I'd like to express my condolences to the family of James Kim, the CNET senior editor who succumbed to hypothermia after becoming lost in the wilderness of Oregon. Kim died trying to find help for his wife and two children, a heroic act that we should all celebrate. Kim's family, his wife Kati, and his children, Penelope and Sabine, were saved, but sadly Kim was not found in time despite a massive and admirable effort. Like many of you I followed the unfolding drama this week online and although I didn't know Kim personally, my heart and prayers go out to all who did. He seems like a wonderful human being and his loss is one we all feel. I'm so sorry.

Microsoft Finalizes Exchange Server 2007 

This morning Microsoft announced that it had released Exchange Server 2007 to manufacturing the company describes the product as rock solid. Exchange 2007 is a massive upgrade to Microsoft's messaging server featuring useful roles based administration and deployment models. It's also the first major Microsoft product to ship in only a 64-bit version. Users interested in evaluating Exchange 2007 can preregister for a 120 day evaluation version from the Microsoft Web.

New Office Data Format is Quickly Accepted as International Standard 

Microsoft's new OpenXML data format which is the default data format for various Microsoft Office 2007 System applications was resoundingly approved as an international standard yesterday by Ecma International, a European industry group that ratifies technical standards. OpenXML received wide backing from several companies, including curiously rival Apple Computer. "Now that OpenXML is an open international standard we think that people will essentially have much greater trust that it's around for the long term," Microsoft General Manager Alan Yates said. "Microsoft's standardization efforts were kicked off last year when the state of Massachusetts briefly elected to forgo future Office versions because of its desire to store official documents in open formats." Now Massachusetts said it will evaluate OpenXML as a possible data format choice. Microsoft will also be seeking to have OpenXML ratified by the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Microsoft Warns About Vista Notebook Battery Concerns 

This week Microsoft said that certain configuration options in wireless Access Points (APs) could actually cause notebook computers running Windows Vista to experience worse than usual battery life. Vista's wireless functionality runs in maximum performance mode by default in part to solve connectivity problems with many public wireless APs, which aren't configured by default to support the 802.11 power save protocol. But this mode reduces battery life, a trade-off Microsoft had to make to ensure that Vista users wouldn't be shut out of public hot spots. The solution? You can play with Vista's wireless adapter power management settings and test whether public hot spots work correctly with power save which will let Vista enabled notebooks achieve better battery life while maintaining uninterrupted connectivity. And of course at home you should configure your wireless adapter accordingly. Microsoft has more information about this problem on the Vista blog.

OpenOffice to Support Office 2007 Data Formats 

With Microsoft's OpenXML data format now accepted as an international standard, Novell has announced that its version of the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite will support the word processing spreadsheet and presentation document formats that are based on OpenXML. Microsoft uses these formats in Office 2007 Word Excel and PowerPoint respectively and Novell says its OpenOffice.org translators should ship by January when Microsoft's Office 2007 suites are expected to become widely available to the public. Novell is also providing the code back to OpenOffice.org so that it can be used in the general OpenOffice.org office productivity suite which is a freely available competitor to Microsoft Office.

Conspiracy minded Mac Fanatics Attack Mac BU Over Format Delays 

And speaking of OpenXML, Macintosh fanatics are up in arms this week over news that Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (Mac BU) won't provide OpenXML translators for the Mac version of Office 2007 until late 2007, several months after the company ships the Windows version of Office 2007. What's amazing here is that the Mac BU is firmly committed to the Mac and is regarded within Microsoft as a cute little side project that no one really seems to care about. So if you really believe that Microsoft is somehow colluding with the Mac BU to ensure that Mac users don't get OpenXML support in a timely manner it's time to turn your attention to more realistic endeavors such as the search for Bigfoot.

New Word Vulnerability Raising Concerns 

A recently discovered security vulnerability in Microsoft Word could affect millions of users who unsuspectingly open Word based attachments to email messages. The vulnerability affects a maddening array of Word versions including Word 2003, Word 2002, and Word 2000 for Windows Word X and Word 2004 for the Mac Word Viewer 2003 for Windows and even Microsoft Works versions 2004, 2005, and 2006. Here's how it works: Hackers send emails with dangerous Word based attachments that appear to come from people they know and trust and then users open the attachments which contain code that can compromise their systems. It's unclear how widespread this vulnerability will become, but Microsoft says it's working on a patch which it might decide to ship out of band OOB with next week's regularly scheduled security patches.

Tom Brady Sues Yahoo 

Football superstar Tom Brady is suing online giant Yahoo claiming that the company illegally used his image to promote its fantasy football league. The New England Patriots quarterback and three time Super Bowl winner says that Yahoo used his photo without permission in a September 2006 advertisement in Sports Illustrated. Brady, unlike his over exposed rival Peyton Manning, zealously guards his image and purposefully doesn't appear in many ads or other promotional materials. He's seeking unspecified damages and I suspect he's trying to send a message to others who might attempt to use his likeness without permission Yahoo's fantasy football league is among the largest online with more than four million users.

Xbox 360 Owner Sues Microsoft Over November Software Update 

And speaking of lawsuits, a California Xbox 360 owner has sued Microsoft for a November Xbox 360 software update that has rendered his console unplayable. Part of the November update was designed to prevent users from sharing Achievements between machines but many users have complained about problems caused by the update including some who have alleged that the update turned their consoles into expensive paperweights. Although Microsoft will fix the consoles it often charges customers for shipping a cost that can go as high as 140. According to Microsoft, fewer than 1 percent of Xbox 360 systems were harmed by the update, but the suit alleges that Microsoft's support staff is telling people that their machines are out of warranty and thus they're out of luck If you don't have an Xbox 360 you might enjoy this Xbox 360s that crash often display the so called red rings of death which is the console's version of the Windows blue screen. You had to know a Microsoft console would do something like this.

Sign Up for the Halo 3 Beta 

Xbox 360 users who are eager for Halo 3 and let's face it that's about all of them should go to the Halo 3 Web site and sign up for the Halo 3 beta. There's no guarantee that you'll get in, but what the heck it's certainly worth a try.