|bruceb news archives 04/01/00 - 06/30/00||previous||next|
URBAN LEGENDS 6/15
OUTLOOK SECURITY PATCH 6/9
COREL DEATH WATCH 6/9
PAPERPORT 7.0 5/28
DOC MANAGEMENT 5/28
REALPLAYER UPDATE 5/23
DOWNLOAD DEMON 5/19
OUTLOOK SECURITY UPDATE 5/17
COREL SLUMP 5/16
NAPSTER UPDATE 5/16
NORTON AV UPDATE 5/16
HTML E-MAIL 5/16
AOL 5.0 5/11
MEDIA JUKEBOX 5/11
STEPHENSON BOOK 5/7
WINZIP 8.0 5/7
OFFICE 2K FEATURE 4/12
WIN2K UPDATE 4/6
NETSCAPE 6 / IE5.5 4/5
ENFISH ONESPACE 4/3
June 15, 2000
|Here's a link that might come in handy - I spotted the ultimate urban legend, courtesy of the Urban Legends And Folklore site. When you get one of those stories by e-mail that defies credibility, send this back as a gentle reminder that this kind of flotsam and jetsam is old news by this time.|
June 13, 2000
|There's another buzzword that's worth your attention. Bluetooth is an emerging short-range radio technology that promises to let all kinds of electronic devices connect to each other - effortlessly, automatically, as soon as they come within range of each other. Your laptop/PDA/cell phone acquires an Internet connection automatically when you're within range of a company network - or maybe your laptop gets its connection from your cell phone. When you walk in the airport your cell phone automatically alerts you if your flight is delayed - and automatically alerts the gate that you're coming. Your laptop computer automatically connects to the nearest printer in the building you entered. Your Palm automatically connects to your desktop and syncs your calendar when you get back to your office. All the security and hardware-related negotiating is handled behind the scenes. The standard is the joint effort of 3Com, Ericsson, Intel, IBM, Lucent, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba. So far, some 1,900 manufacturers have signed on. They're all going to cooperate to make sure all your devices work together seamlessly, right? |
Well, maybe. It's a great picture, and it's already come further than some previous efforts. There's also the usual issues of corporate greed that might delay the rollout or throw it off track. (Did you know that DVDs were delayed for years by corporate infighting over who would control the "standard"?) And the hardware issues will probably be more thorny than predicted. We were supposed to live in a wonderful world of cooperative USB devices by now, after all.
In any case, you'll start seeing Bluetooth hype soon now, and you should pay attention. It might be the center of your life in two or three years. There's lots of articles being written in the industry publications. Here's a short one with some links to get you started.
|OUTLOOK E-MAIL SECURITY UPDATE|
June 9, 2000
|Microsoft released a security patch for Outlook that closes the holes exploited by the Melissa and I-Love-You viruses. It prevents e-mail from accessing a number of different types of file attachments - including .EXE programs. No more jokes/greeting cards/programs exchanged as a .EXE attachment. Outlook will warn you if a program is trying to access your Outlook Address Book or send e-mail messages on your behalf. There might be other side-effects that will cause other programs to have trouble reaching the Outlook Address Book. On the whole, this is a good thing for most people. If you're a power user who already uses safe practices with e-mail, it may be worth waiting a few days to see if any issues arise. Here's the Microsoft site where the patch can be downloaded.|
|COREL DEATH WATCH|
June 9, 2000
|Corel is engaging in massive cost-cutting in an effort to stay alive. It announced today that it is firing more than 20% of its employees. Here's an article with details.|
May 28, 2000
|In the past I've been enthusiastic about Paperport software for managing scanned documents. It comes with Visioneer scanners and can be purchased separately. A new version 7.0 was released a few days ago - you can purchase an upgrade ($29.99) or a full version ($59.99) here. But I've just read extensively about users' experiences with Paperport and compared it to my own experience in the last year. I'm going to stop using it and I can't recommend it any more. It's proven to be buggy and unstable far too often, and its future is cloudy. At this time, there's no product that does a good job of scanning documents, indexing them, and giving you flexible choices to work with the scanned images. The Paperport 7.0 upgrade is insignificant - Windows 2000 support, a few bugs fixed, almost no new features, and no serious attempt to deal with Paperport's limitations.|
|DOCUMENT AND CASE MANAGEMENT|
May 28, 2000
|Turnkey Computers does consulting for law offices back east. There's two articles on their web site that are worthwhile for any busy law office or small business. As files accumulate and it gets harder to find what you need, one option is expensive document management software; the first article discusses some real-world practices that might be more effective, and a heckuva lot cheaper. The second article on case management is specifically for lawyers wondering whether they would benefit from Amicus or Time Matters.|
|REALPLAYER & REALJUKEBOX UPDATE|
May 23, 2000
|The next generation of RealPlayer and RealJukebox has been introduced. Each one is available separately as "version 8," but RealNetworks is going to try to steer you to an integrated suite called Real Entertainment Center. Here's the Real Networks main page, with all the links for information and downloads. I'm going to wait before I upgrade. The new features sound like fluff - the NetZip Download Internet Manager is the feature discussed just below under its other name of Download Demon, and I don't want to start mucking around with Net2Phone, which is also integrated. There's an equalizer, and lights that bounce in time to the music. But no word yet on whether CD recording has been built-in, or whether the new version makes less of a hit on system resources, or whether they've fixed the frustrating limitation I just found that keeps RealJukebox from working with mono files. Not to mention that they're charging for an upgrade to the Plus package, even for previous purchasers of the Plus package. I'm thinking of switching over completely to Media Jukebox, to tell you the truth.|
|DOWNLOAD DEMON AND PRIVACY ISSUES|
May 19, 2000
|RealNetworks caused a ruckus when RealPlayer turned out to have a "Globally Unique Identifier" that could theoretically be used to track individual habits. Then it turned out that information was being transmitted to Real by their RealJukebox package, which caused a huge stink. You might think they would figure out how folks feel about their activities being monitored, even when the monitoring is theoretically anonymous. Their latest product is Download Demon, being bundled with other downloads from RealNetworks. The concept is fine - it attempts to automate various file downloading functions, to permit downloads to be interrupted and later resumed, and other related functionality. But its installation makes more changes than you're reasonably alerted to expect, and it has one other nasty habit - for all files you download, from *any* sites, the Demon sends details (e.g. file names and URLs) to RealNetworks (or its subsidiary, Netzip.com). I don't get excited about many privacy issues, but this stuff is starting to get on my nerves. Download Demon will be listed in Control Panel / Add-Remove Programs if you've installed it, and you might want to get rid of it. Watch for the "feature" to be scrapped. Here's an article with more details.|
|OUTLOOK E-MAIL SECURITY UPDATE|
May 17, 2000
|Microsoft has been rocked by the criticism leveled at Outlook for not "preventing" the LOVE_LETTER virus from spreading. It is readying an e-mail security update for Outlook 98 and 2000 that should NOT be installed without serious consideration of the consequences. The update restricts functionality that you may take for granted; you'll be safe, but you may not want to be this safe. Certain types of file attachments (.EXE files, for example) are completely blocked. If you want to exchange files of these types, you'll be forced to find some other way to do it - can't use e-mail. There's restrictions on access to the address book from external programs - which prevents starting a mail merge from Word, among other side effects. Once the update is installed, it can't be removed without wiping out and reinstalling the whole MS Office suite. Proceed with caution! Read an article summarizing the update, and then read Microsoft's description of the update.|
May 16, 2000
|WordPerfect loyalists should see Microsoft Word looming ominously close these days. Corel's stock has dropped 73% since February, and it's about to run out of money - its cash reserves are almost gone. Corel has lost unbelievable amounts of money on Windows software - the WordPerfect suite has lost virtually all of its market share, and its once-vaunted Corel Draw graphics package is fading fast. Corel's plans to become a player in the Linux arena don't seem to be generating any interest (or any money). Most recently Corel had planned to acquire Inprise/Borland and use its resources to try to scrape up a new business plan. Well, the Inprise/Borland deal was called off yesterday, dealing yet another blow to the battered company. Corel might survive, although it's looking dicey, but the last thing on its mind is keeping the Windows WordPerfect franchise viable. Okay, WordPerfect users, repeat after me: You can live without "Reveal Codes," you can live without "Reveal Codes" . . .|
May 16, 2000
|The recording industry is always interesting - primarily because they're incompetent so often. They've kept CD prices artificially high for years. The price-fixing became obvious enough that the FTC slapped the five major record companies around last week for illegal advertising programs that have cost consumers $500 million over the last three years. |
The execs at the record companies look on a wired world with fear and loathing, because they can't figure out how to make a buck if we don't have to go to the corner store to buy a CD. The answer could have been quick development of secure and standard methods of exchanging music online that preserve a revenue stream - but no, the industry missed that opportunity, and .MP3, free and unsecured, gained a commanding foothold as the standard music format. The answer could have been dropping CD prices so low that there's no incentive to cheat, like the movie industry did with videocassettes - but no, the most recent big-name releases have flirted with a higher price - $18.98 list for a single CD.
Instead, the recording industry decided to handle this threat in the classic American way: hire really expensive lawyers and sue the crap out of everybody. Will that work? Can the genie be put back in the bottle? Good lord, no, but they're having a fine old time. An early victory over www.mp3.com got them crowing to the press. Then they went after Napster.
Napster is sacred. It is the most interesting thing going on online, mark my words. Read about it and follow the stories. It facilitates finding music online and downloading it from other people's computerized music collections. It's wildly addictive and enormously popular. Messing with Napster is a fabulous way to alienate exactly the audience that the RIAA needs.
In an incomprehensible move, the rock band Metallica also sued Napster, complaining that people were trading Metallica songs without ponying up to the band. It hired a company to assemble the names of 300,000 Napster users that had Metallica songs exposed for the taking on Napster, and got those people booted from using Napster. (Stupid, stupid, stupid. I'll be amazed if Metallica's fan base doesn't evaporate overnight.) Here's a hilarious cartoon about the Metallica vs. Napster fight. The Onion also did its usual fine job of reporting on the controversy. The Onion also did its usual fine job of reporting on the controversy. its usual fine job of reporting on the controversy. The Onion also did its usual fine job of reporting on the controversy. The Onion also did its usual fine job of reporting on the controversy. The Onion also did its usual fine job of reporting on the controversy. The Onion also did its usual fine job of reporting on the controversy. The Onion also did its usual fine job of reporting on the controversy. The Onion also did its usual fine job of reporting on the controversy. The Onion also did its usual fine job of reporting on the controversy.
The RIAA won a crucial legal battle against Napster at an early stage; if the decision sticks, Napster might not survive. Will that be the end? Of course not. Because Napster runs through only a few central servers, it is an easy target for lawyers seeking to shut down the service or for those looking for individuals swapping files through the Napster software. New programs are being developed that do not rely on a central location, but are equally good are facilitating file searches and downloads. The best known is Gnutella, an open source project being worked on all over the world. Here's the home page for the Gnutella effort. Ironically, Gnutella was first developed by programmers affiliated with America Online. AOL pulled the plug when the word got out, but development continues at a fever pitch.
If you like music or you want to know what the fuss is about, download Napster. But don't blame me for the hours you'll spend downloading music illegally. <g>
|NORTON ANTIVIRUS UPDATE|
May 16, 2000
|An interesting announcement from Norton about a program update for Norton Antivirus 2000 for Windows 95/98. (Use LiveUpdate and choose the program update as well as the updated virus definitions.) It might explain a number of problems that have turned up occasionally in the last few months. Here's a few of the problems that are supposed to be fixed: |
May 16, 2000
|Almost everyone can send and receive e-mail in HTML format. If you're using Outlook or Outlook Express, you should be able to send and receive fully-formatted messages. If you're using older versions or other programs, or if your company's internal e-mail system is set up wrong, you may get plain messages with oddly-named attachments, or messages full of gibberish. If you're curious about whether HTML messages get to you correctly, send a blank message to HTML@wopr.com . You'll promptly be sent an HTML formatted message. If you can read it with images and colors, you're okay. If not, maybe it's time to do a little sniffing around to figure out why not. Free service - use as many times as you like.|
|AMERICA ONLINE 5.0: THE UPGRADE OF DEATH|
May 11, 2000
|I was surprised to find out that America Online does not currently have software that runs on Windows NT or Windows 2000. There's a beta test in progress, but I couldn't get any word on release plans. While I was looking around, though, I found a particularly good description of the technical problems caused by AOL 5.0. Don't use AOL! And if you must, be careful about installing the 5.0 software!|
May 11, 2000
|RealJukebox can't play Microsoft Windows Media .wma files, it sucks all the power from your system, and it won't burn CDs directly. (I love it anyway and use it constantly, by the way.) MusicMatch Jukebox does all those things, but its interface is a mess. I ran across Media Jukebox and it's an interesting alternative. It's free, it handles all different formats, and it can burn a CD from a playlist with a single click. Maybe not quite as polished around the edges, but I'm having a good time checking it out. It might be a keeper. Click here for more info.|
|"IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE COMMAND LINE," NEAL STEPHENSON|
May 7, 2000
|Neal Stephenson has written a short book that is highly recommended to anyone that wants some fascinating insights into Microsoft, Apple, Linux, and popular culture. It's not particularly technical; Stephenson discusses most things in general terms, using metaphors and real world examples. Click here for more info. There's a lot of things that stood out for me as insightful and interesting, even if I didn't always agree. I can't resist the urge to quote some short passages about Microsoft: |
Neal Stephenson, In the Beginning...Was the Command Line
May 7, 2000
|New version of WinZip is now final. Dowload WinZip 8.0 from here (1.2Mb), or click here for more info. Most of the changes don't seem important for most users, but there is one new feature that might come in handy. If you right-click a file in Windows Explorer, a new menu item allows you to create a compressed zip file, attach it to an e-mail message, and delete the zip file when you're done, all in one operation. Very slick.|
|OFFICE 2000 SAVE MY SETTINGS WIZARD|
April 12, 2000
|This may only affect a few people right now, but it gives you a glimpse of how the Internet connection will get more deeply embedded in our work routine. If you use Office 2000 and you've extensively customized program preferences and options, including custom dictionaries and custom templates as well as AutoCorrect and AutoFormat lists, then you can save those settings to a Microsoft server on the Internet and easily import them to a copy of Office 2000 running on a different computer. Click here for information about the Office 2000 Save My Settings Wizard.|
|WINDOWS 2000 UPDATE FOR OFFICE SR-1|
April 6, 2000
|Microsoft snuck out a hotfix for Windows 2000 that lets Office 2000 Service Release 1 run more smoothly on Win2K. Office 2000 SR-1 was issued with a number of known issues. According to testers, the Office team released only sporadic external builds and changed SR-1 in major ways after the last external build. As such, SR-1 wasn't tested comprehensively outside of Microsoft, so it should come as no surprise that this update is just as buggy as its predecessors. |
Indeed, within hours of the public release of Office 2000 SR-1, the company began receiving sporadic complaints from Win2K users for whom the installation of SR-1 broke the Office install. Symptoms include the inability to find new mail messages in Outlook 2000 or Outlook Express and to hotlink to documents or Web addresses from within Office documents. In addition, search abilities became inoperable. Add to that problem a bizarre SR-1 issue that affects Win2K users only: the SR-1 installation routine asks for the "SR-1 CD-ROM" even when the install is Web-based.
Both issues are apparently fixed with a Win2K hotfix that was added to Windows Update yesterday. So if you're running Win2K and you've installed or are considering installing Office 2000 SR-1, go to the Windows Update Web site and get the Recommended Update for Office 2000 SR-1 in Product Updates.
|INTERNET EXPLORER 5.5 BETA & NETSCAPE 6.0 PREVIEW RELEASE|
April 5, 2000
|Gosh, what a coincidence - Netscape released Netscape Navigator 6.0 Preview Release a couple of days after the Microsoft antitrust ruling. And in another remarkable coincidence, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 5.5 Beta 1 on the same day, which I'm sure will be characterized as anticompetitive and monopolistic and yucky. Oh, gosh! Netscape got mixed up on their numbers and skipped the number 5, so their browser has a higher number than Internet Explorer, so it must be better, right? Jeez. A pox on all their houses. |
If you use Internet Explorer 5.0, you've got a rich, remarkably stable piece of software. It's not broken. Don't do the beta.
If you still use Netscape's browser and e-mail package, you've been suffering bugs and inferior technology for quite a long time. Hating Microsoft is a fun sport and all, but by this time you're just being masochistic. I won't try to convince you to be assimilated. By all means upgrade your copy of Navigator with the 6.0 Preview - there's some mildly appealing things about it, and how much worse could it be than the endless procession of 4.x releases?
|ENFISH ONESPACE INFORMATION MANAGER|
April 3, 2000
|I'm about to test a beta release of Enfish Onespace, and I'm hoping for the best. It indexes e-mail and documents on your local computer, adds information obtained from the Internet, and presents it onscreen in an organized way that makes it possible to find information quickly. If I can click on a client's name and get a single view of e-mail, tasks, and documents, I will be a very happy camper indeed. Click here if you want to take a look. |
FOLLOWUP 4/6: Interesting product, but some beta bugs got in the way, and it didn't appear to be quite right for my needs. Keep an eye on it, though - it might be a good fit for many people, and it will evolve during testing, I'm sure.