Be prepared to be hit hard by a proposed hike in the price of recordable media, according to the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS). The Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC) – a Toronto-based group representing the Canadian music industry – recently put forth a proposal to raise the current $0.21 per blank CD levy to $0.59 – an increase of 181 per cent. It has also recommended extending the levy to include MP3 players, DVD-RWs, removable flash-memory and portable hard drives.

According to the CPCC Web site, the group has established a rating program that would allow for certain groups to apply to use blank media for “non-musical use” – including IT professional users – to buy blank audio recording media, but not CD-Rs and CD-RWs, levy-free from participating importers and manufacturers. Users would be required to complete an application with the CPCC. A spokesperson for CIPS said the CPCC “is trying to get something for nothing.” CIPS says it is working to remove the proposed levy as it relates to products used by IT professionals.

Microsoft’s CRM hits the streets

Microsoft Corp. released to manufacturing last month the Microsoft customer relationship management software that’s had the industry buzzing since its announcement a year ago.

Originally scheduled to ship by the end of 2002, the software’s street date slipped as Microsoft continued working on the front-to-back integration it has promised. Microsoft CRM is intended as a low-cost, entry-level product for smaller businesses seeking a CRM package that will easily connect to ubiquitous Microsoft products such as Word and Outlook. Microsoft CRM is available for purchase now in the U.S. and Canada.

Web server worm may stick around

The slammer worm attacking a known vulnerability in Microsoft SQL 2000 Web servers that slowed and even halted Internet traffic worldwide last month could prove as tricky a nemesis as security foes Code Red and Nimda, according to firms tracking the outbreak.

Network Associates Inc.’s Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team (AVERT) estimated that 150,000 to 200,000 servers worldwide have already been infected by the end of its first weekend. When the attack began around 12:30 a.m. EST on Jan. 25, packet loss across the Internet approached 20 per cent, according to monitoring firm Matrix NetSystems Inc., in Austin, Tex. Packet loss rates are usually less than one per cent.

iSeries customers get upgrade, price breaks

IBM Corp. recently rolled out new hardware, pricing and upgrade options for users of its iSeries (formerly AS/400) systems as part of a US$500 million effort to revitalize the 25-year-old midrange server line.

The overhaul is aimed at addressing several long-standing user concerns while also making the iSeries machines more appealing to first-time buyers, said IBM. In addition, IBM plans to invest more in marketing in an attempt to boost interest in the iSeries technology among software vendors and resellers.

Under IBM’s new Enterprise Edition pricing model, companies will be charged flat fees, varying by model, that let them use the full capacity of their machines for running 5250 terminal sessions. The approach replaces a complex and very unpopular pricing scheme under which IBM charged iSeries users an “interactive workload” fee for running 5250 applications.

Windows must ship with Java: Judge

A U.S. federal judge recently ruled that Microsoft Corp. has 120 days to begin shipping Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Java technology with its Windows PC operating system. At a hearing in Sun’s private antitrust suit against Microsoft, judge Frederick Motz also ruled that Sun can proceed with all 16 of its antitrust claims against the software maker. Motz had granted a Microsoft motion to dismiss two of those claims, but he quickly overruled himself, saying that he initially had misunderstood the scope of those claims. But Motz also granted Microsoft’s motion to delay his Java order so the company could appeal his decision. Motz stayed his order for two weeks so that the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, has a chance to look at his decision.

Sun has accused Microsoft of using its monopoly power in the desktop operating systems market to derail the use of Java, which competes with Microsoft’s .Net software. Microsoft has done this, according to Sun, by distributing Java software that is incompatible with Sun’s, thereby restricting its ability to run across multiple computer platforms.

CVS users warned of ‘critical’ hole

The CERT Coordination Center security organization has warned of a critical vulnerability in the widely used Concurrent Versions System (CVS) software which could enable an unauthenticated remote attacker with read-only access to execute arbitrary code, alter program operation, read sensitive information, or cause a denial of service to servers.

CVS is used by teams of software developers to co-ordinate their code writing and to maintain a single, standard view of the development process to all team members. It runs on several proprietary variants of Unix and on the open-source Linux OS. CERT/CC recommended users to disable anonymous CVS server access or block or restrict access to CVS servers from untrusted hosts and networks until patches or upgrades can be applied. Vendors that offer CVS with their products are issuing patches.

Gates says security is improving

Microsoft Corp. has come far to deliver on its Trustworthy Computing promise, but more needs to be done, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates said in a recent e-mail. “While we’ve accomplished a lot in the past year, there is still more to do,” Gates said in the e-mail sent to a mailing list that is part of a Microsoft marketing effort called Executive E-mail. The e-mail comes a year after Gates announced the Trustworthy Computing initiative, a Microsoft-wide focus on securing its products.

This year, Microsoft will release several new products that have gone through its new security review process, including Windows Server 2003, SQL Server database and Exchange Server

In the future, marrying software and hardware security on a PC will help eliminate “weak links” in computer systems, Gates said, referring to Microsoft’s Palladium project. He also promoted the use of smart cards.