iTunes 8 to Vista: Give Me a B, an S, an OD

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Apple's hugely popular devices may have become gold standards, but recent glitches in the new iTunes 8 bring an unwelcome blast from the past to Microsoft's latest operating system. Connect an iPhone or iPod, and some Vista PCs either crash with the dreaded Blue Screen of Death or spontaneously restart.

Apple says the problem can have more than one cause, and the company hasn't yet promised a patch. But if you're suffering from this unhappy pairing, Apple suggests a few options, including reinstalling iTunes 8, updating old device drivers, and checking for address conflicts be­­tween USB devices. For details, including which iPod models can have trouble (all iPhones do), head to Apple's support page.

Mangled Media

Not to be outdone, Microsoft issued another four critical patches of its own. One patch fixes five holes in the way that Windows displays Enhanced Metafile (.emf) and Windows Metafile (.wmf) image files. An attack could hit the flaws simply through your viewing a poisoned picture on a Web page, so be sure to get the fix. Every supported version of Windows from 2000 Service Pack 4 through 64-bit Vista SP1 requires the patch.

The second patch addresses a hole in Windows Media Player 11's handling of audio files streamed from a Windows Media Server. You could be victimized if you happen onto a site that hosts a poisoned audio file. Windows XP SP2 and SP3 through Vista 64 SP1 need the fix.

Windows Media Encoder 9, which converts a variety of files into Windows Media files, is the focus of the third patch. If you've specifically downloaded that software from Microsoft--it does not come with Windows--and you have also enabled its ActiveX control, your PC could be completely compromised if you visit a rigged site. Check your 'Add or Remove Programs' list to see if you've installed the software.

Finally, the fourth patch closes a hole in Office 2007's OneNote note-taking software. Clicking a malicious link could trigger a digital assault.

If for some reason you don't use Automatic Updates, get all of these patches at Microsoft's site.

Firefox Fixes

Mozilla is on double time: Since last month the open-source browser maker re­­leased not one but two new Firefox versions to close two sets of critical holes (with version 3.0.2) and fix a password-manager bug (with version 3.0.3). The first set of critical flaws gives hackers an opening if they crash the browser and corrupt its memory. The second allows for PC takeovers via rigged JavaScript files. Lucky for Firefox users, none of the bugs had been targeted prior to the new version's release.

The password-manager bug prevented some people who had upgraded to 3.0.2 from being able to save new Web site passwords or access those they had already saved. Annoying, to say the least, so Mozilla rushed out the 3.0.3 version to deal with it. To make sure you have the latest Firefox with all these fixes, select Help, Check for Updates.

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