked words and phrases would be humorous if this wasn't so serious: "Democracy," "demonstration," "freedom," "human rights," and even "Taiwan independence" are among the no-no's. "Microsoft is a multi-national business and as such needs to manage the reality of operating in countries around the world," a Microsoft spokesperson said. I hope the Bush administration isn't inspired to issue a similar ban in this country. Phrases like "accountability" and "international respect" come to mind.

Windows 2000 Still Number One?
By any measure, Windows XP is selling like gangbusters. Since its late 2001 release, Microsoft has sold at least 500 million copies of the operating system worldwide, and it's most recent service pack (XP SP2) has been installed on over 200 million machines in medium and large businesses alone. Sounds like a great success, doesn't it? Not according to a study by AssetMetrix, which claims that XP's penetration into corporations has been slow. The study notes that Windows 2000 usage still outpaces that of XP in companies, 48 percent to 38 percent, despite the fact that Windows 2000 will never be updated to the level of security now enjoyed by XP SP2. So what are we to make of this survey?

Apple Trademarks "MacTel"
Since the Windows/Intel duopoly is often referred to as Wintel, Apple followers have been trying to decide whether they should refer to the new Intel-based Mac computers as "Macintel" machines or "MacTel" machines. Well, Apple has spoken, albeit in a quiet way: The company recently trademarked the term MacTel, which I assume ends that little debate. The company also trademarked "Numbers" (which will likely be an iWork spreadsheet application; the company's word processor is called Pages) and "Jam Box."

Microsoft Declares Quarterly Dividend
This week, Microsoft announced that its Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.08 per share. The dividend is payable Sept. 8, 2005 to shareholders of record on Aug. 17, 2005. Exciting stuff.

Sun Opens Solaris
Sun Microsystems announced this week that it has "opened" its UNIX-based Solaris operating system. A new version of Solaris, logically dubbed OpenSolaris, includes a single source base for SPARC and x86/x64. "OpenSolaris features all the key innovations that we recently delivered in the Solaris 10 OS, including unparalleled features like DTrace and Containers and Predictive Self-Healing," a Sun spokesperson said. Future versions of the commercial Solaris release will be based on OpenSolaris, Sun says, in the same way that the commercial Star Office productivity suite is based on the open source project. You can find out more at the OpenSolaris Web site.

Sun on Linux Apps Running on Solaris: Just Kidding
Speaking of Solaris, you may recall that last year Sun was touting the fact that future versions of Solaris would run Linux applications and services natively. They were just kidding, apparently. Instead of offering the Linux-on-Solaris technology (codenamed Janus) to the public, Sun is this year pushing an open source technology called Xen that lets multiple operating systems run simultaneously on the same computer hardware. It will be interesting to see what they push next year.

Microsoft Trade Group ... Backs Microsoft
This is a shocker, I know, but a trade group called "The International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners" has elected to support Microsoft in its antitrust battle with the EU. Now, when a group uses your company name in its own name, one might expect them to be friendly. But maybe that's not enough of a clue. So I investigated this mysterious group, and it turns out that they represent companies that develop software exclusively for Windows, Microsoft's monopoly operating system, and the subject of the EU sanctions. "It's not a matter of principle," a spokesperson for the trade group said. "It's a matter of our bread and butter." Well duh.

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