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June 25, 2002—In this issue:
- The Tablet PC: Evolution, Revolution ... or Nonevent?
2. HOT OFF THE PRESS
- Microsoft's Secret Plan to Secure the PC
3. KEEPING UP WITH WIN2K AND NT
- New Security Hotfixes
- Windows Update Can't Upgrade Terminal Server Systems
- More USB Device Problems
- SP2 Image Can't Join Domain During Setup
- July Is Hot! Our Free Webinars Are Cool!
- Win a Free Digital Video Recorder from SONICblue!
5. INSTANT POLL
- Results of Previous Poll: Defective Software Liability
- New Instant Poll: Windows 2000 Datacenter Server Purchases
- Featured Thread: Logon Scripts
- Tip: Hanging Boot Process
7. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Software Creates Help Systems
- Logon Script Creator Automates Administrative Functions
- Submit Top Product Ideas
8. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, firstname.lastname@example.org)
For the PC to be truly ubiquitous, it will need to adapt to more natural interactions than a keyboard and mouse. Anyone who has felt the tinge of carpal tunnel syndrome probably understands why this is so. Microsoft and other companies have been working on various natural computing initiatives involving speech recognition and handwriting. Speech recognition is still many years away from being a mainstream technology, even though each Windows and Microsoft Office revision offers some improvements in the technology. However, Microsoft will address the handwriting matter this year with the Tablet PC.
The Tablet PC is a next-generation laptop featuring a convertible (i.e., swiveling) screen that lets you use the device as a laptop or as a tablet, depending on the situation. In laptop mode, you use the machine as you would use a traditional laptop; in tablet mode, you use a stylus and an onscreen keyboard to interact with the machine. But the Tablet PC isn't a big Pocket PC. Its screen features an active digitizer, which lets you use a special stylus—complete with real eraser and a right-mouse button—to interact with the PC in various ways, including adjusting the stylus pressure (e.g., pressing harder creates bolder strokes) and hovering the stylus an inch or so above the screen to guide the onscreen cursor. The underlying system is a full-featured PC running a special Windows XP version.
The Tablet PC's best feature is the software—Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. This new OS features everything in Windows XP Professional Edition, plus a variety of low-level technologies that the active digitizer and stylus require, new tablet-interaction software, a simple but fun Journal application, a tablet-specific game (yes, seriously), and hooks that tablet-enable various Office XP applications.
Thanks to the wonderful software, Tablet PCs demonstrate well. However, in the monotonous day-and-a-half reviewer's workshop I attended recently, various Microsoft representatives assumed infomercial roles, expounding again and again about how wonderful tablet interaction is and effectively killing the excitement. "The Tablet PC is a laptop on steroids," said Alexandra Loeb, Microsoft corporate vice president for the Tablet PC division. "It's a full PC, perfect for meetings, customer scenarios, sitting on the couch and reading, on an airplane. Anywhere a laptop typically gets left behind and paper is better ... it's about new \[computing\] scenarios. We said, 'lets do everything a laptop does, but address these new scenarios.'" At one point, I asked a Microsoft representative whether every Tablet PC buyer was going to get the same day-and-a-half introduction, and I'm positive he still doesn't know that I was being sarcastic.
The problem is that Tablet PCs don't make sense for most people. If you're a knowledge worker—excuse me, "information worker" (Microsoft changed your life designation this year)—you can probably type much faster and more efficiently than you can write by hand. And the data you create with a keyboard is much more easily exchanged with other users. The tablet form factor makes sense in only a few niche markets—medical, factory, legal—and in other instances in which typing on a laptop wouldn't make sense or be appropriate. It could also have huge implications in education. My favorite potential Tablet PC scenario—watching DVD movies on an airplane in tablet mode so that you don't have to worry about the person in front of you ratcheting down the seat and crushing the screen—isn't even possible because the optical drives on the first-generation devices are external.
I've shown the Tablet PC to several people, and they all have the same reactions. First, amazement. Microsoft's tablet software is a sight to behold. The natural-looking digital ink that you create by writing on the screen is gorgeous and accurate. The next reaction is puzzlement, because most people realize that they would never actually use or need such a device. And then the real questions begin. What if you wanted to exchange 10 pages of handwritten notes with a coworker? If that person doesn't have a Tablet PC, which today is everyone, then you would have two ugly choices: You could send the coworker 10 TIFF images (Microsoft curiously won't supply any viewer software for the tablet format), or you could use the tablet's handwriting-recognition software, which, while better than anything that came before it, still works poorly.
Now consider the flip side. Let's say we all own Tablet PCs, and you want to exchange that same 10 pages of notes. Why would I want notes in your lousy handwriting? I would need to do the handwriting recognition myself, which would take time, and my results would be worse than if you had done it because I can't read your writing to begin with.
I have a lot more information about the Tablet PC on the SuperSite for Windows. The conclusion is that Windows XP Tablet PC Edition is a great portable OS with limited uses in niche markets and for so-called "corridor warriors" (another great new Microsoft term) who move around the office a lot and need to take lots of notes. I pity you if you're such a person.
Laptop of the Month: Acer TM100
This month's Laptop of the Month is the Acer TM100, the short-term loaner Tablet PC we received at the reviewer's workshop. This wonderful little machine features a convertible screen and stylus, a slightly curved and somewhat ergonomic keyboard, integrated wired and wireless networking, and a full complement of ports, including two USB and one FireWire; not bad for a device weighing just 3.2 pounds.
The Acer TM100 has a 10.4" XGA screen, which works better than you might expect, and is extremely portable. Sadly, the unit's optical storage is external through USB 1.1 (and thus slow) and requires its own power supply, adding to the bulk of what you must carry if you bring it on the road.
The TM100 is quite fast, given its fairly low-end Pentium III-M chip and 256MB of memory. Battery life, however, is amazing: On the trip home from Seattle, I was able run the device for most of the flight's first leg and in the Chicago airport—a total uptime of more than 3.5 hours. The biggest question about any convertible tablet is durability. Despite the number of latches required to secure the screen in its various positions, the Acer TM100 seems like it will hold up well over time. Like the Tablet PC software, however, only time will tell whether any real audience exists for this type of device. The SuperSite article (see link above) has photos and more information about the Acer device.
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2. HOT OFF THE PRESS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, email@example.com)
You've heard of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing and massive corporate remodeling, in which the company has asked all developers, product managers, and even (presumably) executive assistants to rethink everything they do in the context of security. Well, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Secretly, the company has been working on a plan to redesign the PC from the ground up to address the problems of security, privacy, and intellectual-property theft that dog the industry. The company chose to detail its plans solely to "Newsweek," so we have only that report to work from. But if the "Newsweek" take on Microsoft's plan is correct and consumers and businesses buy into the new devices that would result, the PC landscape will soon change forever. To read the complete story, visit the following URL:
3. KEEPING UP WITH WIN2K AND NT
(contributed by Paula Sharick, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Microsoft released six security hotfixes in June. The hotfixes eliminate minor to major security vulnerabilities in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, Proxy Server, SQL Server 2000, Internet Information Services (IIS) 5.0, Internet Information Server (IIS) 4.0, the RAS Phonebook service, and the MSN Chat control. The RAS flaw is the most far reaching and is the most crucial. Microsoft Security Bulletin MS02-029 (Unchecked Buffer in Remote Access Service Phonebook Could Lead to Code Execution) contains details about the buffer-overrun vulnerability, which exists on Windows 2000 and Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition systems. The vulnerability lets a user who can log on locally crash a system or run code with full system privileges. If you haven't installed this hotfix, I recommend you do so immediately. You can read the details about the RAS Phonebook flaw and find download links for all affected platforms at the following URL.
The second most crucial hotfix is also a buffer-overrun vulnerability. The flaw affects systems on which you have installed Microsoft Chat, MSN Messenger, or Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server's Instant Messenger (IM). A malicious user can exploit the Chat vulnerability to run code with user privileges. Be advised that if you update systems at Windows Update and you select all the updates, not just the critical updates at the top of the list, you might have inadvertently installed either Chat or MSN Messenger. Read Microsoft Security Bulletin MS02-022 (Unchecked Buffer in MSN Chat Control Can Lead to Code Execution) for more details and to download this security patch.
WEB-EXCLUSIVE ARTICLES: The following items are posted on the Windows & .NET Magazine Web site. For the complete story, use the following link and scroll to the appropriate article.
You can't update either Windows 2000 Server Terminal Services or Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition systems at the Windows Update site. For information about how to update these systems, visit the following Web site:
If you have a machine that contains earlier USB 1.x devices and a USB 2.x controller, you'll experience problems with the USB devices when the machine resumes from a suspend state. For information about solving this problem, visit the following Web site:
To learn why a prebuilt Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 (SP2) system can't join a domain the first time you bring up a new system, visit the following URL:
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5. INSTANT POLL
The voting has closed in Windows & .NET Magazine's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "Do you think Microsoft should be held financially liable for defective software?" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 504 votes:
- 64% Yes
- 30% No
- 6% Not sure
The next Instant Poll question is, "How much of your 2002/2003 IT budget have you allocated for Windows 2000 Datacenter Sever purchases?" Go to the Windows & .NET Magazine home page and submit your vote for a) Less than $500,000, b) Around $500,000, or c) Greater than $500,000.
Scott's organization purchased two Dell computers preloaded with Windows XP Professional Edition. He connected these computers to his Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6 (SP6) network, but now his logon scripts won't run at startup. Can you help? Join the discussion at the following URL:
(contributed by John Savill, http://www.windows2000faq.com)
Q. Why does the Windows boot process hang on a blank screen when I press the Esc key?
A. During the Windows boot process, you can press the F5 key to specify Safe mode or the F8 key to specify boot options. Both keys have 3-byte key codes, of which the first byte is the same as the Esc key. As a result, if you press Esc, Windows detects this byte and waits for another 2 bytes (but the key buffer is now empty because Esc is only 1 byte). To remedy this situation, press another key to fill the buffer with extra bytes and let Windows continue to boot.
7. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Bob Kretschman, email@example.com)
eHelp announced the release of RoboHelp 2002, software that helps companies create Help systems for their Web sites, intranets, and Web-based applications. RoboHelp 2002 supports Microsoft .NET through the WebHelp tool, which is a cross-browser Help-format solution for .NET applications. RoboHelp 2002 also includes server-side processing that provides realtime end-user feedback capabilities to continually improve a Help system. Users can use RoboHelp 2002's skins to match the appearance of an application or Web site. For pricing and other information, contact eHelp at 858-459-6365 or 800-358-9370 or visit eHelp's Web site.
Simplified Networking announced Visual KIX, a logon script creator that gives administrators control of the network each time a user logs on. Administrators can use Visual KIX to create logon scripts that map network drives to workstations, set workstation wallpaper and prevent users from changing it, log client workstation information, start service pack installations, start applications at logon, and add or remove registry keys. Visual KIX—which runs on Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows Me, and Windows 9x systems—can make changes by IP address, domain, group membership, or MAC address when users log on to their workstations. A domain license for Visual KIX costs $150. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Simplified Networking's Web site.
Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Do you know of a terrific product that others should know about? Tell us! We want to write about the product in a future What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions to email@example.com.
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