How could it possibly be September already? In my absence the Boston area has suffered through an unnaturally cool August and it's continuing right through the Labor Day weekend, effectively ruining what's normally considered summer's final hurrah. That's a shame. I hope it doesn't mean snow by the end of October.

Several readers asked me about any security problems I had flying home from France. It wasn't too bad, but only because I was prepared for the worst. We flew to France in early August before the terrorists were arrested in Britain, so we had no problems. But by the time the friends who visited us in Paris for a week flew home, security was more stringent and they had to empty the contents of their carry-ons into clear plastic bags.

Armed with this information we packed as much as we could put all our carry on stuff in clear grocery bags and carried two notebook computers sans bags. We need' t have bothered. By last week security restrictions out of Paris had calmed down and we could have packed our usual carry-on bags. Regardless, we did go through three levels of security checks instead of the usual one the last of which occurred right before we got on the plane. One nice side effect to all this is that it's much easier to deplane when no one carries on huge bags.

That said, I'm nervous about any carry on restrictions that might affect electronics. My kids basically watched DVD movies on a notebook the entire way home from France, and while I actually read the whole time (300 plus pages of Stephen King's The Stand, which is just one of my favorite books ever) I had the iPod going the whole way as well. Without electronics, I'd be a hurting unit on a plane. I can only look at the Skymall catalog for so long.

Since arriving home Friday night we've been slowly readjusting to this time zone. My kids were getting up every morning at 5:00 A.M. for a while but that's settled down. Getting back into the swing of things work wise has been more painful. Suddenly, there are phone meetings, business trips and other work related details to deal with. Ugh.

Speaking of which, I'll be in Washington D.C. next week to MC a road show titled "Managing Your Cross Platform Data Solutions for Oracle and SQL Server Environments." Depending on what you do for a living, that either sounds horribly exciting or horribly boring I'm sure. But I'm excited to get back to D.C. again; it's my favorite city on the East Coast by far and check out a few sights. I lived in D.C. for two summers as a kid and you can't beat its collection of monuments, museums and the like. If anyone has restaurant or site recommendations in that area please let me know.  

Finally expect Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 (RC1) any moment now. As I noted, last week Microsoft intends to ship the RC1 build by the long weekend and that was still the plan as of early Friday. This one's going to be huge folks.

Editor's Note: Just a reminder that our offices will be closed on Labor Day so you won't receive WinInfo UPDATE on Monday. 

Microsoft Ships Windows Media Player 11.0 Beta 2 

Microsoft recently shipped the Beta 2 version of Windows Media Player (WMP) 11.0 for U.S. customers only, though international versions will follow shortly. No word yet on what's new in this latest public beta, but I will say this: I really do prefer the sleek black UI of WMP 11.0 over the translucent Windows Vista version. 

Office 2007 Release also Tentatively Set for January 30 Amazon Says

Amazon.com revealed this week that Microsoft Office 2007, like Windows Vista, will ship to the public on January 30. You know #8230, maybe Amazon's release dates shouldn't be taken as gospel and given that Microsoft has publicly named January as the ballpark release date for both Vista and Office 2007, it stands to reason that Amazon is simply listing January 30 as the date because it's the last day of the month. Suffice to say, there's one bit of relevant information in the Amazon revelation: Vista and Office 2007 will almost surely launch together as expected.

Toshiba Will Make Zune for Microsoft

So much for that. Just when I was starting to get a little excited about Microsoft's upcoming Zune-iPod killer--or depending on how you look at it, latest iPod also ran--Toshiba announced this week that it will be the company making the first generation Zune device. I've never been a huge fan of Toshiba's handheld devices and the company's only real claim to fame in this space is that it has proven that it will do anything Microsoft asks. I'm looking into going all out for Zune on the SuperSite for Windows, but the first generation doesn't seem to be a barn burner. Does anyone have any thoughts on it?

Much Ado About Nothing: Google CEO Joins Apple Board

Google CEO Eric Schmidt this week joined Apple's board of directors setting off a bizarre series of speculative commentaries about the possibility of Apple and Google joining forces to battle Microsoft for the domination of cyberspace. It all sounds so fascinating until you realize that neither company can really help the other in its key markets: Apple MP3 players, computers, Google Web based advertising disguised as search. It's no surprise that one big Silicon Valley player would show up on the board of another big Silicon Valley company. In fact, it happens all the time. End of story.

As Expected Massachusetts Sticks with Microsoft Office

For all its juking and jiving, Massachusetts will of course stick with Microsoft Office and eschew the free OpenOffice.org office suite it had threatened Microsoft with. However, the state said that it will use the open source OpenDocument data format in lieu of Microsoft's proprietary data formats. It can do so because Microsoft will soon ship an OpenDocument plug-in for Microsoft Office that lets the suite read and write to OpenDocument files. In tech terms this is a win-win. Microsoft gets the revenue from selling Office to Massachusetts and Massachusetts can claim a moral victory by using an open source document format. Frankly, the whole thing was ridiculous. And if Massachusetts was really concerned about doing the right thing it would simply utilize Microsoft's Open XML formats which work natively in Office 2007.

Microsoft Agrees to Two Year Antitrust Oversight Extension in the States

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Microsoft have both asked federal judge Colleen Kollar Kotelly to extend the government's oversight of Microsoft by two years to November 12, 2009. Why? The DOJ has complained that the quality of Microsoft's technical documentation--part of its antitrust settlement requirements--is worse than expected and needs to be improved. Microsoft has agreed to improve the documentation but says it needs more time. And frankly, Microsoft has been pretty accommodating with these extension requests all along. Kollar Kotelly is expected to approve the request quickly.

Verizon Offers Windows Live Services to Customers

Telecommunications giant Verizon this week said it would begin offering various Windows Live services to its broadband customers. As part of the deal Verizon will co-brand these services so Verizon customers will see a Verizon branded live.com search page, Windows Live Mail based email and Windows Live Messenger among others. For Microsoft, the deal provides a way to quickly disseminate its fledgling Windows Live services to a new generation of broadband equipped consumers. I'm fascinated by the recent trend of companies, such as Microsoft and Google, farming out their email services to corporate and educational customers. It's just a great idea.

Microsoft Ready to Foist Google Pack Competitor

If there's one accurate maxim in Microsoft's efforts to stave off Google it's that no idea is too lame to copy. This week, Microsoft revealed that it will soon ship a package of applications and services called Microsoft Office Live Essentials that will compete directly with Google's recently released Google Pack. Office Live Essentials will combine several Windows Live products and services with a new Windows Live Dashboard which will act like a front end to services you've installed and to others that are available. Given the lameness of the Google Pack it won't be hard for Microsoft to come up with something competitive. Maybe they could shoot a bit higher than that.

Microsoft Goes After Cyber Squatters

Microsoft this week sued more than 200 people who registered domain names that are suspiciously similar to Web sites the software giant owns, accusing the defendants of being cyber squatters. The Web sites in question are typically a common misspelling away from being identical to Microsoft domains and are typically littered with ads. Cyber squatting is illegal in the United States and those found guilty of violating cyber squatting laws face fines of as much as $100,000 per violation. Two defendants identified this week registered as many as 400 domains that infringe on Microsoft trademarks, the company said, while more than 2000 domain names are brought online every day to profit from Microsoft's intellectual property.

Microsoft Frets Over Office Leak

And no, I'm not talking about Microsoft Office 2007, which should see a Technical Refresh within two weeks. A few weeks back some internal Microsoft videos starring Ricky Gervais as his classic The Office character, David Brent, surfaced online and much hilarity ensued. There's just one problem. Although Microsoft UK did indeed commission the two 20 minute films two years ago they weren't intended for public consumption. And now Microsoft is investigating how the videos were leaked and will punish any employee it finds responsible. I have some advice. Rather than punishing these people you should reward them and put them in a position to oversee all your marketing. These videos are some of the funniest bits I've ever seen and if Microsoft could use anything these days it's a shot of humanity and humor. Run with it guys. This stuff makes you look better.

Corel Buys InterVideo 

And yes, before you ask, Corel is still around. This week, WordPerfect maker Corel purchased InterVideo for $196 million in cash. InterVideo makes the excellent WinDVD player for Windows and many Windows users are probably indirectly familiar with the company because many of its products are included with new PC purchases. Corel says that it acquired InterVideo to gain access to the crucial digital media market and to strengthen its reach in Asian markets such as China, Taiwan and Japan. Given the way things are going, it's only a matter of time before InterVideo's former products are among the top moneymakers at Corel.

Google Puts Books Online for Free

This one is kind of fun. Google has begun publishing public domain books in their entirety online for free download in PDF or HTML format. Books such as Dante's Inferno and Shakespeare's Hamlet can be had freely in electronic format. Actually, some aren't so excited by this new service. Take book publishers, for example, which have been milking non-copyrighted works for years. They'd really prefer that people continue paying for these classics. I just can't feel too bad for them. There's a concern, however, that Google will one day tack advertising onto these free book downloads. But explain to me how that's any different than a print publisher charging you for books in the public domain.