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Tech Industry

Week in review: Tech conflicts

As the battle for Baghdad heats up, the Web and the wireless industry find themselves in the combat zone.

As the battle for Baghdad heats up, the Web and the wireless industry find themselves in the combat zone.

An online vandal apparently hijacked the Arabic and English domains of the controversial Al Jazeera Web site, replacing the home page with an American flag and a pro-U.S. message. The actual defacement appeared on a free Web site service provided by NetWorld Connections. Technically known as a "redirect," the hack redirected Web browsers that attempted to go to the sites to the content hosted on NetWorld's servers.

"We pulled down the content immediately," NetWorld's CEO said. He added that VeriSign, which administers the domain registry, eliminated the redirect later in the morning. "They never even touched (Al Jazeera's) site," he said.

Al Jazeera has had to contend with both technical problems and attacks this entire week. The Arab satellite TV network launched its English-language Web site on Monday, attracting significant media coverage. The site hosts the station's controversial video coverage, which has included images of U.S. soldiers killed and being taken prisoner.

With the battle for Baghdad still raging, a congressmen who represents the corner of California where wireless Qualcomm's headquarters is located believes that company's technology must be used in Iraq's post-war cell phone system. Rep. Darrell Issa (Global System for Mobile Communications)--a cellular technology used in many European nations and to a lesser extent in the United States--from being considered in the rebuilding of Iraq.

"If U.S. taxpayers are going to be gifting billions of dollars in technology and infrastructure to the Iraqi people, we ought to make sure, to the greatest extent possible, that those expenditures also benefit the American people and the American economy," Issa said.

Putting the heat on spam
The battle over spam heated up too, as a federal appeals court ruled that a law restricting junk faxes was constitutional, setting a precedent that favors legal attempts to restrict unsolicited e-mail. The court reversed a lower court's ruling, concluding that a 1991 federal law banning unsolicited fax advertising did not violate the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of expression.

The ruling cheered antispam activists, who hope that court's reasoning with regard to the fax law will apply equally to similarly crafted curbs on unsolicited e-mail ads. That could pave the way for federal antispam legislation, which has been delayed in part because of concerns over potential First Amendment issues, among other things.

But spam foes are looking at more than just the precedent the decision sets for laws tailored to curbing spam. They are also re-examining the possibility of applying the fax law in suits against senders of spam, or unsolicited commercial e-mail, an approach that has had mixed success in the courts so far.

Microsoft's MSN Hotmail, a free Web-based e-mail service, has tightened restrictions on daily outbound messages sent by subscribers, a tactic it says will help curb spam. Hotmail subscribers are now limited to sending only 100 messages a day "in an effort to prevent spammers from using Hotmail to spread spam," a Microsoft representative said.

The change is expected to affect only about 1 percent of its nearly 110 million worldwide users, based on historical usage data. As effective as it can be to trip up potential spammers, it can also occasionally frustrate legitimate mailers.

Microsoft moves
In a sign of growing discord over Web services guidelines, Microsoft has pulled out of a key Web services standards working group. Microsoft has further increased the the rancor by dropping out of a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) working group focused on establishing rules for how businesses will send and receive data to one another via Web services.

Over the past month, IBM and Microsoft have been at odds with other companies about standards submissions, including a high-profile effort within the Web's leading standards organization. The company withdrew from the W3C's so-called choreography group because it determined that the scope of the group did not align well with the work of two Microsoft researchers who attended the initial meeting.

Moving in another direction, Microsoft announced that Windows Server 2003 has completed testing and has been certified final, or gold, code. Release to manufacturing(RTM) of the high-end operating system code clears the way for next month's product launch event in San Francisco. It also means that computer manufacturers can begin selling systems with the software.

The OS may show up in servers very soon, as Microsoft's practice has been to let computer makers ship systems with a new operating system ahead of the official launch date. RTM closes only the first chapter in a long release cycle. Microsoft plans to release several more major Windows Server 2003 components during the next six months or so.

Bold new worlds
Dell Computer is making its first foray into the printer business with four of its own models for consumers and businesses. The PC manufacturer is touting aggressive prices as well as free shipping for printer accessories and recycling for customers' old printers.

The first models to come out of the company's new printing and imaging business will comprise a color inkjet and a monochrome laser printer for homes and small businesses, and two monochrome laser printers for businesses. The inkjet, which can print, scan, fax and copy documents, will sell for $139; the monochrome laser printer for small businesses will be priced at $289.

It isn't exactly Rosey the Robot of TV's "The Jetsons" fame, but frazzled working families could soon have some techie help in their kitchen, thanks to a new test project by a group of companies that includes Hewlett-Packard and IBM. The Internet Home Alliance, a group hoping to expand the market for funky connected devices into the home, is set to unveil a prototype of a Web-connected kitchen that lets people control their appliances remotely.

People testing the connected kitchen will be able to program the oven to refrigerate and then cook a meal so that it's ready at dinner time. If they're running late, they can adjust cooking times via an Internet or cell phone connection. And they can turn off the oven from a cell phone and search the Web for recipes, which can then be printed.

Also of note
A Venezuelan security consultant has released a small program designed to compromise Microsoft Internet Information Service servers that haven't had a recent security hole patched?Apple Computer has terminated a program that gave some developers access to the latest test versions of its Safari browser, after some testers apparently leaked several prereleases to the public?America Online is expected to announce that it will replace RealNetworks with Dolby as the default audio-streaming technology for its narrowband Net radio service, according to Dolby?The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to ban pornographic Internet sites with misleading addresses and computer-generated child pornography?Notebook PCs claimed a larger portion of computer sales during 2002, continuing a four-year run of increases in unit shipments.