July 14, 2006
Microsoft Private Folder 1.0: Now You See It, Now You Don't
Here's an interesting turn of events. Microsoft introduced a Windows add-on called Private Folder 1.0. It allowed users to create an encrypted password protected folder on their desktops. Nice idea, but IT administrators went ballistic about a tool that let workers own a piece of their hard drives. Microsoft has since announced that it is withdrawing the product, at least according to CNET. The link to the MS download page is still active however, at least as of this writing.
From the Microsoft Private Folder web page:
Microsoft Private Folder 1.0 is a useful tool for you to protect your private data when your friends, colleagues, kids or other people share your PC or account. With this tool, you will get one password protected folder called 'My Private Folder' in your account to save your personal files. Download and have your private folder today!
The following hardware and software are required to run Microsoft Private Folder 1.0:
Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, Professional Edition and Media Center Edition with SP2
Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher-resolution video adapter and monitor
Please note: Microsoft Private Folder 1.0 is provided specifically for genuine Windows customers, and requires genuine Windows validation in order to download. The software is free, and does not come with product support.
House Passes Internet Gambling Bill
The House on Wednesday approved H.R. 4411, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act by a vote of 317-93. A similar bill was defeated in past congresses because of lobbying efforts by Jack Abramoff according to news reports. The bill prohibits the placing of bets via the Internet and bars the use of electronic payments for wagers.
Some resources on this issue include
CRS Report: Internet Gambling: Overview of Federal Criminal Law
Order Code 97-619 A (November 29, 2004)
CRS Report: Internet Gambling: An Abridged Overview of Federal Criminal Law
Order Code RS21984 (November 29, 2004)
CRS Report: Internet Gambling: A Sketch of Legislative Porposals in the 108th Congress
Order Code RS21487 (June 13, 2003)
CRS Report: Internet Gambling: A Sketch of Legislative Porposals in the 106th Congress
Order Code RS20485 (January 11, 2001)
GAO Report: Internet Gambling: An Overview of the Issues
GAO-03-89 (December 2002)
GAO Report: Interim Report on Internet Gambling
GAO-0201101R (Septe,ber 23, 2002)
The Internet Gambling web site (via unc.edu)
July 13, 2006
Site Of Interest: Oldversion.com
Looking for older software? OldVersion.com has downloads for older versions of many utilities, Internet, graphics, multimedia and other useful programs. The motto of the site is "because newer is not always better." It's a good place to get older software for compatibility purposes, if nothing else. Licensed software that uses activation or keys still need that information. The downloads do not come with the executables on this site.
Apple Ends Legal Efforts to Identify Leaker
Apple decided not to appeal further a court decision that did not allow the company to force Internet publication AppleInsider to reveal sources for reports on new products. Apple let the deadline for appeal pass.
July 12, 2006
EU Fines Microsoft Over Antitrust Non-Compliance
The big news today, of course, is the European Union making good on its threats to fine Microsoft for non-compliance with antitrust decrees. The latest fine is €280.5 million dating back to last December 15th. That is €1.5 million, less than the €2 million possible. Neelie Kroes said fines of €3 million would kick in on July 31st if Microsoft continued to remain non-compliant at that time.
The issue is the documentation that Microsoft is supposed to provide that allows third-party competitors to build products that work with Windows as well as products from Microsoft. The company intends to appeal the fines claiming that the Competition Directorate-General order was unclear. It has released thousands of pages of documents and some source code, although the Commission has insisted that these efforts do not meet compliance standards. Microsoft has tried to characterize this as the EU forcing the company to hand over trade secrets and intellectual property to competitors who have made no investment in their development. Lurking somewhere in the background is the 90% market share Windows enjoys as part of that "competitive" market.
Stories are in the Times (of London) Online, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the AP via MSN Money. The Commission has outlined its case against Microsoft in a series of documents found here. The statement concerning the fine is here, although the link was not working at times today. A broader link to the same information is here. Microsoft's response to these events are here, here, and here.
July 11, 2006
Microsoft Vista: First Impressions
I really wanted to like this operating system. All the tech magazine and web site hype made it seem as if Microsoft was taking a new approach to security wrapped in an elegant interface. While all of that is true there seems to be something left out, namely performance. There had been reports about how Vista would come in various flavors. Some lesser powered machines would be able to run the system without being capable of running the Aero transparent windows. These machines would still have the basic Vista functionality.
Microsoft gave public access to the operating system through approximately the 30th of June. The beta was distributed through an online download of an ISO disc image that was 3.39 gigabytes in size. This is Windows Vista Ultimate which has every possible feature (from a marketing standpoint) included in the code. The image had to be burned to a DVD for an install. Product activation codes came in separate emails.
Microsoft warned that this was a beta, and cautioned that it should not be installed on a production system. The other admonition was the installation should be on a system that could handle the code. I had built a system that had the following specs:
3.2 Gigahertz Pentium 4
2 Gigabytes of memory
16X PCI Express video card with 256 megabytes of DDR2 memory
Asus P5PLD2 Deluxe Motherboard
Plextor DVD Burner
Antec quiet case with a 450 watt power supply
300 Gigabyte Sata drive
Wireless G network card
19 inch flat panel monitor
I would think that this would have enough power to run Vista. The install was slow, but I chalked that up to the DVD rather than CD install. It was uneventful otherwise. At first run the screen featured a picture of a mountain range reflected in a lake. The Welcome Center came on the screen with common tasks and icons for tutorials on changes to Windows. The windows were indeed transparent. So far, so good.
The real tasks now came to hand. These included loading the drivers for the various Asus components such as sound, mass storage controller, and the like. This is where the operation started to get interesting. The sound driver did not work. The message came back that they were not workable on this platform. Some other drivers were not available but were located on the web through the automated search for a better driver feature in the Windows Device Manager. The sound issue was ultimately solved by downloading the install files for Windows Server 2003, which was the latest that was available.
The next step was to load virus software. Norton 9 did not work although Norton 10 did. Rather than load that I thought I would test the Find A Program button in the Security Center. This took me to the Trend Micro site to find a beta copy of PC-cillin for Vista. That loaded fine although it crashed the wireless card access to my router and consistently gave me a blue screen of death every time I tried to connect. I uninstalled it and reinstalled it in a minimum configuration and that solved that problem.
The next step was software. The two programs I use the most are the Roxio Suite and Office. I also needed utilities such as Adobe Acrobat and found a beta version of Acrobat for Vista on the Adobe site. That worked fine. Roxio 8 was another matter. That, and the most recent patches loaded OK. The start-up was another matter. It took a long time for the program to load, and an even longer time for the DVD copy module to load. I tested the software by copying an unprotected DVD. That worked, but the disc was ejected before the closing disc message was displayed. The disc did play, however. The CD copy feature wouldn't even start after that module loaded.
Other programs had quirks. The media slide show has new features such as selectable display and transition options. It can even play video clips with sound as part of the file list. As impressive as the design features were, attempting to change options stopped the machine for what seemed like minutes at a time before they would kick in. Media Player also has an elegant look compared to past iterations. However, there were no apparent menu choices that changed options after they were initially set. That was a bit disconcerting. Even the revised solitaire program seemed to take forever to load.
If I gave the impression that the operating system is slow for even the simplest tasks I want to state that is not the case. It's not slow. It's slooooooooooooooooow. I can't imagine anyone having the patience in real life to run Vista in this condition without buying a really top of the line machine. I have another 300 Gigabyte sata drive with XP loaded in the same system. I switched cables to disconnect the Vista drive and connect the XP drive. That OS flew where Vista crawled.
I'm going to continue with Vista to see if I can speed it up through configuration changes. Maybe it's me. I said earlier that I used Office. I did load the beta of Office 2007 although I haven't used it enough to comment. I did boot Word just to see the ribbon-like tool bar, and it is a different (read really different interface) than the Word of old. I'll leave that to another post. More on Vista and Office as I work with them. Feel free to send email if anyone has a different (or similar) experience.