WinInfo Short Takes: Week of November 6 - 03 Nov 2000

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

Microsoft announces IE 5.5 Service Pack 1 ...
Microsoft has released the first Service Pack for Internet Explorer 5.5, dubbed IE 5.5 SP1, which provides users with the latest updates and security fixes to this latest version of Internet Explorer. The update can be installed as an upgrade to existing versions of Internet Explorer or on computers with no previous Internet Explorer installation. In other words, it's a pretty big install, even for existing IE 5.5 users: On my IE 5.5-based Windows Me install, the typical installation required me to download about 8 MB of code. That's a lot of bug fixes. You can snag IE 5.5 SP1 on the Microsoft Web site.

... and DirectX 8 is coming down the pike
Hot on the heals of IE 5.5 SP1 is DirectX 8.0, the next version of Microsoft's game and multimedia libraries for Windows. Sources tell me that we can expect the final release of DirectX 8.0 any day now.

Compaq, MS release second MSN Companion
Compaq and Microsoft have unveiled a second iPAQ-branded MSN Companion, and this one sports a cheaper PC monitor instead of the flat panel display found on the original unit. And if you sign up for three years of MSN, the device is essentially free: The Compaq IPAQ Internet Appliance IA-2 costs about $500, but Compaq is offering a $100 discount and getting MSN chops $400 off the price. You know, if you're into that kind of thing.

Pentium 4 to arrive in time for Thanksgiving
Intel will finally launch its eagerly anticipated Pentium 4 processor November 20th, though the initial version will support only Rambus RDRAM memory, the company says. However, Intel admits that an SDRAM version is in the works, including a faster version, called DDR SDRAM, which will ship a bit later. Intel's use of RDRAM has come under fire lately from customers, who say that it's a lot more expensive with little or no performance gains when compared to SDRAM, which is used in most of today's PCs. Intel also says that it expects the Pentium 4, which will debut in the 1.4-1.5 GHz range, to hit 2 GHz sometime in mid-2001.

Let's all learn a little email ettiquette
The Washington Post published an interesting article about the pitfalls of communication in the email age, which I think is required reading for anyone using a computer. In fact, if I had any sense, I'd re-read this every few weeks. The story goes like this: Email makes it hard to communicate effectively, because we unknowingly look for subtle body clues when we talk to people face-to-face, or voice inflections when we're on the phone. But email makes it difficult to portray these nuances, and the results are pretty messy. So when you mean to say, "I owe you," make sure you don't type, "I own you." Unless that's what you mean, of course.

I hate when this happens
In the latest of what will probably be a never-ending supply of goofy Microsoft Knowledge Base articles, I present, "Computer Randomly Plays Classical Music," which tells the tale of a computer gone berserk, playing "Fur Elise" or "It's a Small, Small World" seemingly at random. Turns out this is a feature on certain PCs based on Award BIOSes, and it comes up when the system is overheating. Wouldn't playing music just make it run hotter?

Microsoft Press books go digital
Microsoft Press will begin publishing its titles in eBook format, thanks to a new agreement with, which will convert hundreds of their leading books into digital bits. Microsoft Press expressed excitement at the possibility of extending its domination of the Microsoft book market--due largely to its affiliation with a certain software company--into eBooks. If you're an MSPress junky--and let's face it, they're the O'Reilly of the Windows world--head on over to for more information.

MSN rings in the holidays with new shopping services
MSN is doing its part to make the holiday buying season pass as painlessly as possible. This involves a new Bargain Center, which will find the best prices at MSN merchants; powerful new search options for finding the products you want; side-by-side comparisons of products, and a slew of other products and services so depressing I'll just stop here. While I embrace the notion of saving time and money using online resources, it only makes sense if you use that time wisely, so I've got some advice for the holidays as well: Just spend time with your friends and family.

BackOffice Small Business Server 2000 delayed until Q1 2001
I'm hearing that BackOffice Small Business Server 2000 (SBS2K) is being delayed from late 2000 to January/February 2001, and a call yesterday from Microsoft inadvertently confirmed this, when they asked if I had time to speak to them at Comdex about the product, which was due "later in the winter". Sure, I said, noting that the release of SBS2K, and possibly even the full BackOffice 2000 suite, suddenly corresponded nicely with the expected release of Windows 2000 SP2. I wonder if they're all being released together, in the same way that Datacenter was released with SP1.

Best Buy shills MSN
One thing I have a huge problem with are the false prices you see in ads for Best Buy, CompUSA and other PC outlets, where the price has been knocked down $400 because of an optional three-year subscription to MSN. And there in fine print is the real price, which is $400 more. Well, this kind of advertising--despite its questionable legality--must be working, because Best Buy announced this week that it was personally responsible for signing up 1 million new members for MSN since November 1999. Congratulations, guys. Let's hope all of those people knew what they were buying

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