Monday, 28 February 2005

From Yahoo News, an article about the first National Education Summit, where leaders from across the country are gathered to discuss what can be done to improve education.

Bill Gates had something to say about the situation, and I think there's a good chance he's absolutely right:

The most blunt assessment came from Microsoft chief Bill Gates... He said high schools must be redesigned to prepare every student for college, with classes that are rigorous and relevant to kids and with supportive relationships for children.

"America's high schools are obsolete," Gates said. "By obsolete, I don't just mean that they're broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools - even when they're working as designed - cannot teach all our students what they need to know today."

(via Slashdot)

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Monday, 28 February 2005 22:00:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 24 February 2005

The other day, I was attending a conference in Redmond at a big ol' software company that is based there. I had the opportunity to catch up in person for a few minutes with Omar Shahine, who happens to work at that company, and who also just happened to be in the area that day (he actually lives and works in a different state, so it was a cool coincidence).

Omar is one of the principal people currently driving hard developing dasBlog, which is the weblog software I use here. It's an ASP.NET application and it's pretty darn cool.

Anyhow, it was great to meet Omar, even if just for a few minutes. It's funny how you "meet" people online, but never actually see them in person. I always like it when I can talk face to face with someone.

It's amazing to me how the world - and how we meet and interact with the people in it - has changed. It truly is a big small world we live in.

Oh, and Omar - it was great to meet you!

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Thursday, 24 February 2005 23:48:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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If you use the Firefox web browser, you need to get the latest release, v1.0.1, which contains a number of security-related bug fixes that are important to patch.

Here's what's new in Firefox 1.0.1:

  • Improved stability
  • International Domain Names are now displayed as punycode.
  • Several security fixes

Download your preferred language version from here.

Press release is here.

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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 24 February 2005 23:33:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 22 February 2005

If you use Photo Story 3 from Microsoft, now you can add a plug-in from Sonic to burn your story directly to DVD - useful if that's your targeted media.

Photo Story 3 brings your digital photos to life by making it easy for you to create professional-looking slideshows. Now, with the Sonic DVD Plug-in for Photo Story 3, you can save your favorite memories on DVD to share with family and friends. Making your own DVDs is just a click away with this powerful plug-in. Get more information on the Sonic Web site and download the plug-in for $19.99 US.

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Tuesday, 22 February 2005 17:11:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I'm in the Seattle area (well, Redmond to be exact) for a couple of days (Tuesday and Wednesday) for a conference that I'm not allowed to write about here, at a Very Large Software Company.

If anyone's in the area and wants to grab lunch/dinner/coffee/air, drop me a line via email or other means (see the sidebar).

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Tuesday, 22 February 2005 15:42:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 20 February 2005

The Tech Report reviews the new P4-600 series of processors. With 64-bit support, and double th eon-board cache, how does it stack up against the Prescott line and processors from AMD? Depends on what you want to do with it. Check out their side-by-side review, published today.

"Today, in the dead of early Sunday morning, Intel is meekly unveiling another new Pentium 4 processor core, and it may be just as consequential. The Pentium 4 600 series is a new tier of performance-oriented Pentium 4 processors that will be sold alongside the existing P4 500 series. Based on the Prescott design, the 600-series core adds key features intended to pep up Prescott's performance and curb its power consumption. Not only that, but these are 64-bit CPUs. With the introduction of a 64-bit version of Windows approaching, Intel has finally turned on Prescott's dormant support for the 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set pioneered by AMD."

The verdict in the end seems to be that these new processors hold their own, but offer nothing earth shattering in the 32-bit world over the 500-series Prescott line of P4 processors. However, for an extra $5 or $10, you get true 64-bit capability that's not part of the Prescott procs, so all in all, it's a pretty good deal.

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Sunday, 20 February 2005 17:11:16 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Jon Stewart - comedy non-news guy - and team take a funny look at blogs, the blogosphere, blogging, journalism and government. You don't have to agree with his political positions to get the humor on his show, for sure.

It's hillarious.

Stephen Colbert, a.k.a. Ted Hitler, on Bloggers:

"They have no credibility. All they have is facts. Spare me."


View the video segment here.
(Note: Some content probably not very good for kids.)

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Blogging | Humor
Sunday, 20 February 2005 13:11:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Jan Tielens posted the other day about their newly released "U2U RSS Feeds for SharePoint 2003," which is another tool for creating RSS feeds from SharePoint lists, but with some improvements:

  • Aggregation of items stored in multiple lists on multiple sites
    You can create an RSS feed that contains information coming from more than one lists (or document libraries), that are potentially on different sites.
  • Customizable layout of RSS items
    For each list that you aggregate in an RSS Feed you can specify how the items in the RSS feed should look like. You can do that by using some sort of formulas, referring to fields coming from the SharePoint lists.
  • Non-intrusive installation
    The installation of the RSS Feeds tool doesn’t change a thing about your SharePoint installation, the IT-Pro guys will be happy! The tool is completely separated from the SharePoint sites and doesn’t require you to add metadata or web parts to SharePoint.
  • SharePoint Authorization
    Are you afraid of exposing sensitive data? Well you don’t have to, our tool uses the SharePoint security model, so if a user doesn’t have access to the SharePoint list he or she can’t retrieve information from the RSS feed. Anonymous access to RSS feeds is also supported (if your SharePoint site is available for anonymous users of course).
  • GUI Administration
    The administration of the tool (creating feeds, item layouts, …) is completely done by using a nice graphical user interface.


Quick video tutorial:

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RSS Stuff | SharePoint | Tech
Sunday, 20 February 2005 12:30:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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You ever have one of those moments, probably on a weekend, where you wake up and realize that there are like a million things left undone and waiting for you to tackle them? I don't mean that panicky feeling you get when you suddenly realize you're in way over your head... I've experienced that, too, and this is something very different.

I'm talking about the moment where you suddenly realize you can't possibly end up bored, because there are so many thing to do and look forward to.

I just had one of those moments. Wild.

Many of the things on my "clarity list" are related to home - things like finishing the bonus room completely (I am 90% done, and have been at that stage for several months). Stuff like finishing my Media Center setup, instead of running it in parts with wires everywhere. Building a shed. Fencing a yard. Adding a deck.

And other bigger things, too - things having to do with life, work and relationships. Possibilities.

It's funny, I guess, that my favorite room in the house has all but the last row of floating laminate wood floor laid down, has untrimmed windows and baseboards, and needs to have the last third of the lighting installed. Not to mention that the "furnishings" consist of my dining room table (which really should be in the dining room instead), a 15-year-old recliner and three bean-bag chairs. Plus my guitar - the acoustics in this room are awesome, but 14-foot vaults will do that for you.

I really need to learn to understand paint colors and how to do something other than one plain-old color in a house. Phil Weber's Flickr pics of his living room and media center show that someone somewhere knows what they are doing and have a better eye for that kind of stuff than I have. I don't want purple, especially, but that's not the point... I'm more of an "off-white-everywhere" style painter. I either need professional help (yeah, yeah - don't get started...) or else I need to marry someone with a knack for this. Hey Phil - who picked your colors? 

Anyhow, days like this are nice to have. It's so much better to be able to look at things as possibilities than as difficulties or problems.

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Sunday, 20 February 2005 11:38:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Sean Alexander has posted the first "Media Center of the Week" on his weblog, Addicted to Digital Media. Phil Weber, a coworker of mine, happens to be the first featured. His MC setup, he says, has a "high spousal-acceptance" rating. Way to go Phil!

I am so far behind the 8-ball on this one. I need to finish mine off (it all works, it's just not neatly packaged yet) and take some pics when it's all done.

By the way - the next addition to my MCE setup? Virtual Laser Keyboard, baby. I wrote about it last year about this time when it was first announced, and now it's for real. Stay tuned!

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Geek Out | Tech
Sunday, 20 February 2005 11:09:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 19 February 2005

Primer_dvdIf you're not lucky enough to have already seen Primer, a first-time film by Shane Carruth that he made simply because he wanted to, you can’t actually see it right now. I saw it at Gnomedex last fall – it was the closing night event, and while only a portion of us who attended the conference watched the film, those who did thought it was great.

And you will too.

Primer is the sleeper movie that will make it’s way into lots of living rooms this spring, via DVD. You can actually order it now from for shipping when it's released.

Primer won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize last year. If you like movies that make you watch, challenge your mind, tell a great story, won't let you forget about them, and which successfully don't fit the typical Hollywood mold, this one you will want to see.

Carruth made the film on a $7000 budget, which is amazing. Just knowing that, watching the film is a lot of fun. Add the fact that it's well-thought-out, well-writen and generally very well done and you get a lot of bang for the buck.

"An engineer builds a machine (quite by accident) that can transport the user back in time. But his discovery comes with an ominous caveat, because at the heart of this puzzling device, nothing is as it seems on the surface. The narrative inventively blends a patchwork story line with overlapping streams of dialogue that help build tension and suspense..."

Tell Blockbuster, Hollywood, and others you want to see this film when it comes out on DVD on April 5th. Or pre-order now like I did.

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Saturday, 19 February 2005 08:42:53 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 18 February 2005

Microsoft has published what is a typically-simple, top-layer look at what the authors position as important information for parents to help them protect their kids online... But, while it's certainly a start, it won't get parents far enough.

If parents want to have a better understanding of what kids do online that can get them in trouble, there are other better, more complete resources out there for both kids and parents. Remember that learning together will prevent many problems, and creates a communication "common ground" for families in an area where kids often have the knowledge advantage.

But - if you're completely lost when you see words like "133t5p33k" or "!337$p34k," this short article at is geared toward you.

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Random Stuff | Tech | Safe Computing
Friday, 18 February 2005 04:52:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 15 February 2005

An announcement by Bill Gates at the RSA conference: Internet Explorer 7 is set to be released for testing this summer, says Microsoft. It will include anti-spyware functionality, and will not wait for the next version of Windows.

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IT Security | Tech
Tuesday, 15 February 2005 12:22:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 14 February 2005


(from some random web forum, via Tim)

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Monday, 14 February 2005 19:49:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 09 February 2005

Where would I be without FeedDemon? Between it and Outlook, most of my "content" is organized, filed and (quite intentionally) segregated into workable chunks-o-stuff.

And now FeedDemon version 1.5 is out! From the web site:

This new version offers a ton of new features, but here are the highlights:

  • Powerful podcasting tools to automatically download audio files and copy them to your iPod or other media player (that's right - FeedDemon supports media players other than the iPod!)
  • Integration with Bloglines and NewsGator Online Services
  • Flickr and search channels
  • Per-channel newspaper styles
  • Improved popup-blocking under XP SP2
  • Support for favicons throughout the user interface
  • Numerous performance improvements

See the announcement on Nick Bradbury's weblog - He's the quite excellent author of FeedDemon.

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RSS Stuff | Tech
Wednesday, 09 February 2005 19:54:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 08 February 2005

If you ever wondered how to spell out the American Idol theme music, well... there ya go.

Now, aren't you glad you read this blog?

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Tuesday, 08 February 2005 20:22:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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In the wow-that's-random category (yeah pun intended), Jim Wright took his new iPod shuffle, as well as three more his friends had, and made a USB RAID array with them on his Mac.


Now that's geeking out. Not sure how useful it is, but it's cool.

[via Doc Searls]

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Geek Out | Tech
Tuesday, 08 February 2005 19:25:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Ummm - WOW...

Google does it again, and takes online mapping and driving directions to the next level. You have to try this - if nothing else it just looks cool. On top of that, it works very well. Animated maps and excellent, clean detail are real eye-openers. Google has a tour to get you acquainted here.

"Maps are great for getting around, but online maps could be a lot better. So Google decided to make dynamic, interactive maps that are draggable — no clicking and waiting for graphics to reload each time you want to view the adjacent parts of a map. Want to be able to type in the name of a region or neighborhood and see any part of it as easily as with a regular street map? Now you can with Google Maps."

Enter an address, hit enter, and voila:


Need directions to a location? Click the live links in the map, and enter a starting address:


Driving directions are fast and in my test (home to office), quite accurate:


Click on mapped items to automatically reorient the map image (animated) and zoom in on the mapped item:


The slider for zoom detail is very nice - much better than others out there - and there are no browser refreshes happening here. No time to look into exactly how this works right now, but it definitely does.

Check it out.

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Tuesday, 08 February 2005 07:27:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 07 February 2005

TakeQuizDid you know that only 11% of identity theft takes place online? You're much more likely to have your identity stolen or discovered on paper, and chances are the bad guy (or gal) will be someone you know...

"The 2005 Identity Fraud Survey Report shows that despite growing fears about identity theft and online fraud, of the victims that know the identity and method used by the criminal, these crimes are more frequently committed offline than online. Internet-related fraud problems are actually less severe, less costly and not as widespread as previously thought.

"Further, the study concludes that those who access accounts online can provide earlier detection of crime than those who rely only upon mailed monthly paper statements."

Those of us who work in the field have known this for some time. And those of us who do our banking and other important transactions online also know we'll notice if something gets out of the ordinary, and we won't have to wait for a paper statement or a bounced check to tip us off.

How safe are you? Take the quiz. If there's anything you should be aware of in this day and age, it's how to protect your personal information.

Here's my results:

Your Score is 10
Please note that a perfect score is 0 and the worst possible score is 100; a typical score is 38.

How did you score?

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Monday, 07 February 2005 22:47:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Monday, 07 February 2005 20:42:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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F-Secure has published a RSS feed where you can get listings of all newly-discovered viruses (see HTML list here). People responsible for knowing what's new and changing will likely want to subscribe. This is one great way to get an ongoing education, not to mention a useful reference for daily AV routines:

"We've received some questions on whether it would be possible to receive the list of our new virus descriptions as an RSS feed.

"Well, turns out we've had this available for quite some time already, but I guess we've never really officially announced it.

"So: our new virus descriptions are available as an RSS feed here: "

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IT Security | Tech
Monday, 07 February 2005 19:58:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 06 February 2005

Word is out that Half-Life 2, that cool sequel to the biggest PC game things ever, will be released on a new arcade game platform soon in Japan, to be followed by a release worldwide.

From MegaGames via Tim:

Half-Life 2 is about to make the move to arcades all over Japan by the summer of 2005, with the rest of the world expected to join-in soon after. According to Taito, its Type-X arcade board will be able to support the game while it will also offer a variety of features not seen before in arcade games.

The Type-X board is based on a PC setup, running a version of Windows, so H-L 2 will not have to travel far to get to it, especially since the arcade version will be very similar to the PC version being released in a couple of weeks time. One of the selling points of the arcade Half-Life 2 will be the introduction of the online multiplayer modes.
According to Taito, gamers will be able to connect to and challenge other gamers playing the same game across Japan. Two online modes will be available, the confrontational Battle mode and the co=operative Mission mode. Online play will be made possible due to Taito's Net Entry System (NETSYS)which will also feature in arcade games such as Battle Gear 3 and Zoid Infinity. One of the advantages of NETSYS is its ability to store data at server level, enabling gamers to recall their profile from any connected arcade machine.

Taito has big plans for the arcade version of H-L 2, plans which include online play, a game booth offering 5.1 sound and its introduction to arcades all over the world. Details of the control set-up or of the exact dates the machines will appear in Japan and all over the world, have not yet been released.

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Random Stuff | Tech
Sunday, 06 February 2005 21:12:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 04 February 2005

A year ago, I posted a blog entry about a family that had just named their child "John Blake Kusak 2.0."

Now, one year later, weird headlines tells the tale of another family and their just-turned-one-year-old son, "Jake Matthew Thompson Two Point Zero." Apparently some companies are having a hard time getting the kid's name right. Go figure.

Argh. Something scary when parents call their kids "upgrades."

Someone check in with these kids when they turn 18, and see how well/badly things turned out.

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Friday, 04 February 2005 10:26:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Freudian slip
n: a slip-up that (according to Sigmund Freud) results from the operation of unconscious wishes or conflicts and can reveal unconscious processes in normal healthy individuals

I recently started using passphrases instead of passwords for my various computer accounts. So far I have found only one place where it just doesn't work.

I'm calling it a success so far.

Using something akin to natural English - complete with with spaces, punctuation and natural capitalization - makes passphrases very easy to remember and (despite their longer length) often easier to type than convoluted "strong" passwords.

But something funny happened to me on the way to my computer the other day, when I was playing with test passphrases in preparation for making the Big Change. I've discovered that passphrases may tell more about the person using them than one might realize.

Let's say, for example, I choose a passphrase (and this is very hypothetical) like:

How the heck did you do that Dude?

It's easy to type because it's just a sentence, easy to remember because it's conversational, secure because it's long and complex. Obviously, moving away from a simple plain-language phrase like the example above can be strengthened further by throwing in non-natural characters, phrase structure, etc., just like with passwords.

But I digress... In my hypothetical example passphrase above, what do you imagine would cause me to keep typing the passphrase incorrectly?

As it turns out, there's a tendency to think not about the exact wording, but instead about what the phrase communicates. So, in the above example there are two words I might keep screwing up.

The first problematic word is "that." The tendency here is to type "this" instead of "that," as in "How the heck did you do this Dude?" or "This is a really cool thing you're doing." Natural human speech tendency.

The second problematic word is a little more colorful (and Freudian) in its psychological adaptation. Take the word "heck" and figure out how many similar words a person might use. Depending on mood (which seems to be a real factor affecting outcome in my case, heheh), the person typing the passphrase might type "hell" in place of "heck." It has the same two first letters, and so it's a natural tendency. But take the word "heck," apply some life or personal stress, and then take a look at the last two letters of the word, and I'll leave it up to you to come up with another four-word replacement that shares those last two characters, and also fits into the passphrase (conversationally and in a rude kind of way).

You get the idea. Anyhow, I only locked myself out of that test account once.

Freud would probably be proud. But hey, that figures - he was a drug addict and a freak.

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Friday, 04 February 2005 09:05:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 02 February 2005

Because great things come from the people, Rory has started a new project and invited the whole world in. It's called NeoWikiDiki... Anyone can participate. That means you.

"This is a wiki based dictionary that sucks. It sucks because none of us know what in the hell we're doing or talking about, but we're all contributing to this big thing at the same time.

"Some of us will use spell checkers. Others won't.

"Some of us will ensure correct definitions based on others stolen from existing and reputable references. Others won't.

"Some of us will only edit definitions in the nude. Others won't.

"Others will come here to actually look words up.

"These people... These people, we will call 'victims.'"

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Wednesday, 02 February 2005 20:17:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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A few fixes and some general cleanup went into a beta code refresh for people already addicted to the MSN Toolbar Suite. Download available.

Below is from BetaNews:

MSN Updates Desktop Search Beta
By Nate Mook, BetaNews
February 1, 2005, 1:47 PM

While the new MSN Search was the center of attention Tuesday, Microsoft developers have silently refreshed the MSN Toolbar Suite, which includes the company's Desktop Search Beta. The updated release offers a number of minor fixes and performance improvements, including better indexing of e-mail attachments.

In the initial beta, a number of MSN Desktop Search users received antivirus warnings each time an e-mail attachment was cataloged, due to the software creating a temporary file. Developers note, however, that "no virus would occur as a result of this because the file wasn't opened, but it was annoying to get the pop-ups."

To correct this behavior, developers have modified the IFilter, which are DLLs used by MSN Desktop Search to index a particular file type.

The new release also enables the indexing of Outlook items, even if Microsoft's e-mail client is not set as the default. Other improvements including the clearing of Deskbar text after a search, as well as bug fixes that improve the "overall stability and robustness" of MSN Desktop Search.

"We are not planning to Autoupdate existing users, but if you are seeing any of the problems above or want to be running the latest and greatest bits download it today! You don't have to uninstall your existing version," wrote MSN program managers Paul Steckler and Bubba Murarka in a Web log posting.

MSN Toolbar Suite Beta version is available for download via FileForum.

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Wednesday, 02 February 2005 07:35:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 01 February 2005

Wow. Check it out.


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Tuesday, 01 February 2005 17:47:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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