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Microsoft gives Outlook 2007 a speed boost

After some users with large Outlook 2007 Personal Folders (pst files) complained about the e-mail client running slowly, Microsoft released a patch last week that is said to improve the application's performance. According to the patch's description, it fixes two problems: the first where a calendar item is marked as private if it is opened by the Search Desktop feature, and the second being the performance issue. HangZhou Night Net

Functionality that should become more responsive after applying the update includes:

Downloading messages from ExchangeDeleting messagesMoving and copying messagesSwitching between messagesOutlook startup

Microsoft's Jessica Arnold said that the performance problems were unapparent until now because of the lack of users running Outlook 2007. "I can't say that this will 100% solve the latency issues, but users should see a big improvement," she told ComputerWorld. Even with the patch, Arnold warned that Outlook is not an archiving system for all your files. "Outlook wasn't designed to be a file dump; it was meant to be a communications tool. There is that fine line, but we don't necessarily want to optimize the software for people that store their e-mail in the same .PST file for 10 years."

For users who continue to experience problems with Outlook 2007, Microsoft has created a list of recommendations that could give the program a speed boost. Of course, the first two suggestions are to delete items from your mailbox and archive old messages. Basically, don't use your inbox as a message archive.

The update, KB933493, is available from the Microsoft Download Center.

BBC’s plans for online programming archive creeping along

BBC license fee payers who have been waiting for online access to over a million hours of archived BBC content will soon be able to get a taste. The Observer reports that the BBC will begin trial access to the archive with 20,000 users in May, with a full rollout to take place some time in 2008. HangZhou Night Net

The BBC Archive is a big project, and one that has been in the works for some time. We first reported on it nearly four years ago and in September 2003, BBC new media director Ashley Highfield said that the network was considering a P2P solution for distributing archived material.At the time of the announcement, it was hoped that content would become available starting in late 2005.

Unfortunately for those of us living outside of the British Isles, the BBC decided to limit access to those who pay the UK's yearly television license fee, which is the primary source of the BBC's funding.

A mild furor erupted earlier this year when the BBC announced that it was going to rely on Microsoft's DRM for its iPlayer software—used to allow viewers to "catch up" on the last 30 days of programming—which the BBC defended as the next best thing to a nonexistent open DRM standard. The BBC will adopt a platform-agnostic approach within a "reasonable time frame," according to the BBC Trust and has looked for feedback from Mac and Linux users on how best to go about it. It's uncertain whether the BBC will use DRM to limit access to the Archive or whether it will rely on some other solution.

One of the reasons that we haven't seen the Archive yet is the maze of licensing and copyright that must be negotiated. Although the programming was originally aired on the BBC, the broadcaster does not have the right to repeat all of it. As a result, composers, actors, and even news anchors need to give their assent to the material being made available on the BBC Archives.

The Observer details some of the footage that will be available, and it looks like some of it will make for some compelling viewing. There's a 1981 performance of Othello starring Anthony Hopkins and Bob Hoskins, a May 1940 appeal for help evacuating soldiers from Dunkirk from the UK government, and a 1981 interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono televised just two days before the ex-Beatle was murdered. The BBC also plans to make scripts, program notes, and other related material available—assuming it can get permission from the copyright holders.

It's a monumental project, one that is made more difficult by the fact that when much of this programming originally aired, there was no inkling that there would be a way to make episodes of The Frost Report from 1966 available for anyone to view, whenever they wanted.

Intel eyes home users with media, management, and an answer to QuadFX

Intel senior VP and general manager of the Digital Home Group, Erik Kim, outlined his company's plans for the consumer and enthusiast segments of the market today at IDF. The focus of Intel's desktop and consumer-oriented platforms from the second half of 2007 onward is squarely on media and entertainment, and specifically on Internet video. HangZhou Night Net

Intel's 3 Series chipsets (a.k.a., "Bearlake") will start things off with a debut this quarter, with support for a 1333MHz frontside bus, Microsoft DX10, DDR3, PCIe 2.0, Intel Turbo memory, and Intel Clear Video technology. The next-gen iteration of Intel's Viiv platform, codenamed "Salt Creek," will be based on a version of Bear Lake when it debuts later this year.

There's are also software and networking components to Intel's assault on the living room. One example of the former is Intel's desktop-to-laptop media sharing software, which enables a Viiv box to serve up streaming or downloaded media files to a Centrino-based laptop. On the networking front, Intel will make HomePlug AV powerline networking technology available as an optional part of its desktop platforms in 2008.

Skulltrail: Intel's answer to QuadFX

Moving from the home to the enthusiast segment, Intel unveiled its answer to AMD's QuadFX platform: the scarily-named Skulltrail platform. Skulltrail, which sounds more like a metal band than anything else, will let enthusiasts with lots of money to burn drop two quad-core QX6800 processors into a dual-socket system—one with four PCIe slots that appear to be intended to host graphics processors. Eight cores and four GPUs is ridiculous amount of horsepower, and you'll probably need 1.21 GIGAWATTS! worth of power to run such a system.

There's no mention of which specific graphics cards Intel intends for gamers to use with the new products, so we'll have to wait for further announcements to find that out.

SoCs for consumer electronics and media processing

Eric Kim followed up on Gelsinger's earlier "enterprise-class SoC" revelations by discussing Intel's plans to market SoCs for consumer electronics. According to Kim, Intel will debut a line of x86-based SoCs in early 2008 that will feature integrated graphics and media processing. In addition to its x86-based products, Intel will also launch the Intel CE 2110 Media Processor, a 1GHz XScale-based part that's aimed specifically at A/V applications.

Kim didn't give out much more detail on the XScale part, but Intel will be making a separate announcement about it later. So stay tuned.

Taking vPro home

Kim revealed that Intel is also planning to incorporate manageability features based on vPro into its home-oriented platforms, giving consumers the ability to have their home computers remotely managed, repaired, and updated. This way, if you're somehow able to delete all of the annoying adware and "craplets" that Dell installs by default, the company can helpfully reinstall all of it as part of their routine remote maintenance…. ok, Kim didn't say that, but one wonders if this is exactly what will happen.

Intel is insisting that the remote management features will be strictly opt-in for home users, and I hope they stick to their guns on this. I also hope that desktops from retailers and mail order houses don't nag users to "Let us manage your PC remotely! (Click "yes" to accept, or "later" for us to remind you again five minutes from now)."

College advises students to push back against the RIAA

The students of North Carolina State University (NCSU) are being advised to stand their ground against the RIAA, according to a report in the NCSU student paper, Technician Online. The RIAA has sent 23 subpoenas to university last week in hopes of discovering the identities of those they consider to be pirates, but the university's Student Legal Services department has been advising students to continue pushing back, all the way to federal court. HangZhou Night Net

The school was one of a handful of universities that received pre-litigation notices from the RIAA in February against unidentified parties that the RIAA had identified as participating in illegal file sharing. At that time, the RIAA had offered the accused parties the option of an early settlement with the organization, which included lowered payouts and the benefit of avoiding going to court. While some universities were quick to comply with the RIAA's request to forward the notices onto students, others were not, insisting that they were not capable of identifying the individuals within the university system based on the information given to them.

NCSU was one university that forwarded the notices onto students. But as it turns out, only one NCSU student came forward to take advantage of the initial settlement offered by the RIAA, according to the Technician. 23 others did not, and as a result, the RIAA was forced to file a series of "John Doe" lawsuits against the remaining parties through the university. The director of student legal services at NCSU, Pam Gerace, told the student paper: "The RIAA actually said they might have use for the names in the future," and therefore has been telling students not to give away their identities just yet.

The John Doe suits are the first step in discovering the identity of a suspected file-sharer. After the suits are filed, the ISP (in this case, NCSU) that owns the IP address block is served with a subpoena. NCSU could then fight either the subpoenas or turn the names over to the RIAA.

Once the RIAA gets the names out of NCSU, however, the students will no longer be able to hide behind the university and will be on their own when it comes to fighting the cases. While Gerace has been advising students up to this point, NCSU's student legal services told the Recording Industry vs The People that they cannot represent the students once litigation begins, either in the "John Doe" cases or in federal court.

So far, the majority of those targeted by the RIAA's pre-litigation notices have chosen not to take advantage of the RIAA's "generous" early settlement offer. As a result, the RIAA appears to be more than ready to move ahead with the lawsuits.