Microsoft caves to criticism, drops Smart Tag

Microsoft Corp. has decided to drop the controversial Smart Tags feature from its forthcoming Windows XP release. The feature will not appear in the final version of the operating system, scheduled for release Oct. 25, or in the new Web browser Internet Explorer 6.0, the company said recently.

The software giant has come under increasing fire for the planned feature, which scans keywords in user documents and offers links to related Web sites, many of them operated by Microsoft entities or partners. Critics have accused Microsoft of trying to use its dominance in the operating system field to beat competitors in the Internet sphere. Smart Tags already operate in Office XP, launched in late May, providing, for example, links from company stock symbols to relevant information on Microsoft’s MSN MoneyCentral site.

Security firm reports vulnerability in Oracle8, 8i

A security firm recently reported finding vulnerabilities in Oracle Corp.’s 8 and 8i database products which it said potentially could provide attackers with full access to the database, allowing them to create, delete or modify information.

The Covert Labs division of PGP Security, which itself is a division of Network Associates Inc., issued two advisories recently, both pertaining to Oracle’s TNS (Transparent Network Substrate). The TNS Listener, which is used to establish and maintain remote communications with Oracle database services, is vulnerable to a buffer overflow, which could allow a remote user to execute malicious code on the database server, Covert Labs said in its advisory. A second vulnerability in TNS allows a remote user to mount a denial of service attack against any Oracle service relying on the Net8 protocol, Covert said in a second advisory. Services that make use of the protocol include TNS Listener, Oracle Name Service and Oracle Connections Manager, Covert said. TNS is designed to provide a single application interface to all industry-standard networking protocols. Oracle said it was aware of the vulnerabilities and has already issued a patch.

Corel to acquire Micrografx

Corel Corp. and Micrografx Inc. recently announced that they have signed a definitive agreement where by Corel will acquire Micrografx in a stock-for-stock transaction to be accounted for as a purchase transaction. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and approval by Micrografx’s shareholders.

Corel is focused on two goals: strengthening its position in the graphics market and effectively managing its business applications division to upgrade its base of existing users, the company said. The deal is structured to provide Micrografx shareholders with a transaction value equivalent to one times Micrografx’s fiscal 2001 annual revenues, subject to certain adjustments, totalling approximately US $32million.

Dutch go to for free StarOffice

During a recent two-week period, Dutch computer users ordered over 10,000 copies of Sun Microsystems Inc.’s free software suite StarOffice 5.2, according to a Sun distributor. The campaign was triggered by Microsoft’s plan to revamp its licensing policies.

The software was ordered from a special Web site set up by Tplc Nederland in response to this new licensing scheme. The promotional event, centred around a Web site with the Web address, started late June and was so successful that the CDs ran out, according to Christiaan van Nispen tot Sevenaar, spokesperson for distributor Tplc Nederland.

A glut for the ages

There is already a well-publicized glut of bandwidth on existing optical networks using today’s technology, but there is more in store. Scientists at Bell Labs, a division of Lucent Technologies Inc., say that they have estimated the theoretical limits of this optical fibre, and that it is enormous. The potential capacity is big enough to ensure that this glut will stick around for awhile, assuming the technology for putting more wavelengths of faster optical channels on fibre continues to advance.

It is possible to send about 100 terabits of information, or roughly 20-billion one-page e-mails, simultaneously per strand of fibre. The research demonstrates that fibre optic technology will result in robust and scalable communications networks, Bell Labs said. Current optical networks can carry slightly less than two terabits/sec of data per fibre strand. The scientists make no guess about how long it will take to actually develop the technology that will deliver these theoretically possible speeds.

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