Redmond vs. Android

Microsoft isn't just fighting Google's Android in the market (a battle that will heat up with the release of Windows Mobile 7), it may also wage a patent war in the courts.

Microsoft has patents upon which Android apparently infringes. Microsoft reached an agreement with phone-maker HTC which releases them from patent action.

This deal legitimizes, to some degree, the Microsoft patents, making it easier for Redmond to press its case against Android creator Google -- which I'm sure they'd love to do.

These cases may be legit, but they can also harm users as royalties drive up prices and sometimes good technologies are yanked. And if a patent war ensues, I'm sure Google has plenty to pester Microsoft with.

Are patents an evil that only harms customers or a necessary protection for true inventions? Send your thoughts, royalty-free, to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on May 03, 2010 at 11:53 AM9 comments


Win 7 Reaches Embedded Mart

There is now an embedded version of Windows 7 aimed at thin computers, industrial devices and other machines that used embedded OSes. Both HP and Wyse have already announced thin clients using the new OS.

What does this mean? My guess is that as reliable as embedded-OS devices are, they will become more so with Win 7.

Windows 7 Embedded also now supports Media Center, giving it a play in set-top boxes and other entertainment devices.

Am I wasting my time telling you about embedded operating systems, or do they have a role to play in your shop? Come clean at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on May 03, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments


IE 8 To Get XSS Fix

In more than a month's time, a flaw that allows hackers to launch cross-site scripting (XSS) exploits against IE 8 should be fixed.

Microsoft has already patched an XSS hole, but security researchers have found new forms of XSS attacks, prompting the new patch.

This type of attack is pretty tricky. It requires a Web site that lets outsiders post content. Then those users have to click and follow a link to a malicious Web site.

Posted by Doug Barney on May 03, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments


In the Palm of HP's Hand

Years ago I read a book, "Piloting Palm," which chronicled why the Palm handhelds were so dang hot. Turns out founder Jeff Hawkins was obsessed with creating the most efficient, not the most feature-rich interface possible. Palm simply worked better and ran longer -- and much this was based on what seemed to be minor design decisions.

Hawkins has long since left, and Palm has slipped greatly.

HP thinks it can bring Palm back and paid just north of a billion dollars for the company. The company is serious about Palm and plans to invest big bucks to move Palm's webOS to more devices and platforms.

Have you used Palm? What would it take for you to come back? What's your mobile device of choice? Answers to any and all questions welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM2 comments


Windows 2000 Servers Users Take Note

If you are running Windows 2000 Server, there is a fix for a fix. Microsoft prepped a fix for a remote execution flaw, only to pull the patch because it wasn't entirely effective.

Now the patch has been done right, and was released earlier this week.

If you installed the first fix, you need not uninstall before putting on the new patch.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments


Software Licensing Nightmares

This is from my associate, Lee Pender: "We're putting together a story for Redmond magazine about the worst experiences you've had with software licensing. Has the Business Software Alliance or Microsoft ever raided your office? Have you had trouble clearing your name? Have you actually had to deal with a problem you didn't even know existed? Send us your worst tales of licensing woe -- confidentiality guaranteed, of course. The address is lpender@rcpmag.com."

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM3 comments


Gizmodo Gizwrongo

You've probably heard the story about Gizmodo getting its greedy little mitts on an iPhone prototype. The phone was left in a bar by an Apple employee (not sure if he's still employed), picked up by a patron and sold to the Giz for a cool five grand. The site then posted all the details, creating a firestorm far hotter than deserved.

Apple has never liked to have its news leaked before it is good and ready and isn't afraid to threaten journalists with high-priced Apple lawyers.

In this case, it sicced the cops on the Gizmodo editor, which raided his house and confiscated his computers -- after he gave the phone back to Apple!

Apple and the cops clearly overreacted, but what Giz did was also clearly wrong. It bought a device from someone who didn't own it. This is morally, if not legally, wrong.

Over my 26 years as a computer journalist, I've revealed a lot of things Microsoft and others preferred be kept quiet. I was only threatened with a lawyer once, and it sure wasn't from Microsoft!

I've never had Apple as a beat, which probably saved me millions in legal fees.

Ironically the best coverage from one Jon Stewart.

Is Apple the cuddly company most think, or is there a more sinister side? Shoot your thoughts to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM8 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Thoughts on Windows Home Server, XP and Microsoft's Overall Reliability

With Microsoft's Vail hitting beta, one reader discusses his thoughts on Home Server:

I tested WHS RC on a 1 GHz PIII machine, purchased and installed the WHS OEM version when it was released and have been running backups on occasions ever since. WHS works well. Each service pack has installed without glitches using a wide variety of disk drives, both internal and USB external.

I don't presently use any of the file-sharing features.

WHS has one glaring unmet requirement -- off-site copy. My current WHS machine is not 64-bit capable so an upgrade to Vail will be big decision. Without wizards or other procedurized means for off-site copy backups, I am hard pressed to see improvements that warrant new WHS hardware and software. I am not an expert in the new Vail WHS version but I have observed any references to the off-site copy requirement. I am keenly interested in whatever future direction guidance Microsoft may be giving in regard to the off-site copy requirement.
-Eric

Here's another opinion on Windows XP reliability after news broke of a security hole associated with the OS and McAfee Antivirus:

I've never experienced an XP crash in all the years I've been using it. I can't remember anyone else in my department ever complaining of such a thing.

I've had applications freeze up, but I usually have 40 things open and I'm starting and stopping code in Visual Studio in debug mode way too fast. And even that is rare and my fault, as I've probably written something that the system just can't handle or haven't waited long enough for the pieces to properly fall back into place. But during normal usage, never. Same for Vista. And I give these OS's a workout, believe me.

And crashes, never. At least, as of me writing this. Hope I'm not jinxing it.
-Anonymous

Finally a reader writes in to discuss Microsoft's overall vulnerability after Barney discussed a report that says most problems come from third-party software vendors, not the OS:

I have used Microsoft products professionally since 1983. The critical jump in reliability for me came with the jump from Windows 95 to Windows NT4. (Windows 98/98se/Me were simply too unstable for me to use.) I have not had an attack by malware or a virus of any kind since I took that leap.

Along the way, I have worked professionally with a number of flavors of Unix and even tinkered with Linux. In my experience, Windows has been, by far, the easiest and (ironically) the least costly to maintain.

If one takes a few simple precautions, keeping your Windows system reliable and up-to-date is a snap.  
-C. Marc

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments


Outsourcing Help

Has your shop outsourced any key functions? If so, how did it affect your organization? Did it change your job? Was it a positive or negative experience? I'm looking to write a feature story based on YOUR experiences. E-mail me at dbarney@redmondmag.com and I'll get in touch!

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM2 comments


Unveiling Vail

You may be wondering why an IT newsletter such as this is talking about Vail, the new rev of Windows Home Server. Well, IT folks have home machines too, and more than a few of you have raved to me recently about Windows Home Server.

Small shops with small budgets can't always afford high-end backup and data synchronization solutions. For users you really want to keep happy (like the CEO), Home Server may just do the trick, making sure files are always available and protected.

The new Vail, now in beta, can be shared by as many as 10 PCs -- enough for a small office or large family. Vail has better remote video streaming and shares folders through Windows 7's HomeGroups.

While most shops will opt for a more robust server, small outfits and branch offices are a target audience for the tool. Just don't tell the boss it's called ‘Home' Server.

Have you tried Home Server? Send impressions to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 28, 2010 at 11:53 AM3 comments


Scoping out Win 7

There are two major things stopping folks from moving to Win 7 (beside a Mac or Linux fetish) -- lack of budget or fear of application incompatibilities.

Microsoft can't help you with the first, but a Microsoft partner can with the second through a free service that tests to see if your apps will run on Windows 7 Professional (not sure why it doesn't check for all Win 7 versions).

Gold partner ChangeBase is testing out the service, which is free -- at least for now.

The answers aren't a simple yes/no, but will tell you if there are minor install problems, if a whole new driver is needed or if you are just plain out of luck. In some cases, the ChangeBase tool can solve the problem.

While Microsoft has its own compatibility test tool, the advantage of ChangeBase is checking custom corporate apps.

How is your Win 7 compatibility? Or do you have a Mac or Linux fetish? Answers can be sent regardless of operating system to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 28, 2010 at 11:53 AM3 comments


Doug's Mailbag: XP Problem Needs More Information, Google Crosses the Line?

In response to Doug's warning of the McAfee/XP crash problem, one reader discusses his overall thoughts on XP's reliability:

I have been running XP since it came out, and since Service Pack 1, I have exactly one crash. It was caused by a bad driver for a junky USB device. This has been only one fifth the number of crashes on my Windows 7 machine. Are you sure your check isn't issued in Redmond? We actually had the McAfee issue all over our state because we use the enterprise approach for our network. We did not see the never-ending reboot cycle, but we do not scan on boot either.

OK, I am done ranting, but I hate sound bite oversimplifications. I prefer to know exactly what happened and why. I know that doesn't play to your least common denominator crowd, but it is how we in the trenches get things done. At least you can get me going once a day. Thanks for the effort.
-Anonymous

With Google now recording public and private Wifi hotspots by documenting MAC addresses, is this a legitimate threat to our privacy? Here are some of your thoughts:

If a company offers Wifi as a service to the public, they should be able to submit that info to Google for inclusion on the maps. But for Google to automatically record and publicly include every hot spot they happen to pick up is going too far. They are making the presumption that the signal is intended for public use. Yes, they are public airwaves, and it is legal for Google to do it, but I do not think they should publish it to the world without some sort of check.

Google certainly likes to push the envelope. I understand that they are now going to go inside business buildings to film them and add that data to street view. Again, it is a space that is open to the public, but what is the upside and what is the downside? Who benefits and who loses?

Here in America, the government is generally cast as the bad guy (big brother) and we have created a lot of rules to restrict government actions. In Europe, business is generally viewed as the bad guy. Despite good intentions, Google may end up teaching us the European view. Legal precedent has been established that it is OK for businesses to collect info about us, even info that the government cannot collect. However the government has access to all that info just by issuing a subpoena.
-Robert

Not sure why this is a big deal. El Paso County in Colorado already does the same thing, except the Wifi, pictures, location info and the geographical location are all public record.
-Mitchell

Google needs to be stopped. They should be fined for invasion of privacy and distributing sensitive information to the public. What will they be snooping into next? I am upset about this.
-Concerned Citizen

Even though we have past the point of information saturation, where should the line be drawn as to what is acceptable publicly and what SHOULD be strictly private? Google has become such a tool for exploration that it's become a standard verb in our language. What's more alarming is that NO ONE seems to care. The more we lose our privacy, the more we become equally mesmerized at the instantaneous access to information at our fingertips.

Privacy shouldn't be dismissed as paranoia. MANY people have lost their lives (physically and emotionally) upon seeing their personal lives displayed publicly for all to see. Even journalists have been abused because someone has a cell phone capable of snapping quick pics.

The loss of privacy may well become the definition of "Being Googled." This has gone way too far.
-M

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on April 28, 2010 at 11:53 AM4 comments


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