Microsoft Browser Choice screen rant

I know this is old news, but it still annoys me. Just for those who have not heard, this useful summary of the legal background to Browser Choice (rather than the technical details) describes the decision:

In December, the European Commission and Microsoft arrived at a resolution of a number of long-standing competition law issues. Microsoft made a legally binding commitment that PC manufacturers and users will continue to be able to install any browser on Windows, to make any browser the default browser, and to turn access to Internet Explorer on or off. In addition, Microsoft agreed to use Windows Update to provide a browser choice screen to Windows users in Europe who are running Internet Explorer as their default browser.

So, when I install shiny new Windows 7 machines for my clients with a perfectly serviceable browser (IE8) with some great security features such as protected mode, I make sure the Windows Update has brought everything up to date and BAM! An icon appears on their desktop and prompts them to choose what browser they want.

So I choose IE, delete the icon and everyone is happy.

This is a complete waste of everyone’s time and money. The users who want an alternative still go and download the browser of their choice. Most don’t bother. Making a bad choice from the popup screen and deciding a while later you want to switch, or revert to IE is just a waste of people’s time, and in business this time will cost money. Across Europe this hidden cost will be huge.

Read more of my rant about the Browser Choice screen»

Microsoft lost appeal to the European Courts over anti-competitive practices

The verdict is finally here. The appeal has been lost, all that Microsoft got out of it is the requirement to have an independent monitor to check it was keeping in line with the court’s rulings. The original verdict of the European Commission in 2004 was appealed to the European Court of First Instance. In the court’s statement about the appeal case, they said:

The Court of First Instance essentially upholds the Commission’s decision finding that Microsoft abused its dominant position…The Court criticises, in particular, the obligation imposed on Microsoft to allow the monitoring trustee, independently of the Commission, access to its information, documents, premises and employees and also to the source code of its relevant products.

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Endemol’s Cheetah found to be a cheater

Personally I can’t understand anyone phoning into those daytime or late-night quiz shows with banal questions in the vain belief that they have a reasonable chance of winning. Clearly the questions themselves are simply a tick in a box to avoid the complex legal implications of the lottery and gaming laws. The fact they have questions make it a test of skill rather than simply one of luck, supposedly, but given the ridiculously easy puzzles asked (“how many letters are there in the word “stupid”?) I find this quite strange. Surely the only thing easier to see than the answers is that anyone who is even half awake will know the correct response, and the winner is simply selected at random. How is that not a lottery?

Anyway, despite the fact that these are a licence to print money, it seems this was not enough for the aptly named Cheetah, a subsidiary of TV production company Endemol.

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Users sharing passwords may breach data protection regulations

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) can be seen as a very straightforward piece of legislation. Properly applied, it protects the rights of individuals to ensure that data about them is processed properly, securely and only for the purposes they originally gave that information.

In a ruling yesterday the Information Commissioner’s Office decided that allowing staff to access data without proper controls (by using each other’s passwords) is not in compliance with the Act. This kind of lax IT management does not ensure that personal information will only be accessed by authorised people who have a good reason to do so. This does not meet the Act’s requirements that a Data Controller should have appropriate “technical and operational measures” to ensure data is processed in line with the Data Protection Principles.

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Pay as you throw? WEEE regs finally here

The European directive on the disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) finally became part of UK law on January 2nd, although originally it was hoped it would be adopted by all member states more than two years ago. Some of the provisions will not come into full force until 1st July 2007, but all firms need to start planning for this now.

The full text can be found on the DTI website – Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2006 (pdf).

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Mandatory company info in emails and websites

From January 1st 2007 you need to ensure your company emails and websites have sufficient information to comply with the existing E-Commerce regulations and the Companies Act, and clarification brought about by the adoption of the EU First Company Law Amendment directive. Of course, much of this information is useful to your website visitors and business correspondents in any case, regardless of the fact that it is now mandatory.

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