Napster's future uncertain in wake of court ruling

Feb. 18, 2001



Napster's future looks increasing doubtful, especially in the wake of the recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a lower court decision that found Napster guilty of copyright infringement.

If you've tried to access Napster this week during peak usage hours -- which in the rush to download songs before Napster is shut down, has been 24 hours a day -- you may have been bounced from their server or unable to complete a file download.

The recording industry built a case against Napster and won a critical victory last July. Only the company's appeal allowed it to keep its service operating. Its deal with Bertelsmann in October was seen as a possible way to legitimize the service by turning into a fee-based subscription service.

That didn't deter other music industry giants from pursuing their legal action against Napster.

But don't count Napster out just yet.

The company recently announced it a new plan that Napster interim CEO Hank Barry hoped would allow the service to remain viable.

While details were sketchy, the plan would allow users to swap music files -- but an encoded "protection layer" would limit further use of the music files, which would include using them to make homebrewed music CD-ROMs.

With the judge overseeing the case apparently favoring a deal between Napster and the recording industry rather than just shutting Napster down, there may be hope for the file-swapping service yet.

WINDOWS XP. Microsoft's Bill Gates recently demonstrated the next version of the Windows operating system that will be soon on the market.

Windows XP is a simplified operating system aimed at both consumer and business users. It is optimized to help user handle photos, add new peripherals, play DVD movies and other files.

The XP designation replaces the familiar year-of-release two or four-digit number that has become part of how Microsoft has named many of its products since the debut of Windows 95.

If you haven't heard much about Windows XP, you will. Microsoft is planning a $200 million marketing campaign to launch the new operating system, pushing it as big an upgrade as Windows 95 was over Windows 3.1.

Of course if you listen to Microsoft's marketing managers, you'll find that ever update and upgrade is as important as the move from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95.

Microsoft plans to have two flavors of Windows XP -- the Personal and Professional editions.

With beta versions being distributed now, the official "gold" version should be released to computer makers by June. Retail versions of Windows XP should hit stores in July, according to Microsoft.

VIRUSES REVISITED. My recent column that mentioned the free InoculateIT Personal Edition software generated a number of e-mail queries and comments -- and for good reason.

With the high number of computer viruses making the rounds, there's no good reason not to take precautions.

Renee Nowatka, a local computer consultant, suggested Web surfers who didn't want to download and install a new virus program could visit Trend Micro's HouseCall Web site.

HouseCall is an online virus scanner that scans for viruses that exist on a user's computer. It doesn't offer ongoing protection against getting a virus, but Nowatka said the site could identify viruses and give users a chance to plan corrective measures.

Many computer systems come with a "recovery CD," Nowatka said, and users with infected computers can restore their operating system with this CD. Doing so, she warned, can be a headache because it will return the computer to its factory settings.

And finally, Nowatka recommends users who use Outlook or Outlook Express for their e-mail can take advantage of the many patches and updates Microsoft makes available for the software at no cost.

"If you keep getting a virus in your e-mail box as I sometimes do, block it with the Message Rules option in Outlook 5.0 and above," she said. "Those rules are also good to sort your e-mail out into folders."

She also recommends treating all e-mail attachments with caution -- which is good advice, especially considering how many viruses are spread as attachments.

"If it looks fishy, forget it," she said. "Delete it, then delete it from your deleted folder too."

For more information on Outlook and Outlook Express updates, visit

VIRUSES PART TWO. One computer user who downloaded InoculateIT Personal Edition recently told me she was surprised that the software found viruses on her system that her old anti-virus software missed.

InoculateIT PE deleted the files -- which included some vital Windows operating system files.

When Windows tried to reboot, the user was confronted by a long string of error messages because of the missing files.

One of the options available for InoculateIT PE and other anti-virus software is to keep 7infected files rather than deleting them. Before allowing software to automatically delete files, you may wish to set the options to prompt you before deleting those files.

JUNO FOR SALE? Despite its position as one of the top competitors in the free and discounted Internet access business, Juno Online Services Inc. officials announced last week they were open to either buying a competitor or being sold to one.

The ever-changing face of free Internet providers prompted Juno's CEO Charles Ardai to suggest the company may be purchased by a competitor or it may buy a competitor's product.

DELL PRICE CUTS. Texas-based Dell Computer announced recently its plan to gain market share by cutting prices on all of its products.

With personal computer sales slowing worldwide, the move means Dell will try to undercut competitors and keep the company's system sales strong.

Dell is the No. 2 computer maker worldwide, and the No. 1 computer maker in the United States.

For example, the company's entry-level Dimension L desktop computer system sold for 40 percent less than a year earlier.

Some industry analysts say the plan is risky because it trades profitability for big market share gains.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to, or visit on the World Wide Web.

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