Patch your passwords

I wrote two weeks ago that upgrading from Internet Explorer 5.x to 6.0 wipes out Windows Media Player's ability to open password-protected files. You've typed the correct password, but Media Player can't submit it to the remote server.

I wrote two weeks ago that upgrading from Internet Explorer 5.x to 6.0 wipes out Windows Media Player's ability to open password-protected files. You've typed the correct password, but Media Player can't submit it to the remote server. (See Media, play thyself.)

That's not all upgrading IE does. As I reported last week, a "critical update" Microsoft released in February prevents both IE 5 and 6 from sending passwords to web sites, including MSN accounts. (See Speed cleaning.)

I said then that Microsoft has a patch that corrects the password failure, at least in IE 6. Reader Sherwin Levinson reports that his tests show that the same patch also fixes the Media Player problem. (See an explanation and the fix.)

But this isn't all that has my readers up in arms. It seems the changes from IE 5 to 6 are wreaking havoc with a number of other crucial functions.

"I belong to a community of people who use Microsoft operating systems for industrial automation (water plants, automotive, semiconductors, etc)," writes Todd Malone. "They created a general protocol that layers on top of DCOM for our industry, which companies like Rockwell Automation, Siemens and Honeywell have adopted."

IE 6 breaks every single such system, he says, stepping on a capability that the developers "were 'guaranteed' would remain in the product".

Another reader, who asks to remain nameless, says, "We installed IE 6 as required by our facility (all security patches must be put in). This was on Windows 2000 client machines. It broke all the Microsoft Terminal Server clients, because it automatically upgraded the security level to 128-bit encryption." This change, while desirable overall, is irreversible and caused many headaches as fixes were required throughout the network.

Upgrades may be great, but testing them first is a necessity when your business is at stake.

Make your vote count

After the contentious US election of 2000, I wrote a plea to computer professionals to design more reliable ways to record votes. Specifically, I recommended touch screens that print permanent, marked ballots.

California 's Santa Clara County became on February 25 the first county in the US to order voter touch screens that provide printouts. Only a portion of the county's polling booths will be equipped for hard copy when the new system is first used by voters this November. But the intent is to equip all voting equipment with such a paper record soon. The system's vendor, Sequoia Voting Systems, agreed to add print capabilities without raising the cost of the county's purchase order.

The paper trail was urged by computer scientist David Dill and hundreds of petition-signers. Without printed ballots, they argued, computer-only processes allow tampering to go undetected. Good work, people -- keep 'em honest. (See here.)

Livingston is publisher of BriansBuzz.com. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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