Patch Tuesday Brings 3 Critical Patches

Microsoft is releasing a total of four security patches today, three of which are designated critical and one moderate.

The critical patches all fix issues allowing remote code execution, two with Office and one with Windows. More specifically, the Windows issue involves the Jet Database Engine, while the Office issues involve both Word (including Word for Mac) and Publisher. Finally, the moderate patch focuses on a variety of software, including Forefront security components and OneCare.

Do you keep your system patches up to date? Report to me at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Microsoft Is Still Appealing
More specifically, Microsoft is appealing a $1.3 billion fine levied by the European Union as a result of its failure to speedily comply with the antitrust directive to make Windows API specifications available at a reasonable cost to third-party software developers.

Microsoft claims that it seeks to bring clarity to the original ruling, although it no doubt hopes that such clarity involves the ruling being overturned. The appeal is going to the European Court of First Instance. Any final appeal can go one step beyond this court.

Microsoft has also paid an approximately $1 billion fine in response to earlier EU rulings. The EU continues to look into the practice of bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, as well as other purported violations of antitrust law by Microsoft.

I can't say I blame Microsoft for rolling the dice on appeal, but ultimately you can't fight City Hall. What's your take -- truly bad behavior or oppressive government regulation? Let me know at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

The Patent Tables Are Turned
Microsoft has been known as one of the more aggressive collectors of technology patents, which has enabled it to both issue threats to other vendors (and to the open source community at large), and -- with a couple of notable exceptions -- to protect itself from patent attacks by others.

However, a patent suit against Microsoft and Dell has now been reinstated by an appeals court. The suit was originally brought by telecom equipment vendor Alcatel-Lucent, and the technology covered by the disputed patent is a data communications protocol that operates between a host computer and a mobile terminal device, such as a portable PC or a smartphone.

Alcatel-Lucent had originally filed suit against Dell, based on the fact that the vendor manufactured hardware that enabled Windows to communicate using the technology presumably covered by the patent. Microsoft joined the suit afterward.

A previous employer told me that the best defense against patent suits is your own patent portfolio, because just about any technology can be described to infringe on a patent. What's your take on that strategy? Tell me your thoughts at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Mailbag: How Do You Patch?, Calling All Publisher Users, More
In light of today's patch rollout, Doug asked readers to share their companies' patching process. Here are some of your responses:

Our shop -- roughly 250 PCs -- pushes out patches via Intel's LANDesk utility. We test first, glance at industry reports, then decide when to patch, typically within a few days of patch Tuesday.
-Dave

We have about 900 servers in our organization plus about 250 workstations. Starting early last year, we have been using Shavlik NetChk software for patching all our environments, and are very satisfied with it. The program allows you to deploy, schedule and install patches at certain times with different reboot options. There is also a nice feature to create custom deployments. We have our own proprietary applications, and Shavlik lets me roll out new versions of those as they are released. Shavlik made our lives easier. I recommend it!
-Edgar

Users of Microsoft Publisher -- which gets its own critical patch today -- came out of the woodwork:

I actually use Publisher! It is great for producing a monthly newsletter. I wish it was automation-enabled so that I could use a template and update the data from an external source.
-Gary

I do use Publisher on occasion. I use it when I want to make a quick card or booklet. I remember being told at a tech conference that it was going to be the challenger to Pagemaker for long documents. (I also still have a machine with Win 2000 just for PhotoDraw.)
-Doug

I use Publisher on a regular basis at home for making cards, creating Christmas letters and other things that need to be printed with images and text. I've used Publisher for many years.
-Rick

I still use this program occasionally. It can do things that Word should do but can't seem to. For one thing, Publisher can print a folded booklet (one standard piece of paper folded in half with four "pages" on it). Word 2003 seems to have an option but it does not work -- at least, not if one does not have a duplex printer. Publisher does it and makes it easy to accomplish.
-Lou

Finally, one reader thinks we may have erred on the fuel efficiency of Steve Jobs' Gulfstream V:

I think you slipped a digit on aircraft fuel mileage. The specs on the Gulfstream site indicate that the Gulfstream V uses a little more than six pounds per nautical mile or a little less than one mile per gallon -- still less than your Cadillac. But then, it can carry 18 people, which would take maybe six Cadillacs to transport them in equivalent comfort (i.e., they would not have to drive themselves). So the Cadillacs are still the better choice, and gives several days on the road to think of the next "wow" gadget.
-Richard

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.

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