An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including rain and traffic in Seattle, Microsoft and spam, Monad beta, Xbox 360 sales, Judge Jackson, Microsoft's support of Sybari products for Linux, Windows 2000 hits middle age, and much more...

WinInfo Blog

I'm writing this blog from a Starbucks in Seattle. Can you get more stereotypical than that? Because of my travel schedule, I had to write Short Takes on Thursday--a day early--so I hope that I haven't missed anything important that came up afterward.

As you might imagine, I come to Seattle fairly often--several times a year, actually--and I've always been amazed at the disparity between the public's impression of the Seattle weather and the reality. Folks, it rains a lot more in my hometown of Boston than it does in Seattle. And, if I can be frank, in a decade of visiting Seattle, I've seen only two serious rainfalls. That said, one of them happened this week. But the other 4 days were gorgeous and sunny. It's a conspiracy. Washingtonians are trying to keep people from moving here. I just know it.

There's no reason to lie to people to keep them away from Seattle. The traffic here will do that just fine. If you'll excuse a second dull comparison with Boston, the traffic in Seattle is far, far worse than the traffic in Beantown, despite the fact that the Seattle roads are nicer and Seattle has fewer people. I'm sure there are reasons the city hasn't done so, but the Seattle area has enough room to expand the roads significantly. That isn't the case in Boston. The Seattle traffic ruins an otherwise exceptionally beautiful place.

Stupidity moment of the week: My flight home leaves at 8:00 A.M. Friday morning, which means I need to get up around 5:00 A.M. to get ready and to drop off the rental car. Naturally, I should get to bed early the night before. Instead, I decided to hit the midnight showing of "Land of the Dead," the long-awaited sequel to George Romero's Dead movies. I also recently attended a midnight showing of "Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith" on opening night. Until then, I hadn't done something like that for several years. I think I'm regressing. But a new zombie movie? How can I resist?

Speaking of which, I hope the people sitting next to me on the plane don't mind listening to snoring. There's going to be a lot of it.

What happened to June? Has this month just flown by or what? And I'll never get used to it being light at 9:30 P.M. That's just weird.

Switching gears, I can't stand it when I agree to a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) and other people don't. I write about a recent example of this on my personal blog.

Next week, I'll have an awesome Xbox 360 preview and a review of Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006. Stay tuned.

Short Takes

Microsoft Quietly Updates Windows AntiSpyware Beta
   Microsoft posted an update--but not beta 2--to the Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware beta product that extends the software's expiration date to December 31, 2005, and fixes a few problems with earlier builds. I haven't seen any major functional problems, but Microsoft fixed some notification window and WinSock Layered Service Provider (LSP) removal problems. You can find the new release on the Microsoft Web site.

Microsoft More Aggressive with Spam
   Microsoft revealed this week that it's getting more aggressive about spam sent through its MSN Hotmail service by marking email messages from unregistered domain names as spam. To avoid this fate, email service providers will need to adopt Microsoft's Sender ID antispam technology, the company says. Right now, only 25 percent of all email sent worldwide is compatible with the Sender ID scheme, which makes it more difficult for spammers to spoof email addresses and hide their true identities. Although we could debate the relative merits of the Sender ID technology, I'm actually pretty happy that someone is being more aggressive about spam. It's about time.

Microsoft Ships Monad to Beta
   I had to go back to my notes to figure out how long ago it happened, but 2 years ago this month I received my first Microsoft briefing about Monad, the Microsoft .NET-based, next-generation, command-line environment. Why is this fact worth mentioning? This week, Microsoft shipped Monad Beta 1 to testers, so the product is finally on the fast track. Now called Microsoft Command Shell, Monad was originally scheduled to debut in Longhorn but will now ship separately for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP users as well. It's good stuff, too, offering a logical, object-oriented, command-line environment in which you can discover properties and methods for objects on the fly. If you've been frustrated by the DOS-like command line in Windows and have wondered why Microsoft never tried to out-UNIX UNIX, Microsoft Command Shell is the answer. You're going to love it.

Microsoft Wants to Sell 10 Million Xbox 360 Units
   Xbox marketing guru Peter Moore said this week that Microsoft expects to sell 10 million to 12 million Xbox 360 video game consoles within the first 12 months to 16 months of the product's existence. If the company does so, consider it a major coup. Microsoft sold about 20 million copies of the original Xbox but that took more than 4 1/2 years. Xbox 360's early release to market will help. Due in November, Xbox 360 will beat Sony's PlayStation 3 to market by at least 9 months and the next-generation Nintendo Revolution by at least a year. The original Xbox trailed the PlayStation 2 by several months and never made up the sales gap.

Judge Jackson: Nothing Has Changed
   My personal hero, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, the man who oversaw Microsoft's US antitrust case and recommended that the company be split in half for its transgressions, said this week that the software giant remains unfettered by the weak settlement the US government eventually sought in that case. "Nothing has changed, to my observation, in the 5 years that have elapsed since my decision," Judge Jackson said this week. "Microsoft has won the browser war in the United States. Netscape Navigator, if it is still available at all, has only a small fraction of the browser market ... the Microsoft persona I had been shown throughout the trial was one of militant defiance, unapologetic for its past behavior and determined to continue as before." Jackson also took time to shoot a few barbs at the appellate court that overturned his breakup order, noting that he had faced the possibility of the "trench warfare" experiences of his colleagues who oversaw IBM's decades-long antitrust battle. I miss that guy.

Netscape Ships Second Major Security Patch for Netscape 8
   ... which means that the company has now shipped one patch for each person who uses Netscape 8. Does anyone really use this stinker?

One Wireless Radio to Rule Them All
   This week, Intel showed off a chip that can support all of today's wireless LAN technologies, including 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g. In addition, the company is working on a chip that will also include Bluetooth, Ultrawideband (UWB), and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX). This being Intel, the chip will ship right after the next wireless phenomenon happens, rendering the chip somewhat passe. Remember, this is the company that shipped 802.11b-based Centrino chips for a year after the faster 802.11g standard had already taken off.

Sybari Acquisition Complete, Microsoft Says
   Microsoft has completed its acquisition of Sybari, the enterprise security firm that Microsoft announced it would purchase back in February. But the real news is that Microsoft promptly killed all of Sybari's Linux and UNIX products. And you were worried about namby-pamby antitrust baloney.

No IE Spoofing Patch for You
   There are various ways to fix problems, but pretending that they don't exist isn't one of them. This week, Microsoft acknowledged a new flaw in various Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) versions, including the version of IE that ships with XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). The flaw can be used in phishing attacks, in which a malicious email message or Web site redirects users to a hacked Web site that impersonates a legitimate e-commerce site, then strips them of their personal information, including credit card numbers. Sounds serious, doesn't it? Not to Microsoft. According to the company, the flaw is actually a feature, not a bug, and represents a case in which IE is conforming to Web standards. "This is an example of how current standard Web browser functionality could be used in phishing attempts," the company noted in a statement. I feel better already.

Windows 2000 Users: Get Ready for Extended Support
   Your little OS has grown up and is now graduating to a new period in its life. After a 5-year run, Win2K is finally getting ready to move into middle age or, as Microsoft calls it, extended support. Microsoft first launched Win2K in February 2000, after a 185-month development cycle (come on, that's what it felt like). The OS will slip into extended support beginning July 1. During the extended support phase, Win2K will proudly display a bulging belly and will begin to grow hair in unwanted places. Fortunately, security hotfixes will still be available for free during the 5-year extended support phase.

Another Study Shows Windows Security Is Better than Linux
   I publish this kind of news because I like to watch Linux backers get worked into a lather. Besides, I read about it on Microsoft's Web site, so it must be true. According to a recent (Microsoft-funded) study conducted by Wipro Technologies, the cost of updating Microsoft software is significantly less than the cost of updating open-source software (OSS) in real-world environments. That finding means that Microsoft software is ultimately more secure than Linux software because security updates are more easily applied to Windows. "OSS-based systems faced with high-level and critical vulnerabilities are at risk longer than comparable Windows-based systems," Wipro states in its report, while noting another interesting statistic that demonstrates the difference between perception and reality: "Survey respondents consistently overestimated the number of Windows vulnerabilities, while underestimating those for OSS." You don't take this stuff seriously, do you?