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Click to see full-sizeLast week I took the plunge and installed "Windows Live beta" to find out what all the shouting is about. (Click on the thumbnail photo to see the program full-size.) It provides a unified interface for Hotmail, Messenger, MS SkyDrive - 25GB of "cloud" storage, online versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote, Photos Live (a catchy name, hmm?), and the MSN website. After installing Windows Live, I uploaded an OpenOffice text document and spreadsheet, and both worked in the online Word and Excel programs. Other reviewers say they didn't find some of the functions of the PC versions of MS Office in the new online version, but that's to be expected - the online versions are free to use (ad-supported) and obviously intended to compete with Google Docs. Hotmail Live works online - you can see my test email message in its Inbox - and it now includes a calendar function on a separate screen. The "Messenger" menu option brings up all of your Hotmail contacts so you can now chat with them.

Microsoft is up to the "aggregating" game, like Google, Yoono and others we've recently reported on. Windows Live Messenger lets you connect to ("aggregate") all your contacts, blog entries, etc. from Hotmail, MS Messenger, MySpace, Facebook, Blogger, Digg, Live Journal, TypePad, Wordpress, Hulu, YouTube and a bunch of other Web 2.0 social media services. When you click on "Messenger" on the menu you can see all the latest entries in these services. This feature can be nice, if you want to bring all these services "under one roof" to check on your friends one one screen. Beside the security and privacy concerns of giving Microsoft access to all of your contacts and postings, when you click on an entry Windows Live takes you to each respective program.

Most computer problems are caused by a loose nut between the chair and the keyboard.

Click to see full-size!The MS Messenger instant messaging program installs along with Windows Live, and pops up a little vertical rectangle window like other IM programs, showing your Facebook, MySpace and other contacts along with MS Messenger's contacts, and now it includes voice and video messaging... but only with your Messenger contacts. If you click on one of these other contacts it opens Facebook or another app so that you can chat with that person. If you click on the "Inbox" label it opens a new email program called Windows Live Mail (another catchy name) that has a calendar function on the right side of the same screen, as in Outlook - I like this layout and the clean-cut design much better than the cluttered Hotmail design.

So, what's not to like about Windows Live? Other than the security issue (but the government can already know everything about you and me), the MSN website has always had a tacky sexual orientation and still does, which I've never liked and still don't. Also, I just can't understand why Microsoft kept the cluttered old Hotmail program, since the new Live Mail looks much slicker and displays the same email messages. But to open it, I have to first bring up the little Messenger window that won't disappear from my open tasks (like Skype will) unless I kill it. And I don't see the point of aggregating my Facebook and other contacts, because if I want to connect with them I'll simply use Facebook to start with... why go through another interface to reach my Facebook window?

The new Bing toolbar installed itself without asking in my Firefox browser as well as in Internet Explorer, but wouldn't work in Firefox. In fact, as I was writing this the Windows Live tab in Firefox completely froze my computer - I couldn't even get Task Manager to kill it, so I had to kill Windows and reboot. As for Messenger's voice and video features, all the people I talk to and see over the Internet are already my Skype contacts. Even the few friends that appear in my Messenger contacts are almost never online there, but I can usually find them on Skype or Facebook. My "old friend" programs - Thunderbird for my email and calendar; Skype for my chats, voice and video; and Facebook for my friends' social sharing - all excel at what they do and have captured the existing market already. So the real question is: who needs Windows Live? I'm going to uninstall Windows Live right after I post this issue... Microsoft doesn't need my business: it has 90% of the PC market, and will very likely capture a good share of new users with Windows Live.

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In the article The Threat of Cyberwar Has Been Grossly Exaggerated we read that terms like "cyberwar," "cyber Pearl Harbor," "cyber Katrina," and even "cyber Armageddon" are popping up in the news. Top people in the U.S. government intelligence (if that's not an oxymoron, what is?!) community are issuing such dire warnings, citing the cyber attacks against Estonian websites in 2007 and against Georgian websites in 2008, both coming from Russia and apparently initiated by Russian hackers upset by those uppity little countries not buckling under to Russia's foreign policy.

But security expert Bruce Schneier, the author, compares it more to "if an army invaded a country, then all got in line in front of people at the DMV so they couldn't renew their licenses. If that's what war looks like in the 21st century, we have little to fear." A real cyberwar, however, would shut down essential infrastructure such as the electrical grid... which by the way is poorly protected against cyber attacks: as long as electrical power companies are driven by the profit motive, they will not spend manpower and money in this area unless mandated by law.

The goal of our CN.Net-News is to share information that we think you'll find helpful as you wrestle with that little monster on your desk, your computer. And we aim to present this information from a Christian worldview. Thanks for your time!

Yours truly,

"Dr. Bob the CompuNerd"

RobertD HoskEN
See the "nerd" in my name? (It helps if you're a little dyslexic!)
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