Tech Week in Review

Apple on a roll with OS X 10.1, Mozilla/Netscape a real option, RIAA vs. listening to CDs on your computer, stupid cookie tricks, abandonware, and still more Microsoft hubris.

OS X 10.1, Finally!

Since I haven't received my 10.1 update CD yet, I can't comment on how much improved it is over 10.0.4 on my trusty PowerBook G3/266. A plethora of articles have appeared about the update, of course. Gene Steinberg's overview is an excellent read for those of you who didn't watch Phil Schiller's keynote at Seybold. Gene finds that a lot of the promised speed increases are just as good as advertised, and he says, "Mac users who upgrade to Mac OS X 10.1 from Mac OS 9 will find performance is equal or better in all but a few respects." Stability and multitasking are also greatly improved, he notes, so for those of you running 10.0.x, get thee to an Apple Store and get a free update CD. Or send Uncle Steve a check for $20 and he'll mail it to you.

Get Moz...erm, Netscape

One of several pet topics that you regular readers will recognize is my support of non-IE browsers, specifically ones that do tasks better than IE does. As many of you probably know, on the PowerPC side of things, IE 5 is pretty much the best overall browser, and I still think that's unfortunate. So does Charles Haddad of BusinessWeek. "It's important that someone give Explorer a run for its money," he writes. "Otherwise Microsoft will begin to take the Mac browser market for granted."

Don't get me wrong. I like IE. I also think there are things IE could do a lot better, like render HTML as the W3C intended it to be rendered. That's not to say other browsers have perfect page rendering — they don't — but we need standards support. The Mozilla project, which is what all the Netscape code is based on now, needs all the help it can get. Even if you have never seen a line of programming code in your life, you can help by downloading the latest build, using it, and providing feedback to the developers.

Computer + Speakers = Stereo? Not Any More...

A lot of folks use their computers as their stereo systems, thanks to the advent of MP3s and all those !!L@@K!! 600 WATT COMPUTER STEREO SYSTEM!! NO $$ RESERVE!! things on eBay. I hardly use my stereo any more since the speakers hooked up to my computer sound better, and I usually play audio CDs through my CD-ROM drive.

Well, Big Bro... I mean the music industry (in the "personage" of the RIAA) is trying to see to it that you can't do that much longer. The next CD you buy might not be playable in a CD-ROM drive at all. The encryption that's being used on some new CDs prevents computer CD-ROM drives from accurately reproducing the sound.

I realize that most of you probably don't listen to Charley Pride (who?), but upcoming releases from Sheryl Crow, U2, and other big names will very likely be protected as well. This flies in the face of copyright law's fair use clause — after all, if I buy a CD, I have the right to make as many copies as I want as long as they're for my personal use — and it must be stopped.

Stupid Cookie Tricks

I'm going to take a quick opportunity to rant about something that's been annoying the heck out of me for quite some time. VersionTracker, the generally excellent software update and download site, has a cookie problem. Here, join in my frustration:

See why I'm frustrated? This needs to be fixed, because there are plenty of folks who use more than one platform who don't want to be forced to start their software update checking on whichever one they visited last. My suggestion for fixing it: Offer a choice of VersionTracker "home pages" from the available choices. Set this in a cookie and leave it alone. Put a link somewhere on each "home page" that says "Set this as my default VersionTracker page" or something along those lines, but do not do it automatically and leave the user out of the loop. It's bad UI, and it's the same reason I hate Microsoft Word for heavy word processing — it's just too intrusive. If you agree with me, VersionTracker and point them to this column or suggest your own solution.

Abandonware Redux

This one is Yet Another Pet Topic. (Maybe I should just start referring to these as "YAPTs.") This time, though, the mainstream industry media, in the form of Byte's electronic remnants, is picking up the issue. If you haven't done so yet, go read the Abandonware Petition, sign it if you agree with it, and tell all your friends to read it, too.

Tsk, Tsk, Microsoft... AGAIN

I'm not a Microsoft basher. Really. I just think they're monopolistic, arrogant, and very irresponsible with their software. The few pieces of hardware they make, however, are generally pretty good.

What brings on yet another round of me chastising Microsoft? Nimda, for one thing. Heck, even the Gartner Group recommends businesses not use Microsoft IIS until a more secure version can be put together. While I certainly think the various virus/worm writers have a level of responsibility, if Microsoft didn't make it so easy for any 12-year-old with some spare time to write a destructive virus, I wouldn't be writing this.

Now for the even more insidious reason: Microsoft won't let you use their software if you use it in connection with anti-Microsoft work. Yep, you heard me right. The license agreement for FrontPage 2000 clearly states, "You may not use the Software [FrontPage 2000] in connection with any site that disparages Microsoft, MSN, MSNBC, Expedia, or their products or services, infringe any intellectual property or other rights of these parties." This is exactly the type of arrogance that Microsoft displayed during the antitrust trial.

You South Park fans will probably remember the "Chef Aid" episode with the weenie record executive with the bad combover and the "Spooge" hair gel to keep it in place every time he exclaims, "I am above the law!" Well, that's the attitude Microsoft is displaying here: "We are above the First Amendment." Sorry, Microsoft. No one is above the First Amendment.

I'm just waiting for someone to buy FrontPage, use it to create an anti-Microsoft site, get the license revoked by Microsoft, and then call the ACLU to sue the pants off the company. Any volunteers?

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson