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Product Review
this week, Microsoft FrontPage '97
online Wednesday 12

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10th March 1997
Are you a nervous wreck?
This week's industry news headlines have been monopolised by a series of stories about the flaws in ActiveX and Java security and if you believe all you read - you'll never venture onto the Web again.

What is most interesting is the huge difference between the way that Sun and Microsoft handle such events. When the first of the recent crop of MSIE3 ActiveX security problems (the Intuit secret funds-transfer hole) appeared - Microsoft effectively said "It's not a security problem with ActiveX, it's a user education problem" and promptly created a Web site where they went to great lengths to play down the inexcusable flaws in ActiveX while at the same time trying to make Java sound like a bomb with a short fuse.

Aardvark even received a call from Microsoft voicing concern that I'd been "a bit negative" on the matter of ActiveX's security woes and explaining that "there really isn't a problem at all - users should simply be careful about unauthenticated components". Cold comfort to those who have no idea what this all means and just want to be able to surf the Web in relative safety.

Then this week when the latest two stories broke, they slapped together a "quick fix" - but didn't think it worthwhile this time to email all existing MSIE 3 users, many of who may still be completely unaware of the problem. What's more, the MS fix was decidedly "second rate" when compared to other 3rd-party solutions to the problem.

(I can hear another call from Microsoft ringing now.... :-)

But what did Sun do this week when they found a potential problem with their Java product? They announced the problem and immediately shipped a fix to all licensees. No attempting to hide the facts or downplay the existence of the problem - even though it's far less likely to cause problems than those found in ActiveX. Sun didn't dwell on the misfortunes of Microsoft - they just stated the facts, announced the fix and treated Java users like intelligent beings.

By comparison, Microsoft produced what must have been the worst piece of spiteful spin I've seen in years. In a press release issued on Friday, MS was eager to point out what it called a "major security hole" discovered in Java. In the next breath they crowed about how users of Microsoft's Java on the Windows platform were safe from this threat because it doesn't use the affected code from Sun.

This level of childish misinformation is not what I'd expect from a major player such as Microsoft and it has infuriated many in the Java development and marketing community.

Metrowerks, the company which assisted Microsoft in producing its Java Virtual Machine for the Mac responded to Microsoft's spin by stating that the Java bug was "orders of magnitude" less serious than any security problems reported with ActiveX

This move has already started back-firing on Microsoft and I'll say it YET AGAIN, Microsoft still don't understand the Internet as a market or as a culture. They could save a lot of money and bad press if only they were prepared to change their attitude and realise that perhaps the Net community is a little more intelligent than the average computer user.

For the record - I'm not an "anti-Microsoft" zealot. I give them full kudos for developing some fine products which have allowed them to gain dominance in the desktop and corporate markets. I am however very disappointed that they feel the only way to deal with the "Java threat" is to slag the competition and dismiss the true implications of the faults in their own products. Come on Microsoft, you're bigger than that! This market respects honesty and it reacts very badly to being treated with contempt and arrogance. ActiveX is a very efficient and workable mechanism for implementing dynamically distributed processing on an Intranet or other "secure" network - it is not at all suitable to a potentially hostile environment such as the Internet - full stop, end of story!

Don't treat us like fools!
Duh?
Insecurity
This space "did" carry a story about what I thought was an oversight in the way NBR were using their secure server system - but the "duh?" belongs to me!

For some reason (known only to Netscape and Win'95), my copy of Navigator didn't show the "Secure document" warning dialog box until after I'd entered my ID and password when accessing the NBR site. It turns out that the site does use the secure server correctly - removing my errant copy of Netscape and installing the latest version has proven that.

Sorry to NBR and please pass the napkin so that I can wipe the egg off my face!

The Net advertising market grows up!
If you surf around NZ Web sites you'll see only a very low level of advertising - and much of that is sold on a "contra" basis or given away for free just to fill a space.

That may be about to change. A local Net-ad Agency has opened which might well break some new ground.

NetSpace is NZ's first Net-ad placement service and hopefully it will see some "real" advertising dollars come onto the Web.

"Oh no!" I hear some of you saying. But don't dismiss the value of advertising quite so quickly.

As I pointed out a few weeks back, there aren't many actively updated sites on the NZ Web and that's mainly because there's presently no way to pay for the work involved in the creation of such sites. It doesn't take a degree in rocket science to work out that once the advertisers arrive and start investing money, we'll see a growth in the quantity and quality of Web content.

Site developers will be able to hire people to create new content on a regular basis, competition for the advertising dollars will see sites competing actively for visitors - which again means improving the quality and quantity of content.

If we want the NZ Web to be a fun and interesting place to visit then we're going to have to encourage advertisers to spend their money here - and it also means we, as an audience, are going to have to accept those ads as a part of life on the Internet.

Don't forget - Web developers get no assistance from NZ On Air and there's no such thing as a "Net Content Fee" from which funds can be dished out to those doing all the work. Unless someone pays the bills, all we're going to get is a succession of small, relatively stagnant sites which come and go as those who run them lose interest and enthusiasm or find that they can't afford to keep dedicating the time or paying the bills associated their production and operation.

and now a word from our sponsor
56K better? maybe..
Worth going to a 56K modem?
Motorola's new 56K modems are "on the water" so to speak and already one ISP has been testing the US Robotics X2 modems with seemingly quite acceptable results - but what will this mean to most of us?

Unless you're lucky enough to use an ISP that can already keep your 28.8K modem working to capacity then you could be a little disappointed with the upgrade to 56Kbps.

The unfortunate truth is that quite a number (I'd almost go as far as to say "the majority") of ISPs are already having difficulty keeping your 28.8Kbps modem busy when talking to international sites at peak hours. Some quick (but informal) tests this weekend indicated that from 6:00pm through 10:00pm, the average download speed I could get with a reliable 28.8Kbps connection was just 1.6Kbytes/sec when using several "big-name" ISPs. Now this may not be the fault of the ISPs, after all, the Net is becoming an increasingly congested place and any connection is only as fast as the slowest link. In fact I find that the difference between using a 14.4Kbps modem and a 28.8Kbps unit is almost undetectable at times when the Net is really busy.

So, don't go out and spend your money in the expectation that downloads will take half as long or that your surfing will be twice as fast. Most of the results published to date indicate that 56Kbps modems only give around a 30%-35% increase in throughput, and then, only if the rest of the path from you to the site you're talking to is "up to scratch" (and you have the benefit of a tail-wind while descending a steep slope).


I Can't Believe It's True!
So, how much do you think Web advertising is worth? Gosh let's see... Aardvark sells banners for as little as $10 per day and this is one of NZ's most popular sites. You'll get a banner on 7am (possibly NZ's most popular site) for as little as $5 per day.

Shall we call this a little ambitious then?

Sign me up, I'm stupid!
 
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