TV-PGJune 8, 2001: Brace yourselves-- CNET actually says that Mac OS X is better than Windows 2000. Meanwhile, automailing viruses are finally starting to show up for the Mac, while a disturbing "feature" quietly introduced in Windows XP stands poised to turn the whole Internet into one big Microsoft ad...
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Next Up: OS X vs. Holyfield (6/8/01)

Look, if we wanted accounts of baffling off-kilter and out-of-character behavior getting our minds all muddled and topsy-turvy heading into a well-deserved weekend, we'd ask for them, okay? (Or we'd just watch a Friday night episode of "The Lone Gunmen." Sorry, but we're still a bit unnerved by the decision to throw Langly, Byers, and Frohike into a screwball slapstick comedy.) Regardless, a great many of you couldn't contain yourselves when CNET underwent a personality change so drastic you'd think it had an iron rod blown through its head. And really, who could blame you?

Yes, Russell Maggio was the first of dozens of faithful viewers who excitedly pointed out CNET's "Heavyweight OS Death Match," which pits Mac OS X against Microsoft's Windows 2000 in five categories: installation, interface, software compatibility, hardware compatibility, and Internet support. In each round, Mac fan John Rizzo went head-to-head against "avid Windows user" Matt Lake (whose next gig, we can only assume, will be as the poster boy for the leading brand of antipsychotic medication). Based on their arguments, a seven-member jury comprised of "software editors, CNET Labs technicians, a editor, and a software engineer" then ruled which operating system won each round-- and the overall contest.

Keeping in mind that this was all put together by CNET, you'd probably expect the deck stacked more than slightly against Apple's champ. Granted, Mac OS X won the installation round 7-0-- no real surprise there, other than the fact that this is still CNET we're talking about. When we saw that Windows actually beat Mac OS X in the interface contest (though by an admittedly close 4-3 win), we knew we were in familiar CNET Mac-bashing territory. Windows beat the Mac 7-0 for software compatibility; well, okay, even we can't fault that too much. But what's this? Mac OS X actually won the hardware compatibility challenge 5-2, and then swept the Internet round 7-0. That means that-- and keep in mind that we're still trying to fit this into our world view-- CNET actually chose Mac OS X as the winner over Windows 2000. "Color us shocked," they say. Color them shocked? Color us ripe for a stroke brought on by overwhelming consternation and amazement.

Normally something like this would make our heads explode, but there are a few things that soften the blow a little. One is the fact that Windows 2000 won the interface contest, which is precisely the sort of outrageous conclusion we've come to expect from CNET. Another is CNET's closing statement: "Before you use our death match as a reason to run out and buy a new dual-processor G4, though, let us remind you that this matchup is all in good fun." In other words, "Mac OS X won, but for Bill's sake, please don't consider actually using what we accidentally determined to be the better operating system." And then there's Think Secret's claim that after having purchased ZDNet, CNET is now planning to shut down all Mac coverage on ZDNet News. Ahhhhh... now there's the CNET we love to hate!

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Lemme Hear You Say "D'oh!" (6/8/01)

Fellow Mac users rejoice! Long have we been second-class citizens when it comes to software availability, but those dark days are finally drawing to a welcome close. No longer will we be dejected observers sitting on the sidelines while the Windows crowd has all the fun; we may have missed out on ILOVEYOU, Melissa, AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs, and scores of other big-name viruses that had the whole Wintel world a-hoppin', but turn that frown upside-down. According to MacInTouch, now Mac users don't need VirtualPC to experience the joy of self-replicating trojans that email themselves to everyone in a user's address book.

Yes, kiddies, it was only a matter of time; some pioneering individual has just crossed one more thing off the list of "Things You Can't Do On A Mac" by building one of those self-mailing trojans entirely in AppleScript. If you're the lucky recipient of an emailed attachment called "Simpsons Episodes," a quick double-click will load an actual episode guide in Internet Explorer-- while secretly causing Outlook Express or Entourage to email a copy of the script to everyone in your address book in the background. (So far this worm that SARC is calling "MacSimpsons@mm" doesn't do anything more destructive than move the contents of your "Sent Items" folder to the "Deleted Items" folder, presumably to avoid detection; perhaps there will be more actual mayhem in version 2.0. Still, this is a promising start.)

We should note that this particular script will apparently only work with Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and Entourage-- proving still further that, as always, it's Microsoft that keeps our humble platform moving forward. As usual, we recommend that you kneel towards Redmond and give thanks thrice daily for the bounty that The Bill has seen fit to bestow upon us. Those of you heathens still using those "other" browsers and email programs, don't worry-- as long as they support AppleScript (and most of them do), eventually we're sure somebody will come up with comparable scripts that target your "alternative" software. The best way to make sure you're affected as soon as possible is to double-click any and every attachment that comes surging into your inbox, regardless of name, sender, or apparent file type. Eventually you're sure to find something destructive!

On a final note this joyous day, we feel compelled to point out that while Windows trojans typically try to lure hapless victims to launch the offending code with the promise of free porn, this Mac trojan tries to bait users with the promise of something far classier: free Simpsons episodes. Now, if that's not "playing to one's audience," we don't know what is...

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World Domination, Step 81 (6/8/01)

On the off-chance you need yet another reason to drop that clunky ol' Mac as soon as Windows XP surfaces this fall, here are two words that will sway you even further: Smart Tags. What are Smart Tags, you ask? Well, according to a The Wall Street Journal article we dug up on the advice of faithful viewer Andrea Parent, the version of Internet Explorer bundled wi-- er, sorry-- inextricably integrated into Windows XP can actually add links to web pages on the fly. In other words, let's say you load a web page, and somewhere in the text of that page is the word "kumquat." It's not a link-- it's just a regular ol' word, and users of all other browsers see it as such. But under Windows XP, "kumquat" may show up as a link that takes you to, say, Microsoft's web page for Kumquat XP, due next spring for the low, low price of $99 (preorders accepted now). This all happens conveniently without the actual web page author's help-- or, indeed, even his/her knowledge.

The upshot, of course, is that now that Microsoft has used its operating system monopoly to establish a web browser monopoly, the company is in a terrific position to abuse both of those standings by altering the very content of the Internet to turn the entire web into one big Microsoft ad. Every instance of the word "Miami" could take you to an Expedia list of departing flights, every use of the phrase "word processor" could take you to the Word page, etc. We can only surmise that before long, all occurrences of the word "God" will point to this dweeb.

Personally, we'd be pretty surprised if this "feature" didn't find its way into the Mac version of Internet Explorer before long, but to start, only those smart enough to install Windows XP will get to experience what Microsoft calls "another step in personalizing the Web and helping bring it to life for individuals by allowing them to get the information they want in the way they want it." The goal, says Microsoft, is to protect users from the horror of "under-linked" sites. Strangely enough, however, this wonderful feature (that will surely be universally adored by users and web page authors alike) will actually be off by default! What's more, stodgy webmasters who, for whatever bizarre reason, don't want Microsoft adding their links for them will be able to banish Smart Tags from their sites through the judicious use of meta tags. Tsk, tsk... sounds like Microsoft's going, well, soft in its old age.

Personally, we at AtAT welcome the advent of Smart Tags, since we figure we'll save all kinds of time, what with never having to research and code our own links ever again-- we'll just let Microsoft do it for us. Really, how much difference could it possibly make?

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