- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009

NEW YORK | E-mail has taken a full circle.

Through the years, Web-based e-mail services have gotten much better, sporting many features once available only with the e-mail programs that reside on the computer desktop.

Now, those desktop programs are borrowing from their Web-based counterparts, such as Google Inc.’s Gmail.

The new version of Mozilla’s Thunderbird, due out in the next few weeks, lets you keep your inbox clutter-free with a Gmail-like “archive” button for permanently storing older messages, while removing them from day-to-day sight.

Thunderbird 3 also introduces tabbed e-mail — akin to tabbed browsing available on most Web browsers, including Mozilla’s own Firefox. You can quickly jump back and forth between e-mail messages by opening them in separate tabs.

David Ascher, CEO of Mozilla Messaging, said that when Thunderbird was first created, the only decent programs around were desktop-based ones such as Microsoft Corp.’s Outlook. For the latest version, Mr. Ascher said, Mozilla looked for ideas everywhere, including other e-mail programs that happened to be Web-based.

That might suggest the time has come to ditch desktop programs completely, now that they are playing catch-up rather than the other way around.

But Mr. Ascher said desktop systems still provide advantages for many users — particularly those with multiple e-mail accounts over multiple services.

The new Thunderbird software offers improvements for merging messages from those accounts into a single mailbox. Before, you could do that only for e-mail systems supporting the POP3 protocol; that’s been expanded to include IMAP, used by Time Warner Inc.’s AOL and many workplace systems.

Search has also improved to be more like the Web. Think of e-shopping sites that let you narrow your choices by clicking on a specific brand name or price range to the left. Thunderbird will now let you do that with e-mail, narrowing the search results using such criteria as whether there’s an attachment and who the sender is.

Microsoft security fixes spare Windows 7

SEATTLE | Microsoft’s newest computer operating system has survived its first few weeks on the market without needing any security fixes.

Microsoft Corp. plugged several security holes Tuesday, but none is aimed at Windows 7, which was released Oct. 22.

That’s to be expected, said Ben Greenbaum, a researcher at the antivirus software company Symantec Corp. “Attackers will take more time to figure out ways of breaking into Windows 7,” he said.

Computer users can get the patches through Microsoft’s automatic-update service or by visiting microsoft.com/security.

One of the fixes Microsoft marked “critical,” its highest severity rating, would thwart an attacker from infecting all the PCs on a local network after gaining access to just one. In other words, even if most people in the office are good at avoiding clicking on unknown links or opening mysterious documents, if one person’s computer is compromised, the attacker could take over the rest.

The software maker also fixed flaws in its Excel and Word software that would give an attacker control of a PC if its owner opened a tainted spreadsheet or document.

It also patched problems in several older versions of Windows, including XP and Vista, that would give an attacker who already has control of a computer access to more of its functions.

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