Mac Goes For Marketshare

You loved their 1984 Big Brother spot. You've even tried to think different. But have you made the switch from PC to Mac?

Judging by Apple’s respective market share, probably not. But Apple hasn't given up on you yet. In a new $50 million advertising campaign, the company is highlighting "real people" who've made the leap.

As reported by the New York Times: 

The series features individuals standing against a white background talking about how they felt after moving away from Windows. The statements are meant to be informal and personal, and one Macintosh convert likens using a Windows-based computer to 'being stuck in a bad relationship.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the company selected the people from more than 10,000 e-mail messages the company received from converts.

"The most important thing for us is that viewers are smart about advertising," Jobs said. "We've all had too many tobacco companies tell us they're good guys to believe advertising. We let these people speak for themselves."

Speaking of Advertising

The New York Times reports bankrupt fiber-optic network provider Global Crossing's briefly wooed actor James Gandolfini to serve as a company spokesman. Execs loved the idea of the tough-speaking actor — better known as Tony Soprano — fronting for their firm. Until, that is, money ran short, the ad budget was slashed and real-life G-men began investigating the Bermuda-based firm's irregular accounting and business practices.

Suddenly having a small-time hoodlum telling the world how trustworthy you are seemed like a less than bright idea.

Swatting Bugs

Microsoft's top bug basher says that when the company is faced with a choice between removing old, possibly insecure code and keeping a feature to please a small fraction of customers, increasingly security is winning out.

As reported by CNET's, Microsoft's four-month-old "trustworthy computing" effort is pushing the company to pour over code line by line. The objective is to close holes and minimize vulnerabilities. It's an admirable undertaking and a necessary one if the company is to convince customers its software is more secure than, say, Linux. But don't expect an entirely reworked Windows any time soon.

"The problem is that you are dealing with 50 million lines of code and everything depends on everything else," Peter Neumann, principal scientist for technology think-tank SRI International, tells CNET. "Software security starts with good design. To go back and try to strengthen code originally written with other priorities in mind can be tough," Neumann said.

Speaking of Online Security…

The Washington Post reports on the new responsibilities that banks, brokers and other financial institutions have assumed since passage of the USA Patriot Act.

The businesses increasingly employ computer systems that pull together millions of transactions in search of patterns that would indicate money laundering, terrorist financing or other unusual activity. If something's found, the financial institutions report it to the cops. It's the sort of the role the FBI and U.S. Treasury Department tried to get the businesses to assume in the 1990s to combat money laundering. But when customers squawked, the businesses backed out.

Post-Sept. 11, the atmosphere has become more conducive to such snooping.

"The Patriot Act is imposing a citizen-soldier burden on the gatekeepers of the financial institutions," the Post quotes David Aufhauser, general counsel at the Treasury Department. "In many respects, they are in the best position to police attempts by people who would do ill to us in the U.S., to penetrate the financial systems."

But the new role for banks, securities firms and the like is not a complete no-brainer. "Sept. 11 obviously made us totally rethink where to draw the line with respect to government access to customer information," said David Medine, a former financial privacy specialist at the Federal Trade Commission. "The question going forward is: Did we draw that line in the right place? … It is really a fundamental civil liberties issue."

Ben Sullivan is a science and technology writer based in Los Angeles, Calif., and publisher of the web log, Ben Sullivan's Tech Blog. His column IT Insider appears on and he contibutes far too infrequently to