Tech Week in Review

Security holes, missing Web servers, phone number copyright, OS X stability, computer warranties, Web standards, styled email, Apple sued again, future of Classic, AMD and the MHz Myth, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft hubris, and Dell is behind it all.

Four quickies to start you off this week and whet your appetites:

Holes, as in Security, Not Donuts

I missed FBI lists 20 most dangerous Internet security holes last week. If you have ever run, or are currently running, a server — including Hotline servers, Gnutella services, or any sort of file sharing at all — open to the Internet at large, read this. Yes, that includes you cable modem and DSL users, too.

Filed a Missing Server Report Lately?

Just because I didn't bash MS last week didn't mean there wasn't reason to. Not that Code Red is news any more, but 80,000 servers disappearing due to its effects might be.

Dialing Grandma? Stop Violating My Copyright!

As long as these guys allow for free private use of their melodies, I'm all for it, at least if DNA sequences can be copyrighted, too. You can't have it both ways, people. Either DNA sequences can be copyrighted and phone number-based melodies can be copyrighted, or neither one can.

God, Satan, Job[s], and The Letter X

Most of my Windows-using friends are amazed at going two or three weeks between restarts. Once my 10.1 CD gets here and I can migrate to X full-time, I fully expect that to increase. How much? Seven months sounds good. Just don't let Microsoft get a hold of your computer...

"Now with an Industry-Leading 1-Year Warranty!"

"Can you imagine," asks Roger Ridey, "buying a new car if it had a 90-day warranty, or even a year?" Think about it. Kia and Hyundai are advertising the wonders of their long warranties in an effort to attract buyers. When is the computer industry going to wake up and start offering a warranty proportional to the average one-owner life of a computer? Most folks I know seem to keep their cars for about 100K miles or about seven years. If you buy a new car, more than half of that is covered under warranty in most cases. Computers tend to last maybe four or five years with their original owner, particularly in the consumer sphere, so where are the two- or three-year warranties?

Browser Publishers Are Not Your Friends (Yet)...

CodeBitch is, well, bitching again. As usual, the bitching is tempered with a great deal of helpful advice, this time about CSS in your Web pages. Again, two points emerge: People need to write clean code that has been tested in a variety of browsers (none of this Fireworks goop splattered all over), and publishers need (read: Microsoft needs; all the others are at least trying) to just follow the W3C's standards and stop (cough) Microsoft (cough cough) trying to create their own.

...and Neither Are Email Client Publishers

Why not? Two words: encoding issues. Jon Thompson has an interesting piece on making sure your messages don't get hopelessly garbled, but the root of the problem is that most email clients ship with very ill-thought default settings. Take AOL or anything from Microsoft, for example: HTML formatting is on by default in both cases. In some implementations (Netscape Communicator's comes to mind), this actually results in two copies of the message being sent, one HTML and one plain text.


I can't emphasize that point strongly enough. I get so many HTML-formatted messages these days that it's ridiculous. If you email me and have HTML (or RTF or whatever other form of styled text) turned on in your mail client, I will NOT read your message. I will send you a politely-worded email informing you that you have HTML turned on, and you can see these three sites for how to turn it off:

For those of you who are curious, I can read HTML messages just fine; Eudora handles them quite nicely. It's a matter of principle with me. This is Low End Mac. Very few of the Macs detailed on this site are capable of handling HTML email as well as a G3 or G4 can. Couple that with the fact that something like 80 percent of the spam I get is HTML-formatted (which makes it very easy to sort out the spam, but also makes it much less likely that I'll even notice it when someone legitimately emails me with an HTML message) and you see why I'm a strong supporter of plain text ASCII email.

The Revolving Door of Justice

Boy, these lawsuits just don't quit. Here at LEM, Steve Watkins has another installment of his analysis of the BIAX suit, and now ELS, Inc. is suing Apple for infringing on the trademark ELS holds on Mac Manager.

Why? Apparently a program that (until an "Oops, we forgot to put HFS Plus support in our application" moment) was last updated for Mac OS 7.6 is "confusingly similar" to Apple's Macintosh Manager product that ships with OS X Server. C'mon, guys, your Web site still talks about the 3-D, Hi-Tech, and Kids themes. That's so 1997.

Speaking of those old themes, I think mebbe ELS just opened up a can of worms they can't deal with. Remember, every single theme that's been distributed to ape the appearance of any of Apple's unreleased UI themes, as well as all Aqua themes for non-OS X systems, has been forced out of distribution by Apple Legal. ELS, on the other hand, is stupid enough to proudly trumpet "Mac Manager's interface totally emulates Finder." Boy, do I smell a countersuit!

RIP, Classic Mac OS! Long Live the Classic Mac OS!

Charles Haddad's latest weekly over at BusinessWeek takes a look at the dilemma Apple faces with the Classic Mac OS. "Right now, many, if not most, of the applications available for OS X are either shareware or from small companies," he writes, "but these are not the programs that will lure the mass of Mac users to OS X." He's right. Apple can't bring in its core markets and expand into new ones with only the burgeoning raft of freeware, shareware, and little-known applications that OS X has now. Office X is a great commitment from Microsoft (if for no other reason than to satisfy the minds of corporate types), but released applications are what will finally compel Windows and Classic Mac OS users alike to make the switch. Haddad gives it 18 months. I'll give it until such time as Adobe ports (or announces, at least) Photoshop for OS X.

Or you could be Anonymous, over at MacNetV2. He apparently thinks 10.1 could be the final nail in Apple's coffin, but for much the same reason as Haddad thinks it's vital that Apple keep OS 9.x supported for some time to come. There are a lot of things I take issue with in Anonymous's column, but it generally makes a good point: Apple had better get going and promote the heck out of 10.1 now that the OS is ready for prime time.

XP is nothing. OS X is everything. Obey your inner monopolistic bully hater. Use Macs.

It's Not (Just) Our Problem

Ah, the joys of the Megahertz Myth. AMD has decided that they are no longer going to sell CPUs with a megahertz rating and instead has switched to a rating system based on the clock speed of the "Thunderbird" Athlon chips.

Van's Hardware and The Register have taken up opposite positions on the system, and both articles are well worth reading for their intelligent debate. Personally, I think rating systems are silly, but I certainly think that Intel has devalued clock speed as a measure of overall processor performance. As a result, companies like AMD and Motorola have to get their marketing departments working overtime to come up with a satisfactory solution to selling CPUs that seem slower.

"Hi, My Name Is Steve, and I Matter"

With the tacit implication, of course, being that you don't matter. No, I don't mean Steve Jobs, although he's been arrogant enough on occasion to warrant this sort of criticism. I mean that other Steve, the one who routinely jumps around on stage while sweating like a marathon runner in the tropics, the "I'm big stuff now that Billy got sick of actually running a company" guy — Steve Ballmer. Surely you've heard of Microsoft's Passport, Hailstorm, and .NET plans for world dom — I mean, uh, projects? Sun, along with many other companies, is working on an alternative 'net ID system. Ballmer was quoted as saying "the Sun thing has absolutely no probability of mattering to the world." Say, Steve, did someone get under your skin lately or something?

The arrogant attitude displayed by "Heil Steve" isn't limited to the current CEO, though. It seems to be pervasive throughout the entire legal department and certainly extends to Bill Gates as well. Microsoft, sensing a weak spot when the DoJ decided not to pursue breakup as a possible remedy for the antitrust violations, decided to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, as expected, roundly rejected the appeal on Tuesday afternoon, sending it back to the US District Court, where Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will now decide the punishment.

The U.S. isn't the only area where Microsoft is asserting itself. The European Union may levy an enormous fine, to the tune of US $2.5 billion (10 percent annual revenue) on Microsoft for violating EU antitrust laws. Microsoft, of course, maintains its innocence, but perhaps someone in MS Legal was sleeping on the job: EU antitrust law is generally even stricter than US antitrust law.

The Force Behind Microsoft

I just had a revelation after reading this article on the Mac Observer. Microsoft isn't the company assimilating everyone; Dell is. Dell is behind it all. What else could possibly explain the constant failed or belated attempts by Michael Dell to one-up Steve Jobs? (Witness the "first wireless-ready laptop," "only PC company that matters," "easy-open tower case," etc.) How about the Dell PR spies masquerading as Associated Press writers?

As I've railed against before, analysts (or, in this case, a lowly staff writer and her editor) don't do their research when they make remarks like "Dell is the only company making money on PC sales." Apple is a PC sales company too, folks. Dell hasn't turned a truly profitable quarter since March or so. Apple has been profitable two quarters in a row and looks to be in good shape yet again.

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson