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ActiveX update may cause minor glitches in Windows shops

Analysts say the ActiveX patch may confuse users and create problems for Windows managers.

One of the Microsoft patches rolled out Tuesday may cause some initial headaches for Windows managers, but analysts say the effect will be minimal.

The nonsecurity update disables ActiveX on a Web site and requires users to click the page or press the tab and enter keys to authorize certain applications to run.

The patch is really a speed bump," said Dan Kaminksy, a security analyst who runs DoxPara Research, an independent research firm. "It is very arbitrary, but it is what the law requires."

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A ruling required the move by Microsoft after the software maker lost a patent dispute in 2003 to Eolas Technologies Inc., a startup company backed by the University of California. The update now skirts the Eolas technology by requiring manual activation from users. Kaminsky said this may cause some support issues for Windows administrators as confused end users discover the changes.

"I would expect minor tech support calls," Kaminsky said. "There is a filter in front of interactive behavior that wasn't there before."

Jeffrey Jarzabek, IT director with Matocha Associates, an architectural planning firm in Oak Brook Terrace, Ill., had some concern about the immediate impact on his company's applications.

"It is going to create issues with Java Applets," he said in an e-mail. "One of our applications loads on a Web site so employees can do their timesheets from remote locations. This is going to be a major headache."

However, Jarzabek noted that despite some frustration, the change may also be beneficial to administrators because it would halt several system-clogging applications, such as Flash and Shockwave.

Greg DeMichillie, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm, said the impact on corporations would be minimal because most were aware of the lawsuit and the imminent changes.

"Site developers who are unhappy about this can simply rewrite their Web pages," he said. "Microsoft has provided some workarounds. But this could force some Web sites that haven't done that to do it now."

Enterprises are not required to install the patch immediately. Windows administrators have until June 13 to test the patch for compatibility in their systems. In the meantime, Microsoft has said IT managers can download a compatibility patch.

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