IBM Hoping To SMash Mashup Security Concerns

IBM Research may have come up with a way to encourage users to at least experiment more aggressively with mashups. Big Blue's lab boys on Thursday morning debuted a new technology called SMash -- a clever mashup itself for "secure mashup" -- that they claim takes the security risk out of deploying mashups.

With the help of a little pixie dust, SMash makes it possible for very different pieces of code to communicate back and forth, but at the same time the new technology keeps them at arm's length so that malware doesn't infiltrate enterprise systems.

As IBM officials see it, the biggest technical reservation people have so far about mashups is the porous nature of browsers these days, which let all sorts of viruses walk right through the front door and crawl through the back door. This shortcoming obviously made any sort of serious and widespread business adoption of mashups impossible. But as consumer technologies increasingly make their own way through the back door of larger companies, IT organizations are more inclined to give users some of the necessary tools they need to protect insecure versions of products readily available on the Web.

IBM is doing another wise thing as part of this rollout: It's donating the SMash code to the OpenAjax Alliance, a group consisting of open source projects and companies. This is a smart way to ensure that skeptical business users can readily access the technology, play around with it and see what its possibilities are for their respective development projects.

At today's announcement, IBM officials said they plan to offer up SMash in its commercial mashup product, Lotus Mashups, which is due by the end of this summer.

Wal-Mart Yanks Low-Cost Linux PCs
If anyone could help Linux-based PCs make a breakthrough at the retail level, you might be willing to bet a week's pay it would be Wal-Mart selling low-cost, fair-to-middling-performing systems. Well, not so much.

The nation's largest retailer has decided to take the Linux-based Everex TC2502 Green gPC, priced at $199, off its shelves because of "unsatisfactory customer response." Just last year Wal-Mart had decided to carry the system in 600 of its stores where the company saw a lot of interest among users for buying low-cost PCs.

It makes you wonder, though, just how much broad-based interest there was in those stores. In the past, Wal-Mart has yanked other low-cost Linux-based systems from its shelves, including systems bundled with Lindows. At any rate, this is just one more door slammed in the face of Linux's attempts to steal some market share from Microsoft on the desktop. The open source operating system's share still can't sneak past the 2 percent mark, according to IDC numbers from late last year.

Wal-Mart officials said they would continue to offer the Everex system through its Web site. In a prepared statement, they said they believe they could reach a "more targeted consumer" that way. God bless them for their optimism

Windows Home Server Needs a Fix
It seems Microsoft is having more than a little trouble finding the right pesticide to snuff out the bugs eating away at its Windows Home Server product.

Redmond first notified users about some of the insects responsible for corrupting files about three months ago. Typically, Microsoft would jump on such a potentially dangerous problem and hopefully deliver a fix in a month or two, at best. Unfortunately, for the small but hearty group of Home Server users, this won't be the case. In fact, the company put up a bulletin notifying users that a fix likely won't come until June.

Yes, June -- or about a year after Microsoft initially released the product. I think this classifies as more than a minor inconvenience for the users who've invested their time and hard-earned dollars on this product.

According to the bulletin, files get corrupted only when customers use certain programs to edit or transfer files stored on a server that has more than a single hard drive. However, some of those programs include Microsoft Outlook and Intuit QuickBooks, two pretty widely used pieces of software.

What's strange about this, of course, is that it's taking so long to fix the problem. Especially since the Home Server team says it has located the source of the problem, which is "at an extremely low level of the operating system" and requires "thorough testing," according the team's blog. The team goes on to say that it's making steady progress toward coming up with a fix, though at least "several more weeks of testing" will be required.

Sorry, but this still isn't a real explanation for why it's taking so long to fix a product that's been on the market now for about nine months. If Microsoft had high hopes for volume sales of this product -- and they might be alone in this aspiration -- it's throttling its own chances with each passing month.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.


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