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As we announced in our Sept. 7 news update, all newsletter subscribers, free and paid, are eligible to download a free Dilbert e-book.
Try Rebooting Yourself is an 8-page PDF e-book that contains the funniest strips from the new Dilbert collection. The printed, 128-page bound book won’t be available in stores until October. But Andrews McMeel Universal, Scott Adams’s publisher, let us pick out the best cartoons so you can have them immediately.
To get your e-book bonus, simply use the following link to update your preferences:
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Every reader whose preferences page shows a valid country and ZIP or postal code is eligible to download the bonus. In just the past seven days, our 140,000 subscribers have generated more than 33,600 visits to their preferences pages and downloaded the e-book. People must like Dilbert.
We’re planning a series of free seminars in early 2007 in conjunction with the new book, Windows Vista Secrets. Places with the most readers will get the free seminars. The free download ends on Oct. 6, 2006.
If you’d like to preorder the printed book, it’s available from Amazon and will ship whenever possible next month: United States / Canada / Elsewhere
| By Woody Leonhard |
Long the poster boy of Microsoft complacency, Internet Explorer 6 has finally reached the end of the line.
By the end of this year, Internet Explorer 7 will be “pushed” onto tens of millions of desktops. You’d better be ready.
How did we get into this mess?
Microsoft hasn’t changed Internet Explorer’s internal plumbing since version 4.0, back in September 1997. That version effectively wiped out competition in the browser market, destroyed Netscape, incurred the wrath of the U.S. Department of Justice, and led to legal battles that reverberate to this day. Microsoft exercised its desktop monopoly illegally, took over the market, then sat on its laurels for almost a decade.
We get to see the effects of that complacency on the second Tuesday of almost every month. Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday exercise has slapped dozens of fixes and re-fixes and post-re-pre-ex-hot-cold-fixes on the tired old IE 6 carcass. Stick a fork in it. It’s done.
Microsoft extols the new, enhanced security on offer in IE 7. Of course, the ‘Softies have been doing that for years: Internet Explorer 3.01 sported three advanced security levels that rode herd on ActiveX controls; IE 4 introduced Security Zones, which still figure prominently in IE 7, ten years later.
It remains to be seen whether the cracking community will be able to break IE 7 with the dexterity and alacrity currently applied to IE 6. One thing’s for sure. It couldn’t get much worse.
The inevitability of upgrading to IE 7
Lest you think otherwise, one simple fact stands out: you will upgrade to Internet Explorer 7. It isn’t a question of "if." Only of "when."
You and I can debate late into the night about the relative merits of IE 7 and Firefox 2 (which is currently available in beta). It isn’t a question of whether Firefox 2′s features surpass IE 7′s; which flavor of tabbed browsing works better; which group provides superior phishing filters, or how many angels can dance on the head of a Mozilla pin.
Even if you use Firefox religiously (and I do), even if you have absolutely no intention of using Internet Explorer (and I don’t), you still need to give IE 6 the heave-ho. Why? IE is so intertwined with Windows that leaving the old version intact simply begs for problems. You might as well hang a sign on your monitor that says, "Kick me."
The automatic IE 7 push is coming
Microsoft’s caught between a rock and a hard place. The ‘Softies know that IE 6 sucks. (That’s a technical term, by the way.) Patching and supporting IE 6 costs a fortune, even by Microsoft standards. It’s an eyesore, an embarrassment, and a constant thorn in the technological side — in other words, it’s bad for business. It’s bad for you, too.
That’s why Microsoft announced that, sometime in the fourth quarter of this year, IE 7 will be “pushed” onto any Windows computer that has Automatic Updates enabled. Unlike most auto-updates, though, Microsoft does intend to notify its customers and request their explicit approval prior to installing IE 7. The company plans to use a message similar to Figure 1.
Figure 1: Microsoft’s planned notification message when IE 7 is about to be installed.
As of today, Microsoft insists that it will only allow IE 7 to install itself on computers that pass "Windows Genuine Advantage" (WGA) certification. Given the simmering controversy that surrounds WGA — and the obvious tech-support benefits that Microsoft would gain by having the more-secure IE 7 on all PCs, "genuine" or not — I can’t help but wonder if Microsoft isn’t going to relax that requirement. It seems incongruous that Microsoft would require customers to install WGA, which contacts the mother ship in Redmond regularly, before people could receive the security benefits of IE 7.
Auto-update isn’t your only possible road to IE 7 enlightenment. The new browser will also be available for download via Windows Update, Microsoft Update, and Microsoft’s download center. If you turn off Automatic Updates (as editor Brian Livingston and I recommend for all but novice users), you can wait a few weeks or months until the inevitable hue and cry over IE 7 surprises dies down. Then you can unceremoniously yank IE 6 out by the roots.
How to forestall the inevitable
Those responsible for maintaining many machines can avail themselves of Microsoft’s IE 7 Blocker Toolkit. This 104 KB download contains a Group Policy template and a script that flips a bit in the Registry. This Registry tweak effectively prevents Automatic Updates, Windows Update, and Microsoft Update from offering IE 7 as a high-priority update.
Unlike previous update blockers, this toolkit doesn’t expire. Once you set the Group Policy or flip the Registry bit, Automatic Updates and the update sites will turn a blind eye to IE 7.
That doesn’t prevent your users, of course, from downloading IE 7 from the MS Download Center and installing it themselves (assuming they have administrator accounts to do so). But it does give you some breathing room and some time to assess the potential damages, before taking the risk of converting all your machines.
One interesting note: Microsoft promises that you’ll be able to uninstall IE 7 and revert to IE 6 should the need arise. A simple trip to Control Panel’s Add/Remove Programs will do the trick. Supposedly.
The wise will wait and see
My recommendation: Wait. Even though Microsoft has been beta testing Internet Explorer 7 since July, 2005, you can bet that some skeletons will saunter out of the closet when IE 7 goes into wide distribution.
Disable automatic updates. Take care with any updates you allow Microsoft to install on your machine. And let those tens of millions of unwitting beta testers go first. Cannon fodder.
(Note: To send us more information about IE 7, or to send us a tip on any other subject, visit the Windows Secrets contact page. You’ll receive a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of your choice if you send us a comment that we print.)
Woody Leonhard‘s Web site posts MS-DEFCON reliability ratings for Microsoft patches. His recent books include Windows XP Hacks & Mods For Dummies.