Pings & Packets from eWEEK Labs - 12

Thunderbird hones user experience ... 802.11n to usher in big changes ... XMetal adds DITA features.

Thunderbird Hones User Experience

Updated to Version 1.5 last month, the Mozilla Foundations Thunderbird e-mail client doesnt have any earth-shattering new capabilities, but it does provide a more elegant and secure user experience.

Available as a free download from thunderbird, the Thunderbird client offers good cross-platform support with Windows, Mac OS and Linux versions.

Version 1.5 adds some useful capabilities, including as-you-type spell-checking and the ability to apply certain features, such as search folders, across multiple accounts.

The Thunderbird options interface has been redesigned, including the addition of a switch to block phishing messages. This offers a nice layer of protection, against both malware and the annoying phishing messages themselves.

With Version 1.5, its easier to adjust message handling and account management. For example, I could set Thunderbird to automatically delete messages after a certain amount of time and once theyd been read.

As with the Mozilla Foundations Firefox Web browser, Thunderbird now supports automatic updates to both the client and extensions. On the subject of extensions: All your extensions may not work with the update, although a good number have been updated to support this release.

--Michael Caton

802.11n to Usher in Big Changes

IT managers should pay close attention to the Enhanced Wireless Consortiums 802.11n proposal, which garnered approval last month, because it could change the way we think about wireless.

As detailed in the latest version of the proposal (at www. ), 802.11n will probably include several modes, including Legacy Mode (20MHz channels, as seen in 802.11a and 802.11g) and HT Mode (40MHz or 20MHz channels using one to four spatial streams).

These modes apply to both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum, so wireless administrators should expect everything theyve learned to date about wireless interference to change, particularly in the overcrowded 2.4GHz band.

As weve seen with products based on the latest Airgo chip set, an 802.11n-based device transmitting on Channel 1 will use Channel 5 when high bandwidth is required, effectively eliminating the standing notion that channels 1, 6 and 11 are the only nonoverlapping channels in the spectrum. With 40MHz channels, that simply no longer applies.

Theres still a lot of work to be done before IEEE ratification of 802.11n, but I wouldnt be surprised to see products before the end of the year that claim to be upgradable to the standard.

Of course, given the IEEEs often-laborious process of revision, these claims should be taken with a grain of salt.

But wireless administrators should start thinking about their channel allocation schemes now, and they should start planning to better use 802.11a and the 5GHz space soon.

Thunderbird can now search across multiple accounts.

--Andrew Garcia

XMetal Adds DITA Features

Whats DITA? No, its not the latest one-named pop star or a Mike Myers character. Its Darwin Information Typing Architecture, a standard designed to provide greater portability and modularity for XML documents.

It hasnt been a full year since DITA became an OASIS standard, but authoring tools that add DITA-based capabilities are starting to become available. The first Ive seen is Blast Radius XMetal 4.6 Author DITA Edition, which was released late last year.

With this edition of XMetal, I was able to create documents in the topic-based structure that DITA encourages. I also could define reusable content within the document. Among the new features in this edition are a visual map editor that let me build a topic hierarchy, drag-and-drop reusable components, and one-click publishing to PDF and HTML.

XMetal 4.6 Author DITA Edition is priced at $895. For more info, see

--Jim Rapoza