The Microsoft antitrust case has finally drawn to a close, and Adam explains the settlement. Derek Miller joins us with a look at how a PowerBook and a slew of Mac software helped him single-handedly publish a daily conference newsletter, a task that had taken previously taken three people. In news, TidBITS won the latest Best of the Mac Web survey (yay!), Stairways Software released Interarchy 6.0, and we offer another solution for blacked-out iMacs.
TidBITS Wins Best of Mac Web Survey! Many thanks to everyone who voted for us in Low End Mac’s recent Best of the Mac Web survey. Although we came in sixth in the raw number of votes, we were first in overall ranking, edging out MacSurfer and VersionTracker. Mac OS X Hints and As the Apple Turns filled out the top five. I’ll take quality over quantity any day, and I’m incredibly pleased that you saw fit to give use the highest percentage of "Excellent" votes of any site in the survey. Now, of course, we have nowhere to go but down, so we’ll just have to work all the harder to maintain our top of the heap ranking. Thanks again for the support! [ACE]
Interarchy 6.0 — Stairways Software has released Interarchy 6.0, the latest version of their popular file transfer and network testing software. New features in Interarchy 6.0 include full support for Secure FTP (SFTP) in Mac OS X, queues that let you collect multiple actions and run them sequentially, delayed transfers that run at a later time, repeating transfers that run on a regular schedule, new column and hierarchical views, verification of Web site links, and support for bookmarks and URL management. Interarchy 6.0 also boasts a new file transfer engine that supports very large files (up to 9 exabytes, a ludicrously theoretical measurement at the moment), long filenames (up to 255 characters), and long URLs (up to 2,502 characters). For those people who missed the loss of Interarchy’s network testing tools in Mac OS X, they’re back in Interarchy 6.0 and can be scheduled, added to queues, and run on a repeating basis. Interarchy 6.0 is compatible with Mac OS 8.5 through Mac OS 9.2.2, and is also native under Mac OS X. New copies of Interarchy 6.0 cost $45; discounts are available for owners of previous versions and upgrades for those who purchased Interarchy after 25-Jun-02 are free. An unlicensed version is available through 04-Feb-03; it’s a 3.1 MB download in English, French, and Japanese. [ACE]
Using VGA Monitors to Fix Blacked-out iMacs — In "Update Firmware Before Installing Jaguar!" in TidBITS-653 we outlined an arduous hard drive-swapping process to recover iMacs that had been rendered unusable by installing Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar. If an affected iMac has a VGA video output port, an easier option may be to connect it to an external VGA monitor. If the external monitor mirrors your iMac’s display, you should be able to update the system’s firmware directly without attempting to dismantle your iMac… or paying for a motherboard replacement. [GD]
On Friday, 01-Nov-02, the four year-old antitrust case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and 18 states and the District of Columbia drew to a close with a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Judge Kollar-Kotelly essentially accepted the proposed settlement between Microsoft and the Justice Department and nine states, making relatively few substantive changes. Unless they challenge it on appeal, her decision also ends the effort by the states dissenting from the original proposed settlement. (See our article series tracking the progress of the long-running case.)
In reading Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s opinion, I was struck by three things:
She said that the court’s role was not to re-try the case, but to evaluate the proposed settlement and determine if it was in the public interest. Plus, the fact that the case exists only because it was brought by the government informs the court’s evaluation of the proposed remedies. That means that even if she would have imposed more stringent remedies on her own, she must "accord deference" to the government’s predictions as to the effect of the proposed remedies, and determine, based on those predictions, whether those remedies are in the public interest.
She made a significant distinction between terminating Microsoft’s monopoly and terminating the illegal maintenance of that monopoly. Monopolies are not inherently illegal, and the fact (agreed upon by all parties) that Microsoft gained its monopoly legally means that remedies (such as breakup of the company) to terminate the monopoly aren’t warranted. Instead, the proposed settlement aims to terminate the illegal maintenance of the monopoly.
She drew attention to the fact that there’s a difference between the commingling of functionality (such as building Internet Explorer’s functionality into Windows) and the anticompetitive effect of that action. The commingling of code is not the problem; the effect it has on competition is, and thus the remedies must address the effect, not the act. She also commented that preventing the commingling of code could harm third-party developers that depend on such functionality.
Let’s skim through the final judgment. You can read the entire document and Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s 101-page opinion (prefixed with her comments about the dissenting states) here:
Anti-Retaliation — A number of clauses prevent Microsoft from retaliating against or threatening retaliation against an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) if the OEM is developing, distributing, promoting, using, selling, or licensing any software that competes with Windows or any Microsoft middleware product. (Middleware is software that other developers can use to run applications and that could easily be ported to other operating systems; examples are Web browsers and Java virtual machines.)
Also protected from retaliation or threat of retaliation is the act of shipping a PC that either includes both Windows and another non-Microsoft operating system, or can boot with more than one operating system. This last part ensures Microsoft cannot prevent OEMs from selling PCs with Linux pre-installed or as an option.
Along with OEMs, independent software vendors (ISVs) gain protection from Microsoft retaliation or threat of retaliation, either for developing, using, distributing, promoting, or supporting any software that competes with Windows or Microsoft middleware. Plus, Microsoft may not enter into agreements that require an ISV refrain from developing, using, distributing, or promoting competing software.
(Judge Kollar-Kotelly added the bit about threatening retaliation to the language in the proposed settlement because she felt that was a significant concern, despite the government’s claim that banning the act of retaliation itself was sufficient.)
As a variant on the protection, Microsoft may not enter into agreements that require a company to distribute, promote, use, or support Windows or Microsoft middleware exclusively or in some fixed percentage, unless the company in question can practically provide equal time to a competing product. Apple falls into this category because of the 1997 agreement in which Microsoft agreed to keep working on Microsoft Office in exchange for Apple making Internet Explorer the default browser, avoiding Netscape Navigator, and not promoting other Web browsers. That sort of agreement would now violate the terms of the settlement. (One limitation on this restriction: it doesn’t apply if Microsoft licenses intellectual property from the third party and if the intellectual property license is the primary purpose of the agreement. This latter clause was Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s addition; she didn’t want every agreement to turn into a sham intellectual property license.)
Uniform Licenses — This provision in the settlement requires that Microsoft issue uniform licenses to OEMs licensing Windows. In essence, this clause ensures a fair playing field for licensing Windows, although there are several exceptions for different language versions of Windows, for volume discounts, and for various marketing-related discounts (as long they’re distributed uniformly to OEMs of varying sizes).
Judge Kollar-Kotelly took slight exception with this section because she felt that uniformity wasn’t necessarily in the best interests of all licensees, and presumably, the public. However her concerns weren’t sufficient to suggest an alternative.
Flexible OEM Licenses — Many of the complaints about Microsoft stemmed from the company’s restriction of how OEMs could modify the look of Windows. The settlement addresses this by forcing Microsoft to allow OEMs to:
Install and display icons, shortcuts, or menu entries for non-Microsoft products, although Microsoft may restrict such placement to locations that make sense for the product type in question.
Distributing non-Microsoft middleware by installing icons of any size or shape on the desktop as long as those icons don’t impair the functionality of the interface.
Launch non-Microsoft middleware automatically after boot or while connecting to the Internet. Microsoft may restrict this behavior only if the product in question replaces or drastically alters the Windows interface. (Judge Kollar-Kotelly changed the original wording, which allowed such automatic launching only for products that replaced Microsoft middleware that were automatically launched at that time, and if the product either had no interface or used an interface similar to that of the Microsoft middleware.)
Offer users the option of booting other operating systems before Windows starts up.
Present an Internet access provider offer during the initial boot sequence. Judge Kollar-Kotelly removed language requiring that OEMs comply with Microsoft’s technical specifications, in part because tech support costs aren’t borne by Microsoft.
API & Communication Protocol Disclosure — To prevent Microsoft from taking advantage of private APIs in its middleware products, the settlement requires Microsoft to disclose the APIs (Application Programming Interfaces; the hooks applications use to connect to middleware or an operating system). Plus, Microsoft must also make available, via reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing terms, the communication protocols used by any product Microsoft installs with Windows and that communicates with a Microsoft server operating system, such as Windows 2000.
In this section, Judge Kollar-Kotelly made one significant change by reducing the time before which these disclosures must be made to three months, down from twelve months and nine months, for the API disclosures and the communication protocol disclosures, respectively.
Some of the feedback to the court about the proposed settlement argued that Microsoft must issue royalty-free licenses for these communication protocols; in her opinion, Judge Kollar-Kotelly disagreed, saying that Microsoft’s liability didn’t require it to give away significant amounts of valuable intellectual property rights.
There is one significant limitation to this requirement that Microsoft disclose APIs and license communication protocols. Microsoft does not have to reveal anything that would compromise anti-piracy, anti-virus, software licensing, digital rights management, encryption, or authentication systems. Similarly, Microsoft can make licenses related to these type of systems conditional on the licensee having no history of software piracy or willful violation of intellectual property rights, having a reasonable business need, meeting reasonable standards for verification of the authenticity and viability of its business, and agreeing to submit the related software to third-party certification of specification compliance.
End User Control — In an attempt to give end users more control over their computing environments, the settlement requires Microsoft to allow end users and OEMs to enable or remove access to Microsoft or non-Microsoft middleware through icons, shortcuts, and menu entries, and by controlling automatic launching. Plus, end users and OEMs may designate non-Microsoft middleware to replace Microsoft middleware.
Similarly, Windows itself may not automatically alter the OEM’s configuration of icons, shortcuts, and menu entries without asking for confirmation from the user. That confirmation cannot happen until 14 days after the first time the user turns on a new computer, and any such automatic removal must include both Microsoft and non-Microsoft products. This particular section is aimed at protecting the Windows Desktop Cleanup Wizard, which removes unused icons from the desktop.
RAND Licensing of Microsoft IP — If intellectual property licenses are required for a company to exercise the options provided in the settlement, Microsoft must license that intellectual property using reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) terms. The licenses can be narrow in scope and may be non-transferable, but Judge Kollar-Kotelly struck without comment a clause that would have required the third-parties to license back to Microsoft certain intellectual property rights related to the exercising of these options.
Compliance & Enforcement — Perhaps the most significant change Judge Kollar-Kotelly made is in the Compliance and Enforcement Procedures section. Initially Microsoft and the Justice Department had proposed a Technical Committee of three independent people, one appointed by each side and the first two selecting the third. Though it’s difficult to see what concern Judge Kollar-Kotelly had with this proposal, in the final judgment she replaced the Technical Committee with a Compliance Committee made up of at least three members of the Microsoft Board of Directors who are not present or former employees of Microsoft. This approach maps the method proposed by the dissenting states, so it’s possible she adopted it to throw them a bone.
A major aspect of compliance is a Compliance Officer appointed by the Compliance Committee. The Compliance Officer’s duties include distributing and explaining the settlement to all Microsoft officers and directors, providing annual briefings on the settlement, tracking Microsoft’s compliance, certifying annually to the plaintiffs that Microsoft has remained in compliance, and reporting any violations to the plaintiffs.
Enforcement authority remains with the plaintiffs, and includes the states. For coordination, the plaintiff states must form an enforcement committee, and no individual state may take action without first consulting the enforcement committee. Jurisdiction and power to issue further orders or directions remains with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; something about which Judge Kollar-Kotelly felt strongly, so much so that she made it explicit in the final judgment.
Next Update in Five Years — Although most antitrust decisions remain in place for at least ten years, the settlement calls for termination after only five years due to the fast pace of the industry. However, the plaintiffs can apply to the court for a one-time extension of up to two years if Microsoft has engaged in a pattern of willful and systematic violations.
The final judgment is certainly far weaker than the dissenting states had proposed and hoped for, but in essence, they set their sights too high, and received almost nothing they wanted. The judgment is thus widely seen as a victory for Microsoft, which had faced the possibility of a breakup. The remedies, though arguably an appropriate attempt to terminate the illegal maintenance of Microsoft’s monopoly, are unlikely to slow Microsoft down much at all. Whether or not other companies are able to compete with the Microsoft juggernaut even after these remedies are in place remains to be seen.
But Judge Kollar-Kotelly will be watching to make sure the playing field remains level; at the very end of her full 344-page discussion, she quoted Machiavelli in saying, "Let it not be said of Microsoft that ‘a prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise,’ for this Court will exercise its full panoply of powers to ensure that the letter and the spirit of this remedial decree are carried out."
As I packed for a trip last June, my wife looked into my suitcase. She noted that while she usually brings extra clothes and accessories when traveling, "you seem to pack wires." Sure enough, my shirts, pants, and toiletries were shoved into a corner, overwhelmed by an Ethernet hub and cables, a USB trackball, a keyboard, headphones, and assorted unidentifiable Mac flotsam. She hadn’t yet seen my briefcase.
I was preparing for three long days in a Toronto hotel putting together a daily newsletter for the large annual conference of the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS). I would attend sessions, take notes and photographs, write and edit articles, and lay out three four-page issues, distributed overnight to the hundreds of physicians attending, with highlights of the previous day and pointers for the new one.
A year before, in 2001, I had also been the editor in my home city of Vancouver. But in 2000, it had taken three people from another firm to do a similar job.
Sharpening the Axe — Abraham Lincoln reportedly said that, given eight hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend six sharpening his axe. My experience at the previous CPS conference prodded me to take Abe’s advice. I’ve never owned a laptop, so I started by renting a PowerBook G4 from Vancouver’s Mac Station a few days before my flight.
Simply installing the software I planned to use – the latest versions of Mac OS X 10.1 and 9.2, fonts, flash card reader drivers, iPhoto, iTunes, Palm Desktop, WordSmith, Photoshop, GraphicConverter, PageMaker, Acrobat Distiller, BBEdit, Office X, Toast Titanium, FTP software, Samba X, Mozilla, and Internet Explorer – took the better part of a day.
Only PageMaker, Acrobat Distiller, and my older Photoshop 5 had to run in Classic mode. Everything else ran natively under Mac OS X, which I was determined to use because it multitasks properly. Next came documents from my old Power Mac G3, including newsletter templates, logos and photos, and MP3 files.
Finally, I tested: Could I write an article in BBEdit or on my Palm IIIxe and transfer it cleanly into PageMaker? Would photos import from my borrowed Canon PowerShot G2 digital camera via the card reader and GraphicConverter?
Would PageMaker export PDF files with all fonts properly embedded? Could I burn readable CD-Rs? Did email and FTP work? Could I see Windows machines on a network? If possible, could I do things in multiple ways in a pinch – Word instead of BBEdit, Toast over Disc Burner, GraphicConverter rather than Photoshop, broadband or dialup?
Whew! I was wiped out.
I over-prepared because I had almost no margin of error, and some things that had gone well out of sheer luck the year before might not go so smoothly half a continent away. Of course, I still had to fly out and do the job. And I seemed to be developing a cold.
Leaving on a Jet Plane — My luck persisted on departure day. My cold was holding off. I found no lineup for my discount Air Tango flight’s automated check-in. Security cleared my bag full of wires, and I had an empty chair next to my window seat.
Toronto was a muggy 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). The sky poured rain like a bathroom shower over my airport hotel, where I spent my only free night checking email, double-checking my preparations, having a swim, and compiling a short slide show in iMovie using photos I’d taken on the plane, to mail back to my wife and kids.
At home, we’ve had a DSL Internet connection since 1998, and it has spoiled me. Watching the movie upload take 15 minutes to crawl its way through the hotel’s dialup line would be a sad lesson for my next few days. High-speed Internet connections have not yet spread widely enough in hotel chains for the wired (or wireless) business traveler.
Hit the Ground Running — The next morning, a bus brought me to the Westin Harbour Castle, on the Lake Ontario waterfront. It was too early to check in to my room, so I said hi at the conference office, locked the PowerBook to a desk, and got started. I found it easiest to wander the conference centre with the G2 camera in one hand and my Palm and its folding keyboard in my pocket.
I took plenty of notes in the WordSmith word processor (see my review in TidBITS-604) and shot hundreds of photos.
As at many large conferences, several meeting sessions ran concurrently at a time. Sometimes I sat in on an entire session – such as a particularly interesting seminar on how premature babies frequently become blind during infancy and childhood. In other instances, I flitted between sessions, noting key snippets and taking a few photos. The Canon G2’s wide-aperture lens and reasonably powerful flash were especially helpful in the dark seminar rooms.
Once I was able to move into my hotel room, I set up a mini-office at the provided desk (see the photo below). Alas, although there was a fresh Ethernet jack in the wall, the hotel hadn’t yet connected it to anything. Dialup it would be. I tried to configure my setup as ergonomically as I could. I wanted to avoid the consequences of the previous year, where I had perched a PowerBook 1400 on a table and given myself a repetitive strain injury in my wrists. I had taken months to recover fully (TidBITS published a number of articles on the topic years ago that are still relevant).
The Digital Grindstone — The next three days fell into a solid routine. I spent the morning and afternoon moving between sessions. During breaks I returned to my room, synchronized my Palm, and transferred photos to the PowerBook. After dinner I wrote articles, cropped and resized pictures, and gradually filled up the PageMaker template. Around 9 or 10 at night I would proofread and edit onscreen, then call in Elizabeth Moreau, my key CPS staff contact, to look over the "beta" version before making last-minute changes and distilling the final PDF file.
CPS had arranged a cost-effective but convoluted printing process. The Westin has a Business Centre in the basement, but its main facility is at another downtown hotel a couple of kilometres away.
I was to email them the print-ready PDF no later than 11 PM, at which point they would print it there from a Windows computer, photocopy it, and drive it back to the Westin for distribution in the middle of the night. I finished the first issue by 10:55 PM – lots of time. But while the file was only a few megabytes large, it took an excruciating twelve minutes to dribble through the dialup wire. I resolved to finish earlier the next evening.
It turned out that, unlike the direct-from-digital copies made at Kinko’s the previous year, the greyscale photos I had prepared didn’t copy well on the Business Centre’s equipment. So the second night I tried a halftone screen. The resulting PDF for the second newsletter was a slightly larger file – too big for my email gateway, which tried to bounce the whole document back to me through the glacial dialup line. I aborted the download, phoned the friendly guy at the Business Centre downtown, burned the PDF to a CD-R disc instead, and walked the two kilometres to meet him and deliver it by hand at midnight.
The next morning, the super-fine screened photos looked even worse. So for the final issue, I tried a very coarse screen, which worked acceptably and shrunk the PDF significantly for a flawless (for once) email transmission. Although I never was happy with how the photos printed, people still liked the writing and information. You can see the final PDFs yourself, along with their 2001 counterparts, on my Web site:
Lessons — The high-end PowerBook and camera were worth the effort and expense, since being able to generate PDFs quickly, as one example, kept me from being horrendously late with my final files, especially after the second night’s email runaround. My attention to ergonomics and obsessive pre-trip planning saved my wrists and sanity, respectively. Being able to run several computationally intense tasks simultaneously was a great help. (The PowerBook 1400c I had rented in 2001 couldn’t even play MP3s with only the media player running.) Tylenol Cold Daytime is remarkably effective medicine, but it keeps you up if you use it at night. And I really don’t like dialup anymore.
My bag full of wires also wasn’t wasted. On my last day, as a side project, I used it to hook up the PowerBook G4 to the Business Centre’s high-speed Internet connection, then download and conglomerate several PowerPoint files into a single presentation. I put it on a hybrid CD-R that a rushed physician could read on her laptop when presenting later that afternoon, all in less time than downloading the files through dialup would have taken.
The CPS staff were happy I could accommodate the extra request between my newsletter work. By the time I flew home and took some lovely aerial photos on the approach to Vancouver, my clients had offered to fly me to Calgary next year. Even though it involves several 16-hour days in a city distant from my family, the job does pay well, and meeting the challenge is fun, especially by showing that one man and a Mac really can do the work of three people, sometimes.
[Derek K. Miller spends his days in Vancouver with his two preschool-age daughters, his weekends playing drums in a retro-sixties band, and his other time writing, editing, and hanging out with his wife, who still wonders about all those wires. He has a weblog too.]
PayBITS: Interesting article? Why not toss Derek a few bucks
via PayPal so he can buy his own PowerBook and camera next time?
Read more about PayBITS: <http://www.tidbits.com/paybits/>