Potential Lost

According the to an analysis by a reporter at Washington Post over 77.8% or 284 days in 2006 Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) users on the Microsoft Windows OS platform was vulnerable to malware and exploits, which were designed to steal personal data off users’ computers.

In comparison FireFox browser was only vulnerable for 9 days in 2006 or 2.5% of the time.

Microsoft claims that IE7 is much more secure but when it released in November 2007, exploits and malwares were immediately available.

SANS Institute has a chart that list all currently unpatched Microsoft vulnerabilities.

So, if you want to be secure, move away from using Microsoft products. At least until Microsoft gets their act together.

BTW: this is not news as security vulnerabilities had existed in various Microsoft products for many years. The difference is that most technical people, who are not blindly sold by Microsoft marketing, had realized this for years.

Warning: Microsoft Word Flaw

To all Mac users who are using Microsoft Word that came with Microsoft Office v.X and Microsoft Office 2004.

A “zero-day vulnerability” had been found by the security advisories in all versions of Microsoft Office v.X and Microsoft Office 2004.

Microsoft themselves had also issued a Security Advisory for this vulnerability.

The current solution is not to open or save any MS Word documents from untrusted users.

My personal advise to all my Macintosh friends is not to use MS Word at all. This is because MS Word documents from trusted users may be unknowingly passing you a malformed MS Word document that is designed to take advantage of this vulnerability in MS Word.

There are paid and free alternatives to MS Office. To name a few: “Neo Office“, “OpenOffice” and Apple’s “Pages” that is part of the iWork suite, are all great alternatives.

The bottom line… I try not to use any Microsoft products whenever I can. As of now, close to 5 years now I had yet to use any Microsoft software on my Mac accept for testing purposes.

Another Attempt from Microsoft

Another attempt for Microsoft to further break the web sites around the world.

Before you start to call me an Apple bigot and start to bombard my Inbox with hate mail, please take the time and read my full article before posting any comments. That’s because as always I totally welcome comments from all my readers.

With the pending release of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7 (IE7), Microsoft has published a “warning” on the Microsoft Developer’s Network to web site developers.

Prior to deployment of IE 7, we strongly recommend that you test your Web sites, extensions, and applications to make sure they are ready. Microsoft recommends that Web sites and applications are ready for the release of Internet Explorer 7 this month.

Michael Calore of WIRED has a good article that points out how ridiculous Microsoft’s request is. In the same article there are also a few comments from WIRED readers that I too agree with. I will add my two cents worth here.

Being the largest software manufacture in the world, for many years Microsoft has enjoyed the benefits of the layman computer users’ ignorances of alternatives solutions. This fact of general acceptance through ignorance does not equate to an official Standards.

Instead, Microsoft should use this dominance to come right out and inform the layman end-users that past versions of IE have been flawed and non-compliant to the W3C Standards. With the release of IE7, Microsoft is starting to be W3C complaint and has yet to complete this transition.

Standards are set and outlined by Standards bodies. In the case of the web, W3C is the official accepted body, which Microsoft is part of, that outlines the behaviours of browsers for every element of a web page and beyond.

As Calore and others have said, IE7 is moving towards compliance to the W3C Standards, but this forthcoming release is well behind those of its competitors (Firefox, Safari, Mozilla and Opera) who had Standards compliant browsers for many years.

Microsoft’s insistence of web site developers add conditional codes to their respective sites to accommodate IE7 is absolutely unacceptable, especially for web sites developers who are already W3C Standards compliant. If IE7 complies to W3C Standards then these web sites will just work. The fact that these sites do not behave as expected in IE7 is 100% the fault of Microsoft.

I strongly believe that web site developers around the world should stick to the W3C Standards and use the W3C validators to ensure compliance. Especially for the larger and more popular sites: Digg.com, Del.icio.us, Flickr.com, YouTube.com, etc.

The web site developers who need to change their codes are the ones who are not yet W3C compliant. These developers had blindly follow the behaviours and interpretations of Internet Explorer (IE) and coded their sites to work with specific versions of IE for years. This sort of expectations and demand of the end-user is only acceptable in a controlled environment, as in within a corporate computer installation. Even in the latter case, web site developers should work towards the W3C compliance, since today’s leader can well come tomorrow’s loser.

So I hope that the introduction of IE7 will encourage more web site developers to be W3C compliant. Resulting in web sites and web applications that are truly platform, operating system (OS) and browser brands agnostic, which is my definition of what a true web enabled service should be.

Zune gets Social

Microsoft’s new Zune player is suppose to have community features. Not very unlike what I had described in my Blog, “The Next iPod“, on July 23, 2005.

Here is what I imagine the future can be if Apple implements what I suggested above.

  1. Your friend who wants to know what you’re listening to on your iPod or wants to share the music you have on your iPod. Will simply turn on the wireless connection s/he has on his own iPod, then using the built in “Bonjour” feature like that in iTunes, your friend will be able to locate your iPod and see the set of playlists you publish for others to view. S/he will be able either listen to the song you’re listening to or just choose among the songs you have published in the form of Playlists.
  2. With built in Bluetooth enabled on your iPod, your friend whom you want to share your headphone with, will just have to pair his/her bluetooth headset to your iPod and s/he will be able to listen to the song or audio track you’re listening to.

Where I layed out a very similar social community feature that Apple should add to their MP3 player. Is Microsoft reading my Blog?

read more | digg story

The IE7 Myth – is Microsoft shifting blame?

The article written by Steven Wittens infuriated me so much that I decided to Blog about the subject also.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not angry with what Steven had wrote. To the contrary, I totally agree with Steve in terms of Microsoft placing blame on the developers.

Sending out emails like these to developers/companies are just trying to support their own agenda of forcing everyone to switch out of IE 6 or earlier.

M$ is hoping that that switch, due to habit, will be IE 7, but as Steven had said these “CSS hacks” should not affect IE 7 if it was fixed correctly and fully compliant to the CSS standards.

Therefore, the fact that these pages are not displaying correctly in IE means that M$ may have corrected the CSS compliance issue, but they have missed out on the rest of the W3C standards for a browser.

So, my suggestion and wish is for all developers to do nothing to explicitly support IE 7, but rather continue to code to the W3C standards. So that more sites will break for the end-user, unless they are using one of the fully Standards compliant browser.

I personally think that M$ had been spoiled for too long. What I mean is that they had been the dominate player by default; end-users do not bother or care to install any other browser except the one that came with the computer they purchased or what was already installed with their OS. As a result of this unjustified dominance, M$ had slacked off and not correct issues/bugs that they should had fixed much quicker.

Therefore, if majority of the end-users cannot use majority of the Standards compliant web sites on the Internet, and these web sites clearly states the list of Standards compliant browsers that will work properly. M$ will be forced to finally stick to the Standards rather than forcing their own onto developers.

read more | digg story

The Real Story of Billy

Last night Bill Gates announced that he will start to involve less in the day-to-day activity as the Chief Software Architect for Microsoft. This transition will take 2 years before he leaves Microsoft totally.

Last year we saw Bill Gates steps down as the CEO of Microsoft and became the Chief Software Architect of Microsoft and now this departure announcement. Is Billy telling us something?

Some people like John Dvorak, feels that this recent announcement last night is not a big deal and will not affect the company’s operations or its stocks. But I have another theory.

Everyone knows that Microsoft had had some poor press this past 3 – 4 years. With “Longhorn”…. oops… I mean “Windows Vista” being delayed and delayed, year after year. Microsoft finally said that they WILL release Windows Vista this year, but earlier this year we found that the actual commercial wide release will not happen until January 2007, so another delay.

On top of delays, most of the original features that were announced when the code name was still “Longhorn”, had been removed or delayed to later releases.

They showed of the new Windows Vista at the Microsoft Developers’ conference earlier this year, but every feature they showed off were just features from the Mac OS X, which had existed for the past 4 years. Someone on the net even went as far as modifying the Microsoft presentation, to substitute slides of Windows Vista screen shots with Mac OS X screen shots, to proof his point.

Microsoft started to compete with Google and Yahoo, by copying Google and released a product that is similar to Google IG and Google Maps. They even copied Google’s approach and launched their products with the “Beta” label. I guess this is just in case people say that their products are no good. Microsoft would then have an excuse, and say “that the products are still in beta”.

Now with more any more people migrating away from Internet Explorer to FireFox and other standards compliant browsers. Microsoft finally announce their support for some of the W3C standards, but they do it in such a way that there are still Microsoft extensions to the Standards, hence the resulting behaviours are not what the developers would expect. So developers out there still have to condition their code so that it works in Internet Explorer.

All in all, I think that Microsoft had made some bad decisions lately, especially after Billy step down as the CEO. I am not sure if it is a coincident or is directly related to Billy’s lesser involvements with the company. Therefore, I think last night’s announcement should not be good news for any Windows fanboy. As everyone know, any innovation, if any in Microsoft, came mainly from Billy himself. The only exception is XBox 360, which had a very good User Interface design and over all user experience.

One possible reason for Billy’s departure, is that he is already too rich and he wants to focus on other things; like finding a cure for Malaria. He wants to disassociate himself from Microsoft before it ruin his own reputation.

I am sure my last statement will generate some opinions.

Microsoft’s Propaganda

As many of you may have heard, MTV had partnered with Microsoft to create yet another online music store called “Urge”.

This online store is based on Microsoft’s proprietary DRM software built into the Windows Media Player.

In the FAQ for Urge, there is a question:

Does URGE work with the iPod?

and the reply to the question is:

Music you download or purchase from URGE is in Windows Media Audio (WMA) format and protected by the Windows Digital Rights Management (DRM) software which is not compatible with the iPod. Apple has currently only made the iPod compatible with another format called AAC.

What a bunch of typical Microsoft marketing gibberish.

First of all they do not explain that Windows Digital Rights Management (DRM) software is made by Microsoft and hence is a Microsoft technology that Microsoft decides not to develop for the Macintosh OS platform. Calling it “not compatible” is not telling the readers the full story. Particularly for layman. This is yet another typical Microsoft marketing tactics to mislead the reader.

The other incorrect statement is about Apple’s technology.

The Apple iPod MP3 players uses Apple’s DRM technology called “FairPlay”. Both Windows DRM and Apple’s DRM (aka “FairPlay”) are proprietary technology from respective manufactures.

As for “AAC (Advanced Audio Coding)” is the audio encoding format that music purchased from Apple’s iTunes Music Store (iTMS) is encoded in. The AAC format is part of the open (“standard body accepted”) format that is part of MPEG-2 Part 7 specification. The AAC format is also adapted by many other MP3 player manufactures (Sony for example) as the preferred format, and is an accepted international standard by the MPEG group.

Contrary to what Microsoft uses, its WMA (Windows Media Audio) format is a proprietary compressed audio file format developed by Microsoft.

The fact that the music purchased from the Apple’s iTMS is encoded in AAC format does not mean that it is incompatible with any other MP3 players other than iPod. The thing that makes these music not playable on other MP3 players except for the Apple iPod is the “FairPlay” DRM that Apple use to protect these purchased music.

So, please be an educated reader. Do not believe totally what you read; including this article. Look into what the author say and make your own decision when you have all the information.

As usual I have provided independent references here in my article to assist you in understanding what I have wrote.

Who is the New Evil Empire?

In the past year I had signed up for services that are now no longer independent.

First it was Blogger which was purchased by Google.

Next it was Skype, which everyone knows was purchased by eBay. I personally feel that the future of Skype is numbered with eBay at the helm.

A few months ago Flickr was purchased by Yahoo. Like Skype I hope Flickr will not be destroyed by Yahoo.

Today the creator, of Upcoming announced on his blog that it will be purchased by Yahoo.

What is happening? Is everything I signup for going to be gobble up by the big guys?

There are many who thinks of Microsoft as the evil empire who tries to take over the world from the technology perspective.

Others who falls into this category are: Starbucks, Disney and Virgin. Although these other three are not as commonly regarded as Mr. Gates’ company.

At least for the software industry there are new kid(s) on the block trying to take the title from Microsoft; namely Google.

Although I cannot totally disagree with the critics about their new label for Google. I personally do not have as much dislike for Google as I have for Microsoft. I like Google, except for their recent decisions to keep releasing services that are platform specific (Windows). Rather than developing service that are based on Open Standards, which is what the Internet is.

Will the new “Evil Empire” be Google or Yahoo. I guess we will soon know.

Switch Or Not To Switch

About 3 years ago Apple Computers began an advertising campaign and section of their web site; “Switch” dedicated to the Windows users who recently switched to the Macintosh platform, or as Apple puts it “seen the light”. The just of the campaign was just to share the stories and experience of prior Windows users who recently switched to the Macintosh platform.

With PDAs there had been a similar migration, but from Palm OS to Windows Pocket PC, but the stories and experience is not as favorable for Microsoft.

I recently was speaking to one such PDA user who switched from a Palm device to a HP iPaq. One important thing is that this individual had been a happy Palm user for many years and the only reason she is using an iPaq is because her previous Palm died on her, and her (non-technical) boyfriend decided to buy her a replacement, but bought her in stead a HP iPaq.

For a layman average PDA user, the iPaq and more specifically the Windows Pocket PC is not as easy to use and more complex compared to the Palm OS. After a few months use of the iPaq she is now fallen back to use Post-It Notes. It got to a point where she has Post-It Notes stuck to the back of the iPaq. Now that is ironic. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me otherwise I would have a picture of it here.

This individual has decided that she will purchase a new Palm device very soon.

So as you can see forcing people to switch is not the right approach. Apple and Steve Jobs had the right idea. Steve always thought that his company has good products and they will just speak for itself. So he and his company just concentrate on developing amazing revolutionary products.