Tag Archives: Windows 2000

Anti-virus Vendor, Er, Hacked. Serves Up, Er, Viruses

The Japanese arm of antivirus vendor Trend Micro has announced its website had been hacked and its pages modified to service up viruses. In other words, if someone had visited their website chances are they’d have picked up a virus.

Not the sort of thing you expect from an antivirus manufacturer, and they’re not being very forthcoming about it, either. While the company has announced that some of their website pages are found to be modified from March 9th to 12th, this is so far only in Japanese, according to asiajin. And that was yesterday. Nothing on their U.S. website yet.

Gen Kanai suggests it was because the company is using Windows 2000, and rips into TrendMicro both for the length of the breach and the lack of transparency: “If a security services/software firm can’t keep their own web servers secured, and left their own hacked website up for 3 days, there’s no logical reason to expect that their own security services are any better.”

Not very reassuring. I’ve often recommended HouseCall but until this is sorted out and Trend Micro comes clean about this, I’m steering clear.

Does IE7 Herald The Death of Windows 98 and 2000?

You may have read that Microsoft has launched a beta version of its browser, Internet Explorer 7. An aspect of this that seems to have not received widespread publicity is the fact that with IE 7, Microsoft has effectively killed off Windows 98 and Windows 2000.

In an interview with eWeek, Gytis Barzdukas, director of product management in Microsoft’s security business technology, says: “When we do all this engineering work, the architecture is changed significantly. In some cases, it’s more expedient for customers to just move to a new operating system where the enhancements are easier to deploy.” Ah. So that’s all we have to do?

Of course, it’s not the first time that folk still using Windows 98 have been left out. Windows 98 has not been supported by Microsoft since June 2002; ‘hotfixes’ — vital software patches, usually security-related — have not been provided since June 2003. The Windows 98 homepage has not been updated since October 2002, and the ‘Still Using Windows 98?’ tip page hasn’t seen a revision since September 2000.

So how many Windows 98 users are there out there? One poster to a Firefox forum reckoned between 20–30% of users, while a survey by AssetMatrix recently concluded that Windows 2000 “still accounts for nearly half of all Windows-based business desktops”, according to ZDNet.

This is always a tough one for Microsoft. It’s easy enough with physical products because there’s not much more you can do to support them, except fix them if they’re broken. With individual software products you could provide upgrades and fixes until a new version comes along but the choice for the consumer is clearer: Stick with an old version of Office if you are happy with the features, and the only thing Microsoft can think of to get back at you is call you a dinosaur (“Ouch! That hurt!”). Most programs have too many features, anyway, so the lure of more features isn’t that much of a lure for most people.

But operating systems — and any software that interacts with the Web and so needs security features — are different. Stop adding fixes and features and the software is effectively useless for the customer. So by not making IE available to Windows 2000 and 98 users, those folk are stuck. Unless of course they move over to Firefox or Opera. And what happens if they stick with IE 6? The first security vulnerability to come along is going to hit the most vulnerable bunch of people — folk who, for one reason or another, are quite happy with their Windows 98 computer.

Another Explorer Replacement

When you’re not looking all these new things start popping up. Further to my post on Directory Opus, here’s another option for file managers: the exotically named A43 File Management from BG’s Home. And it’s free.

Version 2.40 works with Windows 2000/XP. It offers the following:

  • Integrated text editor.
  • Integrated zip/unzip features.
  • Integrated file search.
  • Integrated quick launch area.
  • Favorite buttons to quickly open those often used folders.
  • Dual-pane view.
  • Requires no installation, no data is written to the system registry.

Definitely worth a look. Don’t know much about the person behind, other than they’re called B G Miller.

Get With The Process

Johan Malmberg of Uniblue Systems, makers of Windows system utility WinTasks, tells me they’ve launched a new site, www.processlibrary.com, which is “a free service site that provides the user with detailed information about every common process. In the recesses of most computers, 20-30 invisible processes run silently in the background. To know what every process is doing is the best way to ensure that the system is clean from adwares, spyware, viruses, trojans and other unwanted processes.” Processes, by the way, are programs but may not be visible unless you look under the hood of what is going on. They could be a print spooler or some other system widget.

The website is a good place to start if you think there’s something weird going on in your computer and you’re not sure what it is. If you’re using XP or Windows 2000, hit Ctrl-Alt-Del, then the Task Manager button, the Processes tab, and take a look at the list of processes, or ‘Images’, in the column. There will be quite a few odd-sounding names, but if anything jumps out at you — or is sucking up lots of memory (‘Mem Usage’) or chip power (‘CPU’) then jot down its name and enter it into the search field in the ProcessLibrary.

If it comes back and tells you have a nasty on your computer then you should set about removing it.

Software: PaperMaster Pro – worth the wait?

 It’s been nearly five years some folk have been waiting, but it looks like PaperMaster, a great program for scanning and organizing your paperwork, is back.
 
PaperMaster is back
PaperMaster — the last full version was 98, to give you some idea how long this software’s been hibernating — was pretty good. It look liked a filing cabinet, and let you scan and store more or less anything you could squeeze through your scanner. The company was sold to j2, which is basically an Internet faxing service and which were very, very quiet about the software until last year, when in response to public interest (well me, and a couple of other people) they released PaperMaster2002, an upgrade for existing licensed users of PaperMaster98 “who have migrated or are planning to migrate to the Microsoft® Windows 2000, XP, or ME operating system”.
 
That version wasn’t cheap — $150 — and didn’t do much apart from resolve a few of the features of PaperMaster98 that wouldn’t work under XP (unless you happened to stumble across some tweaks that fans had posted to websites). Earlier this year, when I complained about the cost of what was basically a minor upgrade, j2 told me “the PaperMaster upgrade was completed primarily for a few select users who were figuratively beating down j2 Global’s door to get the new product. The cost of the upgrade was a result of j2 Global investing significant resources to complete an upgrade designed for limited distribution. Based on customer response, j2 Global’s PaperMaster users seem to be fine with the price”. Not what I heard, but there you go.
 
Anyway, Pro is here. Nearly. You can pre-order and get 15% off the retail price of $199 (once again, not cheap). Still, it sounds as if it has some serious features
  •    Create PDFs from any office application or scan
  •    Organize fast and easy
  •    Find anything in seconds
  •    Get powerful OCR – Never re-type any document
  •    Fax easier via the Internet with built-in eFax®
All of which sound useful. I’ll review it once I’ve got hold of a copy. Earlier release date was set for today, so that could be soon. If you’re in a hurry, see my recent review of PaperPort, which does much the same thing.
 

Column: WordPerfect Office

 
Loose Wire — Office Challenge: Corel Software’s latest version of WordPerfect Office has some great features, including a dictionary to die for and fumble-free format switching; Is it time to ditch Microsoft?
 
By Jeremy Wagstaff, from the 8 May 2003 edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review (c) 2003, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
 
It requires a brave soul to take on Microsoft on its home turf. Even more so when one of the main selling points is a blue screen that nostalgically reminds users of their youth.

Enter WordPerfect Office 11, the latest version of Corel Software’s suite of applications that is supposed to be an alternative to Microsoft Office, the lumbering behemoth that accounts for more than 90% of the “desktop office-productivity applications” market (in other words: word processing, spreadsheeting, making slide shows to impress the boss). At $300, it’s quite a bit a cheaper than Microsoft’s offering, and with its flexible upgrade policy, it means you can more or less trade in any competing Microsoft program for about $150. Not to be sniffed at if you’re tired of shelling out for a whole department’s worth of word processing. Oh, and for legal eagles and apparatchiks who love the old DOS, blue-screen look of WordPerfect, there’s that too, along with most of the original keystrokes.

But does it really make sense to ditch Microsoft Office? There are plenty of reasons you might not want to: While the main elements of WordPerfect Office are similar to those of Microsoft’s, don’t expect to find all the commands and keystrokes in the same place. That means you and your cohorts will have to unlearn quite a lot. And there are bits missing: There’s no e-mail program in this version, for example. While I found some elements of the word-processing part of the suite useful, I encountered what can only be called weird formatting issues, which nearly cost me this column.

But there are some positives. It will run on operating systems from as far back (gasp) as Windows 98, whereas Microsoft Office 2003 will only run on Windows 2000 and XP (go figure: it takes a non-Microsoft product to run on a Microsoft platform). There’s a great thesaurus and dictionary, courtesy of Oxford, which together give you extended meanings, choices of usage, related words, antonyms and what-have-you. Quattro Pro is a sturdy Excel spreadsheet replacement, while Presentations is half graphics package, half PowerPoint presentation creator.

And Corel goes the extra mile in ensuring that you can switch between formats easily: Say you composed a document in Microsoft Word; you can easily open it in WordPerfect, edit it, and then save it in either format — or countless others. You can even save a file in the Adobe Acrobat format, a great way to ensure your documents look as good on other people’s computers as they do on yours.

This commitment to easy jockeying between formats is a major strength. But it’s only part of what may be the future of software, and, perhaps, the salvation of Corel: easy switching of data between computers, between programs and between platforms, using something called Extensible Markup Language. XML — an open-source language developed by a consortium of manufacturers and developers — is an improved version of HTML, the programming language used to make Web pages. Simply put, HTML uses hidden tags so that different browsers know how to present information in similar ways: The tag <Title>, for example, tells the browser to use whatever font and layout it is programmed to use for that style to display the title of the Web page you’re viewing. HTML tags, however, are preset — Title, Bold, whatever — whereas XML tags can be modified by the user. Under XML a tag can be very specific, classifying the data it refers to: <Explanation of technical term>, for example, or <Inventory of pigs’ trotters from the Russian Steppes>, or <Information given by tech columnist that is needlessly confusing reader>. Any document that uses those tags can, in theory, hook up with another document that’s agreed on the same tags, meaning data can be shared, compared and combined easily, without a lot of converting and other jiggery-pokery.

What’s this got to do with Office suites? WordPerfect seamlessly weaves XML into its component programs, so users can, with relative ease, save documents in XML format. And, while Microsoft in theory offers the same thing, there are signs that it’s not quite playing ball: Only the whizzbang top-level version of the upcoming Microsoft Office will support full XML capability, according to press reports — a step back from its present version.

The reason? No one’s saying, but it’s quite possible that the Redmond giant sees a threat to its de facto dominance of the Office market. Not because folk like Corel may be stealing a few customers, but because XML may end up replacing the formats that you save your document in. Right now, most documents are saved as Microsoft Word files, spreadsheets as Excel files, etc. This makes sense because most people use those programs. But what happens if people start using XML — open, flexible, free — as a format instead? Microsoft may be left out in the cold.

This may never happen. For all their faults — and there are many — Microsoft Office’s programs rule the roost, and part of the reason for this is that they are good. Well, quite good, anyway. And while folk may grumble, no one’s really challenging them. Corel is to be congratulated for pushing the envelope with version 11 of WordPerfect Office, but as of this month it’s struggling to find a buyer.

My advice? Unless you’re mightily sick of Microsoft Office, or desperate to save cash, don’t ditch it quite yet. If you are, you might want to try another option first: OpenOffice, a free suite of applications which, given that most folk use only a fraction of their Office suite’s features, may well be enough.