An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...

IE Usage Falls Slightly in August, but IE 8 Is Still Up

After two months of gains, overall Internet Explorer (IE) usage fell in August, prompting some joyful cheering in the nether regions of the web punditry. But Microsoft isn't complaining. As it turns out, the latest IE version, IE 8, has grown yet again, to 32.04 percent usage share, and it's still the fastest-growing browser in the market. That overall IE usage share loss, it turns out, is due to declining usage—finally—in IE 6, the aging, insecure browser that Microsoft has been trying to edge out of the market for years. "IE 6 share is now at its lowest point ever," Microsoft's Ryan Gavin noted. "One of our main missions is to get people off IE 6 as fast as humanly possible. \\[This\\] is good for the web." That's for sure.

Microsoft Releases Automatic "Fix It" Tool for DLL Vulnerability

You might recall that security researchers announced last month that many poorly written Windows applications are vulnerable to a DLL hijacking exploit. And you also might recall that Microsoft has refused to "fix" this bug in Windows because changing the way these DLLs (which are shared code libraries) work would in fact break far more applications (i.e., those that actually do work correctly). But Microsoft isn't ignoring the problem. This week, the company released an automated Fix It utility that will block most network-based attack vectors in applications that incorrectly use DLLs. You can find out a lot more about this vulnerability, and the Fix It tool, on the Microsoft website.

Toshiba Champions New Tablet PC

Toshiba has always been Microsoft's stalwart Tablet PC partner, and 9 times out of 10, if you've ever run into a Tablet PC user around the United States over the past few years, he or she was almost certainly using a Toshiba and—go figure—that person was almost certainly a Microsoft employee. (Let's face it, Tablet PCs just never took off in the mass market.) So, this week's news that Toshiba is plotting an exciting new Tablet PC release should be big. There's just one problem: This computer will be running Google's Android OS and not Windows 7. Dubbed the Folio 100, this Benedict Arnold of tablets features a 10.1" screen, a multi-touch display, and a web cam, and it will sell for 400 Euros when it hits the European market in December. A US launch is expected in 2011.

HP Wins 3PAR Battle, Defeats Dell

This epic battle for the company no one has ever heard of ends with HP paying $2.3 billion to acquire 3PAR, defeating Dell. Who cares? I don't.

Microsoft Patents Automatic OS Shutdown

Funny, I was just joking about this on Windows Weekly: Because of the inherent instability of PCs, Microsoft had previously added an "optimization" feature to its Windows Media Center system. The funny bit is that all this feature did was schedule a daily reboot of the PC—usually at 4am when no one would be watching TV—so that it would run more smoothly. And now, Microsoft is patenting this idea. Well, sort of. What the patent really covers is the ability of the OS to automatically terminate running applications when it wants to reboot itself on a schedule. What's the point of this whole thing? If I'm reading it right, this patent is an example of why our patent system is inherently flawed. Thanks to Microsoft for pointing it out so ably.

Microsoft Co-Founder Sues the World

Speaking of frivolous patent use, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen isn't just the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question. He's also been busy lately, suing AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, and Google-owned YouTube for patent infringement. According to Allen, he owns four patents that are "fundamental to ... leading e-commerce and search companies." Meanwhile, the other Microsoft co-founder—the barely remembered Bill Gates—is off giving away his billions to charity and saving the world singlehandedly. And those, folks, are the two different ways you can spend your retirement.

Pre-Release Chrome, Firefox Updates Point to the Future of Browsing ... but Is It Too Late?

Microsoft's main competitors in the web browser space made some interesting news this week. Google's Chrome hit the two-year mark with the release of a "stable" version of Chrome 6 (i.e., it's still in development but is close to final), which further advances Google's quickly evolving browser. And Mozilla announced that it will soon deliver its second-to-last beta version of Firefox 4, which is dropping features in order to meet its late-2010 release date. These are interesting developments, certainly, but I think the big browser news this month will be the mid-September release of the IE 9 beta. Expect some further hand-wringing from the competition when that appears: It looks like it's going to be surprisingly good.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on the usual schedule this week. It should be available by the weekend on iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats, as always.

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