CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Christmas Gift Guide
Tech Industry

Week in review: Google's ups and downs

The search giant's long-awaited public offering finally makes it to the street, but the search is still on for Microsoft's Windows update.

Google's long-awaited public offering finally made it to the street, but the search is still on for Microsoft's Windows update.

Shares of the Web search giant began trading Thursday on the Nasdaq stock exchange, gaining 18 percent the first day. The shares began the day at $100, traded as high as $104.06 and closed Thursday at $100.33. Google saw 6.5 million shares trade hands within the first 13 minutes of trading.

On Wednesday, Google set its long-awaited initial public offering at $85 a share, well below the company's original range of $108 to $135.

Google's decision to cut back its public offering represents a stinging rebuke for a deal once heralded as a surefire windfall not only for the company but for the technology industry at large.

In the eyes of many investors, Google had made a host of missteps before its IPO. With its unconventional Dutch auction offering, it alienated traditional bankers, who are used to taking the reins in setting the IPO price and marketing the deal to big institutional investors.

Despite the handicaps, Google and selling shareholders raised $1.66 billion--making the IPO among the largest in history.

XP, wherefore art thou?
Microsoft began sending out its latest major security patch to home PCs--but some people won't get it for a while. The first computer owners to get Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) began receiving it on Wednesday night. The update is being sent to those who have the automatic update feature turned on in the operating system. But it will take at least a few weeks to deliver the 80-plus megabyte patch to the installed user base.

Corporate users may have to wait longer, since Microsoft delayed distribution of SP2 via its auto update service by at least nine days in order to give companies more time to temporarily block automatic downloading of SP2 by their employees. The software maker notified customers of the decision in an e-mail on Sunday, one day before it had planned to make SP2 available through automatic distribution.

Microsoft said many big companies aren't ready to make the move and need more time to put in place tools to block automatic updates to SP2 until they can fully test their internal applications. SP2 now won't be available on auto update for users of Windows XP Professional Edition until Aug. 25 at the earliest.

The software giant also issued a list of nearly 50 software applications and games that may encounter problems with SP2, including several of the software maker's own products, along with various antivirus tools, Web server software applications and a handful of games.

Among the primary issues Microsoft highlights in the document are glitches tied to the relationship between the Windows firewall system, which is automatically turned on as a security default by SP2, and many of the listed programs. According to the document, the updated firewall may prevent computers from properly connecting to outside networks, limiting systems' abilities to effectively receive data.

Meanwhile, security researchers say they're starting to find flaws in SP2. A German security company has announced that two flaws could be used to circumvent the new warnings that SP2 normally would display about running untrusted programs, potentially giving a leg up to a would-be intruder's attempts to execute code on a victim's PC.

Music-swapping wars
RealNetworks has stepped up its music "war" on Apple Computer--with results it clearly didn't expect. For a limited time, RealNetworks will offer song downloads from its music store for 49 cents, along with half-price albums. A nationwide print, radio and Web marketing campaign will promote the offer, along with a Web site touting "freedom of choice" for online music consumers.

The high-profile digital music marketing campaign is intended to highlight RealNetworks' new iPod-compatible technology, which has swung the company into conflict with Apple. The campaign marks the second wave of publicity around the company's Harmony technology, which effectively re-created a version of Apple's proprietary copy-protection technology without permission. That has allowed RealNetworks to be the first non-Apple store that can distribute songs directly that are compatible with the iPod music player, despite strong protests from Apple.

Now the company has launched a petition to get music fans to support the company's open stance. But it didn?t work out quite as it might have hoped, after some people besieged the petition with obscenities and anti-RealNetworks postings.

RealNetworks isn't alone in ruffling Apple's feathers. A group of anonymous programmers released new software that allows music to be swapped via Apple's popular iTunes jukebox. Like an older piece of software called MyTunes, the newly released OurTunes allows a person to browse complete iTunes libraries on other computers and download songs, either in MP3 or the AAC format preferred by Apple.

Songs purchased from the iTunes music store and wrapped in Apple's copy-protection technology cannot be traded. OurTunes works only among computers that share a network, however. That means that students or employees can swap songs on a local network, but cannot use it to browse computers on the Internet, as happens with file-trading programs such as Kazaa. Still, the software is likely to ring an alarm at Apple and among record company executives, who have battled against file swapping since Napster's heyday.

That battle took another turn as a federal appeals court upheld a controversial court decision that said file-sharing software programs such as Grokster and Morpheus are legal. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles said peer-to-peer software developers were not liable for any copyright infringement committed by people using their products, as long as they had no direct ability to stop the acts.

The ruling means that companies that write and distribute peer-to-peer software can't be shut down because of the actions of their customers. It did not say file trading itself is legal, and lower courts in the United States have said individual computer users are breaking the law when they trade copyrighted files without permission.

Security concerns
Encryption circles are buzzing with news that mathematical functions embedded in common security applications have previously unknown weaknesses. The excitement began with an announcement that a French computer scientist had uncovered a flaw in a popular algorithm called MD5, often used with digital signatures. Then four Chinese researchers released a paper that reported a way to circumvent MD5 and other algorithms.

While their results are preliminary, these discoveries could eventually make it easier for intruders to insert undetectable back doors into computer code or to forge an electronic signature--unless a different, more secure algorithm is used.

Another concern was raised when researchers announced that an unpatched Windows PC connected to the Internet will last for only about 20 minutes on average before it's compromised by malware. That figure is down from around 40 minutes, the group's estimate in 2003.

The drop from 40 minutes to 20 minutes is worrisome because it means the average "survival time" is not long enough for a user to download the very patches that would protect a PC from Internet threats.

Also of note
More than one-fifth of U.S. science and engineering workers do not have a bachelor's degree, according to a new study...Wal-Mart Stores has begun selling a Wi-Fi notebook for less than $600, which analysts say could herald a laptop push by the retailer for the holiday season...Intel said it will not come out with a chip for making inexpensive large televisions this year and that it will rework the chip that has been in development for a later commercial release...Apple has filed a patent application for a computer with illuminable housing that contains a light device: diodes that emit red, green, blue and white light.