An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
What Short Takes Is and What It Isn't
Longtime readers know that Friday is a special day around these parts. On Fridays I take this newsletter down a slightly different, sometimes-humorous (or as we say, often-irreverent) path. Short Takes is a place for news stories that don't warrant the full WinInfo Daily UPDATE treatment and a place to collect the few intelligent thoughts I might have had during the week. So I was amused when I recently discovered that people are taking the time to respond to some of the Short Takes blurbs with humongous, multiparagraph screeds--sometimes on other Web sites, sometimes in email newsletters. I also find it funny that none of the authors of these retorts have ever taken the time to send me a quick email message telling me that they were writing them. In other words, these people are responding in isolation; I usually find out later when a reader thoughtfully sends me the link. The point I want to make is that I can't possibly fully present my thoughts on a subject in just a few sentences, and Short Takes isn't designed to be my ultimate editorial pulpit; it's just a few random thoughts for the end of the week. We don't have to be serious all the time.
Virus Masquerades as Microsoft Security Patch Email Message
From the "finding the humor in security" files comes news of a new email-borne virus that's masquerading as a Microsoft security patch. I received numerous versions of this virus this week, so if you need a copy, just let me know. But seriously, the email messages come from a "support.com" address and look like they come from Microsoft. They carry a virus called Swen (sometimes called Gibe) that uses a 2-year-old security vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) to get into the system. At that point, the virus grabs the email addresses from your Contacts list and goes to town. As always, remember that Microsoft doesn't send security patches in email attachments, and don't open attachments from senders you don't know (even if that sender is Microsoft--heck, maybe especially if that sender is Microsoft). To stay up-to-date on security patches, check Windows Update or Auto Update every once in a while; these useful tools can save you a lot of heartache.
Time Warner to Lose AOL Boat Anchor
As Alec Klein predicted earlier this summer in "Stealing Time" (an excellent insider account of the AOL/Time Warner merger), the company announced yesterday that it will drop the AOL moniker and rename itself Time Warner. In addition, the company will revert to its time-honored TWX stock ticker symbol, dropping the AOL symbol. The name change will take several weeks to accomplish, but it will likely take the better part of a decade for Time Warner to shed the financial problems that crafty AOL foisted on it as a result of the merger. I fully expect to see Time Warner later spin off AOL as a separate company, which Time Warner might creatively call America Online.
Windows Server 2003 Surges, Takes Share from Linux
According to Internet-monitoring firm Netcraft, Windows Server 2003 use has more than doubled since July, and the nascent OS has actually taken a small bite out of Linux's Web server market share. Since July, Windows 2003 has grown 109 percent in the Web server market; about half of the sites that have switched to Windows 2003 during that period have migrated from Windows 2000 Server. But 5 percent of the new Windows 2003 installations previously ran Linux. When Netcraft first reported these numbers earlier this summer, some analysts said that the numbers were probably an aberration. Now, 6 months later, the analysts aren't so sure. Windows taking share from Linux? What is this, Bizarro World?
Microsoft Adds Service Pack Deployment to SUS
This week, Microsoft upgraded the free Microsoft Software Update Services (SUS) tool, which lets businesses automatically install security patches and other fixes to desktops and support service pack and full OS deployments. In the past, small and midsized businesses had to manually install service packs or opt for a larger and more complex (and more costly) tool such as Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS). Now you can use SUS to roll out Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1), Win2K SP4, or future service packs for Windows 2003, XP, and Win2K. I'm sure the recent spate of Windows-based security vulnerabilities had a lot to do with Microsoft adding this capability, but whatever the reason, rejoice. SUS--already a free and useful tool--just got a lot better.
Microsoft, IBM Push Improved Web Services
This week, IBM and Microsoft demonstrated three new Web service capabilities that the companies hope to implement in their own technologies soon. The capabilities, which include transaction support, improved security, and reliable messaging, are designed to make Web services more interoperable among competing standards and more useful for developers and e-commerce sites. IBM said the capabilities are a "breakthrough" for business technology, whereas Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates promised that the companies have a "very aggressive roadmap to get this out." Both IBM and Microsoft expect to submit the new capabilities as industry standards by next year.
MapPoint 2004 Hits the Streets
This week, Microsoft released Microsoft MapPoint 2004, the most recent update to its business-mapping and demographic software. Technically not a member of Microsoft Office System, MapPoint 2004 is, however, complementary to Office and takes advantage of Microsoft's new core mapping engine, which also drives the consumer-oriented Microsoft Streets & Trips 2004. MapPoint 2004 contains almost twice the demographic information that its predecessor--MapPoint 2002--contained and supports a wider range of GPS devices. The software is available now for about $300.
Microsoft Asks for Delay in EU Charges
Microsoft has asked the European Commission, the enforcement arm of the European Union (EU), for more time so that the company can respond to EU charges that it broke European antitrust laws. The Commission issued its statement of objections last month and announced that Microsoft had 60 days to reply. On Tuesday, Jean-Philippe Courtois, senior vice president and CEO for Microsoft Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), said, "We expect to reply in the next few weeks or months. This timeframe is not exact. We are going to take as much time as we are allowed to take." The delay tactic worked great in the United States; seeing how that strategy fares across the pond will be interesting.
Japan Forces Microsoft to Release Security CD-ROM for XP
In the "they should have done this anyway" department, this week, Microsoft began giving its Japanese customers a free security CD-ROM that includes all the XP security updates, including SP1a, that the company has shipped since it released the product in October 2001. Microsoft says that a "request" from Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) prompted the CD-ROM giveaway. Because the US government is so corporate-friendly these days, we won't see any such request here, but it would be nice if Microsoft would do the same for customers everywhere without being prompted. The company says that most of its Japanese customers use dial-up modem Internet connections, making it difficult for them to download the hundreds of megabytes of patches the company has issued during the past 2 years. But most of Microsoft's customers worldwide are still on dial-up accounts, aren't they?
Does Running Windows in ATMs Sound Like a Good Idea?
According to a study that Celent Communications published last week, most ATMs in the United States will be running a Windows OS by 2005, a scary proposition for anyone who's seen the Blue Screen of Death or other crashes while doing such innocuous things as copying a file or printing. But, hey, I'm sure Windows is up to the task of accurately dispensing money and properly debiting my checking account. Apparently, the banking industry is finally getting ready to dump the aging and rarely updated IBM OS/2, which is the most common ATM OS these days, and move to Windows, which is more compatible with the networks that banks now use. I see absolutely no problem with this. Ahem.
Here Comes the Athlon64
Next week, microprocessor maker AMD will finally launch its 64-bit Athlon64 processor, a desktop chip with full Intel x86 compatibility and a much wider memory and performance arc than today's 32-bit desktop chips. Interestingly, AMD will release desktop and notebook versions of the chip, both of which will target gamers and "prosumers" who want the best-possible performance. As WinInfo Daily UPDATE readers probably know, AMD's unique approach to 64-bit computing is to add 64-bit capabilities to its existing 32-bit line of processors, creating a product that runs all of today's OSs and applications at full speed while adding full 64-bit capabilities. Intel's approach was to release a separate, mostly incompatible product (the Itanium), which is expensive and runs only high-end servers and workstations. AMD will likely have enough success with its 64-bit products that Intel will be forced to green-light its own 32/64-bit hybrid or even (gasp) adopt the AMD "standard." Wouldn't that development be ironic?
See a Demonstration of the Next MSN Hotmail Version
Neowin found a cool Web demonstration of the upcoming upgrade to MSN Hotmail, Microsoft's free email service. The demonstration shows off some of the interesting functionality Hotmail will soon include. To view the demonstration, log on to Hotmail through the Web, then load this address into your browser.