Saturday, March 26, 2005

We do NOT choose the ads or endorse the companies who place the ads...

Just for grins and giggles, and maybe help Joe subsidize the show, I like to click on the ads, to maybe earn Joe a penny or two, and just to check out the ads. I saw a firefox one, and was pleased, clicked on it, and it was a free starbucks card, if I completed so many offers,
yada yada yada... similar to the freeipod deal, I'm trying (Warning:shameless plug on the previous link :P).
Then I click on the other link and it goes to a PC Rescue software site. Since I'd never heard of it, I decided to google reviews of it, and came up with this info.

This is the most recent review, at the above site.
"Very disapointed! February 16, 2005
Reviewed By: Arlene Lewis
Very poor service. I lost my PC Rescue program in a computer crash and have been trying to get to respond with an activation key so I can reinstall and use my PC Rescue program that I just recently purchased. Looks like I'm out $39.95 and I'm angry."

And just to rehash on a similar "feature" here on blogger/blogspot, do NOT, I repeat, do NOT, click on the next blog button, in the upper right hand corner. An "adventure" by one blogger here,
the lowlight of the post for me was, "Sure enough, Ad-aware (from lavasoft) indicated that my computer had been infected with the Search Miracle/Elite Bar virus.

I sent Blogger an e-mail to investigate. I will post their response. In the meantime, I will not be clicking on the "next blog" icon in the near future."

Bottom line: Caveat "Internet user" (Does anyone know what that is in Latin? lol)
UPDATE: browsing the MT-Law blog, I found this additional info, on the javascript exploit in the NavBar of blogger.

$25,000 cash prize

That's what they call a tease ;)
Sadly, a press release from DVForge announces a $25,000 cash prize for developing, and I quote from the press release:
"DVForge, Inc. announces the Mac OS X Virus Prize 2005, where our company is openly challenging all of the computer coders of the world to go after the $25,000 cash prize that we are offering to the first person to successfully create and deploy an "in the wild" active virus for the Mac OS X operating system...... snip
.... 'Symantec Corporation has recently released information to the press suggesting that they believe that the Mac OS X platform is at substantial risk to a new virus infection, and that the principal reason that OS X presently has zero in-the-wild virii is simply the lack of interest by virus coders.'.... snip ......
Should an employee or independent contractor of Symantec corporation win the contest, we will double the prize to $50,000 to that person."

I share GeekNewsCentral's outrage!!! over this contest, and also agree with the idea of suing DVForge if one ever damages your OS X system.
UPDATE: The contest has been canceled!!!

Esupport BIOS Update

Well, it's official did credit my account for the botched BIOS they sold me.
The story so far:
My rant:

When they offered the refund:

Just thought you folks should know.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Avalon and Indigo Community Technology Preview - March 2005

Microsoft has provided a "technology preview" download of the "Avalon" and "Indigo" technologies to be included in Longhorn. While I should think this is mainly of interest to developers, the merely curious are apparently welcome, also.

To quote the MS web page; "Indigo is the codename for Microsoft’s unified programming model for building connected systems. It extends the .NET Framework 2.0 with additional APIs for building secure, reliable, transacted Web services that interoperate with non-Microsoft platforms and integrate with existing investments. By combining the functionality of existing Microsoft distributed application technologies (ASMX, .NET Remoting, .NET Enterprise Services, Web Services Enhancements, and System.Messaging), Indigo delivers a single development framework that improves developer productivity and reduces organizations’ time to market.

Avalon is the code name for Microsoft's unified presentation subsystem for Windows. It consists of a display engine and a managed-code framework. Avalon unifies how Windows creates, displays, and manipulates documents, media, and user interface. This enables developers and designers to create visually-stunning, differentiated user experiences that improve customer connection. When delivered, Avalon will become Microsoft's strategic user interface (UI) technology."

Both technologies will be made available for XP (all versions) and Server 2003, as well. This is cutting edge stuff, right now, but will be mainstream soon enough.


InfoWorld: Texas sues Vonage over emergency service: March 22, 2005: By : NETWORKING : TELECOM

InfoWorld: Texas sues Vonage over emergency service: March 22, 2005: By : NETWORKING : TELECOM: "Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Vonage (Profile, Products, Articles) Holdings, accusing the fast-growing VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) provider of not warning customers about limits to its 911 emergency dialing service"

You MUST activate 911 calling if you have a Vonage phone!


Noose tightens round necks of file-sharers worldwide

Noose tightens round necks of file-sharers worldwide: "Noose tightens round necks of file-sharers worldwide "

THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT said it is setting about re-writing its copyright laws in order to "address the challenges and opportunities of the Internet". read the full story here.


Yahoo plans 1 GB E-mail storage

Ployer: "Yahoo plans 1 GB E-mail storage"

What free web based email account will you have?

Once again Google was first!


Transparent Desktop Screens : Gizmodo

via Gizmodo other "transparent screens" or view as slide show

Reminds me of escher with respect to the visual eye trick

My Google Toolbar problem

As some of you regular listeners know I have been having a lot of trouble with Outlook. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling it, no help. This has been going on for over a month, this week I went to BLOG a web page I read. I clicked on the "BLOG This" button on the Google toolbar, then Internet Explorer locked up on me and I received an error: Click here to see the error message. I was getting a C++ error.

I uninstalled the Google Toolbar, ran RegCleaner then I downloaded and installed the Google Toolbar again.

Low and Behold my IE started working right, my "BLOG this" Button worked, and my email started working right.

Thank you Google! I still like the Google toolbar.


Mozilla fixes risky Firefox flaw | Tech News on ZDNet

Mozilla fixes risky Firefox flaw | Tech News on ZDNet: "Mozilla fixes risky Firefox flaw"

Here we go! For all of you FireFox users.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Browser Threats Analyzed

The Register has a synopsis of this quarter's Symantec security report as regards browsers. There are some interesting thoughts expressed regarding security zones and the fact that they are not used too much by IE users.

I personally feel that Mozilla and it's derivatives are more secure than IE in it's current state, but the truth is that the jury is still out on this. Symantec's report says the same thing.

For those with the time, the entire white paper is available at Symantec's web site. I highly recommend it.


Creative Labs owes you $62

There was a class-action lawsuit regarding misleading marketing against Creative Labs on their Audigy and Extigy sound card lines. If you purchased one within the specified period, you are entitled to a discount on your next purchase from Creative's web site. It's a 25% discount, so the amount saved could be significant. Check it out at The Inquirer by clicking on the link above.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Data Recovery and Destruction

We spent time on the last radio show discussing the pros and cons of data destruction.

As a follow-up, here is an article from PC Magazine on PC data destruction and its obverse, recovering data you accidently deleted.

Here is a separate article on recovering (precious photo) data from your flash memory card.

Both articles are worth flagging for the day you will need the information. And if you are like me, you will.

Peter S. Kastner

Content Management Momentum Grows

Three content-management events in a week puts an emphasis on why vendors are investing so much in this area. IBM is purchasing extraction and transformation expert Ascential (see our blog). Apple is buying SchemaSoft, a "extract, synthesize and publish" company. And EMC rolled out a new version of its Documentum content manager with new features for desktop file management.

The big picture is that desktop data now far exceeds all other enterprise data. Getting more enterprise and collaborative value is a huge opportunity for generating value. Besides, the cost of just one document search for an F100 company can run to tens of millions of dollars. (Ask Microsoft).

IBM, Apple, and EMC are three of the blind men touching the data elephant. They are all part of the solution which is evolving as part of the "Information Lifecycle Management" concept.

Couch surfers: too lazy to even type a URL

Go ahead, type "" into your web browser window like the designer intended you to. Well, doing that may put you in the minority of surfers. Seems many 'Net surfers think it's so much easier to just type "ebay" or "yahoo" in their Google tool bar and click from there.

Wow, who would have thought that the most frequently used search terms at the top search sites are ... other search site URLs! Go figure. The work by Hitwise was reported in the March 22nd Wall Street Journal (free to online subscribers). The social implications are beyond me, but it does not suggest an early end to the obesity crisis. The capital costs to the search sites to support these short cuts must be huge.

Peter S. Kastner

Microsoft Talks Longhorn communications fundamentals

"Microsoft expects to include the following comms upgrades in Longhorn next year:

  • Delivery of a new, integrated IPv4/IPv6 stack optimized for low-speed wireless and multi-gigabit networks, both. (Microsoft exec) Khaki said the stack will be extensible, so as to provide "easy integration with third-party products such as firewalls, parental controls and virus products."
  • Built-in support for streaming audio/video for entertainment and real-time communications tasks.
  • Support for 802.11i wireless networking and 802.1x enterprise wireless scripting support. Microsoft also will deliver more troubleshooting tools for wireless users, officials said.
  • Enhancements to Redmond's support of core DHCP, RRAS/VPN and RADIUS networking infrastructure services, including updates allowing them all to support fully IPv6.
  • Microsoft will step up its IPSec support by providing server-to-server communications, domain isolation and network-access protection, execs said.
  • Khaki and the other chat participants emphasized that Microsoft is making enhancements to both consumer- and enterprise-focused networking features with Longhorn.
  • Microsoft is not planning on supporting wireless mesh in Longhorn, Huitema said, in response to a question on the topic. "But the extensibility features will allow addition of wireless mesh in the future, either by Microsoft or by third parties," he said.

Another feature which may not be supported in Longhorn is NetBIOS, a programming API for local network communication developed in the 1980s, Microsoft chat participants said, in response to participants' questions. "We're investigating retiring NetBIOS, but it isn't clear whether this will happen in Longhorn," said one Microsoft networking official.
Throughout the chat, Microsoft participants emphasized the networking security advances which they are planning to deliver with Longhorn.

A new Windows Filtering Platform will improve firewall development and deployment, Microsoft officials said. And Network Access Protection (NAP) — a framework and process via which computers must prove they are "healthy" before logging onto a network — also will be a key Longhorn enhancement, Microsoft officials said."

Well, let's see. IPv6 is an Internet plumbing issue that has no effect no users. Microsoft has to support it. IPv4 will be with us for a decade. Streaming audio support already exists, but the PC-streaming server overhead is way to high. Maybe good news there. 802.11i is another must do by Microsoft. Users will have to buy all-new equipment to use it, whoch means 802.11b/g will be with us ... for another decade. IPSEC strengthening is gooness, and let's hope it's not cracked any time soon. Mesh networking is another technology looking for a market.

I worry about retiring NetBIOS support. I can name several home networking situations where file sharing only worked when NetBIOS was specifically enabled over the Ethernet LAN. Consumers who cannot get to other home machines will sink Longhorn in a heartbeat, so I recommend Redmond make this weak spot flawless before retiring the workaround.

Missing from the list is Wimax support, which Intel will have in hardware products next year. Intel has made a very big deal about building out Wimax infrastructure as a solution to "always connected" and wider connectivity than 802.11 hotspots (<100>

Peter S. Kastner

a little less AOL?

I have no comment read story. :-)

ZD on 64 Bits: Wrong Facts Hurt Your Argument

Read this article carefully. It contains some very misleading information. While it is true that Intel's 64-bit processors such as the 6XX series support the "execute disable bit" (and all AMD Athlon 64 processors do too), the execute disable capabilities which improve security are also available on recent Intel 32-bit processors, such as the 5XX J series.

The Itanium processors supported execute disable back in 2001. This hardware allows an operating system to lock down memory pages, effectively shutting a big door to buffer-overrun hacking attacks.

I highly recommend new PC buyers select a processor from AMD or Intel which supports execute disable, and then install (32-bit) Windows XP SP2, which will use the execute disable capability if present.

Now that that's explained, aren't we begging the question: what is the mainstream market need for 64 bits? Some code runs faster, but the operating system takes up more main memory. My research suggests corporate buyers are not yet ready to leap to 1 GB on mainstream enterprise PCs -- the exception being power-user workstations. And 64 bit OS support is only really needed above 2 GB. I conclude that 64-bit computing is not going to add much pleasure to enterprise computing anytime soon.

Peter S. Kastner

Dell Dumps White Boxes

Dell has dropped its three year old white box program, an idea hatched to increase channel penetration through small resellers and VARs. Dell concludes that in 2005 customers are willing to pay for the Dell name, as opposed to the "no name" implied by a white box.

I don't think of this as an end of life issue so much as a change in market. The Dell brand name -- widely recognized now by consumers and small businesses who buy from local resellers due to Dell's extensive U.S. print and TV advertising -- is valued more now than it was in 2002. That makes it a plus for resellers.

Peter S. Kastner

Microsoft Wins Big With Symbian's Sync Capitulation

As cell phones converge with PDAs, users demand e-mail support. And e-mail support inthe corporate world lergely means Microsoft's Exchange. With ActiveSync, Microsoft SmartPhones can forward e-mail -- including MS Office attachments -- to mobile users.

Capitulating to Microsoft, Symbian, a phone OS software company with a huge market share, is licensing the ActiveSync component that synchronizes the phones with connected PCs and with servers over wireless networks.

This was an astute move by Symbian, as smart phones are useful devices. One of Symbian's largest customers, Nokia, also recently licened the same technology from Microsoft. My take is that Symbian helps assure its long-term player status in a changing phone market, albeit with monthly checks now going to Microsoft in Redmond, WA.

This deal is also good for consumers. With ActiveSync support, there is more than e-mail. For instance, Outlook contact information is seamlessly transferred to the phone. Anyone who has bought a new phone (or lost one) has had the ugly problem of thumb-entering contact information. The widespread use of ActiveSync technology will mean the important data on the phone is backed up routinely.

Peter S. Kastner

Oracle Outbids SAP for Retek's Retail Apps

SAP flinched at $11 and Oracle swooped in for the close.

As we said yesterday, this is not the last of the Oracle-SAP vertical market fights.

Expect Wall Street to turn its eyes onto Manhattan Associates as SAP's bridesmaid choice.

Peter S. Kastner

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Top Ten Spyware Apps

The Inquirer has a nice short piece detailing the ten most unwanted spyware applications, courtesy of WebRoot. Worth a look.


More on Visual Basic's Discontinuation

Not that I get asked all that often; but I've always cautioned against proprietary programming languages. Microsoft's discontinuance of free support for and continued development of Visual Basic completely validates my stance, as far as I'm concerned. I must admit that portability was my main concern. That an application would run on Windows and Windows only, forever, seemed like a long shot to me then and it still does. Who knows what the future will bring? And in line with that; who knows what we'll be running before the end of life for the applications we write? Some business applications have been around over 20 years and are still going strong. Computing changes much more rapidly than that.

When Microsoft announced, a year and a half ago, that free support and ongoing development for Visual Basic 6 would be discontinued the 31st of this month (March, 2005) it seems as if no one took them seriously. Microsoft has only themselves to blame for this, as they have backed down from sunsetting many products and operating systems over the years and continued support. (It has to be said that MS did this for a variety of good reasons and not as a result of a lack of corporate will.) Developers evidently were sure things would continue as before and acted accordingly. Unfortunately, Microsoft meant it and apparently is not backing down from their position.

Protesters against this stance also point out that they will lose faith in Microsoft's continued will to maintain any language and raise the possibility future purchasers might also. They ask if VB.Net or C# will be discontinued when MS thinks it's time to sell more software. It's not a fair question, in my opinion, but it is being seriously asked and perhaps the appearance will be more compelling than the actual reality to prospective users of MS languages.

On one side of the choice to use Visual Basic we have lock-in to a proprietary system that only runs on the [admittedly dominant) Windows platform(s). There were compelling reasons to use it on the other hand, though. For one thing, it's easy to turn out high quality applications using it and in short order, too. Yes, it was an interpreted language at a time when the efficiency advantage of compiled code really mattered, but that argument against it is long past it's prime, considering how far the price of computing cycles has dropped. Most of the alternatives in which applications can also be developed rapidly and well are also interpreted languages and one thing that has been proven over the years is that they do really have a place in business applications-even critical ones. The quality of the code generated and the ease with which it was generated argued forcefully for it's use at a time when many people were quite sure they were best off spending their entire career working exclusively with Windows. (Not such a certainty any more, though it's for sure Windows isn't going away.) Hence many specialized in Visual Basic.

Another example of a high quality proprietary language with a sterling IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is Borland's Delphi; also a Windows-only proposition. (There is a Linux variant of Delphi, known as "Kylix", but I am told that the code generated in one is not directly portable to the other. I have no direct experience with it, though, and so cannot state that for sure.) Delphi is not having either it's free suppport or it's development cut off, though that could well be a future possibility, subject to Borland's whim(s).

My argument was always for open and open-source languages like C/C++, Perl, Python and Ruby because it is my perception those are possessed of longer development and life cycles for being under the control of the users and developers themselves. Java is an obvious choice. It is a proprietary language, true, though Sun is deeply pledged to it's continued existence and has bet large segments of it's product line upon Java's success. I am not quite certain that should engender enough trust to base a committment on, though neither does it seem as if Sun is going anywhere away from Java in the foreseeable future. That is, of course, the problem. We can't see the future and we have to place our bets on something.

Very capable Rapid Application Development (RAD) environments are available for most of the languages I've mentioned, and others. These are of such high quality as to rival the Visual Basic environment in ease and speed of use. Visual Basic 6's environment is no longer unique, though it must be said this is argued fiercely in some quarters.

What is an enterprise which has been deeply dependent upon Visual Basic to do? Well, for the time being, they probably can go on as before, taking a bit of time to survey alternatives and courses of action. Perhaps it would be prudent to start writing apps in another language and re-writing those they use now. Perhaps not. One enterprise with which I am familiar intends to transition their Visual Basic applications onto virtual servers, isolated from the bulk of their infrastructure, in anticipation of the future finding of some critical vulnerability in VB and/or their programs written in it. Such a "sandbox" partitioning is wise as large systems, such as a programming language, will almost inevitably have vulnerabilities surface as time goes on which threaten or invalidate the security of their runtime environments. With no security updates from the publisher of the language (Microsoft) this would seem wise and a practical way to extend the life of the applications written in VB. (VB has not been especially plagued with such vulnerabilities but we all know that such things happen.)

There is also the option of re-writing one's applications in Visual Basic.Net, the follow-on to VB 6, or C#, it's "big brother". While that assumes a leap of faith in Microsoft's continued support of the chosen language, it is an option. Unfortunately, the older applications will not translate at all, as VB.Net is a fundamentally different language from it's predecessor and so far, no one has come up with anything like a painless way to transition, nor is it likely that someone will. It seems to me that if one were to choose the option to re-write one's applications, it should be in a language with better prospects for long term support, but perhaps I'm too suspicious. After all; MS did have very good reasons for introducing VB.Net. Visual Basic 6 didn't and doesn't support their vision of web services, which to them is justification enough to discontinue it and justification enough for many developers to have already switched to the new language and it's associated protocols.

David Peterman, a free-lance VB programmer from Wisconsin, sent me an email after I mentioned this on the show the first time. In it he said I had hurt his feelings by portraying him as less than competant for choosing to stick with VB for his career. I apologize if I gave that impression. I disagree with his reasoning, but understand it completely and agree that at the time, there was plenty of evidence telling him that was the way to go. He was, after all, catering to a huge market with many opportunities for employment. He still is, as he's migrated to both VB.Net and C#. I would advise him to do differently, but in saying that I'm going against the fact that he has an established clientele and a thriving business doing what he's doing now. David is seriously considering adding Java and Python to his repertoire and I would encourage him in this. All in all; we've had a nice conversation and I do hope I've smoothed any untentionally ruffled feathers.

David is recommending to his clients that they partition their servers into virtual operating systems to run the VB apps and that those which need continued development be re-written in another language.

This is all going to play out over a long period of time. It's a cautionary tale, as far as I am concerned, and folks should take notice before investing too much of their basic infrastructure in something that might not be around for them over the long haul.

Stay tuned.


Sigh. Computers Make Kids Dumber

With a quantitative study of 100,000 children worldwide, UK researchers find that there is a negative correlation between children's test scores and computer presence at home. This will come as a disappointment to U.S. phone subscribers: a federal tax on phone lines to fund computers in schools raises billions of dollars a year.

Peter S. Kastner

HP and IBM Push Server Blades Into SMB

IBM and HP are gearing up to put a blade server in every business datacenter -- including small-medium businesses. The sticking point to date has been the several thousand dollar cost of the blade chassis. The new programs seem to flip the cost equation around to the well-known razor and blade (pun intended) marketing approach. In this case, the proprietary chassis is the "razor".

Any business that needs more than a handful of servers (i.e., 50 employees and up) should consider migrating to a blade architecture on the next server buy. Blade architecture is a better way to house and manage racks of servers. Period. There are very few exceptions for 1-2 processor workloads.

Peter S. Kastner

Who Buys AdWare?

What companies use adware? You'd be surprised, as this article at Benjamin Edelman's site shows.

Perhaps it's time for us to quit patronizing companies who intrude upon our user experiences. I actively do so now.


Caller ID: Now As Useful as Warm SPIT

Yup, the bad guys are now using VoIP networks for VoIP phone-based scams. As the article explains, it's now easy to bypass the elaborate caller-ID fortresses many have built to protect themselves from the storm-window sales reps. And let's not forget the ID theft ramifications of spoofed caller IDs. All of this is known as SPIT, for "spam over Internet telephony". You will see this acronynm again, unfortunately.

Out on a Limb Predictions:
  • In three years, SPIT will drive us to distraction like SPAM did in 2003.
  • Importantly, SPIT will tarnish VoIP companies with regulators and politicians at precisely the time the VoIP players are looking for an unregulated rocket ship of growth.

Peter S> Kastner

Psst, Sony Playstations for Sale

Pop Quiz: The portable Sony Playstation went on sale last December for about $200 in Japan. It sells on the grey market today in London for about $600. How many Playstations will you have to carry in your luggage from Tokyo to London to pay for your $1,000 plane ticket? (And we know what you'll be doing on the long flight :-))

Hey, if folks are lined up to pay $600 for a portable game player, imagine the lines when the next-generation Cell-based set-tops arrive? Staggering!

Meanwhile, the U.S. press and media launch of the PSP is today. This will likely drive grey market prices even higher. You'd think Sony would keep the PR event bar tab as profits and let PSP sell itself on word of mouth. Lukewarm review by the Washington Post here.

Out on a Limb Prediction: The Sony Portable Playstation will be the next iPod in consumer bling-bling, pushing from young adults (with jobs and ~$600) down to teens and tweens. Demand will wildly outstrip supply and you won't see this toy at discount for a year. Parents be warned: you have 287 shopping days until Christmas to line up your brat's PSP.

Peter S. Kastner

Apple Market Share Grows, But Margins Will Decline

Based on the 4th quarter stats in this article, Apple did indeed pick up market share, both sequentially (0.68%) and year-to-year (0.82%). This may not look like much, but a year ago Apple was at 2.2% of the worldwide PC market. Therefore, 0.82% is a big deal.

The Mac Mini will increase unit share in quarter as it is selling well and has no prior year comparables. However, a large decline in notebooks in Q4 is troubling. The profit margins are much richer on notebooks than Mac Minis.

Another indicator that Mac is picking up market share: more hacking attacks on OS X.

Peter S. Kastner

Monday, March 21, 2005

Dell Adds Third Call Center in India

Not mentioned in this article is the fact that Dell pulled back post-sales technical support from India for enterprise products some time ago. Customers were not happy. The call centers discussed in the news release are for pre-sales, mostly consumer and small-medium business.

Peter S. Kastner

Corporate Cyber Attacks Increase, Cost $2M Each

"Cyberintruders have stepped up their attacks on corporate computer networks, according to two surveys released Monday.

Symantec (SYMC) , the world's largest supplier of anti-virus software, reports a 332% spike in worms and viruses launched against Windows desktop computers and servers in the last half of 2004 compared with the year before - 7,360 variants in all.

What's more, the bad guys' determination appears to be paying off. In a January survey of 229 midsize and large companies, security firm Mazu Networks found 47% had networks compromised by a self-propagating worm in the past year."

This correlates with Aberdeen Group research last year which found large enterprises facing two intrusions a year. The IT costs to fix the intrusion were less than $100K, but the very troubling report is that direct costs in lost business were $2M per intrusion. Hardening networks is currently an IT job. I expect more outsourcing to network providers, who are being asked to provide "clean pipes" for IT applications and customer Internet access. Spending for countering cyber attacks is a high growth area.

Peter S. Kastner

Goldman Sachs: Slow Tech Growth

Not news the fragile NASDAQ market wants to here, but GS research predicts slow tech spending growth this year. Contrast this with the much more ebullient expectations of market research firms.

I do not subscribe to the article's premise that large cap tech stocks are the place to be.

Peter S. Kastner

Ask Jeeves Sold

Entertainment mogul Barry Diller and his company, InterActiveCorp have offerred 1.85 Billion (USD) for search portal Ask Jeeves.

If nothing else convinced you, this ought to demonstrate that everybody thinks search is where the money is. One needn't be #1 to profit in this area, either. Just have a good product and a loyal user base.

I used to test software on an unpaid basis for Ask Jeeves and was a loyal user. I grew disillusioned with the number of paid inclusions in search results, however, and quit using it in favor of Google. A while back, they quit paid inclusions in search results and things have been improving since then. I've started using them again, though only in a limited way. One can only hope that the infusion of new money and expertise this buyout will provide will enhance the product and so boost their fortunes further.


Electronic Bank Robbing is So Much Easier

Option 1: IRA knocks off bank in old-style heist and gets $50 million.

Option 2: Israeli hacks, then transfers $420M from Sumitomo Mitsu bank in London.

In this case, the electronic bank robber was caught. However, this writer can assure our dear readers that electronic bank fraud is real, and the scams are geting bigger. Obviously, risking jail for the part of half a billion dollars has a better risk-reward than driving off with an ATM.

[Update} Phishing also appears to be quite lucrative. The Brazilian police just landed a perp accused of $37M in phishing fraud.

Peter S. Kastner

WGF (Windows Graphics Foundation) Marches On!

ATI has certified their next-gen graphics chip for WGF, the graphics follow-on to DirectX 9.

While parts of Longhorn are in terminal stasis, the graphics needed for their zoomy new desktop are proceeding nicely, thank you. Microsoft is committed to porting the new graphics back to XP, also, for those whose machines will handle it. (All accounts are that it will need significant support in the graphics hardware department. In 0ther words; high performance.) And there is a rumor that Longhorn will be available in a "corporate" form, without the special desktop and graphics, for companies not upgrading their hardware. All speculation, that, but what is for sure is that it's coming, and perhaps not too long from now. The OS itsellf may or may not follow in good time.


802.11n Takes Another Step Forward

Looks like 802.11n will get here, but not in early 2006 as had been expected last year.

This new WiFi standard will require new equipment, but will offer better and faster home and hotspot communications.

In the mean time, a number of vendors are offering "Pre-"802.11n gear. This is useable, but totally proprietary. No guarantees it can be software upgraded to the final standard next year.

Peter S. Kastner

Intel Readies Xeon MP Upgrade

"Intel is two weeks away from launching an upgrade to the high end of its Xeon MP processor line designed to boost performance in systems with four or more processors, according to sources familiar with the chip maker's plans. The company plans to launch its next-generation Xeon MP processor, code-named Trueland, at a press event scheduled for March 29 in San Francisco, the sources say."

They got the Trueland name wrong. It's Potomac. The updated Xeon MP processor will contain 8MB L3 cache, up from the 4MB offered now, and run at a clock speed of 3.33GHz. Therefore, the current Xeon MP frontside bus speed of 400MHz will likely go up, probably to 667MHz.

Potomac will ship alongside 'Cranford', a cheaper version of the product, equipped with 1MB of L2 cache and designed to fill the gap between two-way Xeon DP-based systems and four-way Xeon MP servers.

New 8- to 32-way servers can be expected based on the Potomac microprocessors.

These are essentially the last chip models prior to the dual-core products that will be introduced late this year.
Peter S. Kastner

OC Podcast

This is the On Computers podcast for 03-20-2005. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.

Turbocharge Your Linksys WRT54G Access Point router

This is the most fun I've had in weeks -- computer-wise, that is. With a free download, you can update the Linux-based operating system of the ubiquitous Linksys WRT54G wireless access point (WAP) and become a superuser at the root level. Very cool. Tweak your power and antenna settings. Run admin using a secure shell. Download the source code for the router as an educational tool.

Highly recommended.

Caveat: Be sure to have your user manual so that you can get back to factory settings if you really mess up. You also ought to have a copy of the latest Linksys firmware available.

Peter S. Kastner

Sunday, March 20, 2005

SIA, Barrett Renew Call For funds To Preserve U.S. Leadership

U.S. leadership in technology is under assault," said Intel CEO Barrett, in a statement. "The challenge we face is global in nature and broader in scope than any we have faced in the past."
"Federal funding for R&D as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product has been almost cut in half over the past 20 years. We must return to the investment levels of the mid-1980s in order to compete for leadership," said Steve Appleton (Micron Technology and chairman of the Semiconductor Industry Association), in the same statement.

When two key executives bemoan the lack of investment in R&D, and fear the long term ramifications for U.S., other business executives and politicians should take notice.

Peter S. Kastner

Retek fight intensifies: Oracle counters SAP's new bid

Fri Mar 18, 6:13 AM ET
By Jon Swartz, USA TODAY
Software giants Oracle (ORCL) and SAP (SAP) escalated their bidding war for retail-software company Retek (RETK) on Thursday.

Just hours after Germany-based SAP improved its offer 29% to $617 million, rival Oracle came back and trumped it with a bid worth $631 million.

Running new point-of-sale networks and customer loyalty programs tied to data warehouses are three key IT buying intentions of retailers. That's why Oracle wants a bigger piece of the retail market. Meanwhile, SAP's version of R3 for retailers has been a "nothing special" product with only limited use in retail transaction processing.

Retailers are notoriously stingy in capital spending, but once installed the applications run for decades -- literally.

Whichever company pays the most for Retek, expect (many) more acquisitions of specialized applications and in vertical markets over the next five years. The Oracle-SAP software convergence war will not be won by one deal.

Peter S. Kastner

Sun Licensing Plan Stops Short of Open Source

Thu Mar 17, 2:35 PM ET

Elizabeth Millard,

Sun Microsystems will introduce two licenses for using Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE), making access to the Java source code easier for developers. However, the company will not be creating an open-source license, as some in the developer community had hoped.

The new licenses are part a program codenamed "Project Peabody" that aims to attract more developer involvement in J2SE

Peter S. Kastner

Internet Explorer 7.0 Details Start Leaking

"Internet Explorer 7.0 won't run just on Windows XP Service Pack 2, according to a new posting on Microsoft's "IE Blog." It also will work on follow-ons to SP2, which include Windows XP Professional x64 and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, both of which are due out in the next couple of months. Still no word on whether the updated version of Microsoft's browser will run on older versions of Windows, too (specifically Windows 2000). Microsoft better get the lead out, though; IE's market share dipped below 90 percent for the first time, according to February data from WebSideStory."

Peter S. Kastner

Desktop Search Overview

To search the World Wide Web, you simply visit a site like Google, MSN, or Yahoo! and type in a keyword or two. But if your PC is like most, it's stuffed with huge numbers of e-mail messages, documents, spreadsheets, and the like, with no quick, easy way to find any of it. Thankfully, this is changing. In recent months, several companies introduced free applications that let you search your desktop as easily as you search the Web—and in some cases, even more quickly. We put eight of the most notable free products to the test in PC Magazine Labs, as well as four programs that still cost money. Two of them, blinkx and Filehand, are start-ups, but the rest are familiar names from the world of Web search: Ask Jeeves, Copernic, Google, HotBot, MSN, and Yahoo!.

An overview of software that brings search (e.g., Google) from the Internet to your desktop.

I have not used these products yet, but the day is not far away when the nedd and desirability to "get my arms around" the now gigabytes of data on my hard drive. In enterprises, the ability to support workgroup and project collaboration makes this technology an easy case to make.

Peter S. Kastner

Intel Dual-Core Processors on Desktops First -- Soon

A decent overview article on the forthcoming Intel dual-core chips for workstations (Extreme Edition), enterprise desktops, and consumer desktops.

Peter S. Kastner

HP to Ship ProLiant Servers with Smaller, SAS-Based Drives

Hewlett-Packard Co. within the next two months will begin shipping ProLiant servers with multifunctional network adapter cards and smaller hard drives.

Those moves, along with support for RAID 6 for greater data protection, are designed to simplify the infrastructure and improve manageability in the data center, said Paul Perez, vice president of storage, networking and infrastructure for HP's ProLiant servers.

The new capabilities will begin appearing in the ProLiant systems—which run on processors from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.—in May, Perez said. Over the next 12 months, the features will begin appearing in all servers in HP's ProLiant, Itanium-based Integrity, BladeSystem and StorageWorks systems.

The multifunctional adapter card will bring networking, storage and clustering features onto a single connection point, he said. The new adapter cards have been shipped to five beta customers already, and HP is expanding that beta program, he said.

HP is first to market with two important advances in technology. The new network interface card will tie storage and Ethernet communications. Serial Attached Storage (SAS) combines the best of SCSI, fibre channel, and ATA disk drive technology in a common chassis. Buyers will see products like these from all the major computer companies this year. These are two technologies worth investing in, sooner rather than later.

Peter S. Kastner

EU's antitrust chief still undecided on Microsoft compliance

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - European Union antitrust chief Neelie Kroes said Tuesday her office was still determining whether Microsoft Corp. was complying with last year's landmark EU ruling against it.

The ruling requires the company to offer an alternative version of its Windows operating system for sale without its video and music Media Player application. Microsoft also has to make technical information available to allow rivals to improve the interoperability of their products with the Windows server.

Microsoft just cannot get away from the bureaucrats of the EU. "Reduced Media Edition" is a dumb idea, no matter what the EU forces Microsoft to call the product. On source code, Microsoft is again in a no-win battle over what are the appropriate terms for a source license.

I have some sympathy for Microsoft, a convicted monopolist. I feel the pain (in the neck) the legal team must be going through.

Peter S. Kastner

Look for Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger"

Look for the new Max OS X version in April.

Apple Preps Release of Mac OS X 'Tiger'
Mon Mar 14, 1:16 PM ET

Technology - Ziff Davis
Ian Betteridge - eWEEK
"Apple is due to launch the next major release of its flagship operating system, Mac OS X 10.4, aka "Tiger," by the middle of April, according to sources close to the company.

Sources told that Apple plans to make copies of Tiger available in its own retail stores as well as through independent dealers by April 15, with the official announcement of the product coming earlier in the month. On Friday, a report on the Think Secret Mac market news site predicted the announcement would fall on April 1, the 26th anniversary of Apple's incorporation. "

Peter S. Kastner

IBM plans to buy business software maker Ascential Software

IBM to pay $1.1B for Ascential Software
Tue Mar 15, 8:01 AM ET
By Michelle Kessler, USA TODAY
"IBM (IBM) plans to buy business software maker Ascential Software (ASCL) for $1.1 billion in cash, the companies said Monday.

Westboro, Mass.-based Ascential makes software to link databases and other back-end business programs. That's important for businesses that want to understand and use the vast amounts of data they generate each day. "

Last year's announcement of "Masala" -- a massive combination of ETI tools, data knowledge, and services -- put IBM on my radar screen as the company that really wants to solve the (never ending) problem of turning the petabytes of enterprise data into some intelligence and wisdom. The Ascential acquisition makes IBM the go-to supplier in this space, with a huge variety of products, many services, and excellent experience and expertise gained from customer assignments. The acquisition will help IBM build a multi-billion dollar complex data knowledge business.

Peter S. Kastner

Windows XP May Gain Longhorn Features

Windows XP may be updated to support a new file system technology that Microsoft is working on for the next version of Windows.

Called WinFS, the technology promises to make it easier for users to find data stored on their computer. WinFS was originally slated to ship as part of the next Windows release, code-named Longhorn. Microsoft, however, last August pulled WinFS from Longhorn to be able to make a 2006 ship date for operating system's release.
Microsoft now plans to have a beta test version of WinFS available when Longhorn ships, probably late next year, and add it as an update to the operating system later. While it develops the technology, Microsoft is also evaluating whether to make the storage system available on Windows XP, a company spokesperson says in a statement sent via e-mail."

Microsoft has said that the graphical user interface (Avalon) and communications features of Longhorn will be available as "add-ons" to Windows XP. Now we hear that the new file system, WinFS, will also be an add-on. My presumption is that add-ons are free downloads.

If these three big, new technology features are free add-ons to the Windows XP installed base, is Microsoft cannibalizing its upgrade sales to Longhorn? Or is there no "in place" upgrade from XP to Longhorn like there i from Win2000/98 to Windows XP so there is nothing to cannibalize.

The migration to Longhorn is a story we'll be watching this year.

Peter S. Kastner

TiVo Wins Deal with Comcast, Stock Jumps

TiVo Wins Deal with Comcast, Stock Jumps
Tue Mar 15, 3:35 PM ET

Technology - Reuters
By Franklin Paul
NEW YORK (Reuters) - "TiVo (news - web sites) Inc. on Tuesday won a contract to supply its digital video recording technology to No. 1 cable television operator Comcast Corp., in a deal that could dramatically boost TiVo's distribution and quiet doubts about its future. "

The battle between Personal Video Recorders and standalone Consumer Electronics (CE) products like Tivo continues. Tivo has had a hard time getting more subscribers lately. This deal with Comcast, the largest U.S. cable TV provider, gives Tivo a huge distribution channel.

Peter S. Kastner

Digital Music Player Sales to Grow 57 Pct

"AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Sales of portable digital music players are set to grow 57 percent this year after more than doubling in 2004, results of a global survey showed on Tuesday.

Over the next five years, shipments of MP3 music players will expand to 132 million units in 2009 from 36.8 million in 2004, market research group iSuppli said. "

That means Apple iPod roll will continue, but others are jumping in to the market big time too.

Peter S. Kastner

Homeland Security Officials Refute RFID Reports

Homeland Security Officials Refute RFID Reports
By Jacqueline Emigh

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials have hotly denied reports by some other publications that the agency's upcoming ID cards will use radio-frequency identification. Instead, the DHS will deploy another type of RF technology known as "ISO/IEC 14443," which is soon to be required for all federal employee ID cards—and which carries a far shorter coverage range.

Homeland Security Officials Refute RFID Reports

Homeland Security Officials Refute RFID Reports
By Jacqueline Emigh

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials have hotly denied reports by some other publications that the agency's upcoming ID cards will use radio-frequency identification. Instead, the DHS will deploy another type of RF technology known as "ISO/IEC 14443," which is soon to be required for all federal employee ID cards—and which carries a far shorter coverage range.