September 8, 2004 6:00 AM PDT

Microsoft under your thumb

Microsoft is set to introduce a new line of keyboards and mice Wednesday, including models with built-in fingerprint readers.

Unlike most current implementations of biometrics, the new keyboard, mouse and standalone fingerprint reader use the technology not for security but convenience. The accompanying software memorizes the passwords Web surfers have to remember to get around the Web and automatically supplies the right password, once the fingerprint reader verifies who's there.

"Our focus was to tackle the convenience problem," said Tom Gibbons, general manager of Microsoft's hardware group. "We want to get the problem to the point where you only have to remember one password--for logging on--and we want that to be the strong password."

The new offerings also include a wireless mouse intended for laptop users on the go, with a small USB receiver that packs away into the bottom of the mouse for traveling. New wired and wireless keyboards offer improved ergonomics and an adjustable slider control for zooming in and out of documents and photos.

Microsoft is also revamping its Bluetooth-powered wireless mouse and keyboard to support connections to multiple devices, but customers will need to install the problematic Service Pack 2 for Windows XP to use either of them.

The new products incorporate a wealth of small enhancements to improve comfort, usability and convenience, Gibbons said, many of which are the result of Microsoft's ongoing research.

"Its a huge benefit being able to tap into $6 billion worth of R&D on an annual basis," Gibbons said. "We benefit a lot from what Microsoft learns about how people interact with their PCs."

The fingerprint reader-equipped keyboard and mouse sell for $104 together, $84 for the mouse alone or $64 for the standalone fingerprint reader. Prices for other new hardware products range from $45 for Microsoft's wireless notebook mouse to $149 for a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse combination. All products are available now or will be later in September.


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Problematic SP2?
"but customers will need to install the problematic Service Pack 2 for Windows XP to use either of them"

Exactly what is the problem with installing Service Pack 2? I have personally installed it on over 300 machines without a hitch. Is the author of this article a Mac user by any chance?
Posted by (1 comment )
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No. The vast majority of people installing SP2 aren't bright enough and don't know enough about how to configure Windows to install and use SP2 without major headaches. I just installed it myself and have the firewall going full blast and have no problems at all with it. I configured the firewall for a few of my online programs which took less than 1 minute to do and everything is working great.

Consumers that by canned computers like Dell, Gateway, etc. unfortunately don't know enough about their computers to do this without major headaches. The people that build their own and are able to troubleshoot hardware problems as well as setup and configure Windows XP for themselves won't have any problems.

Unfortunately also companies like cnet only want to report on the bad when it comes to Windows and not how much the SP2 is helping keep out computers safe. Just because a small minority of users are having problems it means everyone else is too.

It's similar to the Apple people saying Windows is crap because of all the security problems, etc. when Apple is becoming more and more like Windows in that respect. They just had to fix 12 major security problems with the Mac OS. I don't think the Apple people have much to brag about. The only reason they aren't hit with virus attacks is who in their right mind is going to write a virus to attack a computer platform that has less than 5% market share. That is like a terrorist group creating a deadly virus that only kills blue skinned pixies.

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SP2 Troubles
>> Is the author of this article a Mac user by any chance?

I have no idea about the author, but I'm not.

I have a fairly new system -- P4/2.8, 2GB PC3200 DDR RAM, Intel 875 chipset. When notified that it was available for me, I downloaded and installed SP2. When it had finished with the installation sequence, it asked me to reboot (no surprise there). However, as the system was trying to re-start, the system froze. None of the 3 SAFE modes would allow me to get past the freeze point.

MS phone support was very courteous, but could not help.

Eventually, by prowling around on the 'net, I discovered that there apparently was some miscommunication (non-communication?) between MS and Intel about SP2 and Intel's Prescott P4s.

At the motherboard manufacturer's website, there was a BIOS upgrade posted they day before which resolved the problem.

- Paul Dalton
Posted by pdalton (2 comments )
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