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8/1/2006
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Days After Entering 12-Step Program, Microsoft Falls Off Wagon

In This Issue:

1. Editor's Note: Days After Entering 12-Step Program, Microsoft Falls Off Wagon
2. Today's Top Story
     - Chambers Is Changing Cisco's Pricing. How Far Will He Go?
Related Stories:
     - Chambers Q&A—Defending Cisco's Prices
     - Here's How One Competitor Challenges Cisco
     - Cisco's Support Team Provides Another Edge
     - New Cisco Suite Takes On Complicated Regulatory Issues
3. Breaking News
     - Price War Makes Intel, AMD Chip Industry's Biggest Losers
     - Linux Leader Takes Aim At Free Software Movement
     - Software Vendors Try New Pricing Schemes For A Virtualized World
     - Sun Plus Greenplum Produces Instant Data Warehouse
     - EMC Gets Antitrust Nod To Acquire RSA Security
     - Apple Recalls MacBook Pro Batteries
     - Microsoft Submits Documents In Bid To Avoid Fine
     - Analysis: Is The World Ready For Open-Source Networking?
     - Databases Get Better At Managing XML Data
     - 5 Ways To Get Vista's Security Now
     - U.S. Senator Open To TV Chat About Internet 'Tubes'
4. Grab Bag
     - Moguls Of New Media (Wall Street Journal)
     - Cafeterias: Big Mother Is Watching (Newsweek)
     - How To Bypass Most Firewall Restrictions And Access The Internet Privately (Buzzsurf.com)
     - RIAA/MPAA Adopt New Stealth Tactic (The Inquirer)
5. In Depth: Web Video
     - AOL Emerges As Video Search Giant
     - WebTV Founder Touts New Film And Video Animation
     - Microsoft To Offer 3-D Photos
     - Web Brings War Home
     - Amazon Makes Foray Into Movie Business
6. Voice Of Authority
     - Home, Smart Home
7. White Papers
     - High-Performance E-Mail Archiving: Analyzing ROI
8. Get More Out Of InformationWeek
9. Manage Your Newsletter Subscription

Quote Of The Day:

"A person I knew use to divide human beings into three categories: Those who prefer to have nothing to hide rather than being obliged to lie, those who prefer lying to having nothing to hide, and finally those who like both lying and the hidden." — Albert Camus


1. Editor's Note: Days After Entering 12-Step Program, Microsoft Falls Off Wagon

Whatever happened to the "12 tenets," announced just 10 days ago, that were supposed to help a seemingly humbled and repentant Microsoft assume a more ethical stance toward allowing competition? Could it be that its self-imposed 12-step program has already failed to cure Microsoft of its monopolistic impulses?

First case in point: the amusing news—posted by a TechWeb reporter—that the preview of Microsoft's newly renovated home page provided Internet Explorer users with a new search tool and site guide, while users of the open-source Firefox browser were insulted with a "We're sorry, the page you requested could not be found" error message.

(Shortly after this news item appeared, the problem was fixed, but not before some dry and very funny comments were posted on the bink.nu site. Its motto: "Watching Microsoft like a hawk.") Then there was the more serious accusation that new security initiatives implemented by Microsoft will make it hard for third-party security tools to be integrated with Windows.

This means those of us (which is all of us) who have long relied on the much-needed security protection delivered by third-party vendors could soon be dependent on the security remedies delivered by the very company at the root of the problems. A circular statement, but one that illustrates the absurdity—or worse—of Microsoft's actions.

Let's look at the relevant "tenet" (No. 1 of 12) to see how well Microsoft is managing to avoid temptation to succumb to its previous vices:

    Computer manufacturers and customers are free to add any software to PCs that run Windows. More broadly, every computer manufacturer and customer is free to install and promote any operating system, any application, and any Web service on PCs that run Windows. Ultimately, end users are free to choose which software they prefer to use.

Given that generous (and long-overdue) statement, let's focus on this week's more troubling allegation: that one of the new security protections offered by Vista—one that prevents something called "kernel patching" by non-Microsoft programmers—will force security vendors to resort to hacking techniques to make their applications integrate seamlessly with the next-generation operating system.

This was first reported by firewall vendor Agnitum on its Web site, then picked up by U.K. site The Register and widely disseminated around the Web over the weekend. (Disclosure: Agnitum provides a firewall that will be directly threatened by Vista's built-in security features, which will "obviate the need for most third-party firewalls," according to the Yankee Group.)

Kernel patching is when software developers—or worse, hackers—replace code in the kernel of Windows with unknown code or data. ("Unknown code or data" is defined by Microsoft as anything non-Microsoft.) Microsoft's Kernel Patch Protection is designed to prevent that.

The problem, according to Agnitum—which, despite its potential conflict of interest, is highly respected in the security industry—is that third-party firewall vendors routinely need to get control over low-level system activities. Previous versions of Windows allowed them to do this. But this new security measure would make it much more difficult for them to do that legitimately, even though it would do nothing to deter sophisticated unscrupulous hackers from doing their nefarious deeds. According to Agnitum, software makers could still reverse-engineer access to the kernel, but that would have the potential to raise serious compatibility issues for their security products.

As many, many bloggers have pointed out, this smells suspiciously like a protection racket. You've got a multibillion-dollar industry built up around the fact that there are major security flaws in Windows. And you have Microsoft entering that market with products and services of its own—ones that will apparently emasculate the very people who have provided us (albeit for a fee) with very important help all these years.

To be fair to Microsoft, a number of developers and analysts have weighed in with the argument that its move is a step in the right direction—after all, anything that makes the operating system more secure is a good thing, and who wants the existing kernel loophole available to just anyone with a keyboard? Security vendors will just have to adjust, they say.

What do you think? Is this just a tempest in a teapot? Or should Microsoft pay closer attention to its own high-minded principles before making important changes to Windows that could significantly impact competitors? Let me know by responding to my blog entry.

Alice LaPlante
Alice.laplante@gmail.com


2. Today's Top Story

Chambers Is Changing Cisco's Pricing. How Far Will He Go?
You're already paying more for Cisco gear. Will unbundling hardware and software increase your bill?

Related Stories:

Chambers Q&A—Defending Cisco's Prices
Customers are more concerned about value than prices, and Cisco provides value, Chambers argues.

Here's How One Competitor Challenges Cisco
HP ProCurve can't compete on price alone, so it offers easy-to-manage, standards-based systems with lifetime warranties.

Cisco's Support Team Provides Another Edge
Cisco's vast army of integrators and resellers and the abundance of Cisco-trained engineers help the networking vendor stay on top.

New Cisco Suite Takes On Complicated Regulatory Issues
One product in the Cisco PACE suite, Network Compliance Manager, provides reports on compliance and changes and allows administrators to make bulk configuration and password changes.


3. Breaking News

Price War Makes Intel, AMD Chip Industry's Biggest Losers
While most chip suppliers grew revenue in the second quarter, the fierce competitors saw declines.

Linux Leader Takes Aim At Free Software Movement
There seems to be another rift among the Linux faithful.

Software Vendors Try New Pricing Schemes For A Virtualized World
As data centers become multicore and virtualized, software vendors are looking for new ways to charge for their products. Keep your hands on your wallets.

Sun Plus Greenplum Produces Instant Data Warehouse
Sun in effect has found a vertical application for its "Thumper" server by teaming it with a data warehousing package.

EMC Gets Antitrust Nod To Acquire RSA Security
Antitrust authorities completed their review of the nearly $2.1 billion deal without taking any action to block it.

Apple Recalls MacBook Pro Batteries
Apple has issued a recall for batteries included with MacBook Pro notebooks sold from February through May 2006.

Microsoft Submits Documents In Bid To Avoid Fine
Microsoft says it has made a final submission of 2,600 documents, which "further demonstrates our ongoing commitment to reaching full compliance with the Commission's decision of March 2004." The Commission is studying the files.

Analysis: Is The World Ready For Open-Source Networking?
Vyatta, Sourcefire, Groundwork, and the Asterisk IP PBX represent the open-source push for networks. They're gaining traction, but it could take years to make significant headway.

Databases Get Better At Managing XML Data
The explosive growth of XML data on the Web has pushed large database vendors and standards organizations into action.

5 Ways To Get Vista's Security Now
Windows Vista is months away, and so is the additional security it's promising. Or is it? Why wait when you can give Windows XP a taste of Vista's User Account Control protection now?

U.S. Senator Open To TV Chat About Internet 'Tubes'
Senator Ted Stevens, mocked by TV comedian Jon Stewart for his characterization of the Internet as "a series of tubes," says he would be open to going on Stewart's The Daily Show.

All Our Latest News

Watch The News Show

In the current episode:

John Soat With 'Rocket To IT'
The House of Representatives passes a health care technology bill, Amazon gets into the movie business, and more.

Eric Chabrow With 'Fixing The Atomic Clock'
Eric explores an even more precise atomic clock.

Cynthia Ramsaran With 'The Next Cycle In Laundry Technology'
Technology makes laundry easier and "smarter."

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Top 5 Benefits Of VoIP
Learn the top five benefits of installing VoIP beyond the pilot stage in this recent report by InformationWeek Research.

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4. Grab Bag

Moguls Of New Media (Wall Street Journal)
The rising superstars of the new media world aren't the people who run the popular YouTube, MySpace, and Flickr sites, but the amateurs who are creating the content.

Cafeterias: Big Mother Is Watching (Newsweek)
Technology is the latest weapon in the fight against bad dietary habits, as meal monitoring systems like MealpayPlus and ParentOnline.net allow parents to check up on what their kids are purchasing at school cafeterias.

How To Bypass Most Firewall Restrictions And Access The Internet Privately (Buzzsurf.com)
Want to get around common firewall restrictions in order to privately access the Web while at work or school? This online guide provides tips that even non-technical folks can deploy.

RIAA/MPAA Adopt New Stealth Tactic (The Inquirer)
After trashing the new Miami Vice movie, a reviewer wonders if some conspicuous anti-piracy dialogue was a for-fee placement by the Business Software Alliance.


5. In Depth: Web Video

AOL Emerges As Video Search Giant
AOL Video will let users search for videos across the Web, upload their own, or buy or watch for free thousands of TV shows.

WebTV Founder Touts New Film And Video Animation
Steve Perlman says he's figured out a less expensive way to create a "photo real" character, which is an animated figure meant to look and act human, as in films like The Polar Express and computer games like "The Godfather."

Microsoft To Offer 3-D Photos
Dubbed "Photosynth," the technology allows users to combine their photos with thousands of others collected on the Internet to present a detailed 3-D model of a subject, giving viewers the sensation of gliding around a scene from every angle.

Web Brings War Home
It has become common for soldiers to take digital cameras, video equipment, and laptops to war. They carry the devices or attach them to their gear and capture sights and sounds that range from gory to mundane, and then share their images via the Internet.

Amazon Makes Foray Into Movie Business
Positive reviews of The Stolen Child from customers, as well as the national media, fueled the decision to option the fantasy novel's screen rights, an Amazon spokesman says. The company won't finance the movie, but will help develop it.


6. Voice Of Authority

Home, Smart Home
Max Fomitchev lays out his fantasy of what the smart home will look like.


7. White Papers

High-Performance E-Mail Archiving: Analyzing ROI
Although most enterprises worry about the high operational costs associated with e-mail management, deploying a proven enterprise-grade e-mail archive solution can reduce costs, improve IT processes, and deliver a highly attractive ROI.


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