Microsoft Edges Closer to IE 7 Release With Final Beta

Microsoft has released another beta version of IE 7, the next generation of its Internet Explorer browser — and this one is nearly final, the company says. Mozilla’s open source Firefox browser has proven to be a formidable IE competitor, and now Mozilla and Microsoft are racing to release upgrades of their competing products.

Microsoft on Thursday took the cover off Internet Explorer 7 Release Candidate 1 (RC1), the last version of the popular browser it expects to release before going live with a final version later this year.

RC1 may not look much different from the most recent IE 7 beta on the front end, but Microsoft said it has tuned up the browser to offer noticeable performance gains over beta 3.

Microsoft also finished changes to IE CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) support and added language selections, as well as an auto-uninstall feature that removes earlier beta versions of the browser.

When the final version is released, it will be delivered to Windows XP and Server 2003 users via Automatic Updates as a “high priority” update. Users may accept or decline the invitation to download the new browser. Microsoft also issued a blocking tool last month that companies can employ to halt those automatic updates.

The Good, The Bad, The Security “This is a major update to Internet Explorer. There are many new and necessary security enhancements that should improve the safety of people’s Web browsing. That’s the upside,” JupiterResearch Analyst Joe Wilcox told TechNewsWorld. “The downside is that a lot of the security enhancements are really in people’s faces.”

IE is designed to help protect users against malicious software and keep personal data safe from fraudulent Web sites and online phishing scams. However, the constant prompts and warnings negatively impact usability, said Wilcox.

“It’s tough for Microsoft or any company to balance safety with usability. I would like to see more security measures hidden, though,” he added, noting that Firefox strikes a healthy balance with its latest version. “That said, IE 7 is a huge advance over [IE 6].”

Firefox’s Delivery Woes

Firefox has proven to be a formidable IE competitor, winning about 15 percent of total browser market share since Mozilla introduced the application in 2004. Microsoft has since seen its share fall from the high 90s to under 80 percent. Now, Mozilla and Microsoft are racing to release upgrades of their competing products.

However, the next version of Firefox 2.0 has been delayed several times. Mozilla planned to release version Beta 2 on Wednesday, just ahead of Microsoft’s IE 7 splash, but was unable to deliver. Mozilla pushed back the release date to Aug. 30.

Usability Rules

Still, from a usability perspective, Firefox is generally viewed at least on par with IE 7. Open source advocates who have become comfortable with the alternative browser may not necessarily make the switch back to Microsoft just because it is available, especially considering the complexity of the security features in IE 7.

“Where Firefox really shines is with its simplicity,” Wilcox pointed out. “Microsoft increases complexity to improve safety. So far, Firefox has been able to avoid increasing complexity — and the confusion that comes with it. From a usability perspective, there’s a lot to be said for both security and simplicity.”

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The 10 worst technologies in Q2 2006

We love seeing great new tech, but there’s also a side of us that takes delight in seeing the other end of the technological spectrum. Like with a bad movie that achieves cult status because it’s just that bad, we love to hate something about these unlucky products and downloadable duds from the past three months. Keep in mind, each of the items listed below has its share of redeeming qualities. But each of them also stands out for all the wrong reasons. In no particular order, here are some recent tech turkeys. And if you want to catch up on the entire year’s most worthless gear, read our roundup of the worst tech of the first quarter.

1. Worst new sport: Segway polo
Hmm, if only there were a way to combine the dorkiness of riding a Segway with the snobbery of a polo match. It seems Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak’s next venture is to popularize the game of Segway polo, once he’s done finding ways of cheating in it and forcing them to rewrite the rules every week. When Woz isn’t busy annoying everyone on the Segway polo grounds with “tactics” such as throwing his mallet and clubbing shots over their heads, he’s busy braining passersby with errant shots. See all this and more in our incredibly uncomfortable video.

2. Worst use of the word “intelligent”: Nyko Intelligent Remote 360
Hey, Nyko Intelligent Remote 360: If you’re so “intelligent,” how come we have to program each of your stupid buttons individually? And after we’ve taken far too much time doing that, how come the volume control is all janked up? Like we press the Up button once, and the volume goes up five notches. Wow, you can learn functions from up to 22 different remotes? How are we going to remember which button we mapped our track lighting to if we can’t relabel them? A nice golf pencil and a small chart would’ve worked–we don’t have your steel-trap memory, Nyko Intelligent Remote 360. Also, if you’re so smart, how come you can’t complete Sudoku puzzles in 12 seconds? Give me back my $20.

3. Worst camera surrounding a good idea: Kodak EasyShare One/6MP
The good news is that the Kodak EasyShare One/6MP does Wi-Fi extremely well, so you can e-mail, print and share photos directly from the camera. The bad news is that the camera’s image quality, boot-up time, and controls will make you want to stop taking photos altogether. Bad menu navigation, murky backgrounds, purple/pink halos…”Hey Mom, check out these pics I took of Blobby McSmear. Oh wait, that’s my newborn baby. And I almost caught a UFO on camera, but I missed it because it took eight seconds for my camera to start up. And here’s a picture of me crying uncontrollably while rocking back and forth in the fetal position because of this camera.”

4. Worst electronic referees: “And 1 Streetball
Some say the traveling “And 1 Streetball” team is the new-school answer to the Harlem Globetrotters. Others say the “And 1 Streetball” team is just a bunch of guys traveling. Yes, it’s cool to see a guy bounce the ball off a defender’s head, stick it under his shirt, moonwalk, and then kick an alley-oop pass in one fluid motion, but still: That’s traveling. Here’s one thing both camps can agree on: “And 1 Streetball” for Xbox is not a very good video game. The game play is choppy, the “Oh, baby!”s get old quickly, the animations are creepy, and no one ever gets called for traveling. Also, I’m not sure Derrek Lee in a Bjorn Borg wig is part of the “And 1 Streetball” team. But he’s in the game.

5. Worst retro device: JVC XA-F107B
We like retro. But retro is cooler when it’s about 20 years removed from the source, not just a couple of years. Case in point is this basic MP3 player from JVC. Revisit the salad days of 2001 with its monochromatic LCD screen, subpar battery life, decent sound, line-in recording, and…nothing else. There’s nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that it costs $150 for the 1GB version and $100 for the 512MB version. You’d be hard-pressed to find a player for that price that doesn’t offer more features or better performance. The bloated price must be due to the fact that it’s an antique.

6. Worst phone to use at a monster truck rally: Pantech C300
This phone isn’t bad, but it’s really, really, really small. When it’s in your hand, you will feel like Gigantor. But it’s a trick. You are not Gigantor. And if you’re at a monster truck rally, bully convention or Hell’s Angels hangout while you’re using it, you’ll catch some hell for being Mr. Fancy Li’l Mini Phone. A wedgie, “Kick Me” sign or stop-hitting-yourself situation might ensue.

7. Worst game based on a movie: “X-Men: The Official Game
Here’s a category with some stiff competition. “The Da Vinci Code” has achieved unprecedented excellence in the realms of lengthy, expressionless dialogue, slapped-together presentation and good-story ruining. “Over the Hedge” is great if your key game-play requirement is boredom. But “X-Men: The Official Game” has them both beat, thanks to numerous glitches, a palpable rush-to-release feel, Swiss-cheese plotlines, hilariously bad transitions and artificially unintelligent stage bosses. Plugging your game controller into a ham sandwich while pushing buttons and making your own sound effects is more engaging.

8. Worst GPS unit: FineDigital FineDrive
Has anyone ever asked you for directions, and after you give them, you realize you may have messed up a step or two? And then you realize it would have been better just telling them, “I don’t know how to get there,” instead of giving bad directions, because now those people are really, really lost? Enter the FineDigital FineDrive GPS unit. Sometimes, it has no idea where you are. Other times, it gives you inaccurate directions. And although it has a built-in MP3 player, it can’t play tunes and give directions at the same time. But at least it’s a bargain at $700.

9. Worst name change: Nintendo Wii
“Nintendo Revolution” sounds cool. “Nintendo Wii” sounds dumb. That’s about all there is to say.

10. Worst imitation of an iPod/Razr hybrid: DigiArmor DMS-S20
For only about $350, you can get a player that looks kind of like the iPod and kind of like the Razr and works nothing like either of them. It plays video, but not very well. It sounds pretty good, but doesn’t come with headphones. It has a navigational menu, but it doesn’t navigate very well–and that’s when you can get the firmware to even respond. The name DigiArmor sounds pretty cool, though. Maybe this subpar player should let the Nintendo Wii borrow it.

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Cool Mobiles

The mobiles that I would recommend for people with feature-fetishes are the N80 and the W810i. The N80 is in a mixture of chrome and metal finish and really small to hold for a smartphone, and is available in two versions – silver and black. All the major control keys are accessible on the outside so there is very little need to open the keypad, unless you want to write a message or manually type a number. Now the feedback of the control keys is excellent, although the proximity of the standard keys, control pad and call keys may cause a bit of trouble for those with large fingers.

But the really cool thing to watch out for is the high resolution screen, I could actually watch a full-length film on this and the landscape mode really works – both for viewing images and browsing on the internet. Speaking of connectivity, the phone is totally loaded and has everything from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi to infrared and this phone is actually Quadband and the surprising part is despite doing all that, it’s still faster that any Nokia phone in the market, all thanks to the Symbian 60 v3 OS.

If you guys can’t stop clicking pictures, then this phone is just for you it houses a 3 Megapixel camera, which has no problem storing those huge photographs because this phone comes with a 40 MB internal memory and mini SD expandable memory slot, which can go up to 2GB. But, with a price band of Rs 26,000 I wait would for the price to come down.
On the ratings front:

Styling 7/10
Camera 8/10
Music 7/10
Performance 9/10
Connectivity 10/10
Final verdict 9/10

W810iLet’s just say black is beautiful – it’s compact and very desirable. The W810i has looks catering to a business executive, but on the inside, it has all the frills for an 18 year old, and since it has the walkman branding, let’s not forget it comes with amazing speakers and music quality can be compared to the lights of an iPod, but yes unlike the iPod it has an FM radio. And the earplugs that come with it are pretty unique in terms of styling. The music hot key is also well placed.

If you have a big music collection then this phone is not big on internal memory but gets it right with a expandable memory stick duo slot, which can go up to 2 GB. The display is also quite crisp and the pre-loaded themes are a lot of fun. But what pack’s a killer punch is the 2 Megapixel camera and the images are very clear, but the flash on the phone is not really flash but just light. And finally at Rs 16,000, I say its good value for money. But with Sony-Erickson’s own phone having the same features, without the walkman branding and costs around Rs 10,000, I could give it a miss on the ratings front.
Styling 8/10
Camera 8/10
Music 9/10
Performance 7/10
Connectivity 7/10
Final verdict 7/10

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You’ve got mail – on your phone!

You were this close to sending a very important mail to your boss and puff goes your connection, now you could use your phone to call your boss and may be get fired or use the same phone to set things right with a bluetooth-enabled and GPRS phone. The key advantages of using bluetooth are that you don’t need to install the phone on the PC and you can keep the phone anywhere close by, such as in your pocket while connecting.

To start, you’ll need a Bluetooth phone and you’ll need to subscribe to the Advanced GPRS feature that all service providers offer under different names. Check if your connection is working by using the phone’s browser to open any website. The next thing you need is, of course, a laptop or a PC with a Bluetooth adapter, installed and working. I’ll be looking at Bluetooth adapters that use the WIDCOMM drivers, not the built-in Microsoft ones which are severely limited.

First, enable Bluetooth on the phone. Then, right click the Bluetooth icon on your Windows system tray, select “Quick Connect”, then “Dial-Up Networking” and finally “Find devices.” It will find your phone and show it in the list. Double click on the phone name, or select it and click “Connect.” Windows will install your phone as a Bluetooth modem. When done, it will also create a shortcut to the Bluetooth dial-up connection in your Network Connections folder.

Now the tough part – go to the Control Panel, select “Printers and Other Hardware,” and click on “Phone and Modem Options.” Switch to the “Modems” tab and highlight the “Bluetooth Modem” item in the list. Click “Properties” to open up a settings box. In here, click the “Advanced” tab to find a box where you can enter “Extra initialization commands.” Hutch users enter +CGDCONT=1, “IP”,”www” and Airtel users use +CGDCONT=1, “IP”,”” Confirm these modem initialization strings with your service provider before using them. Click OK a bunch of times to close all the dialogue boxes. The tough part is pretty much over.
Double click on the Bluetooth connection in your Network Connections folder for the dial-up dialog to come up. Don’t enter a username or password, just enter *99***1# as the number and click “Dial.”

If all goes well, you should be online in just a few seconds! The speed of the connection varies between different times of the day and also between different service providers. At some points in time, the connection is just fast enough to send the email that’s pending, but at other times, it’s quite fast and actually “browseable.” And finally there goes my very important mail to my boss.

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Symantec continues Vista bug hunt

After poking around the Windows Vista networking stack, Symantec researchers have tried out privilege-escalation attacks on an early version of the Windows XP successor.
In a second report on Vista, Symantec takes on a security feature in the operating system called
User Account Control, or UAC. The feature runs a Vista PC with fewer user privileges to prevent malicious code from being able to do as much damage as on a PC running in administrator mode, a typical setting on Windows XP.

“We discovered a number of implementation flaws that continued to allow a full machine compromise to occur,” Matthew Conover, principal security researcher at Symantec, wrote in the report titled “Attacks against Windows Vista’s Security Model.” The report was made available to Symantec customers last week and is scheduled for public release sometime before Vista ships, a Symantec representative said Monday.

Conover looked at the February preview release of Vista. The report describes how an attacker could commandeer a Vista PC with Internet Explorer 7, the reinforced version of Microsoft’s Web browser. The final version of Vista is not expected to be broadly available until January.
The attack starts out by planting a malicious file on a Vista PC when a rigged Web site is visited. The placing of the file involves using a specially crafted Web program called an ActiveX control that exploits a security hole. The report then describes how the malicious program could gain privileges and ultimately give an attacker full control of the PC.

“The triviality of this privilege escalation…foreshadows the grave difficulty that the Windows Vista security model will have enforcing the separation between low and medium integrity level under the same user account,” Conover wrote.

Microsoft has already resolved most of the issues identified in the Symantec report, a representative for the Redmond, Wash., company said in a statement. “Highlighting issues in early builds of Windows Vista does not accurately represent the quality and depth of the final functionality of User Account Control,” the representative said.

Additionally, Microsoft said the Symantec research assumes that the user is logged in with an administrator account, a setting Microsoft does not recommend. Instead, the software maker advises the use of standard user accounts, which will require users to enter a password to gain admin-level privileges, for example to install software.

Microsoft has pitched Vista as its most secure operating system ever. UAC and Internet Explorer 7 are two of the key ingredients to deliver that security.

The report on UAC is the second of three reports Symantec plans to release on Windows Vista. A first report, on new Vista networking technology, was publicly released last week. A third report, examining the Vista core, or kernel, is scheduled to be published on Symantec’s DeepSight security intelligence service this week.

Traditionally allies, Microsoft and Symantec are now going head-to-head in the security arena. In late May, Microsoft introduced Windows Live OneCare, a consumer security package, and the software giant is readying an enterprise desktop security product. Symantec has also sued Microsoft, alleging misuse of data storage technology it licensed to the company.

“Symantec continuously researches and analyzes new technologies,” said Pamela Reese, a Symantec spokeswoman. “Even with the understanding that the issues discussed in this research will likely be resolved before Windows Vista is shipped, Symantec has opted to make this research public because of the public interest in Vista.”

But telling the world at large about vulnerabilities in an operating systems that won’t ship for a while doesn’t help anybody, noted John Pescatore, a Gartner analyst. Except, perhaps, Symantec’s marketing machine. “They want to sell desktop security software even when Vista comes out,” Pescatore said.

Additionally, security companies benefit from getting their name associated with finding vulnerabilities. “It helps people trust them as a security company,” Pescatore said.
Symantec said it is encouraged to see that Microsoft is taking care of the basics by improving the security of its newest operating system. “However, Symantec feels that customers are safer if they can exercise their choice to use the security capabilities offered by Symantec and others,” Reese said.

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How would your mobile look in 2015?

BANGALORE: Going back a decade, one would have not thought of ‘on-the-move-phones’; the ubiquitous handphone has become a must-have for all and sundry today. Constant innovation in design and technology has enabled features like an inbuilt camera, MP3 player, digital diary, email client, web browser etc.

Let’s fast-forward and come to the year 2015. What will this creature look like ten years hence? Needless to say it will be packed with several features and may make many devices that we use today, redundant. What will happen at the design front? Will they retain the ‘phone look’ or take the look of a ring, a necklace, a bag or a ring?

Phone giant Nokia, hooked 26 design students from London’s Central St Martins College of Art and Design, into a contest to design the phones of 2015.

Click here to view the picture gallery !

Students were instructed to keep the users in mind while designing and came up with mobile phone for gamers which doubles as a pair of sunglasses, a phone for security conscious that can be worn as a ring, a necklace phone where each bead is a contact and an aromatherapy phone.Daniel Meyer, won the first prize; the phone’s lower portion swivels to allow the phone to sit in a freestanding right angle and act as a picture frame. The handset has an inbuilt trackball that can act as a mouse.

The devices are displayed at the Future of Mobile Design exhibition at London’s Air Gallery.

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