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Week in review: Windows cracks

Microsoft reveals some of its coveted Windows source code, but a backdoor leak at the software maker releases a different type of code that is sure to please pirates.

Microsoft revealed some of its coveted Windows source code as part of an effort to stave off open-source competitors, but a backdoor leak at the software maker released a different type of code that is sure to please pirates.

A key code for installing Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 leaked onto the Internet, a loss that could lead to widespread piracy of the software. Microsoft confirmed the leak and said it was investigating the matter.

The leaked code appears to be from a Microsoft corporate customer that subscribes to one of the company's volume-licensing programs. The Microsoft representative made clear that the company will scour the Internet looking for the leaked code. "Our legal department works aggressively on that kind of thing," the representative said.

In a more planned and controlled release, Microsoft plans to let device makers modify more of the source code of its specialized Windows CE operating system. But some say the company's licensing terms could kill interest in the plan.

The expanded "shared source" program will give manufacturers access to the operating system's source code and an opportunity to modify it. But analysts argue that manufacturers already had access to the source code and the ability to modify it. Under the terms, manufacturers could be compelled to license some changes back to Microsoft, which would get those changes without paying royalties.

Microsoft also warned of three flaws affecting its software, the most serious of which would allow an attacker to gain full control of a PC using Java applets. The warnings are related to the Microsoft Virtual Machine for running Java applets on Windows; a cross-site scripting bug in a component of Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0; and a denial-of-service bug affecting Proxy Server 2.0 and ISA Server.

The Virtual Machine flaw is the most serious, meriting a "critical" rating from Microsoft. This malicious applet, which could be delivered via a Web page or an e-mail, could allow the attacker to run code on the PC, doing anything from erasing the hard drive to implanting a "back door" leaving the machine vulnerable to future attacks.

IM goes to the office
As instant messaging popularity grows in the workplace, many enterprise software companies are trying to sell IM services that include more features for corporate IT management.

Sun Microsystems released a new version of its enterprise business-oriented instant messaging software as part of an overall unveiling of a communications software package. Called the Sun Open Network Environment (Sun ONE) Collaborative Business Platform, the product combines e-mail and calendaring with Sun ONE Instant Messaging 6.0, the latest version of its enterprise IM software that includes security, wireless access, search and archiving features.

Microsoft turned up the heat by announcing that its Greenwich software will be renamed Microsoft Real Time Communications Server 2003, which it plans to roll out in the first half of the third quarter. The new moniker describes the company's intent to provide real-time communications functions for the enterprise.

Microsoft has said that future versions of the software will offer Internet phone calling, video conferencing and e-mail. The company believes that the Real Time Communications Server can manage all of these features for companies, while allowing developers to write software to run on top of Microsoft's product.

Yahoo, on the other hand, is trying to maintain the status quo, and is tapping its millions of IM users in hopes of ending what it says is a trend among corporate technology managers to ban the popular product at work.

The Web portal's "Save Smiley" campaign which launched in certain areas of Yahoo, asks users to inform Yahoo if a company has blocked instant messaging in the workplace. The Web giant plans to then approach these companies and to try to sell its enterprise IM service to their information technology departments.

Apple cuts
Dell Computer stopped selling Apple Computer's iPod music player after only six months, bringing to an end an unusual marriage of marketing convenience. Meanwhile, the 5GB iPod is fading further into the sunset. Dell started selling the iPod last October through its online store, which carries a variety of products from third-party manufacturers and developers as a way to round out its product lineup.

The iPod relationship ended at the beginning of the month. A Dell representative said the company was "currently not authorized to sell iPods. You currently cannot buy an iPod from us." Sources said the change came about because of alterations to Apple's reseller contract.

It looks as though Dell wasn't alone, either. A number of Apple's resellers are no longer authorized to sell Macs as of April 1, following a shake-up that occurred during the company's annual renewal process.

Apple declined to provide a list of all of the resellers that are no longer authorized, but said that the dealers that were not renewed accounted for less than 1.5 percent of sales last year. Some of the dealers affected said they were unhappy with new clauses inserted by Apple into its contract, including one that gave Apple the right to inspect its resellers' business records even after a dealer was no longer selling the company's products.

Apple also lowered the price of its eMac to $699, but for most consumers the new price may prove strictly academic. That's because the price cut, which went into effect last week, applies only to customers at Apple's education store.

Individuals who claim an affiliation with a school, such as students and teachers, can get an eMac for $779, while those purchasing the all-in-one computers on behalf of a school can get them for $699. Education pricing for the eMac used to start at $849 for institutional buyers, according to Apple. http://news.com.com/2100-1042-996194.html?tag=nl

In the chips
Microsoft is betting on two horses in the 64-bit processor race. The software giant plans to deliver two specialized versions of Windows for Advanced Micro Devices' forthcoming 64-bit processors--much as it did for Intel.

In March, Microsoft released both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 to PC manufacturers for Intel chips, including the Xeon and Itanium 2. It also released a 64-bit version of Windows XP for Itanium 2 workstations. Now Microsoft will offer a 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003 for AMD's Opteron server chip.

Sun will likely adopt Opteron as it extends into new branches of the server market. Sun has been testing the forthcoming Opteron chip for servers in its labs, and has found interest for the chip among customers.

One executive said the chip, which comes out April 22, would probably end up in a Sun product. "Can we commit to using Opteron today? No. Can we use it? Are we likely to use it? Yes." The probable endorsement from Sun is one of the strongest yet for the upcoming chip.

Intel and Via Technologies settled all of the lawsuits pending between them and entered into an agreement that will let Via manufacture processors and chipsets and let Intel collect royalties. The settlement--which involves 11 cases filed in five countries--will essentially make it far easier for Via to sell processors and chipsets to PC makers.

Intel claimed that the Taiwanese company's products infringed on its intellectual property and that Via did not have a valid patent license to make them. Under patent law, any PC maker that used Via's chips could have been sued on the same ground.

Also of note
Worldwide sales of music CDs, records and cassettes fell for the third year in a row, hit largely by rising Internet piracy in the United States, according to an international recording industry group...War protesters targeting U.S. companies are moving beyond familiar consumer brands like McDonald's and Coca-Cola and are adding names like IBM, Dell Computer and Motorola to the list...Two U.S. senators intend to introduce legislation that would fund research on how exposure to different forms of media affects children...Children using Google's SafeSearch feature, designed to filter out links to Web sites with adult content, may be shielded from far more than their parents ever intended, including sites created by the White House, IBM, the American Library Association and clothing company Liz Claiborne...Lewd e-mail promoting pornography may soon pose more than just a technical challenge in the ongoing fight against spam--experts say it's set to become an acute legal problem, too.