In brief: Microsoft flags hole in XP SP2 firewall

Also: NYSE spills on new wireless trading platform; ZigBee Alliance ratifies first wireless sensor net spec; IBM works on boosting tape storage capacity; e-mail marketing company wins lawsuit; Cisco to open R&D center in Tokyo.

Microsoft quietly has released an update to Windows XP to fix a potentially serious configuration problem in the firewall that ships as part of Windows XP Service Pack 2. Users who installed SP2 on their Windows XP machines and also have file and printer sharing enabled might have been sharing their files and printers with the entire Internet, according to Microsoft. By default, file and printer sharing makes changes to the SP2 firewall to give computers on the "local network" access to shared resources. However, the definition of that local network depends on the ISP.

In some cases, especially with dial-up ISPs, it meant the entire Internet, according to Microsoft. Still, even with the update, a local network could extend beyond what users might consider a local network. To cordon off a network and prevent unwanted access, users should place an additional firewall in front of the network, the company says.

The New York Stock Exchange last week shared details about a wireless trading system it's been developing with IBM for the past couple of years and testing for the last several months. Brokers on the trading floor will use the system, called TradeWorks, to place orders and communicate market information from the point of sale to institutional investors. NYSE decided to modernize its processing system to keep up with escalating trading and messaging volumes without having to increase head count.

Along with 60% to 80% compound annual growth rate in share volume, NYSE has had to deal with an even greater surge in messaging traffic. Brokers today collectively send and receive an average of 75,000 messages per day - up sixfold over the last four years. The new system will provide a much faster wireless network and let brokers deal with customers more effectively, NYSE officials said.

The ZigBee Alliance has ratified the first specification for wireless sensor networks. The ZigBee specification is the result of two years' worth of work by more than 100 companies. The document lays out the higher-layer requirements for low-cost, very low-power, wireless mesh radios that can be coupled with an array of sensors. The sensors can detect things such as temperature, vibration, liquid volumes or flow, movement and moisture. The data is passed over the mesh network, in the 2.4-GHz band, to a gateway and then to conventional servers and applications. Details are available here.

IBM has begun work on new technologies designed to boost the capacity of tape storage devices 250 times. Using "nanopatterning" techniques derived from the company's microprocessor division, researchers say they expect to one day build cartridges that can store as much as 100T bytes of data. For years now, engineers have wrung more capacity out of tape storage by narrowing the tracks of magnetic material that store data on a spool.

IBM is able to store 704 data tracks on the half-inch-wide tape used by its TotalStorage 3580 LTO Generation 3 drives. This device can store about 400G bytes of data, but to store more than the 1T byte researchers say they will have to make major changes. The researchers now are exploring ways they can use chip techniques such as reactive ion etching (a very precise method for putting patterns on film) or sputter deposition (a method of applying film in a very well-controlled way) to increase storage capacity.

An e-mail marketing company that was sued for allegedly violating Maryland's anti-spam law has prevailed on constitutional grounds. Three similar laws in Virginia, New York and Vermont have been declared unconstitutional for violating the Commerce Clause, while anti-spam laws in Washington and California have survived court challenges. The Maryland case involves First Choice Internet in Carle Place, N.Y. The company and its founder were sued in late 2003 for allegedly violating Maryland's Commercial Electronic Mail Act, which was enacted in 2002. First Choice filed a motion to dismiss the case, and Judge Durke Thompson of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County in Maryland granted it this month.

First Choice gave three reasons for dismissing the case, and the judge agreed with all of them: first, that the MCEMA violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution; second, that the Maryland court lacks jurisdiction; and third, that the plaintiff shouldn't have been included in the lawsuit.

Cisco will open a research and development center in Tokyo focusing on Internet software and routing technologies in February. The company initially will invest $12 million over five years in the center, which will employ 10 engineers working on development of the company's IOS and IOS XR software, routers, IPv6 and wireless technologies, the company says.

The opening of the center comes after the company won several major contracts for its software and equipment based on the CRS-1 system from Japanese customers. Softbank BB, which operates broadband services in Japan under the Yahoo BB name, has chosen CRS-1 for its network backbone and Japan's National Institute of Informatics will use the CRS-1 as its core routing system for research into grid, supercomputing and other applications, according to Cisco.

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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