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Week of March 25, 2001 News Archive

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Weekend

Monday March 26, 2001 Top

Windows XP Is On Track and Getting Better

Beta 2, which Microsoft said will be given to roughly 500,000 testers, adds a brighter interface with more graphics and colors as well as built-in support to simplify tasks such as online photo printing and managing music files. Microsoft is developing three flavors of Windows XP--one for home computers, another for most business uses and a third aimed at machines running Intel's 64-bit Itanium family of chips. All three versions of Windows XP are due in the second half of this year and are built on the same NT core found in Microsoft's business-oriented Windows 2000. The chief task for the software giant is to take the stability of Windows 2000 and create an interface that makes it easier to use than its current consumer offering, Windows Me. Windows XP will enjoy wider application compatibility than does Windows 2000, allowing users to run a wider variety of applications, including many that previously would run only on Windows 9x.

The new software includes the first public beta version of Internet Explorer 6 as well as built-in integrated instant messaging and Windows Media Player. One of the most notable changes is the "Start" menu in Windows XP. Instead of coming up with a list of nearly every program on the hard drive, the new menu offers basics such as a Web browser and e-mail program as well as the names of five or six of the most-used programs. A full list is available with the click of a button. With Windows XP, Microsoft has automated a number of common tasks dealing with add-ons such as digital cameras and CD burners. For example, users can click on a photo and have the option of e-mailing the full file or a compressed version, posting the photo online, printing it or getting copies from an online photofinisher. Microsoft has also tried to further integrate rewritable CD-drives, making them appear like any other drive, with the ability to drag and drop files onto a CD and then burn it at a later date.

New to Windows XP and available only in the Professional edition is remote desktop access-using Windows Terminal Server technology, the remote desktop feature enables users to connect to a remote Windows XP machine from another XP box or from a machine running a Windows Terminal Server client. New in Beta 2 is Windows XP's redesigned user interface, called Luna. The Luna interface shows flatter application windows, a curvy blue task bar and a bloated green start button. The Luna interface is filled with usability niceties for uninitiated users. Control panel icons and start menu programs in the new interface are reconfigured to be easier to uncover, and a Microsoft Office Assistant-type helper appears while users conduct file searches. An addition from Windows ME is the System Restore feature, which can return Windows to an earlier stable state in the wake of disruptive software or driver installations. In tests, Windows XP set an automatic restore point each time that we installed a new driver. Also added after appearing first in Windows ME is a native utility for working with compressed ZIP files. |

Intel To Split Design of Desktop And Mobile Chips

Banias, due out toward the end of 2002, is part of an increased focus on the laptop market by Intel and other chipmakers. Although desktop PC sales are limping, many manufacturers say that the worldwide market for mobile computers is faring somewhat better. Intel's current notebook chips share, for the most part, the same basic design as the Pentium IIIs for desktops or even its Xeon chips for servers. These chips do differ when it comes to speed, cache size, packaging and some power management features, but all use largely the same basic chip design. With Banias, Intel plans to offer a design better suited to machines on the go. Banias is expected to coexist with a mobile version of Pentium 4, but consume less power. The chip will run the same Windows-based programs as Intel's other desktop chips and is part of the same family of chips as the Pentium III and Pentium 4, even sharing some of the latter's new features.

New Adobe Atmosphere Allows Creation Of 3D Web Pages

But the Internet could become more three-dimensional--allowing Net surfers to virtually step into a site, walk around and talk to others--if Adobe Systems has its way with a Web-authoring software tool to be unveiled Monday. The new product, called Adobe Atmosphere, lets Web designers create 3D Web pages where visitors can interact and chat with one another in real time. Remaining 3D Web software and service providers, including Newburyport, Mass.-based and San Francisco-based blaxxun interactive, are making headway as technology has improved, Net-based communication has grown, and some businesses have begun to embrace some form of 3D graphics on their Web sites. "There aren't millions of people using this technology; it's just very early adopters," said Bruce Damer, principal of DigitalSpace, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based company that specializes in 3D Web services. Damer says Adobe, in putting its muscle behind Atmosphere, could make the difference that will propel widespread adoption of the concept of a 3D Internet. "Adobe is a thoroughbred. It can run laps and it's designed to get to the finish line," he said, referring to the company's track record with tools in managing digital content.

Scour Exchange Returns In New Form

The reincarnation of Scour Exchange, the file-swapping program that once rivaled Napster in popularity before facing a lawsuit for alleged copyright infringement and going bankrupt, is back online. CenterSpan Communications, the ambitious peer-to-peer company that bought Scour's technological assets in bankruptcy court earlier this year, kicked off the beta program of its legal version of the service Monday. As such, it becomes one of the most prominent, but far from the only company, to launch what are increasingly dubbed "legal Napsters." CenterSpan's service is designed to ease those copyright holders' fears. Songs or anything else distributed inside the new version of the peer-to-peer network will be protected against further copying using Microsoft's Windows Media software. And CenterSpan will keep tighter reins on exactly what people are using the network for, the company says. The network of beta testers will be "seeded" with these songs by a set of servers hosting the music. As the network develops, individuals will be able to download the songs from others who have downloaded them first.

Tuesday March 27, 2001 Top

IBM Releases Hard Drives With Brand New Technology

IBM launched a new line of Travelstar hard drives for notebooks that the company claims are the world's quietest. Among other sound-reduction features, the new 48GB Travelstar is fitted with sound-dampening padding to reduce excess vibration. New microcode also allows the arm of the disk to travel more smoothly over contours. The disk's platters also spin on a bed of liquid rather than on ball bearings. Many of these individual technologies have been featured in other drives, but never in combination together, Uriu added. Along with being quiet, the drive spins at 5,400 rpm, making it the fastest mobile hard drive to date. It's also the largest capacity drive produced for notebooks, capable of holding 48,000 novels, or 12 DVD movies. One-upmanship over disk speed and size, however, is common in the disk industry.

Few New Features in IE 6.0 Beta

IE 6.0 sure doesn't look like a major upgrade, especially when compared with how much of a difference there is between Windows XP and the then-current Windows 98. Nevertheless, eWeek Labs did find some welcome new features in the browser, and, with the final release not expected until fall, Microsoft has some time to make significant changes to the browser. The new capability in IE 6.0 that seems to be getting the most attention is the feature that tracks privacy ratings of Web sites. This feature uses the World Wide Web Consortium's P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences) standard to view a site's rating and provide feedback. On the default (medium) setting, IE displays a small, hard-to-notice flag in the status bar that tells if a site has no policy or an incomplete one. In the high setting, the browser won't load sites without a privacy policy, but it fails to provide any feedback as to why the site didn't load. Another weakness in this feature is that P3P relies on sites to accurately list their own privacy policy.

IE 6.0's ability to handle cookies has been improved, and it is now easier to reject or delete cookies. Other than the look and feel that IE 6.0 inherits from Windows XP, the interface is not significantly different. Microsoft did add an HTML-based Personal Explorer bar, much like a corresponding feature in Netscape 6, where third parties can provide value-added content. In addition, in the same way that Netscape 6 integrates with AOL Instant Messenger, IE 6.0 integrates with MSN Messenger, although it lacks the extensive mail client integration that Netscape has. In the product literature, Microsoft claims that IE 6.0 will have the best and most complete standards support of any browser. Making a small and much-belated acknowledgement of the virus problems that have plagued the Outlook Express mail client, Microsoft has added features that make it possible not to load any attachment that appears to be a program.

Requirements For Windows XP A Major Increase

Microsoft's Web site recommends a minimum 300MHz Pentium II processor and 128MB of RAM to run the Windows XP beta, up from a 133MHz processor and 64MB of memory for Windows 2000. Although many PCs come with 128MB now, machines sold a year ago, especially budget PCs, typically came with much less memory. Analysts warn that the requirements could force many early adopters to buy new PCs to run the new commercial-consumer operating system. At the least, many will have to beef up their PC's memory. While the system requirements could change before Windows XP's release later this year, analysts say they would more likely go up than down. According to market researcher Metafacts 58 percent of desktops and 60 percent of notebooks in use in the United States have 64MB of memory. Systems packing 128MB or more account for only 21 percent of desktops and 19 percent of notebooks.

"There are two guides out there right now. The first is for core technology and the other is for the best experience you might have running Windows XP," Art Pettigrue, the company's Windows product manager, said. While he emphasized "nothing is final," and the "requirements could change before final release," Pettigrue said the lower requirements are "the minimum for the typical user."An interesting proof point is test systems Microsoft has dispatched to some analysts. The Windows XP Beta 2 test PCs typically come with the fastest processors available and 320MB of RAM. The larger issue may be whether people move up to Windows XP and keep existing hardware. Pettigrue said he upgraded to Windows XP beta from Windows Me on his home machine, which meets the 233MHz Pentium II and 64MB of RAM requirements.

Windows XP Will Support New Wireless Security Standard

Microsoft on Monday announced it will support a new wireless security standard in its forthcoming Windows XP operating system that will make it easier and safer for people with PCs, laptops and handheld devices to connect to a wireless Net connection. Other supporters of the standard, called 802.1x, include network equipment makers 3Com, Cisco and Enterasys Networks, PC makers Compaq Computer, IBM and Dell, as well as chipmakers Intel and Intersil. Analysts and tech executives say the new security standard will fix many, but not all, of the security vulnerabilities that UC-Berkeley computer scientists recently found in wireless networks based on the wireless standard Wi-Fi, or 802.11B.

Previously, network administrators would have to manually install a password on each laptop for an employee to connect to the wireless network, so that messages are encrypted, Rossi said. Those passwords rarely changed. In addition, he said, the previous technology only allowed employees to connect to one access point, so if workers needed to wirelessly connect to the Net in another building on campus, the employees couldn't automatically connect to another access point. Now with Microsoft and other tech companies supporting the new wireless security standard, people with laptops get a different password every time they connect to a wireless network, making the connections secure, he said. In addition, that same password can be used across multiple access points throughout the workplace.

The Open-Source Community Moves Into The Hardware Field

Engineers around the world, connected via the Internet, are seeking to develop a vast library of freely available hardware designs, similar to how Linux developers and other open-source programmers share intellectual property. This open-source hardware library--consisting of design elements for processors, memory controllers, peripherals, motherboards and a host of other components--would aide semiconductor start-ups and device manufacturers alike. Instead of investing millions in basic and sometimes redundant design work, companies would be able to tap the library for the know-how they need, licensing designs for chips and other technology for free. At the same time, selecting well-designed open-source hardware has the potential to speed development of computing devices, ranging from set-top boxes to network switches.

One of the most important efforts now under way is an effort to develop the next OpenRISC processor. The processor--which could be used in Web appliances, factory machines and other Internet-connected devices--is based on a RISC (reduced instruction set) processor core now available as an open-source design. OpenCores plans to integrate a memory controller and a USB controller, among other items, with the new OpenRISC chip. "Big companies spend a lot of money on engineering, not always working very efficiently," Usselmann said. "In the OpenCores community, we the techies know what we want and we know it best." The group is moving to design its next OpenRISC processor with new system-on-a-chip capabilities. A system-on-a-chip (SOC) processor puts a processor core and all the peripheral functions necessary to run a certain hardware device on a single chip. SOC chips are generally used in devices such as set-top boxes, Internet appliances and even some PCs. The new chip would compete with offerings from traditional chipmakers, including National Semiconductor, IBM and even Transmeta, itself an open-source software participant.

Wednesday March 28, 2001 Top

New Intel And AMD Budget Chips To Be Released In Early April

AMD plans to announce a new 900MHz Duron chip on April 2, sources familiar with the company's plans said. Intel will follow with the release of an 850MHz Celeron chip the following Monday, sources said. The chips aim to offer PC makers the ability to offer lower priced desktops that still offer a reasonable level of performance. The introduction of the new low-priced chips was timed to coincide with PC makers' traditional April consumer PC refresh. Retail giants Compaq Computer and Hewlett-Packard are expected to offer new Presario and Pavilion models with the chips. For its part, Intel will lower its typical asking price for a newly introduced, high-end Celeron chip. The new 850MHz Celeron chip will be priced at about $140, sources familiar with Intel's plans said. Typically, new Celeron chips come in at about $170. The extra $30 in savings could be aimed at providing PC makers with slightly higher margins, which would increase the incentive to continue offering low-cost Celeron desktops. However, it will could still prove to be a tough sell, as PC makers focus on higher priced systems with the Pentium III and Athlon inside.

Microsoft Will Make Push For Better Drivers In Windows XP

With the next version of its consumer Windows operating system, Microsoft is trying to make computers less daunting and prone to crashes. To reach that goal, Microsoft not only needs to clean up its own code, but also all the third-party drivers, little bits of software that help the system communicate with peripherals and other add-ons. So Microsoft is taking a hard line with developers. When computer owners using Windows XP try to install new hardware or software with drivers that have not passed Microsoft certification, they will get an ominous warning message. "Continuing your installation of this software may impair or destabilize the correct operation of your system either immediately or in the future," one of the error messages reads in part. "Microsoft strongly recommends that you stop this installation now and contact the hardware vendor for software that has passed Windows Logo testing."

Although it is an option to have such a warning pop up in the business-oriented Windows 2000 operating system, the message will be turned on by default in the consumer version of Windows XP set to go on sale later this year. Microsoft demonstrated the error message to developers at this week's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference here and urged them to write "good" drivers. Microsoft held a number of sessions to help ensure that programmers write good code. One cautionary session was titled: "How to write a driver that cannot possibly work--a demonstration." Peter Glaskowsky, an analyst with MicroDesign Resources, said the move will ultimately help cut down on the frustration that comes when computer owners find their systems crashing and then must go through the tedious process of finding out which software is to blame. "In the long run, they are going to save a ton of money by cracking down on the driver makers," Glaskowsky said.

Windows Media Player 8 Will Shrink Size Of Media Files

Promising 30 percent improved quality, Windows Media 8 lets content providers present near-DVD quality film at a bit rate as low as 500 kilobits, and near-CD quality audio at a bit rate as low as 48 kilobits, the company said. This compares with Windows Media 7, which required a compression rate of 750 kilobits for near-DVD quality video, and approximately 64 kilobits for near-CD quality audio. The release is the latest move in a heated competition between Microsoft, RealNetworks and, to a lesser degree, Apple Computer for dominance in the streaming-media and download markets. Having only released its version 7 last April, Microsoft is clearly interested in staying ahead in the race.

Still, Microsoft touted the consumer benefits of its Windows Media 8. Content coded with this technology will let individuals view higher-quality video at their same bandwidth capacity, the company said. Consumers can also store more music files encoded in Windows Media 8 technology on their hard drive and portable player devices. Microsoft's Windows Media 8 technology is able to offer decreased bit rates partly through the use of what is called true variable bit rate encoding. This means that portions of a video will be encoded faster than other portions to reach an overall average bit rate. Microsoft also announced Wednesday the release of its Windows Media Player 7 for Macintosh. This player is able to view all content coded in Windows Media 8.

New Internet Explorer and Cross Platform Bugs Discovered

A newly discovered bug in Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser could let malicious hackers read the e-mail and computer files of some unsuspecting people. Bug tracker Georgi Guninski said the exploit is activated when a surfer using Internet Explorer 5 loads a malicious Web page. The surfer's network also must be running Microsoft's Exchange 2000 server for the bug to show up. The bug lists the directories of some servers the Web surfer can access, which could enable viewing of the person's e-mails or folders if they are stored on a Microsoft Exchange 2000 server. The malicious hacker would have to know some of the Web surfer's usernames. Guninski has rated the bug's risk as "high," and he said people can alleviate the problem by disabling Active Scripting, a browser setting that offers enhanced functions but has been repeatedly associated with potential security risks. A company representative said the company would come out with any necessary fix or workaround "as quickly as possible."

In the latest chapter of a long story, anti-virus software makers on Wednesday rushed out press releases warning their customers of the existence of the first "cross-platform worm," a virus that can infect machines running either Windows or Linux. The worm, which infects Windows PE and Linux ELF executable files, is considered a low risk and carries no destructive payload. It simply burrows its way into the file tree and tries to infect as many files as it can. "Even though it is not spreading, Winux has set a new level in malicious code creation through its ability to attack both Linux and Windows," said Ian Hameroff, busi-ness manager for security solutions at Computer Associates International Inc., of Islandia, N.Y.

Winux was allegedly written by someone named Benny who claims to be a member of a virus-writing group called 29A. On machines running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95, 98, ME, NT or 2000 software, the virus searches for all files located in the current folder and all of the folders above it on the file tree. It opens each file and in-fects all of the executables by overwriting the .reloc section of the file. On Linux machines, Winux overwrites ELF executables and then stores the original code at the end of the executable. When the infected file is opened, the code takes control, spreads itself again and then returns control to the host file. |

ATI Technologies Hit By PC Sales Slowdown and Increased Competition

Graphics chipmaker ATI Technologies edged past lowered analyst estimates Wednesday, thanks to slightly higher-than-expected sales. The embattled chipmaker reported a loss of $26 million, or 11 cents a share, on sales of $232 million for its second fiscal quarter. The company's second-quarter sales fell 39 percent compared with the same period last year and 27 percent for the first six months of fiscal 2001 as a result of the slowing PC market. The sales decrease touched ATI's entire line of graphics chips and graphics cards. Despite a number of as-yet unannounced notebook PC design wins for ATI's Radeon Mobility graphics chip for notebook PCs and a licensing agreement with Intel allowing ATI to produce chipsets for Intel-based PCs, the graphics chipmaker still faces challenges.

ATI's chief challenge will come from competitor Nvidia. Jen Hsun Huang, Nvidia's CEO, recently revealed plans to double the company's market share. Nvidia currently claims between 22 percent and 26 percent of the graphics market. Should Nvidia succeed in building market share, its gains would come largely at the expense of ATI. ATI says it is the top supplier of video cards for the retail market, with a 39 percent share, and the top provider of graphics chips for notebook PCs, with a 57 percent market share.

Thursday March 29, 2001 Top

IBM's New Chipmaking Technology Will Be Featured In Upcoming Processors

The IBM chipmaking division is working to popularize its relatively new silicon-on-insulator (SOI) chipmaking technology, both through licensing and manufacturing agreements as well as by using it in its own chips. Wide adoption of SOI technology, used to increase performance or lower the power consumption of a processor, would be a point of pride for IBM as it would prove detractors of the technology wrong. At the same time, licensing fees and contract manufacturing would help boost IBM Microeleclronics' bottom line. To date, IBM Microelectronics has only one public SOI licensee, a joint venture between IBM, Sony and Toshiba, that will create Cell, a new Internet access chip. But executives say the company has others waiting in the wings. One SOI adopter could be Advanced Micro Devices. An AMD spokesman confirmed that IBM and AMD entered into an agreement for IBM to provide design assistance with forthcoming AMD chips that will use SOI.

AMD has announced that SOI will be incorporated in its Hammer family of processors, starting with the desktop-oriented ClawHammer, which will replace the current Athlon. AMD plans to provide ClawHammer samples to PC makers late this year. The company plans to ship it in volume in the first quarter of 2002. Motorola is also targeting SOI for its next-generation G4 chip, code-named Apollo. IBM has also been hired to manufacture Alpha processors for Compaq Computer and PA RISC chips for Hewlett-Packard, both using its SOI technology. The company has already shipped high-end p680 Unix servers containing PowerPC chips using SOI. A company spokesman said IBM will begin releasing SOI over its remaining PowerPC, SRAM and custom ASIC product lines, starting in the third quarter of this year.

No Major Problems With OS X So Far

Mac OS X's biggest problems are with hardware. Like Unix or Windows 2000, Mac OS X limits software's direct access to hardware, forcing it to go through the operating system instead. For hardware manufacturers, and even Apple, this has created some problems. For example, Apple had to ship Mac OS X without full support for CD-rewritable, DVD and DVD-recordable--optical drives the company has shipped on its systems. That support is expected to start next month, with the addition of CD-RW capability followed by DVD playback and DVD recording by summer. For now, people must reboot back to Mac OS 9.1 to use these drives. Besides the absence of support for optical drives--both Apple and third-party models--Mac OS X stumbles in other areas. Owners of the popular subwoofer iSub, which works with iMac and Power Macs introduced in January, will find it does not function under Mac OS X.

In another interesting twist, Mac OS X works with many external USB floppy drives, but not internal drives found on older Mac models such as the Power Mac Desktop G3, Power Mac All in One, and PowerBook G3. In some ways, Apple's biggest technical issue right now is only peripherally related to Mac OS X. In preparation for the new operating system's release, Apple on March 23 issued a series of firmware upgrades for many Macs. Firmware stores settings and instructions that hardware uses independent of the operating system. But after installing the firmware, a fairly large number of people reported their systems no longer recognize all installed memory.

RIAA Does Not Plan To Go After Gnutella

According to Frank Creighton, the Recording Industry Association of America's chief anti-piracy officer, the community of file swappers that doesn't trade through a central server just isn't enough of a problem to warrant the efforts leveled at independent OpenNap and other Napster clones. Citing network frailties, privacy issues, and low adoption rates, he said his organization is watching the protean network but isn't yet bothering to crack down on members. Much of Gnutella's potential power, its backers say, comes not from its anonymity but from its lack of a central server. The RIAA's strategy is to approach ISPs instead of file traders, asking the service providers to block access to Napster-like facilities as if they were Web pages or other sites hosted on the ISPs' servers. The RIAA certainly could track down Gnutella users. But it would have to go through the process of getting legal warrants to force an ISP to produce the name of each user, a potentially laborious process.

An Unofficial OS X Update Has Started To Appear On The Internet

Less than a week after Mac OS X's release, Apple Computer is preparing an update to the new operating system to fix some bugs. After applying the update, the OS version changes from 10.0 to 10.0.1, or build 4L5. The upgrade package also contains another file, software update 1.31. Both files are dated just before and after Mac OS X's release Saturday. The software update appears to contain numerous bug fixes, which boosted performance during a test run. But the fix does not seem to create the ability to burn CDs--something Apple left out of Mac OS X. DVD playback and DVD recording were also left out of OS X. Apple CEO Steve Jobs last week said CD-RW functions would be added in April. For now, people must reboot back to Mac OS 9.1 to burn CDs or watch DVD movies.

Friday March 30, 2001 Top

VIA Launches New C3 Processor

VIA Technologies, Inc. today announced the launch of the new VIA C3 processor starting at speeds of 733MHz. The first processor on the market to be built using a leading edge 0.15 micron manufacturing process, the new VIA C3 integrates a total of 192KB full-speed cache on the world's smallest x86 processor die measuring only 52mm2. It combines robust mainstream software application and Internet performance with exceptionally low power consumption to provide a compelling solution for Value PCs, Information PCs, notebooks, and the rapidly emerging new generation of Digital PC Appliances.

The new VIA C3 processor was developed by the VIA Centaur processor design team located in Austin, Texas, and is initially available at speeds starting at 733MHz.To optimize performance, the processor integrates 128KB full speed Level 1 and 64KB full speed Level 2 Cache, and also features support for a high-speed 133MHz Front Side Bus and the 3DNow! and MMX multimedia instruction sets. With its small die size and efficient architectural design, the new VIA C3 processor consumes as little as 6 watts when running standard mainstream computing applications under Winstone 99. This gives OEMs and system integrators full freedom and flexibility to differentiate their products in the market by developing distinctive fanless Silent PC designs. The new VIA C3 processor is fully plug-in compatible with the standard Socket 370 infrastructure, and is supported by a wide range of mainboards from all the world's leading vendors. It also runs a complete range of Microsoft Windows and other popular x86 operating systems and software programs, as well as all the latest Internet applications and plug-ins. The new VIA C3 processor is available now at speeds starting from 733MHz. Pricing begins at US$54 per unit for 1K orders.

Quantam Is Now Officially Out Of The Hard Drive Business

After 21 years of selling hard drives, Quantum on Friday formally left the business to turn its full attention to higher-level storage products and services. Shareholders approved the sale of the hard drive business to competitor Maxtor, announced in October. Selling hard drives has been excruciating to many companies facing unpredictable demand, cutthroat competition and low profit margins. Now Quantum, a 3,000-employee company headquartered in Milpitas, Calif., is out to become more like storage companies such as EMC that sell storage products and services rather than components. That strategy will include acquisitions of companies with expertise in both storage hardware and software, chief executive Michael Brown said in an interview.

Bug Found In IE That Would Automate Attacks

A security hole in Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser can cause the browser to automatically open HTML e-mail attachments that could be used by an attacker to execute malicious code, the company has warned. The flaw exists in versions 5.01 and 5.5 of the browser and affects how Internet Explorer processes attachments to HTML e-mail encoded with the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) standard, Microsoft said in a security bulletin posted to its Web site Thursday. The flaw could result in IE launching an e-mail attachment automatically, which could leave computers vulnerable to malicious attack, Microsoft warned in the bulletin. Such a program would be capable of taking any action on the affected machine, including adding data, changing or deleting it, communicating with Web sites or reformatting a hard drive. "In order for the attacker to successfully attack the user via this vulnerability, she would need to be able to persuade the user to either browse to a Web site she controlled or open an HTML e-mail that she had sent," Microsoft stated in the bulletin.

Microsoft has developed a patch that can be downloaded from its Web site. The company said Internet Explorer users should download and install the patch immediately. A fix for the MIME problem is also included in IE 5.0 Service Pack 2, so people who have already downloaded the service pack do not have to download a new patch, according to the company. Microsoft said the problem can also be avoided if file downloads have been disabled in the corresponding "Security Zone" in Internet Explorer. That setting is not a default in Internet Explorer and would have to be selected by the user, Microsoft warned.
Download The Patch |

HP Recalling Monitors That Had Risk Of Electrical Shock

Hewlett-Packard Company announced a program to identify and replace a limited number of potentially defective monitors. The HP 71 17-inch CRT monitors, model number D8903A, were shipped starting July 2000 in the United States, Canada and some Latin American countries (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela).

The defect, resulting from an irregularity in the manufacturing process of this monitor model, affects approximately 0.01 percent of the units. In rare circumstances, there is a risk of electric shock if a user comes in contact with a specific and limited area on the top of a defective monitor. Upon discovery of the irregularity, HP took immediate preventive measures by introducing a test in the manufacturing process to detect the presence of similar defects.

In order to reduce any potential risks, HP has informed all customers and resellers who received an HP 71 17-inch CRT monitor, model number D8903A, and is providing them with information on how to identify a potentially defective unit and how to have a unit fixed or replaced.
HP's Official Recall Page

AOL Releases AIM Beta for OS X

America Online on Friday unveiled the beta version of AOL Instant Messenger 4.5 for Mac OS X. The announcement comes less than one week after Apple Computer began offering its new operating system in stores. The beta, or test, version of AIM 4.5 does not have any new features beyond compatibility with OS X. "We wanted to make sure that our AIM users who are using OS X on their computers have a version of AIM that they can use," said Jane Lennon, an AOL spokeswoman. The AOL Time Warner subsidiary did not offer any time frame for when the final version of 4.5 will be available. "As with any new product we have in development, we will be testing it in every way possible," Lennon said.

Weekend March 31 & April 1, 2001 Top

Update For Fake Digital Certificates Released

This update resolves the "Erroneous VeriSign-Issued Digital Certificates Pose Spoofing Hazard" security vulnerability, and is discussed in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS01-017. Download now to prevent an unauthorized user from running code on your computer by digitally signing programs as "Microsoft Corporation". VeriSign, Inc. issued two VeriSign digital certificates to an individual who fraudulently claimed to be a Microsoft employee; this allows the individual to sign programs, ActiveX controls, Office macros, and other executable content as originating from "Microsoft Corporation." This update prevents the two erroneously signed certificates from being accepted as valid. Read More | Windows Update

Western Digital Making 7,200 RPM, 80 GB Hard Drive

Western Digital , a leader in personal computing storage, today announced at CeBIT the availability of the highest capacity performance desktop EIDE hard drive currently available - a 7,200 RPM, three-disk model offering as much as 80 GB of digital storage. The new WD Caviar is designed to meet the increasing demands for high performing, expansive personal digital storage. Units are currently being evaluated by OEM customers and are expected to begin shipping to worldwide customers in April. Consumer users are provided with the additional capacity and performance required for storage-rich activities such as Internet downloads, digital image storage, movie and music downloads, Internet gaming and home video editing. The third in a series of first-to-market product developments in the performance-desktop category by Western Digital, the new WD Caviar 7,200 RPM hard drive family combines the performance benefits of high-speed hard disks with a new three-disk design to offer desktop PC users faster access to more applications and data than ever before.

The new-generation WD Caviar uses the same advanced technologies as the previous WD Caviar model which achieved top performance honors from industry trade media. As a result of Western Digital's efficiently integrated three-platter design, the new WD Caviar hard drive is as quiet as 33 dBA, based on testing in Western Digital's mechanical laboratories. The WD Caviar 7,200 RPM family now includes 40, 60 and 80 GB capacities, expanding Western Digital's overall product mix to comprehensively include capacities ranging from 10 to 80 GB. The addition of the new three-platter design enables the Company to effectively serve the capacity needs of approximately 99 percent of the desktop PC market.

High-Speed Internet Through Power Lines

Bruised and shedding high-profile supporters, technology for sending high-speed data over electrical wires to the home is at last stumbling to market. For years the idea has lurked as a potential competitor to alternatives like DSL (digital subscriber line) and cable modems. Because electric lines are more ubiquitous than phone lines, and far more common than cable TV connections, it has drawn considerable--if intermittent--interest from big companies and policy-makers around the world. But the next year will be a critical one for the young technology, as it struggles to achieve tangible technological and commercial results in an environment where new high-tech ideas are having a hard time winning funding and popular support.

The idea of letting information piggyback inside power lines is an old one. Power company employees have long used devices that tap the wires to send voice messages short distances while working on the lines, for example. The trouble has come in turning this into stable data transmissions that can support modern Internet use. Many of the same network characteristics that have made it possible to receive uninterrupted power supplies--outside of California, at least--have turned out to interfere with data transmissions. Nevertheless, development work done in several countries over the past few years is finally finding its way out of labs and into actual electrical grids. Depending on how it is implemented, it offers the possibility of connections as fast or faster than cable modems or DSL, although--as with cable systems--neighbors will have to share a line's available bandwidth.

In the United States, trial projects are still more restrained. A Brookline, Mass., company called Ambient is working with New York's biggest utility, among others, mapping power networks and testing early stages of the technology. They, along with partners Cisco and Bechtel, hope to launch the service commercially in 12 to 18 months, Chief Executive Mark Isaacson said. Cisco, however, perhaps remains the technology's largest supporter. That company, which is creating data-routing technology for several projects, is doing some independent development work to help push the technology forward, but is still looking to the smaller companies for much of the advances.

Will The Major Record Labels Soon License Their Libraries

Going into the congressional hearings, one of the most prominent of these efforts are negotiations between RealNetworks and at least three of the Big Five labels to create a new subscription service tentatively dubbed First reported by The Wall Street Journal, this project appears to hold promise of becoming one of the first major subscription services to be operated outside the labels' own stable of subsidiaries. A source said, however, that Bertelsmann's BMG Entertainment, EMI Recorded Music and AOL Time Warner's Warner Music Group are involved in the discussions with RealNetworks. RealNetworks' relationship with Warner Music stretches back at least six months, according to another source. Insiders stress that MusicNet will not be the only such service in the market, even if it does wind up being one of the first. Sony and Universal's Duet subscription service is also headed to market, and those companies are aiming to provide access to music outside their own catalogs. Analysts say that companies such as Microsoft's MSN, Yahoo and AOL Time Warner will likely have their own brands. Yahoo, for example, recently registered the domain name "," raising speculation that the Web portal is planning a broadband music service.

CueCat Slowly Dying

As advertising sales go to the dogs, an offbeat marketing scheme aimed at bridging print and online media with CueCat digital scanners is getting bitten. Last September, privately held DigitalConvergence began giving away millions of scanners through deals with Wired magazine, Forbes and RadioShack. The mouse-sized device allows consumers to swipe bar codes in print ads and find information about a product or service online. Billed as a significant convergence of online and offline marketing, the CueCat scheme raised a stink last fall among consumer privacy advocates, who said the device surreptitiously collected data on individuals. Although those concerns have faded, the scanner still has a lot to prove. "It's no secret that the markets are not where anyone wants them to be and that you'd want to go out for an IPO," company spokesman Peter Eschbach said. "We just pulled that to...(enable) us more flexibility and go after financing." Eschbach says the company has made some important strides with consumers, distributing 3 million CueCats since September. But he says they have generated just 16 million swipes--hardly a ringing endorsement at fewer than 6 swipes per device over the past seven months. Analysts, however, remain skeptical of the company's future and the willingness of consumers to embrace the technology, which has yet to become mainstream.

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