Letters to the editor: "Microsoft Research fights critics, targets innovation"

Microsoft Research fights critics, targets innovation; Muni Wi-Fi not just another utility; How much can a LAN switch protect your network?; Tech is getting easier, CIOs say; Qualcomm: Contrarians at the gate; Hell yes to virtualization!

Where’s the beef?

Regarding “Microsoft Research fights critics, targets innovation”: As a technology professional of more than 20 years, I get extremely aggravated at stories like yours that heap abundant praise on Microsoft for whatever reason (or excuse), but fail miserably to balance the articles with facts.

No one disputes the talent of Microsoft engineers, but where does all this brilliance manifest itself in product "innovation," improvements for reliability, security or scalability? You should have insisted that Microsoft PR people state exactly what innovations exist in Vista, XBox 360 or any other products that is not prior established science or stolen from someone else. The history books are strewn with "facts" of innovation taken by Microsoft from others and simply using the word "innovate" thousands of times in speeches does not change reality. Where are the innovations, spelled out clearly?

Wendell Anderson


Hardyston Township, N.J.

Question statistics

Regarding “Muni Wi-Fi not just another utility”: Thanks for this thought-provoking article. You raise good reasons that municipalities should examine their business plan very carefully. But I'd like to ask you not to accept statistics uncritically. As one example, your article states that, according to the Reason Foundation, “just 1% [of U.S. ZIP codes] had no competitors.” This is a great-sounding statistic, but it's meaningless. The granularity is too large because a ZIP code covers a lot of territory.

For example, the central village of my home ZIP code in northern New England is well served by DSL, cable and wireless broadband. But the remainder of the town is quite rural. That leaves not 1%, but about a quarter of households in our town with no competition or no broadband service at all.

I don't have any solutions for this. And I am certain that municipalities shouldn't rush in blindly, for all the reasons you cite. But please, let's not publish misleading statistics.

Rich Brown

Hanover, N.H.

Switch as protector

In “How much can a LAN switch protect your network?”, I noticed no mention of securing devices other than those that support 802.1x, no mention of multiple devices on the same port and no mention of Alcatel. These omissions are related.

If you had explored Alcatel's security offerings at the switch level (remember, Alcatel offered authenticated virtual LAN enrollment three years before 802.1x), you would have discovered Alcatel has an aspect of its switch operating system that will pass either the user-inputted 802.1x credentials (user id/password) or, absent 802.1x support, the media access control address of the device to the RADIUS server.

Once authenticated by whatever database RADIUS is linked to, the switch will “schwing” the user to the VLAN returned by RADIUS. Absent a VLAN assignment, Alcatel leverages its group mobility rules to enroll the device into a VLAN matching predefined traffic characteristics. Finally, absent an authenticated VLAN or a match for a mobile group, the network administrator can tell the switch that this device's traffic is either dropped or enrolled in a default/guest VLAN.

This process is performed on every device that attaches to the port. The ramifications in a VoIP world are most salient, but this also allows Alcatel to leverage its Quarantine Manager to isolate devices that are attacking the network automatically without disrupting legitimate devices on the same port.

Greg Kovich

Schererville, Ind.

Easier for whom?

Regarding your editorial, “Tech is getting easier, CIOs say”: This is an early April Fools Day joke, right? Virtualization, WAN multiplexing, network access control, storage-area networks, always-morphing security issues, mobile security, Vista rollouts, Web applications, Linux integration into the Windows world, voice/IP convergence, biometrics, single-point logins, users even dumber than the CIOs quoted in your column -- yeah, IT life is a breeze these days. Of course, if you're a CIO -- famous for not being able to reformat a laptop or hook up their own home computer to a consumer broadband router -- everything is easy; you just pick up the phone and have a real engineer do it.

Tom Struble

Gunnison, Colo.

No second acts

Regarding Howard Anderson’s column, “Qualcomm: Contrarians at the gate”: Code Division Multiple Access’s days are numbered for one simple reason: broadband. As wireless moves to broadband, new players and technologies will emerge (and are emerging) from core competencies that do not originate in the 2.4Kbps world. There is a reason why Western Electric did not deliver DSL modems: core competencies (or the lack thereof). And have we not learned from history what happens when nepotism plays a role in leadership succession? At least we know where Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski or Motorola CEO Ed Zander might end up after their current gigs. Qualcomm’s Second Act? Dude, it’s curtain time.

Bill Baker

Creative director

Bootstrap Strategies

Agoura Hills, Calif.

Vista disobedience

Regarding Mark Gibbs’ BackSpin column, “Hell yes to virtualization!”: I have several plans for dealing with the virtualization prohibition in Microsoft Vista: 1) Use Linux, 2) Don't buy a new computer with Vista on it; request XP as long as it is available, 3) Don't upgrade to Vista, 4) Don't buy other Microsoft products; there are freeware and shareware programs that will do what Microsoft programs do, sometimes better, and 5) Buy a Mac.

Rich Radcliffe

Apple Valley, Calif.

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