Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. The release of the new Microshaft Windows XP has been a concern of security experts for many months. (The moniker "XP", by the way, has been used by the military for many years to designate any project that has an experimental status). It seems that nobody, including the redoubtable Steve Gibson, can make them understand that "Experimental" is a serious threat to the security on the internet. Some of the problems introduced by "Experimental" are Passport (personal information collection), wide open ports, an ineffectual firewall, Smart Tags (web link insertion) and Product Activation (just to name a few).

"Experimental" will prompt you to sign up for Passport the second through the fifth time you attempt to connect to the 'net. This is not only irritating to most users, but they never tell the user that the information is being sent out! It also foreshadows the way that Microshaft is going to be steering to it's products you at every turn.

A set of consumer and privacy groups railed against the US government this week for not acting to investigate or block the sale of Windows XP, which Microsoft will release tomorrow. Microsoft competitors are backing some of the groups, which have complained that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should have acted against XP when the critics logged their first complaints earlier this summer. The groups are concerned that certain XP features, such as its Passport integration, violate consumers' privacy and US laws.

"This is a critical test of the FTC's ability to protect consumer interests in the online world," said Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), one of the 13 companies that have banded together to criticize the agency's inaction. The companies have filed a complaint with the FTC, which says that it isn't investigating XP or Passport.

In the past, your computer's ports were normally closed and could only be opened from the inside by a program that needed specific ports for connection and communication. "Experimental" now has all 65,000 ports open by default! When the experts cried out Microshaft turned a deaf ear, claiming that "it's a necessary part of Windows." Yea, right. Just like macro scripting and Active-X were before virus writers started formatting hard drives with them.

A promotional Web site for Microsoft's soon-to-be-released Windows XP operating system said it would offer the same protection from viruses and hackers that major corporations use, but the company has since rescinded those assurances. A Microsoft executive had the reference removed from the Web site after The Associated Press questioned it.

Before the company pulled the reference on Thursday, experts expressed concerns that such claims would leave consumers thinking they were safer than they were. And, to top it off, the default configuration leaves the firewall totally disabled.

"The firewall on the operating system isn't going to provide the most protection for people," said Tom Powledge of Symantec, which makes a competing firewall but has a marketing partnership with Microsoft. "People are going to think they're secure when they're not."

The single most enraging feature that's been inserted into "Experimental" is the Internet Explorer 6's Smart Tags. While you're browsing the Web any name, word, or phrase that has additional Smart Tag information associated with it will appear underlined in light purple as a link. Say a user clicks on a linked company name. A menu will pop up with links to news about the company, stock info, or anything else the marketing department wants to include. The problem with this is that these links were NOT part of the original page as written by the webmaster! Instead, Microshaft nonchalantly directed all of these tags toward (you guessed it) Microsoft content and that of their business partners. Even if the web site is about non-Microshaft operating systems and products! This is akin to your competitor invisibly standing next to every one of your customers and whispering in their ear while you try to make your sale.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't dwell much on licensing and activation, but the Product Activation feature has generated so much controversy that it deserves some explanation. Already used in Microsoft Office XP and Visio 2002, Product Activation is designed to crack down on so-called casual copying that violates the licensing agreement. Whether you need to activate XP depends on how you purchase it. If you buy it as a retail upgrade or with a new PC, it will require activation (although, in the latter case, some computer makers may complete the activation for you). If you purchase it through one of Microsoft's volume licensing programs for five or more copies, you won't need to activate.

From the time you first boot XP, you have 30 days to activate it either online or via telephone. The activation is based on a 50-digit installation code that consists of the XP software product ID and a hardware hash value. Once you activate XP, you can't make more than five major changes to the hardware configuration without reactivating. Every 120 days, the clock is reset and you can make an additional five hardware changes. If you replace or reformat the hard drive, you must always reactivate.

According to Cnet (one of the best sources for unbiased computer news) had this to say about "Experimental":

The new operating system has some interesting features such as expanded instant messaging and online photo processing, but it is considered far from necessary for consumers and businesses. Its true impact will be felt as the first public step in a controversial strategy to transform Microsoft from a traditional software company into a global network of services ranging from communication to entertainment on a subscription basis. 

If successful, Microsoft could challenge AOL Time Warner and other media giants for control of the Internet and entirely new industries--similar to the way it has dominated the software market, locking customers into Microsoft-sanctioned goods and services.

It's not worth the trouble
If News.com's readers are any indication, Windows XP may be a tough sell. The reasons: a new activation requirement and few compelling features. 

http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-201-7540650-0.html

===
GRINS & GIGGLES:

Larry's barn burned down and Susan, his wife, called the insurance company ...

Susan: "We had that barn insured for fifty thousand and I want my money."

Agent: "Whoa there just a minute, Susan. It doesn't work quite like that. We will ascertain the value of the old barn and provide you with a new one of comparable worth."

Susan, after a pause: "I'd like to cancel the policy on my husband."

[thanks to Roy Howard for this one]

===
CYBERSPACE ALERT:
Stop the spread of pc viruses 

Here's a little trick you can use to stop the spread of pc viruses - Naturally this doesn't deal with the issue of the fact that viruses exist in the first place, but it does help you protect your Email software and contact list...

Create a contact in your email address book with the name !0000 with no email address in the details. This contact will then show up as your first contact. If a virus attempts to do a "send all" on your contact list, your pc will pop up an error message saying that: "The Message could not be sent. One or more recipients do not have an e-mail address. Please check your address Book and make sure all the recipients have a valid e-mail address."
You click on OK and the offending (virus) message would not have been sent to anyone.

Of course no changes have been made to your original contacts list. The offending (virus) message may then be automatically stored in your "Drafts" or "Outbox" folder. Go in there and delete the offending message. Problem is solved and virus will not spread. Try this and pass on to your email contacts.

This little trick can save a lot of trouble later, This also works with any name as long as there isn't an email address.

Point to make: Some email programs won't allow you to make a new contact without an email address associated with the name, so I create a fictitious address like !0000@novirus.com to apply to those email programs.

===
MEATSPACE ALERT:
DSL ads ruled misrepresentative 
Wednesday October 24th, 2001

A federal judge in St. Louis has ordered Southwestern Bell to stop running a series of television ads that falsely claim high-speed cable Internet connections bog down at peak usage times.

The central message of the ad campaign is simply not true, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled in favor of St. Louis-based Charter Communications Inc., which sued Southwestern Bell in August over the Cable Modem Slowdown campaign that began airing in July.

===
TRUE STORY:
A MORE REASONABLE RESPONSE: Police in the Slovak Republic were worried at first -- a woman called to say she had received an unsolicited, thick envelope in the mail. Then the calls started coming by the dozens. "Many people called police and civil defense specialists, who had to check the envelopes," a police spokesman said. Investigation found that an ad agency hired by Proctor & Gamble had sent 70,000 of the envelopes out with a free sample. "Who would guess immediately that there could be something as innocent as a maxi-pad inside?" The campaign brought similar results in the Czech Republic. (Reuters) ...Men have always backed away from maxi-pads as if they were bio hazards.

ITCHING POWDER: Health authorities all over the world are inundated with reports of "suspicious powder". The Times of India, noting hundreds of unfounded reports, headlined with the best advice: "Relax, it Could Be Just Talcum Powder". In Kansas, a woman called police to say anthrax had been dropped on her car from an airplane -- it was bird droppings. The American Express office in Bahrain called for help when someone found powder -- powdered milk. A mail center in England was evacuated after powder was found there -- candy crushed by a sorting machine. And in Linwood, Ohio, a man called 911 after he found an envelope on his desk was full of powder ...left by his only employee as a joke. The employee was not only fired, but arrested: he faces 15 months in prison on felony charges of "inducing panic". (Various) ...Which leads us to the obvious solution: Zero Powder Tolerance, or ZPT.

Think about this: terrorists are attacking the U.S. because (in part) they hate our freedoms. The Taliban denies basic education to girls, while in the U.S. we strive to assure women have the same rights men have. We even have women in the military -- flying the planes dropping bombs on the terrorists' training camps (and how lovely is THAT: the terrorists will not only be beaten, they'll be beaten by GIRLS! Let's get MORE WOMEN out there! :-) 

===
FUN SITE:
MadBlast

Have you heard the new "Day-O" song? It was written, produced and performed by the KOMP Rock and Roll Morning Show in Las Vegas! Be forewarned, some of the jokes are a bit risque, but you should at least check out the new baby picture of Osama Bin Laden. Hahaha...

http://www.madblast.com/

===
ONLINE SAFETY:
4) Just say "No": remove (or "spoof") your name and email address within your browser.

Unbeknownst to you, your browser regularly give out your email address behind your back. Any web site can simply ask for it and your browser will hand it over! Most sites that do this will add your address to their database and either use it to send you spam, sell their email list to others or both.

Go to your Internet Explorer browser Tools > Internet Options > Security > Custom Level and make sure all ActiveX, Cookies and Scripting options are either DISABLE or PROMPT. When you are prompted later by the browser or Outlook, consider carefully before you say Yes. Under the User Authentication > Logon section select the setting Anonymous Logon.

While in the Tools > Internet Options, go to the Content section and click the AutoComplete button. Uncheck the boxes for Forms and User names. Then click Clear Forms and Clear Passwords. Click OK.

If you're using MS Outlook Express choose the Restricted Sites Zone setting (make sure your IE Restricted Security zone is set to High). Tools > Options > Security > Security-Zones section.

http://www.netprivacypower.org/keepit/
http://www.junkbusters.com/cgi-bin/privacy
http://www.frontiernet.net/~mlambert/security_and_privacy_suggestions.htm

===
QUICK WIT:

The wisest among us often have the least to say.