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What Users Want
One sentence in Rob Preston's column "Security Surcharge" (Oct. 21, 2002) struck a nerve in me: "Extreme vigilance, Microsoft argues, is the surcharge customers must pay for the ubiquity, feature-richness and compatibility of its products." Microsoft enjoys touting "ubiquity, feature-richness and compatibility" but these features are not what I, the user, want! I want something that's simple enough to understand and won't be tricked by hackers. I remember a cartoon from the 1970s in which three suits representing the three big American automakers are saying, "The customers are trying to tell us something but we can't figure out what." Right behind them, a band of protesters are waving a billboard-size banner that says "Build a Better Car!" That's Microsoft today. For example, in the very act of writing this e-mail, I copied a sentence from the online version of Preston's column and Outlook automatically changed the font of my whole message. I manually changed it back once but then gave up when Outlook did it again. This is what "feature-richness" is to average users.

Dennis Durham
Computer Generalist
Government agency
[email protected]

Business Case

As an IT person, I tend to agree with Don MacVittie on backward compatibility ("Don't Look Back," Oct. 10, 2002), but on a business level, I completely disagree. It seems MacVittie did not read David Joachim and James Hutchinson's article "Down to Brass Tacks" (Oct. 10, 2002). Where MacVittie suggests that programmers should not have to write code that supports every old DOS program, I feel his pain. But to quote "Down to Brass Tacks," we should "... approach problems from a business perspective instead of a traditional technology perspective."

As an IT manager, why should I pay for a new product that makes my existing software obsolete when I have a proven ROI for the existing model and none for the replacement? Also, software companies' constant rush to release the next big thing is causing the need for patch after patch. Why can't I expect more for my dollar?

MacVittie raises a good point: 16-bit software programs can't run nearly as fast as their current counterparts. But if I, as a salesforce, want the largest market share, I must prove I can operate with anything out there. Not all companies have the monster IT budget we all marveled at in the era of the "Internet bubble."

Ken Stewart
Information Technologies Manager
BKI - Worldwide
[email protected]

Going Public
Lori MacVittie misses the point in her article on the release of Microsoft Security APIs ("Opening a Pandora's Box," Sept. 30, 2002). It doesn't matter if people are kicking in the front door or sneaking in the back--either way they get in. Having the APIs published forces Microsoft to fix the problems because they can no longer be denied.

That's the whole concept of public disclosure. It's about having real security, not merely the feeling of security.

Michel Labelle
Supervisor, Information & Communications Technology

City of Coquitlam, British Columbia
[email protected]

Better Recipe?
In response to Ron Anderson's article on spam ("The Anti-Spam Cookbook," Sept. 15, 2002): I feel the practices of SpamCop and similar organizations will punish only law-abiding, hard-working Americans who didn't jump through all the right hoops when trying to distribute a newsletter. True spammers will never be affected by these organizations because by the time SpamCop has identified the source of the spam, the spammer will have moved to a different network in a different country. Meanwhile, the business of marketing with Internet newsletters is expanding. Companies like have a right to run newsletters without terms dictated by self-appointed spam police.

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