Saturday, June 11, 2005

Toshiba's Smaller, Lighter Hard Drives

At 0.3" (.9 cm) thick and weighing 2.1 ounces, Toshiba's latest 1.8" 60 GB hard drives will allow for even thinner and lighter iPods and other digital accessories. These micro-marvels are reaching the critical form factor where they will fit into a pretty impressive cell phone.

Toshiba's perpendicular recording technology, which will dramatically increase disk platter density, is expected later this year.

Nokia and Intel Push WiMax

Another data point confirming that WiMax will be one of the next big things. WiMax is neighborhood wireless broadband. It has much greater range than WiFi and orders of magnitude more bandwidth than GPRS (used for Internet cellphones). WiMax is likely the key catalyst to always-on connectivity -- real always-on connectivity.

Friday, June 10, 2005

and heeerrrrrreeeeeee we go!

Flurry of Bulletins Due on MS Patch Tuesday

I guess this makes up for last month's lack of updates.

Google tweaks! It seems the possibilities are endless. I keep up by subscribing to the rss feed of Google labs.

Video of Sony Revolution, courtesy of Geek News Central.
It seems to be a huge file, sorry for those of you on dialup... Its a 3 minute long video that you'll have to watch at least, twice! lol

This concludes the flurry of posts for today, hopefully ;)

See you Sunday!


$30 off Office Depot

In last Sunday flyer from Office Depot was a KDS 19" LCD Monitor for $249.99 after rebates. With this coupon you get another $30 off. You need to click the link and print it out the page, then take it into your local Office Depot.
Here is the link for the monitor.

$30 off any purchase of $150 or more. This coupon is good until June 30, 2005
I got one after rebates and coupon for $210.99

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Now You Can Tivo on Your PocketPC PDA

Tivo recorder customers will be able to download saved TV to a personal digital accessory (PDA) running Media Player in Microsoft's PocketPC OS. This means PDA owners can treat TV just like music lovers treat an iPod -- as an on-the-go adjunct to the normal couch listening/viewing location.

Snapstream's Beyond TV has had for three years the ability to store TV shows on a PDA -- even the ability to stream via wireless. However, Tivo does not require a PC to use the new service.

Oracle Buys Times Ten

A smart move by Oracle.

Times Ten is a relational database that works best when everything is in memory. It goes like a bat out of hell. With 64-bit server processors now ubiquitous, and memory prices (and densities) allowing for multi-gigabyte real memory sizes, the Times Ten approach makes sense in an increasing number of applications.

I expect Oracle to rework the Times Ten code into its core products to support faster online transaction processing for real-time operational support systems (i.e., supply chain) and for use in business intelligence/analytics (e.g., datamarts).

More announcement information here.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Upward Forecast: World Chip Sales Up 6% in 2005

Previous projections were for flat sales this year. The latest SIA forecast is for US$226 billion in global semiconductor revenues, up a healthy 6%. Chip companies, which have suffered a boom or bust existence, will be happy with this news.

ATI: Are Intel Notebooks Hurting ATI?

Intel upped its revenue forecast for Q2 Thursday to at least the high end of its previous forecast, and maybe more. Laptop chips, including Intel's Centrino platform, are selling better than expected.

In the past two weeks we have reported two facts that may relate to Intel's announcement. First, the global switch from desktops to laptops is accelerating. Even the U.S. is reported to have crossed over the 50% laptop threshold, while Europe and Asia have even higher percentages of laptops. Second, ATI forecast a Q2 well below analyst consensus expectations.

ATI sells laptop graphics chips in competition with Intel's integrated laptop graphics. However, the average selling price for a laptop chip is considerably lower than for desktop products, which retail for $50 to $500. (Laptop graphics boards are not sold at retail). Thus, my conclusion is simply that ATI may be seeing market shifts that hurt its revenue opportunities. If so, nVidia should see similar problems -- although NVDA's products cover a broader area than ATIs.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Microsoft Grants Indonesian Pirates Amnsety

The software pirates in this case are the government of Indonesia, a sovereign nation. Microsoft could not get the government to pay for all the stolen software, so it is settling for a token payment and a promise for the government to come clean and actually buy Microsoft products going forward.

Software piracy is estimated at $38 billion a year. That represents more than 5% of the U.S. balance of payments deficit.

-- Peter S. Kastner

The End is (Really) in Sight for Analog TVs

The Federal Communications voted 4-0 to require televisions with screens from 25 inches to 36 inches be digital-ready by March 1. That is four months earlier than the commission decreed in 2002. The commission also proposed moving the deadline for all small TVs — those 13 inches to 24 inches — to the end of 2006, rather than mid-2007, as had been set. That proposal, which also applies to DVD players and other devices that can receive a TV signal, will be voted after a period of public comment.

TV manufacturers will have to ship more than 50% of their volume as digital-ready TVs by next year. That will also push the industry to deliver HD-DVD and HD-Disk recorders. It will also mean the PC industry needs more choices in PC HD-TV tuners beyond ATI's product.

This is a good move for the industry, as a faster transition will push volumes up faster -- and reduce costs faster as well. Moreover, having lots of analog spectrum available in 2007 will make next-generation wireless (e.g., WiMax) easier to deliver and public services, desperate for more cell-phone capacity during 9/11, may find their wishes fulfillable.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Win32.Glieder.AG aks Trojan.Tooso.B is One Mean Virus to Watch

Tooso.B is a trojan that is well worth being worried about. We discussed it on last week's show, which is archived here. The virus -- technically it is a trojan -- is injected into machines in multiple file downloads. It changes the payload file names, moves them around, and disables many antivirus and spyware removal programs.

NOD32, an AV product we endorse and resell to help cover the costs of On Computers Live!, is able to detect the Gleider/Tooso.B trojan. Symantec's enterprise anti-virus client detected the trojan after it was self-installed on one of my machines, but Symantec's trojan tool does not successfully do the job of removal. Computer Associates and McAfee are not in this hunt yet.

Here's the problem: once infected, we know of no tool that will remove this trojan short of wiping the hard drive and reinstalling Windows, a fate equivalent to a technology death sentence for most readers. As there appear to be many variants of this trojan, manual removal instructions will be worthless if you should be looking for differently names payload files.

Co-host Jack Imsdahl writes "According to F-Prot, whom I have contacted, the code for the trojan is likely to have been injected in two parts, thus foiling scanners, or at the least making their job harder. And, it apparently uses it's "call home" feature to rename files randomly. This is educated conjecture and F-Prot is not confident enough to publish this, yet. Removal is one thing, prevention another. I believe that some of the "unknown code, possibly malicious" warnings NOD has recently given me are from just such a trojan. I think it can be prevented with much more surety than it can be removed."

Since Gleider/Tooso.B can "call home", download files, and execute them in an environment with AV security turned off, readers should be very cautious in preventing infection. We are aware of problems out there, but the press has not yet picked up on the threat.

  • turn off system restore feature in Windows
  • scan your hard drive frequently with the latest virus definitions
  • use a top-notch firewall. I dropped Microsoft's SP2 firewall for a free copy of ZoneAlarm to monitor network traffic, looking for the port to block to prevent the trojan from phoning home.
  • Visit your anti-virus supplier's web site frequently looking for updates to Gleider/Tooso.B removal tools

Be careful out there!

-- Peter S. Kastner and Jack Imsdahl

Best PC to Build for $1,500

Extremetech's review and guidance on building a best-bang-for $1,500 PC. It is truly amazing what you can build for that money, which admittedly is more than most consumers spend these days.

Toshiba Pushes Ahead on HD DVD production

Unfortunately for consumers, there is no compromise yet between the incompatible standards of Toshiba and Sony. By announcing production plans for HD-DVD-R next year, Toshiba is ensuring that the format battle continues on.

Seagate's Disk Roadmap is Exciting

After 3 years of piddling, 40%/year density improvement, the next 12 months will include a number of improvements that I think are worth noting:
  • Arial density gets to 250 Gigabits per square inch. This will be done with perpendicular read-write on the media platters.
  • Laptop drives will see 160 GB in 2.5" disks, which is one time to market since so many users are switching to laptops. Seagate is also targeting automobile uses, so better impact resistance is being built in.
  • Desktop drives will soon see an industry high-end of 500 GB.
  • Drive-level encryption will make it harder to do anything with stolen or lost laptops, a growing corporate (and government!) security concern.

Is Linux adoption slowing or stopped?

This article at The Register posits Linux adoption is slowing or has stopped. The trend could be temporary or long-term. No one knows for sure.


Can Microsoft Beat Linux or Vice Versa?

This past week two economics researchers at The Harvard School of
Business released research that predicts neither Windows nor Linux can
drive the other out of business. They used sophisticated modelling to do
this and even included scenarios where Microsoft did not play fair, in
anti-trust terms. Their prediction is that both will share the market in
relative parity for as far out as they can model.

Well, Duh!

While I am sure wild-eyed zealots in either camp wish their side would
win decisively, I don't share that wish and never have I thought it
would happen, regardless of my personal sympathies.

First off; the world needs competition to spur progress. In the absence
of real choice, things tend to coast along. Witness Microsoft's Internet
Explorer web browser. When it was the only readily available choice,
Microsoft let it's development lag, with the exception of some
functional and security patches. Mozilla and Firefox (along with some
other minor players, such as Apple's Safari) arose and began to capture
market share in significant numbers and Microsoft felt forced to revamp
IE and push development of a new version.

Second; While Linux, in my opinion, is easier to secure well, and by
some accounts has had fewer serious security vulnerabilities, Microsoft
has initiated their "Trustworthy Computing" program(s) with some very
real and meaningful successes. There is no doubt MS has the ability to
turn out more secure products and only someone unreasonably prejudiced
can say they aren't "getting it". I would be willing to bet that with
the debut of Longhorn (if it ever gets here) we will see all but the
most minor security issues between the two rendered almost moot. And
that in the mean, MS will make great progress on existing operating
systemss and applications via service packs and updates.

Make no mistake about it; security will eventually be a real selling
point for Microsoft. I know that seems far-fetched, but it will
eventually be true. MS is a huge company and so has great internal
inertia. It is taking them a lot of time to turn their focus to security
at the level it needs to be. But they will do it and do it well, now
that it has become a priority.

Third; If price were such a factor, MS would already be out of business.
The truth is that there are MS shops who love Windows and it's related
applications and feel they are getting a bargain when paying the license
fees. And Windows support is reasonably priced, if one shops, where
currently and for the foreseeable future, Linux support is only
available at a premium.

The same goes for the freedom to view and modify source code. While some
shops do take advantage of this, most do not. It is important to a much
smaller segment of IT departments than is generally stated. At the same
time, this freedom is very, very important to some shops. It is simply
that the numbers have been overstated, judging by my experience alone.

Fourth; Microsoft innovates much less than they claim, but does have
some truly innovative products on the market now, and in the pipeline.
The One Note collaborative application is really a compelling product.
The coming WinFS and the "Metro" (code name) document formatting and
storage system will be another stunning success. Microsoft is
ridiculously good at application integration, too, and there are many IT
operations that depend on that integration and will not give it up.

Fifth and finally; Conversion from one system to the other is fraught
with problems and even danger. It costs real money, as well. I've done
it and know that most shops could do it, given the will. But there are
an awful lot of shops who simply have not the will to change at such a
fundamental level. Many of these shops will employ Linux in a subsidiary
role, but will not make the conversion to any significant degree.

I hope that dismisses another tempest in a teacup.


HP's PC business being shopped around?

This article in The Inquirer is stated to be rumor and speculation. Still, the PC business is only marginally profitable for HP and if they divested themselves of it their balance sheet, driven by the imaging and printing business, would look better.

Acer is said to be interested, as are a few others.


Microsoft security guru: Jot down your passwords | CNET

Microsoft security guru: Jot down your passwords | CNET "Companies should not ban employees from writing down their passwords because such bans force people to use the same weak term on many systems, according to a Microsoft security guru."
Haven't we heard this before? Is it something new we are being told?

Microsoft loses Excel patent case | The Register

Microsoft loses Excel patent case | The Register: "Microsoft has been found guilty of patent infringement and ordered to pay a Guatamalan inventor Carlos Armando Amado almost $9m in damages." Good for Amado! Micorsoft lost this one! :(

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wired News: Skype Takes VOIP Upscale

Wired News: Skype Takes VOIP Upscale: "The company that makes the Skype software that lets internet users call one another for free anywhere in the world is launching two premium services, as the number of downloads topped 100 million on Friday"
Do you Skype? I do!

Wired News: Fly the Wi-Fi Friendly Skies

Wired News: Fly the Wi-Fi Friendly Skies: "NEW YORK -- United Airlines, the world's second-largest carrier, received regulatory approval Monday to install wireless internet access to its fleet in a partnership with Verizon Communications. "
Would you pay $30 for an entire flight or $10 for a half-hour.

ATI Revenue Fall Off Cliff

Wow, ATI expects Q3 revenues to come in at $530 million, down from the guidance of $560-$600M. Since ATI has competitive products with arch-rival nVidia, is this a tip-off that this quarter's PC sales will be a big disappointment? That's the most likely conclusion I come to. There is not enough momentum in other forces such as Intel's new embedded graphics GMA 950 to cause such a big drop in orders that ATI management fully expected.

ATI's stock got pounded, which is no surprise. Maybe Wall Street knows something we do not.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Bellsouth Joins WiMax wireless broad-bandwagon

Intel's astute push to drive widespread adoption of wireless broadband continues to gather momentum with over 240 companies involved. Final standards are expected soon, and trials are underway. Bellsouth will start the trucks rolling in August.

Yes, you may be able to junk your slow DSL -- or, God forbid, dial-up lines -- for a wireless neighborhood connection.

The World's Most Valuable Media Company Is ... Google

Move over, Time Warner. Google is worth more than $80 billion.

Can't you just kick yourself for passing on those over-priced $85 shares last year?

Apple iTunes Enters Japan, Faces Sony

Apple will open iTunes Japan this summer. With almost 500 million downloads sold, Apple will face local heavyweight Sony. By undercutting Sony's per track price by 35%, Apple expects to gain a foothold in this very important market.

Microsoft Windows Servers Finally Get Update Service

A year late, but better than manual updates by a long shot, the update feature will work a lot like the desktop automatic update download service.

Microsoft Tech Ed Conference Coverage

Yesterday's focus was on Apple's developer conference and the company's plans to port to Intel. Don't miss what Microsoft is saying to its own (significant) developer community about what's coming.

Here's what CEO Steve Ballmer has to say about enabling IT to drive business success to the sold-out audience of 11,000.

What Geeks Give Their Daughters

That's right, a Radio Shack build-a-robot kit. PC Magazine's positive review here.

IBM Wants to Help IT Manage Itself

Recently IBM unveiled a slew of new services and software aimed at helping enterprise IT departments manage their processes.

The IT department has always been less managed than other enterprise business units. After all, programming is more art than science, right? So schedules and budgets don't apply like they do in (every) other department. This drives senior executives to distraction, and has cost more than a few IT executives their jobs. Meanwhile, some big deals like Sarbanes-Oxley have focused, literally, the law on IT processes, operations, and controls. Something has to change. That's where IBM's new glogal program comes in.

"This is an integrated announcement supported by IBM Tivoli, IBM Global Services, IBM Rational and IBM WebSphere," said Susan Blocher, director of worldwide marketing for Tivoli, adding that the crux of the offering is geared toward helping IT departments more effectively deliver, design and implement better processes. The offering is based on the company's and IGS' customer experience, which has taught them that better IT process management, service and automation are sorely needed. Core to the solutions are "tool mentors" that help implement actions prescribed by the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), an industry guide of best practices, she said.

The new services and software rollout includes IBM Tivoli Unified Process, a navigational tool for customizing and implementing best practices for mapping, modifying and improving IT processes; IBM Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database, a virtualized database that joins IT information speed across multiple databases; IBM Tivoli Process Managers, prepackaged software to automate IT processes that can be customized to a particular vertical industry; enhancements to existing Tivoli products to support IT service management; and customized services from IGS around the new IT service management solutions.

IBM will compete against robust specialists in IT management such as Niku. I believe that IBM is on the right track, as there is no alternative in the modern enterprise to getting IT more managed and more manageable.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Handhelds to play satellite radio, digital books

This was hinted at in a patent a while back thought now one knew what form it might take. It looks like Audible and XM are partnering on this one. I'm not sure I can afford (actually I know I can't afford) an Audible subscription on top of my XM subscription. As in all things the devil will be in the details. Now if the device and play ordinary MP3-WMA-Ogg files on top of it all, it would be great. Short of that and I'm skeptical about its success. Then again a lot of folks like audio books and I'm sure this has been run past more than a few focus groups.

Intel deal may mean end to OS 9 support

More news from the Apple front. According to Apple research, few new Mac buyers are using the older OS. If you are an Apple user, how will this affect you?

Supreme Court Rejects Lexmark's Petition

Here's some good news for those who want to buy aftermarket cartridges for their Lexmark printers.

Spoofing flaw resurfaces in Mozilla browsers | Tech News on ZDNet

Spoofing flaw resurfaces in Mozilla browsers | Tech News on ZDNet: "A 7-year-old flaw that could let an attacker place malicious content on trusted Web sites has resurfaced in the most recent Firefox browser, Secunia has warned. "
What now?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Apple on Intel is a 3 Year Old Story

With a little web sleuthing, the blogged article tells it all -- in August 2002: the problems with IBM, Steve Jobs' willingness to consider other platforms, and the secret "South Park alien" development team.

Read the article and consider the date. Conclusion: Apple has kept a current port of Mac OS X running in parallel with its PowerPC product with a team of at least a dozen engineers for three years, at least. That tells me the technology risk is very low for getting the "OS X on Intel" port into X86 machines next year -- in the thorough, tested fashion customers expect from major PC industry players. Consider the Apple work about done.

What comes next is getting the Mac software ecosystem on board. That should not be hard, as Apple is on the ascendancy.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Criminals Building Malware Attack Botnets

Maybe my woes with a trojan discussed during the show yesterday are not an isolated case. what intrigues me about the Trojan.Tooso.B virus is how little damage it does -- but how improtant the code in the trojan is to any bigger, more nefarious attack.

Live: Apple's Jobs on Intel, iPod, Developers

Text story written during Job' speech. Click Refresh to update the URL's contents.

EU Blinks. Microsoft Penalties Deferred.

The risk that the EU executive might hit the world's largest software company with a fine of up to $5 million a day receded because Microsoft's proposal allows non-Microsoft work group servers to interoperate with Windows personal computers and servers.

The plan will be put to industry peers for their opinion over the next two weeks of market testing before the Commission makes a final assessment, but an open-source software group that is a major rival raised immediate objections.

The Commission postponed the most troubling questions about open-source licenses until an EU court rules next year on Microsoft's broad challenge against its antitrust decision.

We predicted this result here a couple of weeks ago.

-- Peter S. Kastner

.xxx Domain Is Exactly What You Think It Is

It's official—the Web soon will have its own red-light district. This week, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers approved a plan that will allow pornographic Web sites to use URLs that end with ".xxx."

Grid Computing Looking Forward

With the enormous flexibility and reliability afforded by computing grids, it may seem surprising that they not more pervasive today. The primary explanation is that grids exist in the context of a large ecosystem. It is not possible to go to a store and purchase a grid. Roadblocks to wider adoption are both technical and business-oriented in nature. From a technical perspective, it is safe to assume that applications not designed in multiprocessor environments are by default uni-processor applications. They can be executed on a multiprocessor node, but they will not use more than one processor, even if more are available, and hence the total run time won’t be shorter.
From a cost perspective, it might be attractive to share resources across organizations, including different companies, even in different countries. Doing so implies additional overhead to ensure data integrity, security, and resource billing. The technology to support these functions is still evolving. The lack of precedents makes potential users squeamish about trusting their code and data to be executed by someone else in a shared resource environment represented by a grid. Therefore, few grids today cross company boundaries. The largest user communities for grids today belong to government and academic research. This challenge translates directly into opportunity for those solution providers and system integrators that can overcome them. As the ecosystem of solutions for grid computing
continues to evolve, adoption is likely to increase by private companies that seek to harness the power and cost advantages of grid computing.

My perspective is that the real business value in grid computing has not even been defined, let alone achieved. The "commercial grid" -- as opposed to the scientific/technical uses of today's High Performance Computing grids -- is where the money will be made. The white paper in this blog defines a rather obvious architecture of nodes, clusters, and grids. The billion-dollar market questions are:
1) How will enterprise software tools be grid-enabled so any knowledge worker can begin to ask the questions no one can get answers to today? Look to the data warehousing market for a historical analog.
2) Can hardware vendors like IBM and Sun convince customers to rent grid capacity, ala electricity or will enterprises (continue to) build-their-own from excess capacity?
3) How can we harness the existing grid infrastructure available at every enterprise today: desktop PCs? Or will grids have to be built out on one capital asset requisition at a time over decades?
4) Will commercial grids lead or follow the trends towards virtualization? In a virtual computing world, the application becomes much simpler but the infrastructure has to be much smarter.
5) What happens to security in a node-cluster-grid world? The infrastructure of a grid world will make virus and trojan propagation possible at lightening speeds -- and it will mostly occur behind the enterprise firewall.
6) Are there synergies outside the grid that might make economic and societal sense? These might include electricity load shifting to do seriuos grid computing at night when electrical generation capacity is available at lower unit costs of production. Another would be geographical load-shifting work from the U.S. to Europe when that continent is sleeping and network and system traffic are lower.
7) Commercial grid computing will need to borrow a lot from existing high availability technology. Some grid applications will be mission critical in a 24/7 world. Others will only need checkpointing and restart at a checkpoint on failure.

Lots to ponder as we think about the computing world in 2015.

-- Peter S. Kastner

The Implications of Doubling the Number of the World's Computer Users

Intel research suggests that the next wave of computing users will look very different than the first. They will be less affluent and more heterogeneous, live in more challenging environments in the developing world, and in many cases have very different daily lives and abiding concerns.

Only 10% of the world's population are computer users. Half have never made or received a telephone call. This research paper is worth contemplating as the nature of the next doubling of computer industry growth will look nothing like the past ten years. Lots of implications for distribution models, channels, product price points, functionality, and a lack of always-on networking. Moreover, blockbuster products will have to be localized for the world's 130+ countries and societies. This will favor the big players.

-- Peter S. Kastner

A diehard Pc guy gets a MAC mini

When I heard about the Mac mini. I was very interested. So, when I came into some extra cash, I decided to get one. Just got it this past weekend. Hook up was a breeze. Power, USB keyboard, USB mouse, and monitor. Hooked up to a standard monitor with the adapter. Powered up and after welcome screens and answering a few questions. Like location etc.... I was at the desktop. I got it with Airport. I wanted to go wireless. After two hours, I finally decided to temporarily broadcast my SSID. Then I could see my WAP. For some reason my ASCII pass phrase would not work. So, I had to enter the hex key for the WEP. Bingo! I got online. Then I managed to get Firefox installed. Got a chat client, IRCle. Got that going OK. The latest MAC OS, Tiger, does not come with Stuffit for expanding files. I had a "SIT" file that needed Stuffit. The MAC was trying to open it with the MS word demo! LOL. That got me totally lost and confused. Thanks to GOOGLE, I finally found STUFFIT to expand my file. After about an hour.
So, That's where I am. Do I like it? Yes, once you get used to things such as no right clicking, with a MAC one button mouse, it's really is pretty easy to navigate around the desktop. Makes me feel like a real NEWBIE again. Which is not always bad. Frustrating as heck but, not bad. :-).
Stay tuned for updates.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Microsoft Longhorn WinFX beta download

Indigo and Avalon are the codenames for two strategic developer technologies that Microsoft plans to ship in 2006 as part of the Windows "Longhorn" operating system. In addition, Microsoft is making these technologies available on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. The Indigo and Avalon Beta1 "RC" enables developers to continue experimenting with early builds of these technologies, get acquainted with the development experience, and provide Microsoft with feedback.

This beta is functionality that will be available to Windows' XP customers as well as being baked into Longhorn. Developers get a look at the new programming model -- the APIs and objects in .Net Framework 2.0. Note that Visual Studio 2005, which is the Longhorn developer platform, is also out in beta at this site.

A must-have for Windows developers.

OnComputers Podcast

This is the On Computers podcast for 06-05-2005. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.

Microsoft Opens Next-Gen Office File Format

Microsoft is introducing the new formats as part of Office 12, officials said, and will share more details about them at next week's Tech Ed 2005 conference in Orlando, Fla.

On Thursday the company will announce that it plans to make XML-based file formats the default in the version of Office due to ship in the latter half of 2006.

This is very big news. With a free license, third parties will be able to get the metadata for the Office file formats. As XML files, many programs will be able to easily assimilate Office documents and their content. EMC's Documentum will be licking its chops.

The downside is that machines will be able to more easily modify documents, bypassing the annotation and change management features -- and controls - in today's Office products. That's somewhat scary.

Is IBM/Rational Dumping .Net?

Despite early discussions regarding continued support for Microsoft and its .Net platform when IBM initially acquired Rational in 2003, Big Blue now seems to be pulling back from the pledges that Mike Devlin, the co-founder and former general manager of Rational, and Steve Mills, head of the IBM Software Group, made following the acquisition that IBM would continue to provide deep support for .Net.

At its IBM Rational Software Development Conference in the searing heat of Las Vegas last week, IBM ratcheted up its battle cry a notch by introducing new technology to help the Armonk, N.Y., systems giant integrate its solutions for business, application development and IT operations, something Microsoft has been trying to do and is expecting to deliver with Visual Studio 2005 and the Microsoft Dynamic Systems Initiative.

EU's Hands May Be Tied in Microsoft Case

European regulators may be powerless to give open-source competitors effective access to Microsoft's server protocols, despite antitrust rulings against the company and the EU's ability to impose massive new fines.
The European Commission has said a proposal submitted by Microsoft Corp. this week on implementing EU antitrust sanctions is the company's last chance to avoid new fines, which could amount to 5 percent of Microsoft's daily global sales.

The Commission ruled a year ago that Microsoft must offer a version of Windows without a bundled media player, and must allow competitors to license server communications protocols.

While the issues around unbundled Windows are understood to have been resolved, Microsoft's plan for licensing the server protocols has been repeatedly found wanting, and negotiations have dragged on for months.

A core sticking point is the licenses' per-seat fees, which make them useless for open-source projects, according to open-source developers.

But where it comes to these crucial licenses, the Commission's hands may be tied. "If the Commission requires Microsoft to make its protocol licensing GPL [General Public License]-compatible, it could jeopardize their entire case," said Jonathan Zuck, president of ACT (the Association for Competitive Technology), which supports Microsoft's side of the case.

Sun Seeks Benefits of Bundling with StorageTek Buy

While taking many by surprise, Sun Microsystems' purchase of StorageTek is largely believed to be a good move for the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.

There are detractors:
The early cry has the Sun/StorageTek deal pegged as a marriage of losers. On one hand, you have the depressed, former server king thumping down a multi-billion dollar storage bet. On the other, you have a slow growing tape storage-focused relic. Both companies face frightening market share losses in their core businesses and hover just below or just above breakeven. In short, not the type of union shareholders moisten over at night.

It's just about impossible to say how the new Sun will shake out. The true nature of this deal won't become evident for a couple of years. In the meantime, however, a couple of things are certain. Sun didn't return cash to investors, kick off a massive layoff session or acquire a software company as the more pragmatic types would like. Its contrarian buy has guaranteed several months of negative reports and stories. And the timing couldn't be worse. Sun just unveiled a new marketing campaign, complete with a new "S" symbol and the shockingly horrific "Share" slogan.

MSN Korea site hacked for days before being discovered

Password-stealing software planted by hackers was active on Microsoft's popular MSN Web site in South Korea for days before the world's largest software company learned about the break-in and removed the computer code.

Police investigators and Microsoft specialists are continuing to search for clues to the culprits behind this week's high-profile computer break-in. More details emerged Friday about the hacking, which targeted subscribers of an online game called "Lineage" that is popular in Asia.

Microsoft to Roll Out Windows 2000 Update Rollup

Time flies when you're having fun ... computing. Five years are up, so Microsoft is beginning the support phaseout for the venerable Windows 2000 with Service Pack 5. Win2k users should catch this SP when it comes out as it has many security fixes.

-- Peter S. Kastner