real life in my life

October 15, 2006

Microsoft promises Vista security

Filed under: microsoft,news — namwarn @ 6:24 pm

A senior Microsoft executive has promised that its new operating system will be more secure than ever. Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, said that beefing-up security was one reason behind delays to Windows Vista.

Microsoft has been criticised for flaws in previous systems that left users vulnerable to attacks by hackers.

Mr Courtois said Microsoft had done “tons of work to make Vista a fantastic experience when it comes to security”.

The firm had originally aimed to launch Vista – the first major update since Windows XP was introduced five years ago – in the second half of 2006.

The new operating system will now be released to business customers “within the next few weeks” and to consumers early next year, he said.

Secure steps

Speaking in Barcelona at the European Technology Round Table Mr Courtois, the most senior Microsoft executive outside of the US, said that Windows Vista was the continuation of an ongoing effort by Microsoft to improve security across its software line-up.

“In the last 18 months, the number of vulnerabilities [in Windows’ software] has been much lower,” he said.

Jean-Philippe Courtois

The launch of Windows Vista is certainly one of the defining moments of the company

Jean-Philippe Courtois

“Microsoft has raised its game in a big way on security and Windows Vista is the next big step. The company has learnt to design software which is secure by default.”

Mr Courtois outlined features of Windows Vista that are designed to make it easier for users to protect themselves.

At the heart of the system will be the new Windows Security Centre which will show consumers any holes in their defences.

Vista will also feature new encryption technology designed to protect the data on a computer.

“Even if your laptop is stolen, nobody will be able to use it because it will be fully encrypted,” he said.

But Jean-Philippe Courtois said users had to play their part in making computers more secure.

“You’ve got to make sure that your firewall is on, that you’ve got anti-virus protection on your PC, you’ve got to understand what not to do on the internet,” he said. “It’s just like protecting your own home.”

This week the BBC set up a so-called “honeypot” computer running Windows XP without protection. The PC came under attack every 15 minutes.

But not everybody in the security software world is happy about Microsoft’s plans for Vista.

Symantec, which makes Norton anti-virus software, is among many security firms warning that Vista appears designed to shut out security products made by outside firms.

However, what is clear is that the long-awaited arrival of the new operating system will be a crucial weapon in Microsoft’s battle to retain its dominant position at a time when firms like Google are mounting a serious challenge.

“The launch of Windows Vista is certainly one of the defining moments of the company,” admitted Jean-Philippe Courtois.



October 4, 2006

Nokia develops a new, short-range wireless technology

Filed under: news,nokia — namwarn @ 4:46 pm

Nokia Corp. has developed a new, short-range wireless technology that it says could improve on some of the shortcomings of Bluetooth.

Called Wibree, the technology aims to be a lot more power-efficient than Bluetooth, which means it could be used in smaller and less costly devices. It can also use the same radio and antenna components as Bluetooth, helping keep costs down further, said Bob Iannucci, head of Nokia’s research center, who unveiled the technology in Helsinki on Tuesday.

The technology could compete with Bluetooth in the workplace as a way to link keyboards and other peripherals to computers. But it could also have more interesting applications for consumers, in devices such as wrist watches, toys and sports equipment.

Because of its low power requirements, it could be used in tiny sensors that could be worn by a jogger, for example, to collect information about his heart rate or distance travelled. The sensors could send the information to a mobile phone via Wibree, which in turn would upload the information to a Web site where the jogger could compare his performance with that of other runners or get advice from a trainer.

Wibree sensors could also be placed in a golf club and used to upload data to the Internet about a player’s swing, again via a mobile phone, where a golf instructor could offer advice about improving his or her game.

The technology is being designed to communicate with a phone or other device within 10 meters, and can transfer data at 1M bps, Nokia said. It can be implemented in a stand-alone chip or as a dual-mode chip that includes both Bluetooth and Wibree. More information is at

Bluetooth has inherent power limitations because it includes a fixed packet-size and frequency-hopping technology, Iannucci said. Wibree uses a different modulation technique that does a better job of avoiding interference, which helps reduce its power requirements, he said.

Several companies are working with Nokia to define the Wibree specification, including Broadcom Corp., Epson Corp. and Nordic Semiconductor ASA, Nokia said. They hope to submit the technology to a standardization process, which could help it to gain wider support.

Nokia hopes eventually to license Wibree to manufacturers that wish to use it. Wibree isn’t the only contender for use in wireless sensors, however. Zigbee is an ongoing standardization project and has similar characteristics to Wibree.

However, because Wibree uses the same radio as Bluetooth, the economics of deploying it are better, according to Iannucci.

Bluetooth’s supporters are working to lower its power consumption and reduce other drawbacks with the technology.


September 30, 2006

Messenger Links

Filed under: apple,news — namwarn @ 3:17 pm

So the big news from MacBU this week was the release of Messenger for Mac 6. This was an important release for us because it was our first actual application that was shipped as a universal binary. For those keeping track, we previously shipped shipped some universal drivers, and the Microsoft Entourage.mdimporter file that we shipped as part of our 10.2.3 update last spring was universal, so we’re getting there. In any case, hats off to the team for getting this out. Some of the new features in Messenger for Mac 6 include:

  • Universal binary
  • Yahoo Messenger contacts
  • Custom emoticons
  • Split windows
  • Spell check
  • Status messages
  • What I’m Listening To

Nicole over at the Inside Windows Live Messenger blog posted a little conversation between Windows Live Messenger and Messenger for Mac. Check it out here:

Messenger for Mac vs Windows Live Messenger
MM says:
Hi, I am Messenger for Mac
WLM says:
and, I am Windows Live Messenger (WLM) You look great, what has changed?
MM says:
Thank you, I just got a makeover I am now 6.0!

Be sure to read the whole thing. 🙂
Other sites around the net picked up on the new version of Messenger. These include Eric Lam, ActiveWin, MSTechToday, O’Reilly E-Tel (Daniel has some comments and suggestions, which we’ll note.), TUAW(Scott’s comments are noted also.), and finally Paul Stamatiou (One of my favorite Mac bloggers) gave it a shout.

Of course, one of the big question left is about when we’re going to get Audio/Visual support? Mary addressed that question in the MacMojo blog in this post.

Finally, I wanted to mention that Apple released Update 10.4.8 on Friday and it included a couple of fixes for Office for Mac. These fixes are:

  • Resolves an issue for Microsoft Word in which Word might stop responding when saving a file that uses certain OpenType fonts.
  • Resolves an issue for Microsoft PowerPoint in which the display resolution might not change as expected after switching from a PowerPoint presentation to a different application via Command-Tab.

A big thanks to Apple for getting these updates out there.

A commenter at TUAW noticed a significant performance increase in Word after installing the 10.4.8 update and it seems really fast after the update on my Macs also, though I haven’t done any benchmarks on it. If you haven’t installed the update yet, check your Word launch times before and after and see if there’s any difference.

Have a nice week!


September 25, 2006

Activists unveil stealth browser

Filed under: news,open source — namwarn @ 5:54 pm

Hacktivismo, a group of human-rights advocates and computer security experts, has released a Firefox-based browser designed to allow anonymous Web surfing.

The Web browser, called “Torpark,” is a modified version of Portable Firefox. Released last week, it can be run directly from a USB drive, meaning it can be used on public terminals in cybercafes. It creates an encrypted connection to the TOR (The Onion Router) network, which supplies a succession of different IP addresses.

“Torpark causes the IP address seen by the Web site to change every few minutes, to frustrate eavesdropping and mask the requesting source,” Hacktivismo said in a statement.

For example, a user could be in London and Web sites would see an IP address from a university in Germany, or other addresses belonging to the TOR network.

Hacktivismo operates under the aegis of the influential group the Cult of the Dead Cow. Developers said the browser is different from other anonymous browsers, such as Anonymizer or SecretSurfer, in that it doesn’t cost anything and is small and portable.

Torpark uses English by default, but includes language packs for Arabic, German, French and simplified Chinese. More than 30 other language packs are available via links built into the browser, which is available here.

The Torpark site was available intermittently this week, because of heavy download traffic, developers said.

The browser encrypts data sent to the TOR network, but data isn’t encrypted between TOR and the destination Web site, Hacktivismo cautioned. “Therefore, the user should not use his or her user name or password on Web sites that do not offer a secure login and session,” the group stated.

The browser session is somewhat slower than with an unmodified browser, testers have reported. The browser resembles Firefox, but displays the IP address being used at the time, and includes a button for resetting the server connection.

The official launch follows more than a year of development work on Torpark. A sister application called Torbird is also available; it uses the TOR network for e-mail.


September 24, 2006

Microsoft may offer web programs

Filed under: microsoft,news — namwarn @ 1:10 pm

Microsoft Works, Microsoft

The free programs will be based on Microsoft Works

Microsoft is planning free web-based versions of its word processing and spreadsheet programs. The online versions of the programs will lack many of the features found in the full versions found in Microsoft’s Office suite of applications.

Although the programs will be free to use, Microsoft is planning to fund them via advertising.

The move is seen as a rebuff to Google and others which already offer free versions of these types of programs.

Online fight

The free programs are likely to be based on Microsoft’s Works software suite that is often installed on low-cost home PCs.

No date has been set for when the free programs will show up on the net but the software giant told the Reuters news agency that it was “considering” new distribution and payment models for its software.

Like many others Microsoft has already started experimenting with web-based services. Windows Live lets people create a personal page that brings together many of the things they do online such as read news feeds, blogs and deal with e-mail.

There is also a beta version of a WYSIWYG writing tool for writing blog posts.

Microsoft’s Office suite dominates the business market but the software giant has had more competition of late as rivals produce and release free versions of programs that do the same job as those in the package.

For instance the Open Office project offers free versions of programs that are very similar to those found in Microsoft Office.

In addition, Google now owns the Writely online word processor and earlier this year started offering an online spreadsheet.

Many other smaller hi-tech firms run web-based versions of the applications people use in business or on their home PC.

Microsoft’s Office suite is hugely successful for the company and currently about 25% of the company’s revenue is generated by sales of it. A new version of Office is due in 2007.


September 23, 2006

Napster For Sale – But This is not a Healthy Company

Filed under: news — namwarn @ 1:54 pm

Music download and subscription service Napster announced that they’ve hired an investment bank to assist them with a sale of the company earlier today. This move was “in response to recent third party interest in establishing strategic partnerships or potentially acquiring the company.”At first glance the company looks very healthy, with annual revenue of over $100 million and another $100 million in cash. The problem, however, is that their business has extremely low margins. This last fiscal quarter the company lost nearly $10 million from operations (or $40 million annualized). Getting Napster to profitability isn’t going to happen in this very crowded music market. For more on Napster’s competitors, see our recent analyses of the music download services and music subscription services. Napster does not offer the best, or cheapest, product in either category.

That doesn’t mean Napster won’t sell for a lot of money, though. A good investment bank sells based on fear and greed. And lots of players fear being left out of the music revolution occuring right now. Napster may be just what they are looking for. For a recent example, see Montgomery Securities recent sale of Grouper to Sony for $65 million in cash, something no one expected would happen.


September 14, 2006 goes live

Filed under: microsoft,news — namwarn @ 6:41 am

Microsoft took another step forward in their Windows Live software development effort yesterday, as they announced that the search portal was officially leaving beta status. In addition, the company revealed that Live Search would be replacing the older MSN Search portal on and all of Microsoft’s web-based search products, including the MSN Search option on the toolbar in Internet Explorer 7.

The Windows Live initiative started out in 2005 as a small grab-bag of web services and has quickly grown to become a major focus of development at the Redmond-based company. Astute Microsoft observers will have noticed that many products that were formerly marketed under the MSN brand name have been slowly absorbed into the Live collective, such as Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Spaces. The Live program has received a major boost from the vocal support of Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s new chief software architect and the heir apparent to Bill Gates.

Ozzie got his start early on in the history of the personal computer. He was involved with the creation of VisiCalc (the first spreadsheet application) and Lotus Symphony. He created the groupware application Notes for Lotus, a project that was innovative enough (if plagued by user interface nightmares) to convince IBM to purchase Lotus outright just to get their hands on that product. Later he started his own company, Groove, that produced a peer-to-peer collaboration platform. Groove was purchased by Microsoft in 2005 and the technology is scheduled for integration into Microsoft Office 2007.

So what does the search offer that the old MSN one did not? The beta, which we reviewed earlier, had a strange user interface that used non-standard scroll bars and suffered from poor performance. This interface appears to be gone in the release version of the Live search, in favor of a more traditional Google-like interface with a sparse opening screen and the results displayed ten at a time in a standard browser window. The web search does not immediately appear to be superior to Google, but some Ars readers who have been using the tool during its beta days report that the Image and Video searches, which still retain the custom user interface widgets, are more powerful and useful than their Google counterparts—for example, when the user clicks on a picture for more details, the page retains a scrolling list of all images on the left hand side of the browser.

Does the new emphasis on Live mean the end of the MSN brand? It seems a bit strange for a company to spend so much money promoting a brand name (think of the butterfly guy and logo) and then just turn around and drop it. The Live brand does have some cachet from its association with Microsoft’s Xbox Live gaming service, but the connections to web services are still rather tenuous so far. And Microsoft is not abandoning the MSN name completely—their new YouTube competitor (Soapbox) will be launched under the MSN brand. Still, it appears as if thanks to Ray Ozzie, we should be seeing a lot more emphasis on Live products and services in the future.


September 11, 2006

Apple quietly updates Mac mini line with faster chips

Filed under: apple,news — namwarn @ 12:11 pm

Alongside a complete revamp of its iMac product line on Wednesday, Apple Computer also quietly updated its petite line of Mac mini desktop computers with faster Intel Core Duo processors at no additional cost.

The $799 model now includes a 1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo processor, up from 1.66 GHz Intel Core Duo processor. Meanwhile, the $599 model now includes a 1.66 GHz Intel Core Duo processor, up from a 1.5 GHz Intel Core Solo processor.

Updates to the Mac mini line had previously been rumored, but a posting to an overseas Web site that suggested Apple would include a SuperDrive in the new low-end model now appears to be inaccurate. The 1.66GHz Mac mini continues to sport a slot-loading Combo drive.

Also on Wednesday, Apple today announced that it has transitioned its entire iMac line to Intel’s new Core 2 Duo (Merom) processors, delivering up to 50 percent faster performance than the previous iMac Core Duo models. Additionally, a new 24-inch iMac with a stunning 24-inch widescreen was introduced into the iMac family.

The new iMac lineup includes four models: a 1.83 GHz and a 2.0 GHz 17-inch, a 2.16 GHz 20-inch and the all-new 2.16 GHz 24-inch iMac. The 17-inch iMac now starts at just $999 and the 20-inch model at just $1499.


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