An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Mozilla 1.2 Released
Mozilla.org has updated Mozilla, my favorite Windows-based Web browser, to version 1.2, adding a host of new functionality. The new version includes Type Ahead Find (type directly in the browser window to find text on the page), somewhat customizable toolbars, better native UI widgets under Windows XP, improvements to tabbed browsing, and various Mail improvements. Mozilla is good stuff, and if you haven't tried it, now is the time. If you already use Mozilla, get the new version. Either way, just get it.
Microsoft: Go Buy a PlayStation 2 ... or Not
Microsoft recently demonstrated--albeit briefly--the kind of marketing moxie that either landed it in court or temporarily made it a hip company. But cooler heads apparently prevailed, and all that's left is this short report about what happened. Until late yesterday, an FAQ question on the Xbox Web site about dial-up modem and ISDN users accessing Xbox Live had the following hilarious answer: "No. Xbox Live was designed to be used with a high-speed Internet connection, which is why every Xbox that ships has a built-in Ethernet port. If you want to have a bad narrowband experience, go buy a \[Sony\] PS2." Too bad Microsoft changed the answer. Now the message simply reads, "No. Xbox Live was designed to be used with a high-speed Internet connection, which is why every Xbox that ships has a built-in Ethernet port." Wimps!
USNA Students' Computers Seized
Late last week, the United States Naval Academy (USNA) seized 100 students' computers because the college suspects the students of online music and movie piracy. The USNA conducted the sweep after it received a letter from entertainment industry organizations complaining that the students were using their systems to host file-sharing services on the Internet. Any students found to have illegally downloaded copyrighted material will lose leave time and face possible court martial and expulsion from the USNA. I'm not surprised that the students would do such a thing because they are, after all, students. And I'm not surprised that the entertainment industry would target colleges because a lot of piracy is happening on college campuses. But I do think that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other groups that petitioned the school must be rubbing their hands in glee: What other institution would have acted so quickly and in such a heavy-handed manner? I'm not sure whether to cheer this action or quietly shake my head.
Microsoft Eases Up Licensing Costs for Small, Midsized Businesses
Stung by criticism that the company's still-new Licensing 6.0 scheme is prohibitively expensive for small and midsized businesses, Microsoft revealed this week that it will launch a new licensing option that offers "zero down" financing and 3-year terms for products such as Windows and Office. I've always thought that Microsoft had a bit of "Crazy Eddie" in it, and this change proves it: In the past, customers would have paid an upfront fee under Licensing 6.0, then licensed the software over 2 or 3 years. Only customers who need 5 to 250 licenses need apply.
AOL Testing New Email Client
If you asked me to name the one company I'd want to design the perfect email client, I'd say AOL. Oh, wait, no I wouldn't. And yet AOL is doing just that. Sort of. AOL is finally working on an email client to replace the outdated version it ships with its Internet client, and this version is supposedly setting its sights on Microsoft Outlook. Dubbed AOL Communicator (wasn't that the name of a cell phone or something?), the upcoming email client works separately from the AOL client software, integrates with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), and targets advanced email users. (AOL and advanced email users? Aren't those terms mutually exclusive?) I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Woman Ordered to Pay $11 Million to Microsoft, Symantec
A California court sentenced a woman described as a "major player" in international software piracy to 9 years in prison and ordered her to pay $11 million in restitution to Microsoft and Symantec. The woman was part of a four-person piracy ring that was arrested in November 2001 and charged with importing almost $100 million worth of high-quality counterfeit software from Taiwan. Prosecutors say the counterfeit software included near-perfect boxed versions of XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, and Microsoft Office 2000 Professional.
RealOne, RealPlayer Security Flaws Leave Millions at Risk
Maybe I'll start reporting every non-Microsoft security flaw to make a point. No, that would get tiring. Or maybe I'll write about how Apple Computer patches security flaws only in its monthly Mac OS X security updates and often leaves well-known UNIX flaws open for weeks at a time. Nah. Instead, this week I present my "Non-Microsoft Security Flaw of the Week," brought to us by RealNetworks (a company that, incidentally, an ex-Microsoft executive runs). RealNetworks' RealOne and RealPlayer 8 software have three security flaws, which the company attempted to fix last week. But the fix doesn't fix anything, apparently. And intruders who know about the problem can subtly modify preexisting attacks and use the flaws to take control of people's computers. Now that's the kind of power I expect only from Microsoft security vulnerabilities.
One Last Go 'Round About Linux Security. Sort Of.
I'm not sure why I feel the need to constantly restate my stance on Linux security (maybe because of all the threatening email I got after yesterday's story), but here I go again. I'm constantly amazed at how people fully accept stories about how vulnerable Microsoft software is or how wonderfully crafted Linux is, but when someone offers the reverse, they react in the crazed manner of a cornered animal. That reaction doesn't make sense. Some people accept, without any substantiated evidence, that Linux is secure out of the box, regardless of the fact that it often comes without a box at all--think about that for a second: No box. Anyway ... I lost my train of thought. But you get the idea.
After a week in Las Vegas attending COMDEX Fall 2002, I got to play the role of the monkey in my personal version of the movie "Outbreak," in which I got sick and ended up infecting the rest of my family, including both of my kids (one twice), my father, my father-in-law, my sister, and my sister-in-law. And when you combine all this illness with the unexpectedly massive snowstorm we just got here in the south-of-Boston area, you have the makings of a perfect holiday--Thanksgiving, Thurrott style. So happy holidays, and we'll see you on Monday. Back to bed ...