Surprise! Office 2007 SP1 Arrives Early

In a welcome change, Microsoft actually delivered earlier than expected the first service pack (SP1) for the 2007 Office System.

SP1's improvements, which were in direct response to customer complaints, concentrated on performance, stability and security across desktop applications and servers. Some of the improvements include support for deploying AJAX so developers can better create customized Web parts for users; better management capabilities so IT admins can better consolidate or repartition site collections across SharePoint databases; performance improvements to Outlook 2007, particularly in working with PST/OST files; and feature improvements in performance and stability in working with Project 2007 and Project Server 2007.

"We think SP1 provides the stability and performance improvements that key in on customers' productivity concerns, and beefs up security precautions in order to stay ahead of the latest threats from malicious software and other risks," said Reed Shaffner, Microsoft's Office product manager. "Crashes are one of the most frustrating experiences customers have, and the team worked hard with SP1 to make our products more stable."

More information about the improvements contained in SP1 can be found here.

Astaro Brings the iPhone to the Business World
People have talked about the potential Apple's iPhone might have for business applications; now companies are starting to deliver products that will explore that potential.

One such company is the Burlington, Mass.-based Astaro Corp., which specializes in unified threat management security appliances. The company has announced that iPhone mobile users can now have the advantage of the VPN built into the company's security appliances. This capability allows users to securely tap into their home and business networks, which could do away with having to carry around sometimes bulky laptops.

Company officials claim the setup and configuration process is straightforward, requiring as little as five clicks to create VPN access from the Astaro side of things. The Security Gateway product has four different levels of "road warrior VPN": SSL, IPSec, L2TP over IPSec, and PPTP. Company officials note that the iPhone is compatible with two of these: L2TP over IPSec and PPTP.

The Astaro product will be offered in a variety of ways, according to the company, including as a software ISO, hardware appliance or virtual appliance. There will also be a free home user software license available for download on the company's Web site (www.astaro.com). The home user license uses the same software as the commercial license and includes all subscriptions, and has protection to 10 IP addresses.

Dead OS Walking
While IBM officially discontinued support of its long-suffering OS/2 operating systems in December 2006 (I know that to many, it seems like it's been years), there are still those zealots out there who keep trying to open its crypt.

The latest attempt comes from OS2World.com, a seven-year-old site founded by Kim Haverblad, that serves as a source for the latest news about OS/2, along with a number of technical forums where IT pros, third-party developers and other longtime loyalists can exchange information and ideas about the product. Haverblad and friends petitioned IBM last month again (the first time was in 2005) to make the "much-loved OS/2 technology" freely available by taking it open source.

The group acknowledges that there are inherent problems with IBM doing this because of the third-party code still stitched in the product. But, to that end, the group says it's willing to "contribute its own efforts" if it will convince IBM to release the code. The petition goes on to say that making OS/2 open source would prove beneficial to Big Blue's larger customers. Another more subjective reason for making the decision is "that OS/2 is an important part of the history of the operating system and, furthermore, it still contains values that the computer science field considers unique." Hmm, OK. Well, there's a lot of room for debate on that one.

There have been many attempts by different groups over the years to bring OS/2 back to life: large corporations -- most notably banks -- that are heavily invested in the product, hardcore user groups, and vocal and influential individuals. None of these grassroots lobbying efforts got very far, though.

OS/2 was certainly an admirable undertaking in its day, racking up more than a few technology firsts for a 32-bit desktop operating system. But it was too chunky to run well on the vast majority of desktop systems back then, and was poorly positioned as a product. (It should've been positioned as a high-end workstation OS, and not as a direct competitor to Windows. Remember the "Better Windows than Windows" campaign?)

But looking at all the time and money spent on getting Windows Vista to market -- and all the criticisms leveled at it from every quarter in its first year of availability -- it makes you wonder what sort of product OS/2 would be today if IBM and Microsoft had worked cooperatively on it over the past 17 years. I have to believe that the state-of-the-art in desktop operating systems would be much more evolved today than what we see in Vista.

It's way too late for OS/2 to make any sort of real comeback now, but by making the product available to the open source community, there's no telling what ideas and projects could spring up, resulting in inexpensive but practical solutions for at least some IT shops. Given IBM's already substantial contributions to the open source community, maybe it should give the folks at OS2World.com a call and see what sort of arrangements can be worked out. And if anyone out there can show me where I can either download a copy of the latest version or how I can get my hands on a CD, let me know at escannell@redmondmag.com. Even though I haven't written a story on OS/2 since May 2000, I'm curious to see what sort of laps it can still run.

Mailbag: Hung Up on Mobile Ads, More
Lafe reported yesterday on Microsoft's plan to sell ads for your cell phone through MSN Mobile. It's unanimous -- readers don't seem to like the idea one bit:

I'm really against this for more reasons than I can put in one e-mail. It's too much.
-Bruce

I signed up for "Do not call" on my home phone. Advertising on my cell is out. When I get a cell phone ad, I make a note to shop somewhere else. I WILL NOT BUY FROM A CELL PHONE ADVERTISER!
-John

I can tell you that if I were a subscriber to MSN Mobile and they started sending me ads, I would find another service. I get enough junk as it is on the Web pages I go to. I'm already paying a premium to have access to the Internet as it is -- are they going to lower my monthly charge since I'm going to be giving them additional revenue?

If I can't find another service, then I'm sure someone will soon develop an ad blocker which would find its way onto my system ASAP!
-Matt

And a few weeks ago, after a story about a couple of enterprising kids who managed to hack into their school's records, Lafe asked readers to share their own hacking experiences. Here's Richard's story:

We recently had some "mild" hacking on our network printers: Someone changed the LCD to read "Please don't use me -- I'm tired" on one printer and "You're printing that?" on another one. Definitely an inside job. We disabled the port.
-Richard

Have a hacking tale of your own to share? Got a different opinion on Microsoft's mobile ad plan? Tell us about it -- leave a comment below or send an e-mail to llow@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.

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