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Will Longhorn hook 'em?

Technology | Microsoft's new Windows operating system, code-named

Issue: "2004 Election: Dubyafest," Sept. 11, 2004

Microsoft plans to release a new Windows operating system, code-named "Longhorn," in 2006, but it won't contain a highly anticipated new system for organizing personal files. The company claims Longhorn will still be safer and more reliable than its predecessors, but it may leave some users wanting more.

Longhorn promises a more graphical interface and improved security. Once released, it will replace Windows XP as the desktop standard. The file system, known as WinFS (for Windows File System), was to be the biggest change in Microsoft's desktop operating system since the explosive introduction of Windows 95 a decade ago.

By keeping a directory of stored files in a special database, it would help solve the problem of finding valuable files amid huge amounts of data on big hard drives and servers. Some industry analysts, noticing delays in the new operating system, predicted this year that Microsoft would roll out an intermediate, less powerful, release, which they jokingly nicknamed "Windows Reloaded." Losing WinFS fulfills this prediction -and means that some XP users may wait until the new technology's release.

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New Windows releases help push PC sales, since users typically buy new hardware rather than make the upgrade. Manufacturers will have waited five years for a new version once Longhorn hits stores in 2006.

Campus criminals

This new school year means another round in the war between the music industry and online pirates on college computer networks. Record labels and movie studios have complained to administrators for several years about piracy on campus, but a new study reports that schools are making strides against copyright infringement.

The report, sent to Congress by a committee of entertainment and university leaders, pointed out steps ranging from anti-piracy messages at student orientation sessions to filters running on school servers. At least 20 universities signed deals with legal online dealers like Napster and RealNetworks to provide free or discounted music.

While record labels have not sued any colleges over piracy, campuses are a major setting for anti-piracy campaigns due to the easy availability of high-speed internet access among unsupervised young people. The report mentioned that the recording industry's ongoing lawsuit campaign targeted 185 people at 35 universities this year.

The Justice Department estimates U.S. losses due to piracy of movies, software, games, and music at $19 billion annually. The maximum penalty for a criminal copyright infringement is five years in jail and a fine of $250,000.

Bits & Megabytes

  • The Justice Department announced that a cybercrime sweep-dubbed "Operation Web Snare"-helped lead to 103 arrests and 53 convictions from June through August. The cases involved 150,000 victims and an estimated $215 million lost through such offenses as credit-card-number theft, computer hacking, and online fraud. Attorney General John Ashcroft admitted that the arrests made only a tiny dent in online crime but said the operation shows that law-enforcement officials take these transgressions seriously.
  • Intel announced a new process that makes memory chips about 30 percent smaller without losing capacity. By shrinking the size of transistors, the company can cram more data into the same space, thus enabling a new generation of microprocessors. The first chips built with the new process are set to appear next year.
  • Hewlett-Packard is entering the TV business, unveiling a 42-inch high-definition plasma set, a 30-inch flat-panel unit, and a home-theater projector system. This continues a trend by PC makers, including Dell and Gateway, to expand into the consumer electronics business. As the computer hardware market's growth slows, manufacturers look for new arenas for boosting revenue.
  • Verizon Wireless won a permanent injunction against a Rhode Island man accused of sending spam over cell-phone text-message networks. Millions of junk messages promoted mortgage loans, weight-loss products, and even online pornography. Verizon had sought at least $150,000 in damages from the federal court, but received none.

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