Microsoft to Preannounce Monthly Patches
   Starting this month, Microsoft will give users a 4-day warning about which security flaws the company will patch in its regular monthly security-fix release schedule. Typically, Microsoft issues security fixes on the second Tuesday of each month (this month Microsoft will issue the release next week, on November 9). But IT customers who are interested in knowing which bugs Microsoft will fix can view a list on the company's Web site today, then schedule time to apply the fixes next week, if necessary. And starting in December, Microsoft will provide advanced warning of bug fixes via email. I'm happy to see the company using common sense. Microsoft used to provide advanced warning of patches only to its volume-licensing customers. 

Spammer Sentenced to 9 Years in Jail
   And speaking of good news, a spammer convicted of sending unwanted email to millions of AOL users received his sentence this week, and the news warms my heart and soul. Jeremy D. Jaynes, a scumbag from North Carolina (which is otherwise a fine state), will serve 9 years in jail in the first US felony conviction of a spammer. He was convicted under a Virginia state law against spamming because AOL is based in that state. Jaynes assumed several aliases to spew out his unwanted email-based advertisements and made more than $24 million from his dirty deeds. Now he'll get to share stories about his rise to fame and fortune with a group of guys who, I hope, won't be as thrilled about his exploits as he is. Enjoy!

MSN Music Outpaces iTunes Internationally
   Apple Computer's online music service might be all the rage these days, but Microsoft's MSN Music service is now available to a much wider audience. This week, MSN Music opened its virtual doors to eight new European countries (the service is now available in 18 countries). MSN Music also boasts a couple of other advantages over the Apple iTunes Music Store, including the exclusive distribution of music from groups such as AC/DC and Dave Matthews Band and an extensive collection of classical and independent music. "If you take all the new countries, we expect to overtake iTunes very soon because we will have a larger user base to tap," MSN Music's Arndt Salzburg said in a bit of wishful thinking.

Microsoft Investigates Major New Security Flaw in (What Else?) IE
   This news should come as no surprise. This week Microsoft is investigating yet another major security flaw in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). The good news? So far, no malicious code is circulating that takes advantage of the problem, and the flaw doesn't appear to affect Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), which includes a more secure version of IE. So far, both CERT and Secunia have issued warnings about the new flaw, which involves the frame and iframe HTML elements that some Web sites use. Microsoft says that it will likely issue a patch to fix the problem, although whether the patch will be part of a regular monthly release or an out-of-cycle update is unclear.

Microsoft Queues Up New Server Products for Office 12
   I broke the news about the Microsoft Office 12 release schedule 2 weeks ago, so I was amused to see various reports this week about the dates. Yes, folks, Office 12 is coming, although a good 18 months will pass before we see the products in the suite finalized. Most of the reason for the delay is that Office 12 is tied to the release schedule for Longhorn, the next major Windows version. But another reason is that Microsoft is dramatically expanding the suite of Office-based server products with Office 12. Today, products such as Microsoft Office Live Communications Server, SharePoint Portal Server (SPS), and Microsoft Project Server are considered part of the Office System. But with Office 12, Microsoft will issue several other Office-based server products, including a Microsoft Office InfoPath server product. The suite might also include dedicated server products for Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office Excel, and other Office applications or, at the very least, more integration between those products and existing server products.

Novell Strikes Back at Ballmer Email Message About Linux
   In the wake of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's email message last week about Linux, Novell--itself a Linux vendor--said this week that Ballmer is full of hot air. "Not surprisingly, the points made by Ballmer leverage only those statements in its commissioned studies that reflect most positively on Microsoft," a Novell statement said. "A broader look paints a much more objective picture, one more favorable to Linux." Novell alleges several problems with Microsoft's information. For example, the "independent" surveys that Ballmer quoted compared machines that were configured according to Microsoft's specifications. The Linux-based machines weren't tuned in any way, a practice that would have improved networking performance. Also, Novell says, Microsoft extensively tweaked the Windows machines in the comparison so that they would perform better. To communicate its side of the argument, Novell has created a Web site called "Unbending the Truth: Things Microsoft Hopes You Won't Notice."
 
Microsoft (Sort of) Clarifies Indemnification Pledge
   And speaking of Ballmer, this week Microsoft attempted to clarify his statements about intellectual property indemnification, a process through which the software giant assures its customers that they won't be sued for using Windows. The clarification involves damages. Earlier, Microsoft said only that it would protect customers against legal costs, but now the company says that it will cover damages and settlement costs as well. But legal experts say Microsoft's claims are too vague and are calling on the company to specify the exact details of its indemnification policy. "I'm sure their policy is actually quite prescriptive on when, where, and how it would pay out," Richard Penfold, an IP lawyer, told ZDNet UK. "I can't believe it is as wide and open ended as they imply."

New Pentium 4 Processor Uses Bus Improvements to Ratchet Up Performance
   Microprocessor giant Intel unleashed a faster new Pentium 4 Processor Extreme Edition this week, but the new chip's performance is a result of a faster new front-side bus rather than a faster clock speed. The processor runs at 3.46GHz and ships with a whopping 2MB of L3 cache. But its big improvement is a blazing new 1066MHz (1.066GHz) front-side bus that Intel says gives the chip 33 percent faster performance than its predecessor, which features an 800MHz front-side bus. Predictably, the new processor is still incredibly expensive--it costs almost $1000 per chip--and is still targeted at the gaming/enthusiast market. I have just one question. Who's buying PCs based on this expensive solution?

Slimmer, Smaller PlayStation Sees Sales Surge
   Sony recently released a major update to its PlayStation 2 video game console, one that's physically much smaller than the earlier model. The results have been staggering: PlayStation 2 sales have tripled since Sony released the new version. That change is particularly important because the number-two console, the Microsoft Xbox, had been creeping up on the PlayStation 2 and even outselling it in some markets. But Microsoft's long-awaited Xbox-only Halo 2 game title is due next week, which could tilt things back to Microsoft's corner, at least for now. It all boils down to another exciting holiday season for video game fans. Gentlemen, start your consoles.