Not Made in the USA

You hear about the trade deficit and the budget deficit in the news all the time. With tech giants like Microsoft, IBM and Dell within our borders, surely those deficits don't apply to the world of technology, right?


The trade deficit in the tech sector alone reached a record $102 billion last year. That figure includes imports of computers, components and consumer electronics. And, as you may have guessed, the bulk of the high-tech imports come from China (none of which have been recalled, by the way). The total for technology imports last year was $322 billion, a 9 percent increase over 2005, according to a report from the American Electronics Association.

Fear not, as tech exports have risen consistently, as well. The $220 billion worth we shipped out in 2006 was a 10 percent increase over 2005, but not quite the $223 billion level set in the giddy days of the dot-com bubble in 2000. California led the charge, shipping $51.8 billion, followed by, I mean Texas, Florida, Massachusetts and New York.

Does this tech trade deficit concern you? Does it surprise you? How do you think it might affect the tech economy in the coming years? Ship me your thoughts at [email protected].

Fish, Chips, Free Wi-Fi
Londoners may have to pay a fee to drive their vehicles and lorries into downtown London (much like the fee New Yorkers can expect to pay in the near future), but at least their Wi-Fi is free., which helps people find Wi-Fi hot spots, has teamed up with MeshHopper to establish a free Wi-Fi zone along the River Thames. The free zone is being promoted as Nothing is ever really free though, is it? Frugal Web surfers have to agree to view online ads every 15 minutes. Not bad, I suppose. Think of all those extra pounds you'd have (this is London, after all) for a stop in the local pub.

There is a fee-based service, as well, if you want to skip the online ads. Tough call. The MeshHopper duo expects to expand the free Wi-Fi zone by August. Other groups are working on similar projects in Manchester, England and Paris.

How important is free Wi-Fi to you? Does it affect your travel plans? Your surfing plans? Do the security concerns concern you? If you can do it for free, send me your thoughts at [email protected] (heck, send me your thoughts even if you have to drop a dime).

Malware Alert
Keep your eyes open for a password-stealing trojan -- a new variation of the NTOS.exe.

After some poor soul downloads this vicious chunk of evil 1s and nasty 0s, it starts stealing your data. Then it encrypts your data and denies you access unless you buck up for a decryption key. This is off the audacity charts.

Actually, as offensive and shocking as this is, it seems to be just a cover for harvesting sensitive data like IP addresses, user names, log-on IDs and passwords. Thanks go out to our friends at Prevx, who clued us in to this new threat. Prevx is making its decryption software available for free if you think your organization's data has been hijacked by this nasty new bit of malware.

Has this hit you yet? Can you believe the audacity of this type of threat? Tell me your horror stories at [email protected].

Mailbag: More Thoughts on Vista
We're not short of e-mails about Vista compatibility this week. Here's one more:

In general, I like Vista a lot. However, in a mixed network (i.e., Vista and any other OS), there are permission and interoperative driver issues (mainly with devices such as printers or phones). There is also an issue with Vista and iTunes compatibility. The internal CD burner in iTunes that is used to back your playlists and music doesn't work. iTunes reports, "No CD burner device found."

Other than the above, Vista is a good experience for techs. I'm not sure if the general public user world is ready for Vista. I am running Vista 64-bit Business with Win2K Pro in my network. My wife is so unhappy with the iTunes issue, that we may roll back to XP Pro.

I was, once again, reading all the comments about how awful Vista is from other readers of Redmond Report. I appreciate that there are significant pain points. However, as IT professionals, I expect that we will take the time to understand who is to blame for our headaches. I often hear that Vista is awful from IT professionals and then when I ask why, they start to rattle off problems that are out of Microsoft's control. Let us take drivers as a good example. Microsoft does not make drivers. Even the drivers that ship within Vista are written by the hardware manufacturers. So when a driver crashes or is incompatible, the onus is on the hardware manufacturer -- Microsoft simply provides the hooks required for the driver to interact with the OS.

More importantly, never, never forget that we not only asked for this state of affairs, we outright demanded it. We said Microsoft could not do security. We said we absolutely needed a substantially more secure operating system. We said we would put up with the pains of working within a tigher security environment. We cried, "Microsoft, you Evil Empire, fix your lousy software so that it actually has some sort of security!" So what were we expecting? The architecture had to significantly change to give us things like integrity levels. Who expected applications to run flawlessly when users no longer have permissions to write to Program Files, but applications, for some inexplicable reason, continue to write session settings into the Program Files location where their software is installed?

The list goes on, but the critical point is that we should not pretend that Microsoft did not inform partners about these changes in advance. I personally saw documentation on MSDN about changes to how software needed to be written as far back as 2005. Large hardware manufacturers even had developers that work alongside Microsoft developers, at the Microsoft campus, to make sure they have the access and information they need to write drivers for new operating systems and we still have problems with some core third-party drivers.

How far does Microsoft have to bend to hold the hands of their partners? More to the point, why are we blaming Microsoft for delivering exactly what we asked for: a more secure OS than any previous version they have released to date?

Tell us what you think! Send an e-mail to [email protected] or leave a comment below.

About the Author

Lafe Low is the editorial liaison for ECG Events.


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