IE wails, spectrum tales (and rocket birdman)

In today's IT Blogwatch, we look at how Microsoft's Internet Explorer is missing the mark and the Feds' plans to sell off more radio spectrum. Not to mention a mad Finn who strapped two jet engines to his ankles and flew around at 6,500 ft until he ran out of fuel...

Insiders report disdain for IE, says Ars' Jeremy Reimer, reporting on rantings from within Microsoft: "Rory Blythe, after posting a rant complaining about how many people seem excited about switching Firefox simply to 'beat the man,' admitted in a comment that the lack of new features in Internet Explorer was embarrassing ... Others have joined in with similar comments. Windows Live developer and creator of RSS Bandit, Dare Obsasanjo stated his feelings ... 'We haven't innovated in the browser for almost a decade' ... with Firefox recently passing 10 percent marketshare and even being preinstalled on some new computers ... [IE7] adds some Firefox features such as tabbed browsing, but does not appear (in current betas, at least) to offer anything really new or compelling ... Why would Microsoft ignore Internet Explorer for so long, and be so slow to react to competitors such as Firefox? Some have speculated that the answer lies entirely with marketshare, and if IE ever drops below a certain point the company will move massive amounts of resources towards regaining the lead ... Jorg Brown, who was on the Microsoft IE for Mac OS X team before it was disbanded, summed it up: 'Then why on earth did we pursue IE in the first place? Just so that the DOJ would sue us?'" [Ouch]

» Vlad Mazek talks about the WMF bug and descends to ranting about IE (scroll to "Update 2"): "Remember that the IE team dropped all development of Macintosh version of IE, then outright said it would not develop anything for XP anymore and everyone would have to upgrade to Vista, then they slacked away on security work and instead focused on visual issues while they got spanked on features by Firefox (which is why I switched) and finally its frequent posts like this one pointing to it. The Internet Explorer team needs to be punished, severely, for slacking away and compromising your computer and data security. This is not the case with almost any other Microsoft product. Will Bill fix it? Not as long as you continue to take it and not vote with your feet or at the very least tell them you are not happy with the risk they are placing on your computer." [Or use an unofficial patch?]

» Jimmy Grewal: "Four years of my life were dedicated to [IE for Mac] ... Mac IE was the first real browser running on Mac OS X ... Apple was a pain in the ass sometimes ... very unprofessional and treated developers poorly ... Apple had a lot more involvement in the development of Mac IE and it’s eventual end than [people believe] ... Mac IE is dead, and it’s up to Apple and the Mozilla team to continue to innovate for us Mac users. Sadly, there are still many very useful features in Mac IE that neither company has replicated in their browsers and there are still too many sites which don’t look right in Safari."

» Dare Obasanjo: "Microsoft didn't see much value in continuing with IE on the Mac ... the reason seems clearer to me. Microsoft is a platform company. We have built the most popular software platforms on the planet ... In the 1990s, two technologies/products attempted to take the place of Windows as the world's #1 developer platform. These technologies/products were the Java platform produced by Sun Microsystems and the Netscape Navigator web browser produced by Netscape. Microsoft met both challenges ... Fast forward to the early 2000s, the browser wars are over and IE is the world's dominant Web browser ... I went from two years of being a Microsoft employee and not believing an IE team existed to reading the IE blog which makes it seem that there is now a veritable army of developers working on IE ... Microsoft should either cede innovation in the Web browser to Mozilla/Google or make IE more than just "icing on the Windows user experience cake" by transferring the product to a team whose bottom line depends on browser innovation."

The US Government is to auction off the 1710-1755 and 2110-2155 MHz spectra, according to Ars' Eric Bangeman: "As a result of the passage of the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act, the US government will soon begin auctioning off some prime spectrum ... Currently, the Department of Defense and a handful of other government agencies use those frequencies for fixed microwave communications. Those communications will be relocated to a more obscure (and less lucrative) end of the spectrum at a cost estimated to be US$936 million ... Making enough of the spectrum available for wireless communications has become increasingly important as currently available frequencies have become crowded. One possibility touted recently has been that of opening up the far end of the spectrum (e.g., 60GHz) ... One extremely lucrative chunk of the spectrum is that used by analog television. Plans originally called for analog TV transmissions to cease by the end of 2006, freeing up the 700MHz area. However, the transition to digital TV has gone slower than anticipated ... Once all this bandwidth is in the hands of communications corporations, consumers should have more options for broadband communications ... but plans to begin offering WiMAX service in 2005 largely fizzled."

» wfberg: "The article mentions this is about the 1710- to 1755-MHz band. This is a slightly lower frequency than current GSM-1900 or CDMA-2000 handsets use. As such, I can tell you it doesn't reach too far into buildings. Expect bad or no coverage in the basement, or in elevators. For emergency services, there are a lot more attractive pieces of spectrum than this one. In fact, emergency services in The Netherlands are finding this out just now."

» A. B. Dada: "The government is labeling this as a 'privatizing' style deal, when it fact it is nothing of the sort. Selling off airwaves but still maintaining control over how they're used is definitely not giving the free market what is wants. The companies that bought the airwave space are merely cronies of big government. I'd love to see a truly free market test: how about the FCC opens up some of the analog TV airwave space to a truly unregulated marketplace. Let anyone do anything with it. I'd love to see what would really happen in a free market with that spectrum. Why wouldn't the FCC try this? I think we know the truth: no power to tax, and a great fear that we'd end up with a controlled anarchy of broadcasts, all working together so that everyone's signal reaches a listener. We'll never know, though, will we?"

The focus of yesterday's IT Blogwatch -- the WMF exploit -- brought home the fact that security concerns will continue to play a major role in IT professionals' lives in 2006 and beyond. To that end, Computerworld has beefed up its roster of security-focused blogs with the addition of Martin McKeay's daily observations. You can read his blog and add your own comments here. Doug Schweitzer has been blogging about security on Computerworld since last June; his posts can be read here.

Buffer overflow:

And finally... Rocket Birdman take a look at the video -- Frank Whittle must be turning in his grave.

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk. Also contributing to today's post: Judi Dey, our very own Antipodean.
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