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HTMLfixIT Archive for May, 2005

Sunday, May 15th, 2005 by Franki

Microsoft has announced plans to offer a paid subscription service to remove malicious software like Viruses, Worms, Trojans and Spyware from their subscribers computers as well as providing backup services and a two way firewall. The new service is to be called “Onecare” and it’s announcement has lead to a great deal of discussion. The reason for the discussion is simply because Microsoft are often the reason that new viruses are introduced. Bugs in their software allow remote exploitation of machines over the Internet (often using ActiveX technology or other flaws in Internet Explorer) and somebody decides to create a new Virus to take advantage of the new flaw to spread to other machines.

The announcement has lead to many comments along the lines of: “Wow, Microsoft have just worked out how to turn their dismal security record into a revenue stream.” and: “Microsoft really have turned their security bugs into features”. This ZDnet spoof even likens Onecare to a Mafia protection racket.

There are lots of possible repercussions of the move. Up until recently, Microsoft have had a fairly good relationship with anti-virus companies like Symantec, Trend Micro, Mcaffee and the rest. Now that Microsoft is moving onto their turf in a major way, the water might get somewhat colder. The anti-virus companies may well start looking to other Operating Systems to replace the income Microsoft is likely to take from them. They may also become part of another anti-competitive lawsuit against MS in the future. I imagine that newer versions of Windows will prompt people to subscribe to their service during the install or ‘first use’ routines, meaning they get to embed it into their Operating System to get the same competitive advantage they do with Internet Explorer.

This really shouldn’t be surprising anyone in the industry though. Microsoft has always gone after any potentially profitable industry related to their Operating System. Be it Web browsers, Instant messaging, digital music, photo and video editing, they saw the dollar signs and off they went. If you make an application that has mainstream possibilities, you can bet that sooner or later Microsoft will join the party and have a go at pushing you out, (ask Netscape for example).

One problem Microsoft have always had with their software, is that it’s a one off payment. You buy the software license and you use it. There is no ongoing revenue stream, (unless you need support that is). With this new subscription service Microsoft gets to sell you the software, and then they get to charge you an ongoing fee to keep it running properly. They have long said that subscription services were the future, it just came as a surprise to many that this is the service they are going to start the ball rolling with. My final word on the subject is that although I am extremely sceptical that a company should profit from selling buggy security flaw ridden software. If it lessens the amount of spyware/virus problems I have to fix then I’m not that fussed about it. But if any of the other anti-virus companies make a competing service, I’ll be recommending them to my clients rather then Microsoft because security software can often create new remote compromise security holes, and if there is one thing Microsoft does really well, it’s creating great remote compromise flaws, (Ms Blaster anyone?)

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Saturday, May 14th, 2005 by Franki

I’ve been watching the latest technology releases with anticipation for years now, and with the advent of hi-end gaming consoles and smart phones, PDA’s and such, there is much more then just PC’s to get excited about nowadays.

Tonight I started thinking after reading about the Xbox 360 release. Is it really innovation to essentially build a networked PC into a gaming console? By the same token is it innovation to build a PC into a tablet form? or to embed a PC into a phone? Basically all of the current innovation in these devices is simply building PC functionality into them. Should that really class as “innovation”? I suspect not. We’re now building PC’s or PC functionality into everything from watches and music players to cars. but it isn’t really innovation is it? For the most part it isn’t worthy of the raft of patents it is creating. After all, that was the whole idea behind PC’s in the first place. Multifunction programmable devices. I don’t remember any of the original specs insisting that they be shaped as a big box and have drives on the front. We are not really making smart phones for example, we’re making really small PC’s that have phone software and hardware built in (heck some even run Windows). The old Xbox was actually a low end Celeron PC with different connectors and a TV for a display. How is that really innovation? My first half decent PC was a Commodore Vic 20, which could run games and business applications and used a TV for a monitor and that came out decades ago. All this new tech gear is great and useful, but keep in mind that we are not inventing new stuff here, we’re just making PC’s into new and unusual shapes. As far as I am concerned, if a device can have software installed that add to it’s original functionality, (in essence “programmed”) and it displays an interface on a screen of some sort, then it isn’t a new device, it’s a modified PC. Hang onto that thought the next time you hear a big company touting their latest “innovation”.

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Saturday, May 14th, 2005 by Franki

According to Cnet, 10 percent of IBM’s staff already use the Open Source Firefox web browser, and IBM is going to offically back Firefox as the browser of choice for IBM staff. That accounts for an extra 300,000 users. They think it will save them money by allowing them to create extensions specific to their needs. No doubt it will also help IBM transition their staff towards Linux on the desktop, something they have alluded to several times in the past. Since Firefox looks and works the same in Windows and Linux, getting the staff to use it on Windows means they won’t need to learn a new browser when Linux time rolls around. IBM has had a dislike of Microsoft since the OS2 debacle and perhaps before, so the transition to non MS software is hardly surprising. The Cnet article goes into much more detail.

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Friday, May 13th, 2005 by Hazel

There is a great new plugin for Paint Shop Pro 9 called TextArt. With this you can create great professional looking text for webpage headings, logos, cards and all sorts of other uses.

I have used it on my Dog Enthusiasts website. Go to Cola’s page to see an example of what can be done. I do all my graphics in Paint Shop Pro and this plugin is very easy to use, saves a lot of time.

I upgraded my operating system from Windows 98SE to Windows XP pro service pack 2 so I can no longer comment on how it works on Windows 98 anymore.

Info can be found atThe Digital Workshop

Have a look

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Thursday, May 12th, 2005 by Franki

Right now the mobile web browser world is a dogs breakfast. Many sites render incorrectly on mobile devices and it’s really a hit or miss affair. The “World Wide Web Consortium” W3C, the guys largely responsible for the fact that the Internet doesn’t belong to Microsoft have decided to create a standards (Mobile Web Initiative or MWI) framework to facilitate the creation of sites that work as well on mobile devices like PDA’s and smart phones as they do on desktop browsers. Considering the growth rate of mobile devices, and the expansion of 3G type hi-speed services, this can only be a good thing. Best of all is that Opera is the king of browsers on such platforms so this is not likely to become another Microsoft dominated platform any time soon. (don’t count them out though as they have shown remarkable persistence in previous similar situations.) You can read the MWI press release at the W3C site.

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Thursday, May 12th, 2005 by Franki

TechWeb have an interesting article about the growth of Firefox and how the growth that was initially thought to be a temporary has in fact turned out to be quite consistent. Worth a read.

The recently disclosed Firefox flaws had many thinking that perhaps the browser security issue isn’t as clear cut as initially thought. One thing is clear though. In less then a week after the flaws were disclosed, the Mozilla foundation have already patched the flaws and released version 1.0.4 that addresses the newly disclosed flaws. This should put to rest the argument that Open Source applications like Firefox are not patched as quickly as their proprietary versions.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Firefox zealot who holds all other browsers in disdain, I actually don’t mind Opera, and Safari seems very nice also. My main reasons for focusing on Firefox is that it is an open community who makes a standards compliant browser with the best security features they know how to add. I don’t believe that you should need a specific companies browser (and thereby their Operating System) to consistently browse the web. I also believe that there should be a good cross platform browser at no cost. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for the likes of Opera, but you should not have to pay for basic web browsing. If you buy Opera, you should do so because you like one of the features it has that the others don’t. Internet Explorer is a good example of one companies efforts to make the Internet reliant on the products of that one company. Luckily the tactic backfired and they are being forced to re-address the issue. It was a close thing though. If Firefox hadn’t came out and taken a large chunk of IE’s market share, we may have seen less W3C standards compliance in IE7 rather than more. So the Internet remains (for now at least) a free and open set of standards that do not rely on any one company to prosper. Just as it should be.

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Monday, May 9th, 2005 by Franki

I have a pet peeve. When a big company jumps on a technology bandwagon, I expect their software to work at least as well as the little guys. In this instance I’m talking about RSS feeds. Once the friend of bloggers everywhere, now it’s being picked up by all manner of news sites. Badly much of the time I might add. In this case I’m talking about the ABCnews tech feed and the Reuters tech feed, though they are by no means the only offenders. I have around 60 feeds I read on a daily basis to stay up to date with the latest tech news and many of the feeds are from blogs or small news sites. I find it ironic that the little guys got it right and the big guys feeds seem to insist that you download all the top stories each time your reader checks for updates. The result is that my feed folders for those sites are full of multiple entries for the same headlines. Come on guys, RSS isn’t rocket science, it’s XML and fairly simple XML at that. If your tech guys can’t get that right they shouldn’t be writing about tech issues. Getting your RSS feeds working correctly is to your own benefit. If your readers are only download new additions, then you’re saving bandwidth, if your feeds cause them to download the whole lot every time they check for updates, you’ll not only increase users annoyance, you’ll also be increasing the bandwidth drain on your site. Remember, conditional GET is a good thing folks.

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