Week in review: Can Google keep a secret?

Google hasn't had much luck keeping secrets lately, and now it looks like feds will pry loose more info.

Google hasn't had much luck keeping secrets lately.

In the past couple weeks, Google has admitted erring when it posted on its Web site internal projections not meant for the public. Around the same time, company documents that were mistakenly released on the Web revealed that Google is preparing to offer online storage to Web users.

Now the Web search giant has partially lost a case it was trying very hard to win. Late Friday, a federal judge granted part of the Department of Justice's request for excerpts from the search giant's massive database.

U.S. District Judge James Ware said Google must hand over a random sampling of 50,000 URLs accessed by its search engine but said users' search terms were off-limits to government prosecutors.

Ware said the government demonstrated a "substantial need" for Google's random URL sample, which it plans to run through filtering software to test the software's antipornography prowess as the government prepares to defend a child-protection law in court. But the DOJ did not meet that standard regarding search queries, Ware said.

The ruling was in line with comments Ware made at a hearing Tuesday. At that time, CNET News.com readers lamented Ware's stance as a threat to constitutional rights, but one reader, David Arbogast, raised an interesting point in CNET's TalkBack forum.

"When you click on a Google link, you give more information to the Web host than the government is requesting from Google right now," he wrote. "Voluntarily."

But it wasn't all bad news for Google in the courtroom. A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a writer who claimed that the search giant infringed on his copyright by archiving a Usenet posting of his and providing excerpts from his Web site in search results.

The lawsuit was filed by Gordon Roy Parker, also known as Ray Gordon, who publishes his writings under the business name of Snodgrass Publishing Group. Parker also posted a chapter of one of his e-books on the Usenet bulletin board network, a collection of thousands of discussion forums called newsgroups.

In his 2004 lawsuit against Google, Parker alleged that the search giant violated copyright law by automatically archiving a copy of his posting on Usenet and by providing excerpts from his Web site in search results. However, the court ruled that under case law, Google's activities, akin to those of an Internet service provider, do not constitute infringement.

A look at Vista
As Microsoft puts the finishing touches on Vista, information is trickling out on how the next operating system will be sold and what we can expect it to do.

Microsoft is building into the new operating system a tool that will rate a PC based on how well it is running and on how much it can take advantage of Vista's capabilities. The "Windows Performance Rating," which can be seen in the latest test version of the operating system, evaluates components such as the processor, the memory, the hard drive and graphics cards to come up with an overall score.

The rating appears in a large blue circle and can be seen in multiple places in the operating system, though Microsoft has said little about what, exactly, the rating signifies. The main rating is on a scale of 1 to 5, but individual components are also given a "sub rating" on some other, unspecified range.

Microsoft is readying a second tool, currently called the Windows Upgrade Advisor, that will take a look at a PC and recommend performance enhancements that will help run Vista better. The tool is most likely to recommend more memory or an improved graphics card.

The operating system is being designed to shut the door on spyware as it exists today. Vista introduces important changes at the heart of the operating system, as well as to Internet Explorer, and includes Windows Defender, an anti-spyware tool.

Microsoft is taking a multipronged approach to fighting spyware. Unlike Windows XP, Windows Vista will run with fewer user privileges. Users will have to invoke full "administrator" privileges to perform tasks such as installing an application.

Also, Internet Explorer will prevent silent installations of malicious code by stopping the browser from writing data anywhere except in a temporary-files folder without first seeking permission. Lastly, Windows Defender will block and clean up any infections that do make it through.

Vista isn't the only big product coming out this year, and Microsoft is planning to spend $500 million in 2006 to promote upcoming products designed to make business workers more productive, CEO Steve Ballmer said. Software due to arrive over the next year will cater to information workers in corporations, he said.

Microsoft is also releasing a suite of Office 2007 products by the end of the year. In addition, the company is getting ready to launch an expanded communications product line around its Exchange e-mail server software.

Inside Apple
A Macintosh enthusiast has apparently managed to load Windows XP on an Intel Mac, nabbing a prize of almost $14,000. The contest, which has been running since just after Apple Computer announced the first Intel-based Macs, collected donations from individuals and companies to raise the prize money.

Although both Macs and Windows PCs now use Intel chips, the task of loading Windows on the Intel Macs has proved more complicated,

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