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Singin' The Beta Blues

In This Issue:
1. Editor's Note: Singin' The Beta Blues
2. Today's Top Story
    - 5 Things You Should Know Before Installing Vista Beta 2
    Related Stories:
    - Windows Vista Beta 2 Goes Public
    - Microsoft Offered Multiple Concessions To Adobe In PDF Dispute
3. Breaking News
    - Prosecution Witness: UBS PaineWebber Network Still Suffering Four Years After Attack
    - Google Reportedly Falls Victim To Chinese Censorship
    - Now Playing On Macs: Google Video
    - VMware Extends Virtualization's Reach To Servers Plus Storage
    - VA Data Theft Affects Active-Duty Military; Vets Sue
    - Google Researchers Propose TV Eavesdropping
    - EMC Moving Toward Service-Oriented Architecture
    - CA To Private-Label Arkivio File Management Software
4. Grab Bag
    - Swap CDs And Pay Musicians (Wired)
    - No Tolls On The Internet (Washington Post)
    - 'Shutter Lag' Nags Digital Photographers (Baltimore Sun)
5. In Depth
    - From Bluetooth To 4G: What All Those Wireless Terms Really Mean
    - Review: Google Spreadsheet Beta Doesn't Quite Add Up
    - How To Make Video Calls With Skype
    - Review: TransMedia Glide Mobile
    - Opera Mini Takes eBay Mobile
    - Review: Adesso's Rubber Keyboards Offer Flexibility, Portability
6. Voice Of Authority
    - Connecticut: AT&T Is Free To Ignore Minorities
7. White Papers
    - The Business Justification For Wireless Intrusion Prevention
8. Get More Out Of InformationWeek
9. Manage Your Newsletter Subscription

Quote of the day:
"All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson


1. Editor's Note: Singin' The Beta Blues
Once upon a time, having the word "beta" attached to the end of a product name meant the product wasn't ready for prime time. In fact, back when I was reviews editor for a print publication, I used to spend a lot of time on the phone making absolutely sure that the software sent by company reps was final code and not beta. Why? Because if reviewers found something wrong with the program, I didn't want the rep to call me back complaining that we had trashed an application that wasn't really finished.

In these days of fast releases and nearly instant Web coverage, that has all changed. Beta versions of products are routinely released to the public and immediately pounced on by reviewers and pundits (including ours). Even alpha releases are often announced with great fanfare and made available for download, although with a few additional warnings.

That's not necessarily bad. Final versions of software used to ship with so many bugs that users often felt like guinea pigs who had paid for the privilege. Now when problems pop up after several thousand people have tried a product, at least none of the beta testers have spent any money on it (although if it crashes your PC, you may not feel that charitable).

Microsoft has certainly learned this lesson. After it released the Beta 2 of its Vista operating system to a limited number of reviewers and testers, it got into a brouhaha with Adobe over the existence of a "Save as PDF" feature, which will now go away. (As of this writing, Microsoft still plans to make it downloadable. Adobe objects. Stay tuned.) More recently, Redmond decided that its PC-to-PC Sync feature was problematic, so that feature is also being pulled. While one can't help but wonder what other features in the Vista beta are due for the trash can, we should be grateful that all this happened before the final—and no doubt expensive—product actually shipped.

Another advantage to beta downloads is the way they help create communities of loyal users. When a smaller company makes its unfinished product available and actively solicits the help and advice of anyone interested, it can make for a really good relationship and a great deal of user loyalty. For example, online calendar 30 Boxes, which has been in beta since February 2006, has a lively forum in which developers asked what features users wanted in a to-do list—and got over 70 replies.

The downside is that it sometimes seems as though products are in beta for months—or even years. Google started offering use of its Gmail service to a limited usership back in April of 2004, and two years later the word "beta" is still attached to the product name. That's one heck of a beta test.

Whether for good or bad, the betas march on. On May 23, 2006, Microsoft made its latest version of Office available for download. This last Tuesday, Google released (to a limited number of users) the beta of its new Google Spreadsheet. On Wednesday, Microsoft opened Windows Vista to public beta testing. Hopefully, the release of these highly publicized products to the scrutiny of curious end users will mean that when they finally ship, the products will be worth what consumers (or advertisers) will pay.

What do you think? Are you an enthusiastic beta tester? Or are you tired of products that seem to be in permanent beta? Let us know at my blog post.

Barbara Krasnoff
bkrasnoff@cmp.com
www.informationweek.com


2. Today's Top Story

5 Things You Should Know Before Installing Vista Beta 2
The rush to install the newest Windows Vista beta is on. But before you take the plunge, here are five things you'll want to think about first.

Related Stories:
Windows Vista Beta 2 Goes Public
Wednesday afternoon, Microsoft made available English-, German-, and Japanese-language versions of Vista, each in either 32- or 64-bit editions, for downloading. Once downloaded, the file must be burned to a DVD.

Microsoft Offered Multiple Concessions To Adobe In PDF Dispute
A variety of options were on the table, including Microsoft shipping Adobe's Flash and Shockwave with Windows Vista.


3. Breaking News

Prosecution Witness: UBS PaineWebber Network Still Suffering Four Years After Attack
The logic bomb had a "catastrophic impact," bringing operations to a standstill and wiping out servers around the country, according to testimony from an IT manager for the company.

Google Reportedly Falls Victim To Chinese Censorship
While the censored Chinese version of the search engine, Google.cn, is easily accessible inside China, its international version, Google.com, is no longer available to people in most Chinese provinces, Reporters Without Borders said.

Now Playing On Macs: Google Video
Google Video Player for Macs allows Mac users to download content from Google Video and is designed to run on both Intel and PowerPC Macs.

VMware Extends Virtualization's Reach To Servers Plus Storage
Infrastructure 3 is designed to aggregate both servers and storage as virtualized resources that can be more easily managed by one administrator.

VA Data Theft Affects Active-Duty Military; Vets Sue
The breach affected not only past members of the military, but also nearly 80% of the active-duty force, the Veterans Affairs agency is now admitting. Meanwhile, several groups of veterans are suing the government over the issue.

Google Researchers Propose TV Eavesdropping
By capturing TV sound with a laptop PC, Google can identify the show and use that information to immediately return personalized Internet content to the PC.

EMC Moving Toward Service-Oriented Architecture
As part of this move, EMC is in the process of adding Smarts mapping and discovery technology to its ControlCenter storage resource management application, CEO Joe Tucci said at a conference this week.

CA To Private-Label Arkivio File Management Software
The Auto-Stor software will be added to CA's BrightStor product line and will compliment CA's e-mail management and archiving software.

All Our Latest News

Watch The News Show

In the current episode:

Eric Chabrow With 'Flying High In The Ether Net'
CBS plans to offer a platform for text message ads, doctors are entering the digital age, and "I'm a Crackberry addict."

Larry Greenemeier With 'A Hacking Primer'
A network security expert demonstrates how hackers can steal data using an SQL injection.

Lori MacVittie With 'A User Held For Ransom'
Virus writers are holding files hostage.


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4. Grab Bag

Swap CDs And Pay Musicians (Wired)
A new Web site that aims to transform music-industry economics gives musicians a major cut of the proceeds while largely freezing out record labels and other intermediaries.

No Tolls On The Internet (Washington Post)
Two writers from the Washington Post argue that permanently losing network neutrality would allow communications firms to sell access to the express lane to deep-pocketed corporations and relegate everyone else to the digital equivalent of a winding dirt road.

'Shutter Lag' Nags Digital Photographers (Baltimore Sun)
Digital photography is fast eradicating film, but shutter lag--the precious seconds between the time you hit the button and the time the camera actually takes the picture—is driving photographers crazy.


5. In Depth: Reviews And Personal Tech

From Bluetooth To 4G: What All Those Wireless Terms Really Mean
Companies and consumers considering wireless technology confront a daunting array of terminology and acronyms, not to mention numerous technology choices. We cut through the clutter to give you the straight scoop on what each type of technology can (and can't) do for you.

Review: Google Spreadsheet Beta Doesn't Quite Add Up
Google's latest online service has a great interface, good basic features, and a nice collaboration angle, but it's missing some vital parts.

How To Make Video Calls With Skype
Skype can do a lot more for you than let you talk on the phone—it can also let you make video calls. A top Skype expert and author shows you how you can do it in a few simple-to-follow steps.

Opera Mini Takes eBay Mobile
Through a custom version of the Opera Mini Web browser, eBay sellers and buyers can bid and buy using their mobile phones just as they do on the PC.

Review: Adesso's Rubber Keyboards Offer Flexibility, Portability
Adesso's new line of full-size and miniature USB keyboards are made of silicon-based rubber with flexible circuitry inside, making them perfectly suitable for any environment.


6. Voice Of Authority

Connecticut: AT&T Is Free To Ignore Minorities
Connecticut's Department of Public Utility Control just ruled that AT&T doesn't have to comply with the same rules that cable providers have to adhere to. This means AT&T is free to ignore poor and minority communities in rolling out broadband and TV services.


7. White Papers

The Business Justification For Wireless Intrusion Prevention
More and more companies are realizing that their corporate airwaves are an asset that requires protection. Strong security measures such as firewalls and anti-virus systems have been created for wired networks. Read why the same is now needed for the corporate airwaves.


8. Get More Out Of InformationWeek

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