An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
New 0-Day Attack Claims 10,000 Windows XP-based PCs
Microsoft this week confirmed that XP users are under attack by hackers targeting a flaw that was publicly revealed by a Google engineer. The software giant says that it's aware of more than 10,000 PCs, all running Windows XP, that have been hacked, and that the attacks are increasing in speed. According to Microsoft, most of the attacks have occurred in the United States, Russia, Portugal, Germany, and Brazil. Although I could philosophize about the need to update aging OSs and so on, the reality is that it's easy enough to fix this problem: Just use Microsoft Security Essentials, the free anti-malware solution. And then think about upgrading to Windows 7.
Microsoft Makes Batteries Simpler
This news is a bit odd since it's so far afield from Microsoft's core concerns, but the software giant this week announced a new technology—Microsoft's word—that allows batteries to be inserted in either direction and still work correctly. As anyone with kids and their toys is all too aware, batteries typically come with positive and negative ends, and if the battery is inserted incorrectly, nothing works. But thanks to Microsoft InstaLoad—yes, Microsoft's name—this may soon be a thing of the past, like 8-track tape players and high-quality local news programs. Major battery makers such as Duracell have already signed up for InstaLoad, which is being made available royalty free to one and all.
Microsoft Seeking New Team for Future Halo Games
With Halo creator Bungie off on its own again, trying to drum up ideas for a new video game series, Microsoft—which owns the Halo franchise, thank you very much—is looking for a new team to shepherd the games into the future. The responsibilities for making this team have been delegated to Redmond-based 343 Industries, which is now seeking 24 developers and designers for upcoming Halo titles. Want to be "part of the awesome" (Microsoft's phrase)? You know where to look.
Xbox 360 on the "Downside" of Its Life Cycle
To which, I say, "Duh." I mean, the console is five years old, and lest anyone with a short memory be confused, its predecessor lasted only four years before it was replaced. Anyway, an industry analyst has gotten a bunch of press this week for stating the obvious and noting that the Xbox 360 is on the downside of its life cycle. Please note that Microsoft has already publicly stated that it expects a 10-year lifecycle for the 360, and we're about to enter year six. Do I need to draw a chart for this one, or are we all set? Why does anyone listen to these guys?
Apple, AT&T Cited in Class-Action Lawsuit Over Faulty iPhone 4 Antennae
A class-action lawsuit has been launched against both iPhone maker Apple and wireless provider AT&T, claiming that the companies knowingly sold millions of iPhone 4 devices with faulty antennas. What's interesting about this news is that AT&T's network coverage has always been lousy, a fact that any iPhone user can corroborate. But what gets little press is that AT&T's coverage has always been even lousier on iPhones than it has been on other devices. Which gets me wondering: Why hasn't anyone sued Apple for this problem until now? It's pretty clear the company doesn't know how to make an effective antenna. Don't believe me? Too much of an Apple fan? Consider this: The company's most recently released product before the iPhone 4, the iPad, also suffered from a spate of wireless antenna problems, causing Apple to delay the 3G model for weeks. And Apple this week posted three job openings for—get this—"Antenna Engineer-iPad/iPhone." Did Apple fire the buffoons responsible for the iPad and iPhone problems? It's hard to say. But with millions of iPhone 4s sold, one has to think this is a bit late for the poor fools who stood in line on day one last week. I hope Apple's promised software fix really does turn things around, I really do. But I'd rather see Apple properly test products before unleashing them on the public.
Apple Issues Workaround for iOS4 Exchange Bug
Speaking of Apple and its buggy solutions, the Cupertino company this week issued a workaround for a bug in its recently released iOS 4 software for the iPhone that was preventing users from accessing Exchange Server in an efficient manner. According to Microsoft, "Exchange administrators are seeing heavier than normal loads on their servers from users with iOS devices," and it has been working with Apple on a fix. Apple's workaround involves manually installing a configuration profile on the iPhone, which should help alleviate some of the problems. But this isn't a fix that enterprises can easily roll out, and of course individuals need to be aware that a workaround is even available before they can take advantage of it. A more formal fix is on the way, Apple says.
Facebook Boosts Privacy for Applications
In what is starting to look like a never-ending escalation of its privacy controls, Facebook this week announced that it would give its users more control over how third-party applications can collect and share their data. "The majority of people on Facebook actively interact with applications and Facebook-integrated websites," Facebook CTO Bret Taylor wrote in a blog posting. "These applications and websites need to know a little bit about you ... With this new authorization process, when you log in to an application with your Facebook account, the application will only be able to access the public parts of your profile by default. To access the private sections of your profile, the application has to explicitly ask for your permission." In other words, it now works the way it should have always worked. How many years did that take?
Google Buys In to Web Travel
Google this week announced its intention to purchase 14-year-old online travel service ITA for $700 million in cash. If the purchase is approved by regulators, Google will use ITA's technology to integrate flight search tools into its core search engine. You know, like Bing did a long time ago. (Indeed, Bing uses the ITA service on the back end, as it turns out.) Expect a thorough antitrust review on this one.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
After driving across much of the country with my father, I spent the week in Durango, Colorado. But no worries: I was able to record a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast with Leo this week from there. It should be available by the weekend on iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats.
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