SA: Upgrade to Nowhere
I've never been a fan of Software Assurance (SA). My daughter always used to say, "You get what you pay for." Seeing as she was 4 at the time, I was never quite sure what that meant. But when it comes to SA, most of the time you don't get what you pay for. Here how it works. You pay in advance for the right to upgrade to new versions of software (and you get a bunch of bennies like extra support and training). At the same time Microsoft is publicly projecting ship dates for its biggest upgrades. Excited by the new security features of Vista, you sign up back in mid-2003 for a 3-year term. Surely you'll get a nice free upgrade for all your desktops, right? Not if this puppy is late, and Vista is looking later than Dagwood Bumstead on a Monday morning.
So, does Microsoft, which clearly screwed up Vista (remember the total rewrite it was forced to do?), extend your terms a bit? Some thought Redmond had seen the light and would offer this kindness to loyal customers. Stories were written and analysts quoted on the whole brouhaha. But Microsoft says, "Nothin' doin'!" There may be some coupons, a rebate here and there, but you lost your freebies when Microsoft blew the Vista ship dates!
Next time your Microsoft rep comes calling, show him your test lab running desktop Linux, OpenOffice, etc. all talking to MySQL, Apache and OpenExchange. Then show him how much you paid for the free copies of Vista and Office 2007 you aren't going to get. Then inquire, in no uncertain terms, just how he intends to keep your business. What do you think of this whole fiasco? Let me know at email@example.com.
For more commentary on SA, check out Redmond Channel Partner senior editor Lee Pender's blog.
Dell Laptops: Too Hot to Handle
Nearly 20 percent of Dell laptops sold in the last two or so years have batteries that could overheat and not just warm your unmentionables, but catch fire!
Now I've either got to check the battery on my Latitude D505 -- or buy a fire extinguisher! Here's where to find out if you own one these crotch burners.
Here's another report.
Free High Speed for the Sticks
My dad lives in a small New Hampshire town. It took years to get cable TV and longer to turn that into high-speed Internet access. A few weeks ago he asked me about bringing high speed to the whole town as kind of a public utility. My mistake was trying to answer a question about which he was far more informed (happens all the time).
I'm a bit more learned now, having heard about how the tiny town of Powell, Montana, is approaching the problem. Instead of cable everywhere, or DSL for all (that's a lot of central offices), Powell is going real high-tech, laying fiber to each and every home. While it will cost some $6 million (or $1,132.07 per resident), the town expects it will attract high-quality, high-tech employers -- much better in the long run than factories that can leave communities with a legacy of pollution. In addition to the potential high-tech tax revenue, homes can get super-fast Internet, IP telephony and cable TV. Powell joins 40 other communities that have fiber to all their homes.
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Trend Micro's HouseCall -- I Mean, Windows OneCare Safety Scanner Now Out
Whenever my or my family's PCs act a little flaky, I rush to the Trend Micro Web site and run the free online HouseCall virus and spyware scan -- often before firing up my already paid-for Symantec tool.
I'll probably still do this, but just for safekeeping, I may run Microsoft's HouseCall clone: the OneCare safety scanner. It seems that the new tool from Redmond goes a bit deeper to spot Windows problems, such as registry glitches, so I'm giving it a whirl as we speak. In fact, my Latitude D505 (with a possibly explosive battery) freezes more than an Alaskan radiator.
The nearly 4-hour scan showed no viruses or spyware, but it did defrag my hard drive and fix a bunch of registries issues. It's been 10 hours since and none of my apps have crashed. The problem, though, is once this thing gets going, there are no options. You can't do a partial scan, and it didn't give details as to what the registry problems were. Ah... "You get what you pay for!" I guess.
Check it out yourself and tell me what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.