Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. There's a war breaking out between Microshaft and Sun Microsystems over each other's office suite. Microshaft is reported to control nearly 95% of all sector sales and at approximately $279 - $739 a copy (depending on how "lite" you want it), it has become an extremely large source of income for the software giant. I expect that Microshaft will be doing everything in it's power to make life difficult for Sun in the months ahead. One of the first stunts I expect to see them pulling is changing the format that their files are saved in. But this will only marginally slow down the software programmers at Sun who will simply reverse-engineer any new formats.
This is a trick that Microshaft has been using for decades to steal programs from 3rd-party software developers. If you need any assurances on this matter just look back at MS DOS when they licensed "lite" versions of backup, disk scanning, anti-virus, data compression and other programs bundled with DOS 5. Then in DOS 6 they had Microshaft versions of all these utilities built into the operating system. Is it any wonder how that happened?
I've been using Star Office for several years and have been extremely happy with it. It has document, spreadsheet, presentation, database, drawing, HTML (web page) and other capabilities. It can open and save MS document formats whenever I need to do that. Also, the Help Agent is more informative than "Clippy" and I've actually used it to teach myself about some of the more advanced functions in spreadsheets. All told, Star Office is more than capable enough for my needs and the price is reasonable in the extreme.
In order to keep you informed so that you can make those decisions, you'll find more than a few articles on the subject in CYBERSPACE ALERT.

Signed,
Co-Conspirator To Make The World A Better Place

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GRINS & GIGGLES:

1. A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two-tired. 

2. What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead giveaway). 

3. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. 

4. A backwards poet writes inverse. 

5. In democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes. 

6. She had a boyfriend with a wooden leg, but broke it off. 

7. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion. 

8. If you don't pay your exorcist you get repossessed. 

9. With her marriage she got a new name and a dress. 

10. Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I'll show you A-flat minor. 

11. When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds. 

12. The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered. 

13. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart. 

14. You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it. 

15. Local Area Network in Australia: the LAN down under. 

16. He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key. 

17. Every calendar's days are numbered. 

18. A lot of money is tainted. It taint yours and it taint mine. 

19. A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat. 

20. He had a photographic memory that was never developed. 

21. A plateau is a high form of flattery. 

22. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large. 

23. Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end. 

24. Once you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall. 

25. Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine. 

26. When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she'd dye. 

27. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis. 

28. Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses. 

29. Acupuncture is a jab well done. 

30. Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of defeat. 

[thanks to Pat Stewart for this one]

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CYBERSPACE ALERT:
Microsoft finalizing next-gen Office
By Joe Wilcox 

Microsoft is finalizing plans for the next version of its Office business software, which will likely include new Web services, communication and collaboration features, said sources familiar with the company's plans. Moreover, many of the features once planned as part of Microsoft's .Net My Services consumer Web services strategy may now find their way into Office, sources said.

News of the next version comes as rival Sun Microsystems announces a new version of its StarOffice package, which is an alternative to Microsoft Office. Sun on Tuesday said it will begin selling the software May 21, priced at $75.95.

[see following article - DP]

Among companies, "what's most interesting is the sudden increase in interest in StarOffice," said Gartner analyst David Smith. "We're not seeing much deployment of it, but (there is) tremendous interest, and companies (are) setting up testing labs."

Though StarOffice interest may be on the rise, Microsoft still controls more than 95 percent of the desktop business software market, according to Gartner.

.Net My Services, announced more than a year ago, was originally envisioned as a "digital safe-deposit box" for hosting and delivering personal information while providing an array of services, ranging from commerce to communications, in partnership with Web retailers such as eBay. 

Microsoft had hoped that consumers would pay fees that would cover the bulk of the expense to run these one-stop services, which would manage passwords, calendars and other personal information. 

Instead, the plan has been the source of continual confusion among potential customers, has encountered a series of problems with its underlying technology, and has faced internal frustration that sources say even led to its top executive being reassigned. 

In court last week testifying as part of Microsoft's antitrust trial, Jim Allchin, the company's senior vice president responsible for Windows, described .Net My Services as being "in a little bit of disarray."

Now, Microsoft appears to be linking .Net My Services to Office--its cash cow--in the hope of garnering more interest in paid services. That plan would put access to Microsoft's Web services within the reach of millions of Office users. This week, Microsoft said that customers had purchased the right to install 60 million copies of Office XP.

The move to subscriptions, which would target consumers, would be a big shift for Microsoft as it rethinks its Web services strategy, though sources warned that the plan is not ironclad. 

Microsoft pulled back from subscriptions once before. The company had planned to offer a subscription version of Office XP but abruptly retreated from the idea. Microsoft sold an optional subscription version of Office XP in Australia and New Zealand, but nowhere else.

Your Office or mine?
Smith said that Microsoft's increase in volume licensing fees--more than 100 percent for some companies--directly accounts for much of the interest in StarOffice among Microsoft's Office customer base. The increases will come through a new licensing program called Software Assurance that will commit customers to buying operating system and application upgrades for an annual fee.

"Some of these (StarOffice) pilots are in place to get Microsoft to back down on the licensing changes," Smith said. "We think the interest is serious enough that if Microsoft doesn't change its pricing and licensing strategy, it will lose 10 percent of the Office market to StarOffice and alternatives in a couple years...by 2004."

Such a shift, while seemingly dramatic, wouldn't do much to dent Microsoft's dominance in the office productivity market. Smith estimated that Office could drop from 95 percent to 85 percent share--"and that's certainly not going to break the company. Nonetheless, they're very concerned about StarOffice in Redmond."

Office accounts for more than one-third of Microsoft's overall revenue. 

The tug-of-war between Microsoft and corporate customers over volume licensing is also an attempt by Microsoft to lock subscribers into contracts that will make them less likely to switch to competing products.

"Locking companies into contracts so they won't consider anything else is exactly what Microsoft is trying to do," Smith said. "They will make sure (customers) don't deploy any other software and help protect the market share."

---
Free OpenOffice picks up from StarOffice
By Matthew Broersma 

OpenOffice.org developers have put the finishing touches on their productivity suite, which provides users and businesses with an alternative to Microsoft's Office suite. The free OpenOffice uses the same code base as the StarOffice software for which Sun Microsystems charges a fee.

OpenOffice.org 1.0, available now, includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics and other applications. It is the result of 18 months of collaboration between Sun developers and more than 10,000 volunteer developers, a venture that began when Sun donated the StarOffice code to the open-source or "free software" community. 

Under the open-source development model, the application's original code is freely available for developers to modify and redistribute, as long as the redistributed versions continue to be open. For example, Finland's SOT sells an office suite based partly on OpenOffice. 

While OpenOffice.org is a separate project from StarOffice, with contributions received directly from thousands of volunteer developers, Sun draws heavily on OpenOffice code for StarOffice-- to the point where the basic programming code and functionality of the two suites are nearly identical. StarOffice contains some enhancements not found in OpenOffice, such as special fonts and a database, while support and training services are also available from Sun. 

Sun bought StarOffice from a German firm and initially gave the software away. Version 6.0, which is generally considered more usable than its predecessor, was free in beta-test form, but Sun said it found that businesses were more receptive to a paid-for product. Industry analysts say moving to a pay basis could actually increase StarOffice's penetration in businesses. 

"If StarOffice becomes a profitable business for Sun, enterprises will incur less risk and be more assured of the product's longevity," wrote Gartner analyst Michael Silver in a March report. "Gartner remains sceptical of the business model for free office software." 

Both StarOffice and OpenOffice.org run on Windows as well as on various flavours of Linux and Unix.

Many enterprises have grown uneasy with Microsoft's licensing plans and have been evaluating alternatives, according to industry observers. Partly because of this, Gartner believes StarOffice has a chance of gaining 10 percent of the productivity suite market by 2004. 

Mozilla, an open-source version of the Netscape browser, has also benefited from interest in alternatives to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Mozilla 1.0 is expected in the next few weeks. 

---
Some customers bristle as Microsoft deadline looms
Matt Berger

Changes to Microsoft Corp.'s software licensing system that take effect in
August continue to face resistance from customers, some of whom said they fear the changes will lead to higher prices and put them under pressure to upgrade their Microsoft software more frequently.

The new plan asks customers who buy licenses in bulk to pay an annual fee that will cover the price of all upgrades for the software they use during the period covered by their contract. Microsoft has argued that the plan will simplify the licensing process for its customers and help them save money in the long term as it rolls out updated products in its .Net software family.

One problem, critics say, is that the plan will put customers under pressure to upgrade their software in step with the release of new upgrades from Microsoft in order to get the full value of the plan. Microsoft typically releases upgrades to its products every 18 to 24 months. Some customers say they don't want to upgrade their software with each new version released, particularly if the software they have in place is working fine.

"What is frustrating for so many of us is the way Microsoft forces us into getting new products," said Dennis Kirk, manager of information technology for the State of Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality.

The department traditionally has upgraded its software every four or five years, recently migrating to Windows 2000 on its desktops and servers.

"We've got a good five years out of Windows 95 and it did fine" Kirk said. With Windows 2000 now up and running, he expects to leave it in place for the next few years. "We're going to try to get the most mileage out of all these products as we can."

That sentiment may prove costly, however. Like other organizations, if the State of Oregon chooses not to adopt the new licensing scheme by Microsoft's enrollment deadline of July 31, it faces the prospect of higher upgrade costs when it eventually does decide to refresh its software. That's because Microsoft's popular upgrade licensing plan will be retired when the new system is in place. Under the expiring agreements, customers received discounts on software upgrades even if they skipped intermediate versions of a product.

"We used to be able to invest in a Microsoft product and pay an upgrade fee. You had some value in what you bought from them," said Kirk, who helps manage the state's nearly 50,000 seats. "Today, after four years you have no value in the product you bought. You're no different than anyone off the street who wants to buy software."

---
Sun slaps a price tag on StarOffice
By Stephen Shankland 

Sun Microsystems' StarOffice 6.0 will go on sale May 21 with a price of $75.95, the company will announce Wednesday, in a more concerted effort by the server specialist to take on Microsoft's overwhelmingly dominant Office.

StarOffice 5.2 has been available as a free download since Sun acquired the StarOffice product line in 1999, but Sun said earlier this year it would charge for the new version and provide better support for customers using it.

It may not be free, but it's still less expensive than Microsoft Office, which overwhelmingly dominates the office software market with a 95 percent share, according to Gartner Dataquest. The basic version of Office has a retail cost of $479, with an upgrade cost of $239 and an educational version for $149.

"This is positioned as a low- cost alternative," said Cheryln Chin, vice president of business development at Sun's Software Systems group. Sun is specifically planning to sell StarOffice to large businesses, education customers and governments.

For both StarOffice and Microsoft Office, customers buying the product in large quantities get a price discount, with StarOffice costing between $25 and $50 per copy. StarOffice is available for educational customers at the cost of the CD, instruction manuals and shipping.

Sun and Microsoft are constant thorns in each other's sides; Microsoft has worked to exclude Sun from industry collaboration while Sun has taken its complaints about the software rival to court in the form of a private antitrust lawsuit.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun generally tries to undermine Microsoft by moving computing power to the large central servers at the core of Sun's sales, a move that demotes PCs to a mere supporting role. This time, StarOffice is a direct challenge to Microsoft's business.

Microsoft asserts it isn't working on any responses to the arrival of StarOffice--though it perhaps wasn't a coincidence that the company chose this week to announce that customers had purchased the right to install 60 million copies of Office XP.

"We are focused on bringing Microsoft Office to the next level," von Kaenel said. "Competition is good for the industry. It keeps us on our toes and reminds us that we have to earn our customers every day."

But Microsoft is running into problems with those very customers. The Redmond, Wash.-based company has run into resistance to a subscription plan that would let customers pay an annual fee for Office updates instead of a per-upgrade charge. Many customers complained that the change effectively raised the price.

Chin said 1.8 million users are testing StarOffice 6; thus far about 70 percent to 80 percent of testers have adopted the product. Customers include the Burlington Coat Factory, A.B. Watley, the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia, Canada, and Paros Software.

StarOffice is based on the same software as OpenOffice, an open-source project that is developed by Sun and others. The programming code underlying the OpenOffice product may be freely changed or shared under the terms of the Lesser General Public License (LGPL), a stark contrast to the tight proprietary controls over Microsoft Office.

[this is similar to the way that Linux has come to the forefront as an Operating System - DP]

One major change of the new version of StarOffice is that individual programs such as word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software can be launched separately. In 5.2, it was all or nothing. The new version also uses XML-based file formats that aren't proprietary like Microsoft Office documents.

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GREAT UTIL:
PC Phone Home

Brigadoon Software, Inc., a computer software development company that specializes in ground breaking computer software products, released PC PhoneHome Pro, the tamper-resistant professional version of its freeware program. PC PhoneHome Pro is a revolutionary software program that tracks the location of a computer via the Internet by stealth anywhere in the world. It was created to facilitate the retrieval of lost and stolen computers because of the meteoric rise in computer theft. 

Computer Theft a Major Problem
"According to the Computer Security Institute and the FBI over 756,000 computers have been stolen in the USA in the last two years," states Terrance Kawles, Brigadoon Software's President. "The FBI reports only 3% of those lost or stolen computers will EVER be recovered. You don't have to be a victim. PC PhoneHome can track and locate any computer with a Windows or Mac operating system anywhere in the world. And now with PC PhoneHome Pro, you can still be protected even if the bad guys try to wipe the hard drive." 

How PC PhoneHome(TM) works:
"PC PHONEHOME is incredibly easy to use," continued Kawles. "The customer installs PC PHONEHOME on their computer. Then, if your computer is lost or stolen, PC PhoneHome™ sends a stealth signal containing its exact coordinates to a pre-determined e-mail address set by the customer. The customer then notifies local Police of computer's location. The local police can then recover customer's stolen property."

PC PhoneHome Pro(TM) Highly Resistant to Removal by Reformatting The Computers' Hard drive:
With the computer properly configured, PC PhoneHome Pro is capable of surviving a thief's attempt to "clean" the computer hard drive and wipe safety or security software by reformatting the hard drive using the "format" or "fdisk" commands. PC PhoneHome will stay resident and continue to "PhoneHome" the next time the computer makes an Internet connection.

"For example, PC PhoneHome makes it possible for a businessman who has his computer stolen in an airport in Paris, London, Buenos Aries, Johannesburg, Moscow or even Bejing to recover it even if he lives in New York," said Kawles. "International boundaries or clever thieves that wipe the hard drives of stolen computers are not even a speed-bump for PC PhoneHome Pro." 

Freeware Version of PC PhoneHome(TM) Available Online for Testing:
Brigadoon Software offers a free ware version of the software, PC PhoneHome Lite, as a public service and for demonstration purpose. PC PhoneHome Lite is available for download at www.brigadoonsoftware.com. PC PhoneHome Lite, unlike the professional version, will not withstand reformatting of the hard drive.

PC PhoneHome Pro is the professional grade version and is available at the suggested retail price of $29.95 USD. PC PhoneHome Pro is highly resistant to erasure by reformatting of the computer's hard drive. 

http://www.pcphonehome.com

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QUICK WIT:

When you cannot lift something, you might think it is too heavy -- but perhaps it is you who are too weak.

.