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Week in review: Of mice and Microsoft

Apple introduces the Mighty Mouse, while Microsoft deals with security issues and shops at Wal-Mart for a new exec.

Apple Computer broke with longstanding tradition this week by introducing its first multibutton mouse for the Mac, while Microsoft has been busy working through security issues and shopping for new execs at Wal-Mart.

Dubbed Mighty Mouse, Apple's new $49 pointer has a 360-degree scroll wheel and can be programmed to recognize a click on either the left or right side. For Apple purists, it can also act as a single-button mouse.

Multibutton mice have been standard on Windows PCs for years, and even the Mac OS has long recognized a right click. However, the company has stuck by its single-button design, refining it and adding a Bluetooth wireless version, but maintaining only a single-click option.

Of the dozens of CNET readers who offered feedback to this story, some were Apple fans heralding the mouse as an innovative new pointing device and lauding the "stroke of genius" from CEO Steve Jobs. Others, however, took a more facetious tone.

"Apple certainly is on the forefront of new and innovative technology!" wrote David Arbogast. "How long will it be before the PC industry 'steals' this amazing new idea?"

Reader "Fray Fray" defended the new mouse, writing that "actually it is something pretty new. I know I've never seen much less heard of a mouse with a built in mini-trackball and touch sensitive buttons."

Meanwhile, Apple fans are upset over a security chip found in a special x86-based PowerMac--a chip designed to prevent people from loading the company's new Intel-centered OS onto non-Apple machines.

Apple supplied the Intel-fitted PowerMac to members of its Apple Developer Connection, a group for software programmers. The PowerMac includes a microcontroller known as the Trusted Platform Module--TPM for short--that contains a digital signature necessary in order to install the Mac OS X operating system onto the box.

Speaking of security
Virus writers are targeting a new Microsoft tool that will be part of Windows and is set to ship as part of the next Exchange e-mail server release.

A virus writer has published the first examples of malicious code that targets Microsoft's upcoming command-line shell, code-named Monad, according to Finnish antivirus maker F-Secure.

The tool was initially intended to be included in Vista. When news of the exploits came out, it triggered reports that they would be the first viruses for Windows Vista. But later Friday Microsoft clarified that the Monad viruses will not affect the client version of the operating system update, formerly known as Longhorn.

Readers quickly started offering feedback on this late-breaking story. Some, like Rob Rodriguez, wondered, "Since when is it the responsibility of the OS vendor to protect the user from viruses? It would be an impossible task to create an OS where it was simple impossible to create viruses. You would have a completely useless environment."

But Carl Johnson called some readers "dysfunctional and codependent apologists" and said the problem lies with the way Windows is written.

To help make its software more watertight, Microsoft wants its "Blue Hat" date with hackers to become a regular affair, with twice-yearly events where outsiders demonstrate flaws in Microsoft's product security.

In March, Microsoft invited several hackers to its Redmond, Wash., headquarters for the first time. The two-day meeting of Microsoft insiders with independent researchers provided each side with a glimpse into the other's world.

Cisco Systems' customers received e-mails this week from the networking company advising them of a security breach of its Web site.

The company said has been compromised and that customers need to change their passwords. The company also stressed on its site that the incident appears unrelated to flaws in Cisco products.

More news from Redmond
Microsoft appears to be moving toward accepting Web browser standards long supported by advocates such as the Web Standards Project.

Web authors, who have spent inordinate amounts of time coding Web pages specifically to accommodate Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, say that a Microsoft shift toward standards will mean they spend far less time and money developing work-arounds to accommodate IE, and the Web as a whole will grow more quickly.

That news followed word that Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 7 browser won't pass a stringent standards test that rivals have embraced.

In its browser blog, Microsoft acknowledged that IE 7 would not pass the Web Standards Project's Acid2 test, which examines a browser's support for W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) recommendations including CSS1 (Cascading Style Sheets), HTML4 and PNG (Portable Network Graphics).

On the personnel front, Microsoft Thursday named a Wal-Mart Stores executive to serve as its chief operating officer, a role that has not been separated out at the software maker for some time.

The software maker hired Kevin Turner to fill that post, in which he will oversee sales, marketing and other aspects of the company's functional units. Product units will continue to report up to CEO Steve Ballmer. Turner, who is 40, has been serving as CEO of Wal-Mart's Sam's Club warehouse unit. Before that, he was Wal-Mart's chief information officer.

In a hotly contested hiring, court documents unsealed this week showed that when it hired Kai-Fu Lee away from Microsoft, Google anticipated the prospect of legal wrangling with its rival. Google in fact had devised a Plan B for Lee--12 months of paid leave in the event the executive is barred from working at the search giant because of a noncompete clause with his former employer.

Orbital maneuvers
And out of this world--some 250 miles above the surface of the Earth--it's been an eventful week for the space shuttle Discovery.

Space is the place
The meeting of shuttle and space
station has been as much photo op
as scientific adventure. Here's
a look at the journey:
Preparing for lift-off (July 13, 2005)
Shuttle heads for space station
(July 27, 2005)

Rendezvous in space
(July 28, 2005)

All's well with shuttle repairs
(Aug. 3, 2005)

On Wednesday, astronaut Steve Robinson plucked a couple of loose fiber strips from Discovery's belly in an unprecedented repair to the shuttle's heat shield. But despite concerns about a mysteriously damaged thermal blanket outside a cabin window, NASA decided Thursday to forgo another handyman's spacewalk ahead of the shuttle's return flight Monday.

In the meantime, Commander Eileen Collins said her team had seen widespread environmental destruction on Earth and warned that greater care was needed to protect natural resources.

Also of note
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told analysts Thursday that Microsoft is planning new, higher-priced versions of both Windows and Office in the coming years as part of its effort to grow sales...Researchers say bacteria living 2.3 billion years ago could have put the planet into a deep freeze...Some broadband users complain that upload capacities haven't kept pace with their needs. Broadband providers say current demand for faster upload capacity isn't significant. But there are indications that could change in the near future, especially as more and more mainstream customers use the Internet to send large files such as photos and videos...Hoping to take a bite out of Apple's iPod bounty, Creative Technologies began seeding orders for its next-generation music and video player.