The Bloor Perspective: Linux or Windows, benchmarking kafuffle and online dating

In their latest round of industry commentary, Robin Bloor and his colleagues consider the security of Windows versus Linux, why some software vendors are suing reviewers and looking for love online

In their latest round of industry commentary, Robin Bloor and his colleagues consider the security of Windows versus Linux, why some software vendors are suing reviewers and looking for love online

Now that Bill has discovered what security is all about, his Redmond giant seems quicker to admit to security flaws than before. Microsoft's MSN Instant Messenger program is the latest to be more open than would otherwise have been liked, the latest problem displaying the user names and email addresses of chat buddies. JavaScript can be placed on the web page visited by MSN Messenger users to obtain another user's chat name as well as the names of all their contacts. Microsoft confessed to the flaw and explained the problem exists in the feature that enables MSN Messenger users to be notified when they have received new email in their Hotmail boxes and to see if the sender is currently on line. Although classified as low risk, Microsoft is releasing a new version of the Messenger software this week. This latest faux pas comes at a time when there is fresh debate over which is the most secure operating system - Windows or Linux? Recent research has shown Windows 2000 has fewer security vulnerabilities than Red Hat 7.0 and Mandrake 7.2. But of course, there are statistics and statistics and both camps are quick to jump to conclusions that best serve their own interests. The penguin camp point outs there are different features in different distributions of Linux and so there is bound to be some variation. Also, there will be more problems found as the use of Linux becomes more widespread. The bottom line is rather disappointing as bold small print on the research points out that it should not be used as a comparison of one operating system versus another. So what's the point in doing the work in the first place? *Pesky clauses* A lawsuit that has been filed in New York may put the cat among the pigeons. New York State is suing software maker Network Associates, which is most noted for its highly successful McAfee anti-virus software. The suit is seeking to do away with the company's ban on benchmarks and product reviews. To be specific, when users download Network Associates trial software, the following clauses appear in the license agreement: 1. The customer shall not disclose the results of any benchmark test to any third party without Network Associates' prior written approval.
2. The customer will not publish reviews of the product without prior consent from Network Associates. The lawsuit alleges these restrictive covenants are illegal and harm the public by censoring product flaws and defects, infringing free speech rights as well as fair use rights under copyright law. It is also alleged Network Associates demanded a retraction for a negative review published in Network World, citing the clause prohibiting product reviews. So are Network Associates the only perpetrators of this attempt to clamp the mouths of the users? Actually, no. You can find the lots of companies that have an affection for this particular clause. Here's how: Go to and do a search for the following "disclose results" OR "disclose the results" AND "benchmark test" OR "benchmark tests". What you will see are hundreds of entries. You will find that many of the entries take you to a Microsoft or Oracle site - or to one of their partner sites. You will also find quite a few small software companies that have inserted this clause into their licence agreement, many of whom have perhaps copied it from Microsoft or Oracle. Network Associates differs from these companies only by virtue of the fact that they have added the nuance of restricting customers from publishing product reviews. This is a strange additional restriction, since the publishing of product reviews is a good deal of what software marketing is all about. Network Associates is putting a brave face on the whole matter for the moment, claiming it has modified the language used in its licences, and muttering about reviewers using outdated versions and getting benchmarks wrong. Presumably "wrong" means unfavourable. We are amazed that neither the automobile industry, which is very benchmark and review-sensitive, nor any other industry we know of, finds it necessary to implement such creative legal gagging devices. From the perspective of the IT consumer it is indefensible. Thus, we invite all readers to submit details of licences they have seen or signed that contain such a clause, naming the vendor and the product. Add your postings as a Reader Comment below. *Let's get it on... line* Online dating is relatively big business. The Computer Industry Almanac estimated it to be worth $1bn in 1998 in North America, with projected growth to $1.5bn by 2003. The high level of internet usage for dating is indicated by the success of, recently renamed as, a multimillion dollar business that has been used by over 1.2 million people. The website was also involved in a survey entitled Love Online: A Report on Digital Dating in Canada, which gathered responses from 1,200 people over 17 and 6,581 online users. The survey of Canadians was carried out by COMPAS Inc. and sponsored by Microsoft Canada, and it provides some insights into what is going on.
Here are the headline figures: * There were roughly two men for every woman using online dating
* 85 per cent of respondents were employed, about 55 per cent earning $40,000 (CDN)
* 58 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women said they often use online dating services to look for long-term relationships.
* 63 per cent of respondents said they had sex with someone they met online
* three per cent eventually married
* 25 per cent of respondents said they gave inaccurate information in their online personal ads (lying about their age, marital status and appearance, mostly)
* 18 per cent were already married or living with someone (of these 80 per cent were men, and 80 per cent of those were looking for sex) It is fairly clear online dating is effective for at least some of those who use it. The level of deceit doesn't seem inordinately high, either, although this is probably due to the fact that participants intend to meet in person. The way that dating services operate varies. There are some free services but it does not prevent commercial operations. Some dating sites have membership subscriptions, including charging a monthly fee. sells blocks of credits. Some sites even provide coaching for how to date and run a relationship. Just about all human life is catered for in one way or another and just about every relevant internet technology is put to use from chat rooms to webcams. However, in the end it is about people meeting people.


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