Cool Tech Reviews

Just Cool Tech

June 28, 2006

Windows Live OneCare dinged again


We’ve mentioned previously that Microsoft’s new security suite, Windows Live OneCare, is not faring well in reviews. Add one more as the folks at agnitum (which does offer a competing firewall) put the OneCare firewall through its paces. Hit the link for the technical details, but here’s the punch line:

Although the program is very intuitive, nice to look at, and easy to use – which is good for the program’s target audience of inexperienced users – its functionality is a big let-down and does not serve that inexperienced user audience well. It reminds us of those a colorful and feature-rich Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) with nothing behind them that you sometimes see at exhibitions, because the vendors couldn’t finish the whole program in time. Microsoft OneCare needs a serious overhaul before it can be considered anything more than just a fancy interface with no real security under the hood.

Ouch! While I don’t necessarily buy in to all the issues raised, check this out:

After OneCare has worked for a couple of hours and created a reasonable-sized database of application access rules, we subjected the firewall to a slate of leaktests intended to verify how the program would protect users against imaginary malware attempts to upload data from the host computer. The results were very poor, with the OneCare firewall passing only the most basic and simple leaktests and failing the rest. Amusingly, it treated leaktests as if they were normal Windows Explorer (explore.exe), Internet Explorer and other credible applications widely used on a Windows-based computer, failing to detect the tests’ tendency to imitate, implant its code in, or hijack a credible application on which behalf it subsequently gained access credentials.

The implications of this poor performance are far-reaching: any competent piece of malware would have no problem stealing data from a PC ‘protected’ by OneCare, and the firewall uttered not a single peep to prevent this from happening.

Sounds like Microsoft has got some work to do.


Posted at 6:39 pm. Filed under Brands, Firewall, Microsoft, Security, Software, Utilities, Windows Live

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Flash disks starting to replace hard disks


Solid state, non volatile disk storage replacement has been a dream for a lot of years and while flash disks are finally killing the floppy, advances in hard disk technology have always kept the price per byte low enough that solid state didn’t have much leverage except for special use devices. That may be starting to change as laptop manufacturers have started introducing new models with flash disks instead of hard drives in some notebook models. Martyn Williams at PCWorld:

Sony will replace hard disks with flash memory when it launches a new model of its Vaio U laptop next week, it said today (June 27 – ed.).

Flash has long been eyed as a potential replacement for hard drives because it is lighter, runs silently, offers faster data access, and uses less power, but price has always been an obstacle.

The Vaio UX90 will come with 16GB of flash memory storage in place of the 30GB hard drive on the original model. It will cost around $1805, or about $345 more expensive than the disk-based model, and go on sale in Japan on July 3.

The UX Micro PCs look like a PDA on steroids, but they run Widows XP Professional and regular Windows applications as well as having some media player functionality.

Samsung Electronics launched a couple of PCs with flash storage earlier this month. The Q30 laptop and Q1 ultra mobile PC both use Samsung’s “solid state disk,” which packs 32GB of NAND flash memory into a case the same size as a 1.8-inch hard drive.

The Q1 is Samsung’s entry in the oddball Origami (AKA UMPC) tablet PC form factor developed by Microsoft and Intel, while the Q30-SSD (Solid State Drive) is a regular laptop:

Sammy just announced that their sweet, sweet NAND-based Q30-SSD we first got down and dirty with at CeBIT will hit the shelves in Korea (only) from early June onward. Yeah, it’ll fetch a steep $3,700 US-equiv (a roughly $900 premium) on that aging 1.2GHz Celeron M Q30 platform, but that 32GB of NAND reads 300 percent faster (53MB/s) and write 150 percent quicker (28MB/s) than normal hard drives while offering better protection against shock, 25-50% faster boots and sleep recovery times, longer battery life and reduced weight all in a completely silent, fanless package. Hoozah!

To which, I guess I have to add, ouch! The prices still have a way to go to attract the average consumer. More on Samsung’s solid state hard drive here.


Posted at 12:00 pm. Filed under Companies, Flash Drive, Hard Disks, Intel, Laptop, Microsoft, Notebook, Samsung, Solid State Drive, Sony, Storage, Tablet PC

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June 27, 2006

Warner Bros selling TV shows and movies via Guba


Greg Sandoval at ZDNet:

Warner Bros. Entertainment on Monday began selling full-length feature films and TV shows over the Internet via Guba, one of a legion of companies presenting amateur-videos on the Web.

Guba customers can rent a film for $1.79 per day or pay $9.99 to own an older title. Newer movies cost $19.99 (actually TV shows rent for $1.79 and movies for $1.99 a day – ed.). All the content is protected by Microsoft-developed digital rights management software, the companies said.

The agreement is the latest sign that at least some in Hollywood may be ready to deal with Internet sites that some in the movie business consider a threat. Warner Bros. last month announced that it had chosen file-sharing technology from BitTorrent to distribute films.

The difference is that the Guba content can be copied to DVDs:

Under the Guba-Warner Bros. agreement, people will be able to make a copy of a video onto a DVD, but, because of industry licensing agreements, it can only be played on the computer from which it was burned. Wuthrich said he hopes consumers will be able to watch the copied DVDs with a DVD player within a year or so.

while purchases from BitTorrent cannot be copied to DVDs at all.

For Guba, the partnership is a coup. Like most other competitors in the video-sharing space, Guba has seen its public profile eclipsed by the juggernaut, YouTube. Thomas McInerney, the Guba’s CEO, said he hopes the Warner Bros. partnership will help the company stand apart from rivals.

There is some interesting background on Guba by following the link, but the bigger story is studios embracing download services in the apparent hope that the widespread availability of legal content will cut down on piracy. It might even work.

Note that Warner Bros. did a separate deal with corporate cousin AOL for distributing old TV shows for free.

Update 8/23: This post was heavily revised.


Posted at 10:27 am. Filed under BitTorrent, Companies, Guba, Internet, Microsoft, Video Downloads, Warner Bros., YouTube

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