Patch Tuesday Launches Busy Week

You got off easy in March, when Microsoft released no security bulletins on Patch Tuesday, but this month is a different story. Microsoft released eight bulletins, five of which address critical security flaws that could allow an attacker to take control of an affected system. As our news editor Scott Bekker reports, this Patch Tuesday release also marks the first time Microsoft included non-security Windows updates with its security bulletins, including one for the Windows Installer and the Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS).

A Special Scan for a Critical Flaw
Also on Tuesday, Microsoft released a special scan tool that helps users find machines that are vulnerable to an MSN Messenger flaw (one of the five critical flaws announced the same day) that the free Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) fails to catch. We’ve got an in-depth look at MBSA coming in the May issue of Redmond magazine as part of our Your Turn review series. As a Redmond Report newsletter reader, you are invited to take an advance look at the online version early, where you’ll learn about the high points and limitations of the vulnerability scanner.

SP2 Grace Period Ends
Tuesday also marked the end of the grace period during which organizations could prevent Windows XP SP2 from being automatically downloaded from Automatic Updates and Windows Update. Here’s hoping this isn’t the first time you’re reading about that little item.

In case all that isn’t enough fun for you this week, let’s not forget that tax returns are due Friday. Might as well get your spleen removed on Thursday, just to make for a full week.

Busy Lawyers, Part I
Call it the Microsoft Attorney Full Employment Program. No sooner had Microsoft agreed to pay Gateway $150 million to settle antitrust claims that it turned around and filed its own lawsuits against eight firms it accuses of selling counterfeit software.

The Gateway settlement (finally) ends a suit that has been lingering from the mid-1990s U.S. Department of Justice antitrust case against Microsoft, which singled out Gateway as suffering from Microsoft business practices. As is typical in these settlements, Microsoft admits to no such thing. But it did get Gateway to agree to use the settlement funds for marketing initiatives and R&D for new products to run existing and future Microsoft software. Those Microsoft lawyers must be very, very good.

Busy Lawyers, Part II
Microsoft’s legal prowess should make these eight companies fairly nervous: Abacus Computer Corp. of Anaheim, Calif.; Avantek Inc. of Orlando, Fla.; First E-Commerce (d.b.a. Discount Electronics and/or DiscountElectronics.com) of Austin, Texas; M&S Computer Products Inc. of Boonton, N.J.; Micro Excell Inc. of Gadsden, Ala.; Odyssey Computers of Pasadena, Md.; Signature PC (a.k.a. Signature Computers) of Warwick, R.I.; and Technology One of Los Angeles. In separate lawsuits, Microsoft accuses each of the companies of distributing “counterfeit, illicit and unlicensed software and software components.” The suits are the latest in a Microsoft sting operation that started in 1997, in which it buys software or computer systems and tests the software for authenticity. Sellers of software that fail the sniff test get cease-and-desist letters. If they persist, they get sued. Seems fair to me.

Groove Deal Is Done
Despite the complaints of a former Groove Networks executive who claimed the price was too low, Microsoft last week completed its acquisition of Groove. The price tag, which had been under wraps when the deal was announced on March 10, is $120 million. As Groove’s largest investor, Microsoft will get back $80 million of its investment. The same can’t be said for other investors, who poured a total of $155 million into Groove over the years. Sounds like another good deal for Microsoft.

Students To Be Sued Over File Swapping
The Recording Industry Association of America today plans to sue 405 students at 18 colleges nationwide, alleging they illegally shared music files over the high-speed Internet2 network. The “John Doe” lawsuits are the first targeting Internet2, which is an academic research network shared by numerous higher-education institutions. The RIAA says it also has evidence of Internet2 infringement at 140 schools in 41 states.

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In principle, I’m sensitive to the complaints of the recording industry and can’t condone the stealing of intellectual property. But I also can’t believe that suing kids—and forcing their schools to cough up their names, which is reportedly the RIAA’s plan—is going to do much to further the RIAA’s cause. Lump me in with the crowd that thinks the RIAA would be better off spending its time trying to figure out how to use the Internet to make more money for the artists it represents rather than suing a bunch of college kids. The New York Times published a thought-provoking piece on this issue last week, in which it quoted Jeff Tweedy, the leader of the rock band Wilco, which has used the Internet to its advantage. “To me, the only people who are complaining are people who are so rich they never deserve to be paid again," Tweedy said. Check out the NYT story here (registration required).

Questions Wanted From Channel Partners
As reported previously, we are launching a new publication, Redmond Channel Partner. We’re now prepping for an interview with Allison Watson, vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Sales and Marketing Group, for a Q&A to run in our inaugural issue in July. If you’re a Microsoft partner, feel free to send any questions that you have for Allison to me at pdesmond@redmondmag.com. Please use “Watson” in the subject line.

Ask Microsoft
If you’ve ever wanted to ask Microsoft anything about its products, security or more, here’s your chance: We’ve got an upcoming interview with Jim Allchin, Microsoft’s group vice president, Products. Let us know what you want Allchin to talk about by posting your questions here. Or e-mail Redmond Editor in Chief Doug Barney at dbarney@redmondmag.com. If you e-mail, please use the subject line “Allchin.” Be sure to include your name, title and location if you want credit for your question.

About the Author

Paul Desmond, the founding editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, is president of the IT publishing firm PDEdit in Southborough, Mass. Reach him at paul@pdedit.com.

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