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

Exclusive: Whistler Beta 1 slips yet again
When it comes to Whistler Beta 1, I'm now told, "Think November." The crucial first beta of Whistler, the next version of Windows 2000, was originally due today, October 13. But then it was delayed two weeks to the 25th because it simply wasn't ready for primetime. Well, primetime has slipped past the end of October now. I've gotten a lot of frustrated email from people who were accepted into the Whistler beta but haven't gotten access to the builds or private newsgroups: Well, that time has been pushed back yet again. No word on whether we can expect to see another interim build before Beta 1.

Exclusive: ISA Server delayed
And speaking of Microsoft product delays, the release of its forthcoming Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server has been delayed again as well, from November until December. The good news is that Microsoft is very strict about the quality of its first generation .NET Servers, so ISA's delays are simply an effort to ensure that it's as reliable as possible. The bad news, of course, is that the company hasn't hit a ship date yet on any of these servers.

Exclusive: Microsoft to radically change MCT program
I'm told that Microsoft will be radically changing its teaching certification next week, a move that should stir up some controversy. The company will completely overall its Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) certification for Windows 2000, which will feature a number of new requirements for applicants. First, you must be an MCSE/MCSD. Then, there's a fee involved, somewhere in the $500-$2000 range, which Microsoft will use to cover the costs of the MCT benefits, which are currently unknown. As of January 2, the per-course certification requirements are gone as well; this has some interesting ramifications, as it will be possible for an MCT that knows nothing about, say, IIS, to teach a course on IIS. And to stay certified, MCTs will need to teach Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC), possibly only at a Certified Technical Education Center (CTEC), in order to stay certified. Details of this plan could change, but we'll know more next week.

Relive the 80's with a Timex Sinclair
If you came of age in the 1980's like I did, you probably remember the pre-PC days with some fondness. Back then, the Commodore 64 vs. Atari vs. Apple II wars were far more interesting than the Mac/Windows debates that followed a decade later, but there were also a number of other choices, including TI's 99-4a, the Tandy CoCo's, and a cute little Sinclair device that you could build yourself. Later licensed and sold in completed form by watchmaker Timex, the Sinclair ZX81 featured a flat Mylar keyboard, 1K RAM, and a 3.25 MHz processor. And if you're pining for the days of yore and have some bucks to spare, you can actually still buy the Sinclair ZX81 in kit form today, thanks to a company that has stumbled on the closeout inventory of the cute little devices. Check out the Zebra Systems Web site for details.

OpenTV wins UPC contract for Interactive TV
European cable giant UPC stuck another nail into the coffin of Microsoft's Interactive TV efforts when it confirmed this week that it had signed an agreement to use software from OpenTV in its devices in Central Europe. UPC will launch its digital Wizja TV service in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic by the middle of next year, offering users enhanced programming guides, weather, and games.

Bill Gates: Super stud, super hacker
A hacker recently changed three stories on the Web site of the Orange County Register, a California newspaper, to read that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates had been arrested for breaking into NASA computers. The FBI is investigating the attack, which occurred in the last week of September. The stories about the NASA break-in were actually true, though of course it wasn't Gates doing the hacking. If I understand the situation correctly, Gates is currently too busy hacking the DOJ to have had the time to attack NASA as well.

Microsoft introduces Windows Media Player for... the Mac?
What's next, Windows Movie Maker for Linux? Microsoft has been making a lot of lovey-dovey overtures to Apple Computer recently, most predominantly with the release of its latest Mac:Office suite. But when the company announced this week that it would soon release the first beta of "Windows Media Player 7 for the Macintosh," I had that Mac Office 6 déjà vu all over again. Shouldn't this thing just be called "Microsoft Media Player 7 for the Macintosh"? Maybe when Apple gets that stick out of its eye, it can ask Microsoft about that.

New Windows 2000 compatibility updates available
Thanks to Philipp Esselbach of NT Compatible for the tip: Microsoft has posted its fourth compatibility update for Windows 2000, which is currently available from the Windows Update Web site (it's on your Start Menu). The October 2000 package addresses a number of gaming software titles, such as Bass Master’s Classic Tournament Edition and Descent II 1.1, as well as a couple of applications programs, like Quicken Deluxe ’99. For a complete list of the fixes, please visit the Microsoft Web site.

Windows Me SoundBlaster LIVE drivers available
I mentioned last week that the Windows Me-specific drivers for the Creative Labs SoundBlaster LIVE were finally available, but now you can actually find them on the Creative Labs Web site. If you're running Windows Me with an SB LIVE, I strongly recommend upgrading to these new drivers, which really do make a big difference and fix a number of bugs. For more information, please visit the Creative Labs Web site.

Sun goes Open Source with Star Office
Sun Microsystems followed through on its threat to open source StarOffice Friday, when it released all nine million lines of the product's code to the public. The company says that the release of the StarOffice 6 alpha source code will foster development of the suite, resulting in free and commercial products based on its components. Sun has set up a new Open Office Web site to control the dissemination of the source code, though that site was unavailable at press time (due to a "veritable tsunami of hits," according to the site).

WebMD: Is there a (financial) doctor in the house?
Everything I touch turns to dust. First, I killed off the Apple II GS and Amiga by buying into those products, and now I purchase an elliptical cross trainer from WebMD and the founders of the company leave. Maybe it isn't really about me, but the WebMD Web site this week suffered a major setback when billionaire Jim Clark and co-founder Jeff Arnold left the company, which is losing $80 million every three months. Hey, I did my part. But I suspect that WebMD, like many sites these days, will be caught in the Web consolidation we're seeing.

Cube not all it was cracked up to be: Rebates on the way
Apple Computer will reportedly begin offering $300 rebates on its G4 Cube when customers purchase it with any Apple monitor, a response to slow sales of the massively overpriced, if attractive, unit. The rebates will apparently be in effect for the rest of the month.

Mozilla M18 released
Mozilla, the open source version of Netscape Communicator, has reached its last major milestone before Beta 1. Mozilla M18, as the release is called, supports a number of bug fixes and refinements, but no major new features since the previous milestone (unless you're a Linux user, actually: Linux Mozilla now supports Sun Java). For more information and the free download, please visit the Mozilla Web site