Vista Becoming More Clear

This week there’s a new beta, or in Microsoft's ever complex parlance, a Community Technology Review for Vista. A half a million people plan to pound on the program, and many eyes will be drawn to the operating system's self-healing features (and we’re not talking about a script that hits Ctrl-Alt-Del for you). The OS can detect bad memory and build a wall around the faulty areas. It can also find and fix many common connectivity concerns.

There are some new Web browser features, too, like anti-phishing software and an ActiveX opt-in so you can choose to get infected with spyware, rather than getting infected by default.

Speaking of spyware, Microsoft hasn't decided if it will suffer the wrath of third parties and government authorities by bundling anti-spyware, or force us to pay extra for what should be a fundamentally built-in protection.

Security on the Cheap
Microsoft's moves into the security software space may have the positive effect of reducing how much we spend to protect each PC. I’m always aggravated at paying for security software, then paying again to renew, only to have viruses sneak through anyway. And when the security software flakes out, you have to pay the vendor to fix it! As a man responsible for keeping seven Barney computers running, the costs and the headaches are mounting fast.

A Gartner group analyst predicts that Microsoft will charge $15 a year to protect our PCs from viruses, spyware and malware, and that price point will have to be matched by others. While I think it should be built into the OS, $15 ain't so bad.

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Good to the Last Mile
For years, Arthur C. Clarke has argued that satellite technology can bring the information age to the third world. More recently, the MIT Media Lab has been pushing $100 Linux laptops to help poorer countries catch up. Now Microsoft is pledging over a billion dollars to research ways to spread technology more evenly throughout the world. Ordinarily, I'd make a snide remark or two about cheap Windows PCs frozen throughout the lesser-developed world from viruses, hacks or the pure instability of Windows.

But I actually have a ton of respect for Microsoft's latest efforts. After all, Mr. Gates is now a rather amazing philanthropist and is not just tossing money around to make himself feel better but carefully choosing, funding and publicizing critical causes.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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