Software Security Scramble

Rob Pegoraro
Monday, August 8, 2005; 9:24 AM

If all the software on your computer is up to date, you don't need to read my column from yesterday's Post.

I feel safe offering that bargain, because nobody I know has ever had all their software -- not just their operating system, but every other program installed on the computer -- current. And now that so many of these programs that people add to their PCs have become possible avenues of attack by hackers, the fact that so many of us are cruising around the Internet with old versions of Web browsers, e-mail programs and music jukeboxes becomes a serious risk.

My column looks at why it's so hard to keep these applications current with needed security fixes, using three programs as an example: the Mozilla Firefox Web browser, Apple's iTunes and RealNetworks's RealPlayer. Read the column here.

In the rest of yesterday's personal-tech section, we had a comparison of photo-sharing Web sites that assessed Kodak EasyShare Gallery, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Webshots and Yahoo Photos.

In Web Watch, Leslie Walker wrote about a new photo-finding features at another photo-sharing site, Yahoo's Flickr and a new shopping service called the buySafe Bonded Shopping Network.

Our reviews covered the anime game Fullmetal Alchemist 2, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Nvu Web-page editor. And in Help File, I wrote about a portable DVD player that had either its wires or its labels crossed, as well as how much you can restrict a user account in Windows XP Home.

Music, Photo and Video -- But All at Once?

We're used to MP3 players that can also show photos, or at least album cover art. But now video-capable players are getting talked about as well, either real products (such as Creative's new Zen Vision) or hypothetical ones (the video iPod that Apple may or may not roll out one of these months). I haven't liked the products that I've tried before (see, for example, my review of Creative's Portable Media Center), but I can see how this sort of thing might work.

It would simply have to be designed right -- starting with how you'd get video into it. I'd be interested in a video-capable handheld if it:

* Let me easily copy video from a digital video recorder (TiVo, Replay, Comcast, Dish Network, etc.) for later viewing.

* Let me watch movies rented from an online store that carried a full inventory of movies I've heard of (unlike Movielink and CinemaNow) at a reasonable discount over a DVD-rental rate (unlike Movielink and CinemaNow).

* Included a reasonably large screen, but without making the entire gadget too hefty to stow in at least a jacket pocket. (I'm not sure this is actually possible!)

Can somebody pull that off? I suspect we'll see a lot more attempts soon. But don't ask me when, or if, any of those will feature a big Apple logo.

Treo Troubles

A couple of weeks ago, I finally put my money where my mouth is and bought a Treo 650 smartphone. So far, things have been fine with the handheld itself -- notwithstanding Verizon's extortionate data pricing. (Fortunately, I don't have occasion to use the Web access on this phone often enough to wind up spending more overall, factoring in voice and other charges, than I would if I'd switched to Sprint PCS.)

But I've been having a hell of a time trying to get this to work with the iSync software in Mac OS X. Although I can get the Treo to stay in sync with the Address Book software in OS X, I can't do the same with iCal. That is, while I can get events to copy over from Mac to Treo, they don't flow in the other direction -- and to-do items don't get synced at all.

I don't know why this is; I had no problems syncing a Sprint Treo to a Mac running iSync last fall. What I do know is that between Apple and Palm, somebody needs to put some effort into updating their synchronization software. Either Palm should -- finally! -- update its Mac software so it talks directly to Address Book and iCal, instead of relying on the obsolete Palm Desktop for contacts and calendar management, or Apple should put some more effort into iSync so it doesn't have this habit of dropping data on the floor at random times.

I'm sure I can fix this, if I only reset the Treo enough times or delete enough preferences or cache files on this Mac. But it should not be nearly this hard. (If anybody has any tips, please share them with me. Thanks.)

Questions? Comments? Send them to rob@twp.com.


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