Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Microsoft makes source code for MS-DOS and Word for Windows available to public" by Roy Levin (Microsoft Research), Official Microsoft Blog 3/25/2014

On Tuesday, we dusted off the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows.  With the help of the Computer History Museum, we are making this code available to the public for the first time.

The museum has done an excellent job of curating some of the most significant historical software programs in computing history.  As part of this ongoing project, the museum will make available two of the most widely used software programs of the 1980’s, MS DOS 1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a, to help future generations of technologists better understand the roots of personal computing.

In 1980, IBM approached Microsoft to work on a project code-named “Chess.”  What followed was a significant milestone in the history of the personal computer.  Microsoft, at the time, provided the BASIC language interpreter for IBM.  However, they had other plans and asked Microsoft to create an operating system.  Without their own on hand, Microsoft licensed an operating system from Seattle Computer Products which would become the foundation for PC-DOS and MS-DOS.

IBM and Microsoft developed a unique relationship that paved the way for advancements in the nascent personal computer industry, and subsequent advancements in personal computing.

Bill Gates was interviewed by David Bunnell just after the launch of the IBM PC in the early 1980s for PC Magazine’s inaugural issue, and provided the backstory:  “For more than a year, 35 of Microsoft's staff of 100 worked fulltime (and plenty of overtime) on the IBM project.  Bulky packages containing computer gear and other goodies were air-expressed almost daily between the Boca Raton [IBM] laboratory and Seattle [Microsoft].  An electronic message system was established and there was almost always someone flying the arduous 4,000 mile commute.”

Following closely on the heels of MS DOS, Microsoft released the first DOS-based version of Microsoft Word in 1983, which was designed to be used with a mouse.  However, it was the 1989 release of Word for Windows that became a blockbuster for the company and within four years it was generating over half the revenue of the worldwide word-processing market.  Word for Windows was a remarkable engineering and marketing achievement, and we are happy to provide its source code to the museum.

It’s mind-boggling to think of the growth from those days when Microsoft had under 100 employees and a Microsoft product (MS-DOS) had less than 300KB (yes, kilobytes) of source code.  From those roots we’ve grown in a few short decades to become a company that has sold more than 200 million licenses of Windows 8 and has over 1 billion people using Microsoft Office.  Great things come from modest beginnings, and the great Microsoft devices and services of the future will probably start small, just as MS-DOS and Word for Windows did.

Thanks to the Computer History Museum, these important pieces of source code will be preserved and made available to the community for historical and technical scholarship.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

THE WEB - Who Should Oversee It

The title of this article is slightly misleading to non-techies.  NO single entity controls the WEB.  The issue is who assigns the Internet Protocol (IP) Addressing and assigning of Domain Names to IPs.

"As the U.S. government relinquishes control, who should oversee the Web?" PBS NewsHour 3/24/2014


SUMMARY:  The Commerce Department recently announced it would give up oversight of ICANN, the California nonprofit that manages the unique domains of the world's websites and email servers.  There's been international pressure to make the change, especially in light of revelations about NSA surveillance.  Vint Cerf of Google and Randolph May of the Free State Foundation join Judy Woodruff to offer debate.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Who controls the World Wide Web, and how is it overseen and governed?  These are the questions that most of us don’t really know the answers to, but the Obama administration announced a change in the role played by the United States, one that’s stirring up concerns about the Internet’s future and freedom from censorship.

FADI CHEHADE, CEO, ICANN:  To become the world’s ICANN, we have to go to the world.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Change was in the wind as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN, kicked off a meeting in Singapore this weekend, its purpose, to start crafting a transition from U.S. control of administration of the Internet.

Since 1998, the California nonprofit has had a federal contract to manage the unique identifiers of the world’s Web sites and e-mail servers, regulating domain names such as dot-com and dot-gov.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WINXP - Updates to Continue for Big Business For a Fee

More proof that Microdunce does not care about peon customers.  They are just another greedy company who cares only about profits and not serving customers who bought their product.  I would be willing to pay $50/year for continued WinXP Updates.

This strategy is recently confirmed by several banks making the Updates For Fee deal with Microdunce to protect their ATMs running WinXP.

"Microsoft will still patch Windows XP for a select group" by Gregg Keizer, PCWorld 9/1/2013


Just because Microsoft doesn't plan on giving Windows XP patches to the public after April 8, 2014, doesn't mean it's going to stop making those patches.

In fact, Microsoft will be creating security updates for Windows XP for months—years, even—after it halts their delivery to the general public.

Some will pay big for support

Those patches will come from a program called "Custom Support," an after-retirement contract designed for very large customers who have not, for whatever reason, moved on from an older OS.

As part of Custom Support—which according to analysts, costs about $200 per PC for the first year and more each succeeding year—participants receive patches for vulnerabilities rated "critical" by Microsoft.  Bugs ranked as "important," the next step down in Microsoft's four-level threat scoring system, are not automatically patched.  Instead, Custom Support contract holders must pay extra for those.  Flaws pegged as "moderate" or "low" are not patched at all.

"Legacy products or out-of-support service packs covered under Custom Support will continue to receive security hotfixes for vulnerabilities labeled as 'Critical' by the MSRC [Microsoft Security Response Center]," Microsoft said in a Custom Support data sheet.  "Customers with Custom Support that need security patches defined as 'Important' by MSRC can purchase these for an additional fee.

"These security hotfixes will be issued through a secure process that makes the information available only to customers with Custom Support," the data sheet promised.

Because Microsoft sells Custom Support agreements, it's obligated to come up with patches for critical and important vulnerabilities.  And it may be required to do so for years: The company sells Custom Support for up to three years after it retires an operating system.

Custom Support and the XP security updates that result have been one reason why some experts have held out hope that Microsoft will backtrack from retiring XP next April.  Their reasoning is straightforward: Microsoft will have patches available—its engineers won't have to do any more work than they already committed to doing—so handing them out to all would be a simple matter.

Or not.  Most experts have said that the chance Microsoft will prolong Windows XP's life run between slim and none.  And giving away patches to everyone risks a revolt by those big customers who have paid millions for Custom Support.

But Microsoft does have options.  Here are our suggestions:

Continue patching for free

If Windows XP remains a major presence, as it appears likely, with projections as high as 33.5 percent of all personal computers at the end of April 2014, Microsoft could decide to continue patching the aged OS with free fixes for critical vulnerabilities, maybe even those rated important.

Such a move would be unpalatable to Custom Support customers, but Microsoft could renegotiate the fees—unlikely—or remind those companies of the program's other benefits, which include access to support representatives, as well as to prior patches and hotfixes.

Patch critical vulnerabilities under attack

Microsoft could selectively patch only the critical bugs that are being exploited by hackers.  Presumably, that would be a subset of the complete XP patch collection assembled each month.

Some analysts have picked this option as a possibility.  Last December, Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft posed just such a situation.

"Suppose ... a security problem with XP suddenly causes massive problems on the Internet, such as a massive [denial-of-service] problem?" asked Cherry at the time.  "It is not just harming Windows XP users, it is bringing the entire Internet to its knees.  At this time there are still significant numbers of Windows XP in use, and the problem is definitely due to a problem in Windows XP.  In this scenario, I believe Microsoft would have to do the right thing and issue a fix ... without regard to where it is in the support lifecycle."

Charge users for XP patches

Although Microsoft would much rather book revenue from the sale of a newer OS, it may realize that some will refuse to upgrade, and try to make money rather than give away fixes.

It's unlikely that Microsoft would be able to charge $200 annually for post-retirement patches, as it does with Custom Support customers, but it may be able to get away with $50 a year for individuals and small businesses, perhaps with a maximum machine cap at, say, five PCs per customer.

Traditionally, Microsoft's not charged for support, but it could cast this as a special situation caused by the longevity of XP, which was due to the delay of Vista and secondarily, that OS's subsequent flop.  In late 2007, when Microsoft extended XP availability to OEMs by several months, it cited Vista's delayed launch for the unusual move.  (It added another extension in 2008 that kept XP alive on new "netbook" PCs, the then-popular class of cheap laptops, until mid-2010.)

And Microsoft has talked up a transformation to a "devices-and-services" company; a pay-for-support plan would mesh nicely with the latter half of that strategy.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

WORLD WIDE WEB - 25th Birthday

"25 years on, still adapting to life tangled up in the Web" PBS NewsHour 3/12/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The World Wide Web turns 25 years old today.  The date marks the publication of a paper that originally laid out the concept, which eventually led to the vast system of Internet sites we now use.

Jeffrey Brown looks at how it’s changed the world we live in.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  One way to do that is to look at how individual Americans think about the Internet and its impact on their lives.

The Pew Research Internet Project did that in a survey just out.  Among much else, it finds that 87 percent of American adults now use the Internet, and the number goes up to 97 percent for young adults from 18 to 29.  Ninety percent of Internet users say the Internet has been a good thing for them personally, though the number drops to 76 percent when asked if the Internet has been a good thing for society generally, with 15 percent saying it’s been bad for society.

And 53 percent of Internet users say the Internet would be, at minimum, very hard to give up.

We’re joined by three people who’ve watched the growth of the Internet from different angles.  Xeni Jardin is a journalist and editor at the Web blog Boing Boing, which covers technology and culture.  Catherine Steiner-Adair is a clinical and consulting psychologist at Harvard Medical School, and author of “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.”  And Daniel Weitzner teaches computer science and Internet public policy in at MIT.  From 2011 to 2012, he was U.S. deputy chief technology officer in the White House.

And welcome to all of you.

And, Daniel Weitzner, I will start with you, because you worked with Tim Berners-Lee, who — one of the main people that started all this 25 years ago.  What has — what surprises you now, sitting here 25 years later, about where we’re at?

DANIEL WEITZNER, Massachusetts Institute of Technology:  Well, it does surprise me how tremendously the Internet and the Web has grown into every aspect of our lives.

I think that a lot of us who were involved in the early days of the Internet and the Web had hoped that it could really reach the whole world.  And there’s no question that Tim Berners-Lee, who — whose architecture for the World Wide Web really helped it to grow, had the ambition that it in fact cover the whole world — represent everything in the world.  But I think it’s amazing how far we have actually come in that direction.