The information technology administrator for your company may have been busy this week - that is, if your company is still using Internet Explorer 6. But that begs the question: why would your company still be using IE6, considering there have been two updates for Microsoft's web browser released since then?
IE6's security flaw has resulted in a war of words between Google and China after the search giant revealed recently that it was one of several corporations that had been attacked by hackers believed to be operating out of the Communist country. The flaw allowed the hackers to access some Gmail accounts. But Thursday Microsoft released a patch for the flaw.
To its credit, Microsot kept users (consumers and IT administrators) up to date on the security portion of its website. A video featuring Microsoft Security program manager Jerry Bryant gave the latest info this week: most of the attacks were focused on IE6, not IE7 or IE8, the attacks were not widespread, and they were limited to a relatively small number of corporations. Bryant urged all users to update to IE8 and said the team was working on a fix. That fix was released Thursday.
Google has threatened to shut down operations in China because of all this, and is no longer censoring web searches done in the country, as initially requested by its leaders. So Chinese users can Google "Falun Gong" all they want now.
Here are my questions:
How long will Google's tough talk against the Chinese last, considering the financial stakes for doing business there?
Why is any company still using an older version of IE6, considering the security improvements that have been made to each succeeding version of Internet Explorer?
And why does Microsoft make you drill down into their website to get this critical security information? Bryant's video and links to the latest updates should have been on the home page, Microsoft.com. If you are going to release an out-of-band security update - one that runs outside the usual Tuesday cycle of updates - then I'm guessing it's for a pretty important reason. Instead of worrying about possible PR implications of advertising security flaws that prominently, consider it a service to your customers that you are acknowledging the flaws and letting them know you're working hard to fix them. Put everything front and center; customers of the world's most important software company will thank them.
Seattle gamers help Haiti
We've seen some of the worst conditions brought about by the massive Haitian earthquake. But if anything, the disaster has also brought out the best in those who want to help. And those include Seattle-area gaming companies that have come up with unique ways to get their fans to chip in for the cause.
Bungie, the Kirkland company that gives us the popular Halo franchise, is selling t-shirts, but it's also doing something very cool; for a 48-hour period, gamers were urged to join online Halo and Halo: ODST tournaments that raised money for Haitian relief. Bungie said it would donate cash for every 1,000 gamers who got online, with the goal of reaching $77,000. So gamers got to go online, blast the dreaded Covenant, and also score points for Haiti relief as well.
Seattle-based Popcap Games, makers of highly addictive, wildly popular casual games like Bejeweled, offered up all proceeds from game sales on Saturday, Jan. 16th. A Popcap representative told me that the company raised more than $75,000 in that one day alone.
Two other efforts that aren't locally based, but still offer information and ways to help:
Charitynavigator.org compiles all the relief agencies working to bring aid to Haiti, along with instructions on how to donate quickly and efficiently and tips on how to avoid the scammers who are trying to take advantage of the disaster. And Apprelief.com is a coalition of small iPhone app developers who are offering up a host of gaming-oriented and other fun apps, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to quake relief. iPhone users who download the apps before Jan. 25th can still help out Haiti.
"Star Trek: Phoenix"
Thanks to the Internet and the work of volunteers, you don't have to be a Hollywood big shot like J.J. Abrams to keep the Starship Enterprise flying.
Some local sci-fi fans have wrapped the latest installment of "Star Trek: Phoenix - Cloak and Dagger," an independent, web-only film franchise that takes place 40 years after the events in "Star Trek: Nemesis," the last film produced in the series before Abrams reinvented the franchise with last summer's "Star Trek."
The local studios behind "S-T Phoenix" - Temporal Studios, Sonnet Realm Films and Abundant Productions - call their work the "largest, consistent all-volunteer film project of its kind in the Pacific Northwest." We're talking 150 volunteers using donated space like the West and Wheeler building and the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum (where else?).
"Star Trek: Phoenix - Cloak and Dagger" gets its premiere at Norwescon, the regional sci-fi/fantasy convention set for the weekend of April 3rd at the Doubletree Hotel at Sea-Tac.