Sidebar Geek

My experience with Windows Vista. Windows Sidebar and Microsoft Gadgets.

September 2005 - Posts

  • Confusion over reading RSS Feeds in Windows Vista

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    Ok so this is one area I am a little confused on. Microsoft says Windows Vista will be include RSS technology allowing users to harvest web feeds. Well, I've yet to see anything that really blows me away in terms of RSS in Windows Vista.

    We have the new Windows Sidebar that will have Gadgets that read RSS Feeds. Very cool. We have Internet Explorer 7 that will read RSS Feeds within the browser. Also very cool.

    But I have tons of RSS Feeds I'm tracking. I'm surely not going to want to enable Windows Sidebar to track 25+ different RSS Feeds!

    Of course I could always use Start.com - a web-based RSS Aggregator. I already do so today.

    Will I be able to go into program like "Windows Feed Reader" or something like it where all my RSS Feeds are viewable and saved? Pretty much a built in Windows RSS aggregator?

    I also know that Vista will create RSS Feeds FOR you. In Windows Calendar, you can publish your Calendar into RSS! That's neat.

    How about this: what about sharing personal RSS Feeds made by a Vista user over the new P2P technology? For example, we have a family of 5 people. The mother and father share 1 computer and the 3 kids have their own. Wouldn't it be cool if the kids could view their parent's RSS Feeds via their internal family network? Or even better yet, what if the kids want to share their top 10 music artists?

    I look forward to seeing what the next CTP build brings us as well as Beta 2 for Windows Vista.

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  • User Access Protection works!

    I sat my dad in front of my PC today running Windows Vista Build 5219 and had him try to defeat User Access Protection (UAP). He's the head IT of a big pharmaceutical company.

    He was unable to go in to the Computer Managment console and add himself into a different group despite being belonging to the Administrator group (as an Administrator when I created his account, I made him a Computer Administrator for the heck of it). He was able to install some programs, but not all.

    This could be very useful in the home and even business environment because a user cannot simply add themselves into different groups even if they are a Administrator. I am wondering if Microsoft intends to create 1 master administrator account or root account. The administrator of all administrators on your PC?

    One thing my dad worries about is these small computer repair shops that think they know what they are doing will go in and make it to where all users are Administrators to "make it easier for the owner". I've seen these small computer repair shops do some stupid stuff to people's PC's. My dad also didn't like it how when he attemped to add himself to a different user group, it didn't log it in the security event log. He says this could be risky.

    Of course, in the end, as a Computer Administrator, my dad was able to install programs. So I guess UAP kinda works? But works in strange ways.

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  • Build 5219 Screenshots

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    Ok - I want each and every visitor that views these screenshots to show someone else who's not familiar with Windows Vista - show them what they can expect with the next Windows release. These screenshots are taken directly from Build 5219 - the September Community Technology Preview.

    Screenshot: The new 3D Avalon Effects for viewing Multiple Windows.
    Screenshot: The new Address Book in Windows - rumored to be called Windows Phonebook.
    Screenshot: Windows Calendar - new built in way to keep tabs on your latest happenings!
    Screenshot: The Windows Vista Desktop.
    Screenshot: A new look to old games - plus a few new games.
    Screenshot: Windows Photo Library - view your photo collections!
    Screenshot: SafeDocs - to be called Windows Backup, the new Backup utlitiy in Windows!
    Screenshot: The awesome Windows Sidebar - add neat desktop Gadgets!
    Screenshot: A new look to Solitare with new game options!
    Screenshot: Taskbar Thumbnails!

    Again, these are from Build 5219. These are no where near finished products and features for Windows Vista. These are meant to give the typical home user an idea on what to expect with Windows Vista. I know my friends and family will use many of these features without having to worry about downloading seperate programs such as Windows Photo Library.

    Windows Vista Beta 2 is expected to be a broader release - giving many home users a chance to dip their feet into Vista. Until then, technical beta testers will be given monthly Community Technology Previews (CTP). The next CTP is expected to be released in the middle-to-late October. With Beta 2, expect to see some major User Interface changes. Some of these changes have accidentally been hinted at when Microsoft released an image of a new type of "Start" button earlier this month.

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  • Allchin: Its not going to work...

    According to the Wall Street Journal, Jim Allchin walked into Bill Gate's office in July 2004 and told him Longhorn was not going to work. Of course, what ended up happening is that the Longhorn operating system development essentially got a "restart" after things not going quite as Microsoft had hoped. They had to completely change the way they were used to developing an operating system.

    I consider this "restart" a blessing. Look at Windows Vista now? Looks very promising, and the new features look very promising. Plus, I admire Mr. Allchin for walking into Bill Gate's office to tell him that the next version of Windows will not work.

    Ok so this is all in the past and we've all moved on.

    What is bothering me a bit is how Paul Thurrott over at his Windows Supersite claims that when Mr. Allchin walked into Bill Gate's offfice to say Longhorn wasn't going to work - it was echoing his statements he had publicly made via his website - mainly about Longhorn being a "trainwreck". Mr. Thurrott needs to take a look at when he made his own comments. According to his website, he called Longhorn a "trainwreck" on April 26th, 2005 at WinHEC 2005 - a full 8 months before he called Longhorn a "trainwreck".

    Mr. Thurrott, Microsoft knew they had a problem a long time before you did. You "echoed" Mr. Allchin.

    My thoughts on the whole thing is Jim Allchin got the guts to tell Bill Gates that the next version of one of their biggest product - is not going to work - which is crazy! But it brought up the question "Is it going to work?" as they continued to try and repair and build on what they already had. The question was answered. No. It wasn't going to work. The traditional way of building Windows was done. Time to do something different. And that's what Windows Vista is! Something different. Yeah, features were dropped and deadlines were missed but instead of having a new release built on the same old Windows we've been using for years and built the same way, we now have Windows Vista which is built differently with new components and new structure. Its very exciting.

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  • Disappointment at Microsoft's Vista UAP Chat

    Right now I am attending a Microsoft Chat on Window Vista's UAP Technology. They've got 6 good experts answering questions, and doing a great job answering.

    But the things being said by some of these "technical" beta testers is just plain messed up. One tester talked about "flaming sheep balls". Why come to a Microsoft chat to do this? These guys from Microsoft are taking the time out of their busy schedule to answer questions you, as a technical beta tester, may have! Some of  these technical beta testers are acting really unprofessional during this chat - something you wouldn't expect from supposedly this elite group of beta testers. Others came up with some incredible questions. Unfortunately the really stupid comments seem to overshadow those good questions.

    I'm not sure, after this, if I want to attend another Microsoft chat like this. I've got another chat lined up tonight from the OneCare team - we'll see how that one goes.

    By the way - Build 5219 IS NOT BETA 2!!!!!!!

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  • Attending another Microsoft webcast today!

    Today I'm attending another Microsoft webcast on "Introduction to Windows Vista Enterprise". I will be taking notes using OneNote 2003 once again - which brings me to say that Microsoft has released Service Pack 2 for its Office 2003 Suite today. They also released one for OneNote today as well. I will be installing and using it to take notes at today's webcast.

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  • Vista drivers to be more stable

    Tom's Hardware Guide talks with ATI's vice president of their software divsision Ben Bar-Haim about "Vista-Ready" Drivers and discusses their stability.

    Vista graphics drivers are programmed for a new driver model currently named LDDM (Longhorn Display Driver Model), although the "Longhorn" part is subject to change. According to Bar-Haim, the "user mode-based" drivers depart from Windows XP's "kernel mode-based" model, and are thus unable to crash the operating system: "Microsoft had concerns about the stability of drivers in XP when they noticed an unreasonable high amount of XP crashes due to device drivers. With LDDM, we can run the driver engine for months without crashing," he said.

    This is definately another plus on Microsoft's part for Windows Vista. I'd like to install drivers without crashes. I want to be able to install an incorrect driver and have it just tell me that the device driver won't work with the specified device instead of possibly crashing the entire operating system. The drivers ATI has released for Windows Vista Beta 1 have proven strong and reliable as I tested Beta 1. I have yet to load the ATI drivers in Build 5219 as of yet.

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  • Comments are broke

    I apologize to those of you visiting our site and trying to make comments which at this time do not work. The issue is being looked at and worked on currently. Thanks for your patience in this matter. I still want to hear you're comments so feel free to email me!
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  • Intro to Blogging for the IT Pro Webcast

    Today I attended my very first live webcast at Microsoft. Let me tell you, this was a wonderful experience. The LiveMeeting Software rocks!

    The live webcast today was about Introducing Blogging to IT Professionals. Robert Scoble with Jeff Julian and John Alexander from Alexander and Julian Inc talked about all the things the IT Pro would need to know about blogging to do it successfully.

    I cannot even begin to explain how awesome this webcast was. The three guys totally opened up so much more for me as a blogger especially here at LonghornBlogs.com. I have so much stuff flowing through my head its not even funny. Robert, Jeff, and John all did a absolutely great job talking about what Blogging is and how to do it and get noticed.

    I took notes today during the webcast using Microsoft OneNote 2003. Click here to view my notes in web form. I encourage those of you visiting and want to start blogging to check my notes out.

    A special thanks goes out to Robert, Jeff and John for the awesome webcast today!

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  • My Experience with Windows Vista Build 5219

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    I am currently writing this blog from Windows Vista Build 5219, known as the Community Technology Preview(CTP) for September or PDC 2005 Build.

    I want to talk about several key areas that have spiked by interest in this new Build. But before I talk about those, I'd like to say overall stability-wise, Build 5219 seems to carry over the stability seen in Beta 1. I've noticed only very few issues. One of the issues for me has to do with the Wireless Networking (an issue I've noticed others have had troubles with from posts on different forums around the web). Build 5219 picked up my DLink Wireless Card and loaded the drivers and detected my wireless network. But for some reason, it wouldn't let me manually put in my IP Configuration (I do not have DHCP enabled on my Router). The IP config just wouldn't stick! I would right-click on the Wireless Networking icon in the taskbar to "Repair" and I would get a "Windows Explorer" error and then the Explorer shell would crash and reload. I did not have this issue in Beta 1.

    Ok now on to the neat stuff.

    Transparent Taskbar: Microsoft is now making the taskbar transparent as it does with all its new Aero windows you see within Vista. I like this. The transparency isn't too much or too little. Very cool enhancement. It makes me wonder what they have up their sleeve in terms of the new user interface being talked about for Beta 2.

    Windows Sidebar: Ok, I am very happy Microsoft decided to bring the Sidebar back. Its potential was apparent right from the beginning (atleast to me) and it definately seems Microsoft sees that potential now and of course with the RSS built in all over the OS, the Sidebar is a great tool. And the Gadgets will surely rock the user interface in Vista. I can't wait to see the types of Gadgets people come up with. I can't really figure out why, I am very excited for the Sidebar.

    Windows Mail: Although still called Outlook Express in this build, I am going to refer to it as Windows Mail because I think Windows Mail is so much cooler than Outlook Express, I think Outlook Express can easily be forgotten. Windows Mail redefines the standard home user's ability to check their mail. Just as explained in my previous blog about Windows Mail a few days ago, in Build 5219 you can see alot of what they talked about in the Channel 9 video emerging. The emails are saved as .eml files and searchable within Vista. Although, in this build it looks like Outlook Express, its going to end up looking alot more like Outlook 2003. Except, I challenge the Windows Mail team to go all out. Be different. Develop a rocking email client. Go beyond just minicing Outlook. I am definately really excited about this one.

    Address Book: Ok, I am a big nerd for even mentioning this but its cool how the Address Book has changed to allow seperate "contact files" for each contact which I have no doubt will be searchable via Windows Vista's awesome Windows Search. I like this concept alot and hope and wish that the Windows Mail team taps into this (and even the Outlook team for Outlook 12). I remember reading somewhere someplace this will eventually be "Windows Phonebook". Not sure I like that name. I would rather see "Windows Contacts" or something else...cause from what I see now, it goes beyond just being a phonebook.

    Windows Calendar: Could be cool. In this build, it doesn't do anything but I'd like to see it tap into the Sidebar technology with a gadget and also tap into Windows Mail. I want to see built in reminders in Vista for calendar entries.

    Did I mention how much I love the Sidebar?

    They also improved the search feature a bit in this build by allowing you to search beyond your User folder. I could never get it to search anywhere else in Beta 1.

    I will be posting more later on with screenshots!

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  • Introducing Windows Mail

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    Channel 9 has thrown online a introduction and demo of the new Outlook Express now being called Windows Mail.

    The new Windows Mail is dramatically different than what we have today with Outlook Express. The underlying way Outlook Express stores email has been completely tossed out. Instead, Windows Mail will store email messages on your machine as SEPERATE files (they talked about these email files me .eml extensions in the video). So you don't have to worry about corruption as much. It will be more less likely to have Windows Mail become corrupt and you loose all your email. The database storage system is JET which is being used all over the place in different applications and even within Windows Vista. What's even cooler is that you can open these emails seperately from having to launch Windows Mail. So lets say you store all your emails in a folder in Documents and are in a hurry and need to check out a specific email - you can open it via that folder in Documents, or of course use the nifty Windows Search. The email files are stored in a nice neat view in the Windows shell, just as most of your files in Vista so - in all actuallity, your email is just files. The mail program is nothing more than a nicer more organized view with a few more features. You can even reply to an email direct from the Windows shell in Vista by just right-clicking on one of the emails! I'm not sure if this is bringing on the end of email applications but it sure seems like it. Its a very overwhelming concept that will take me quite some time to get used to.

    For the user interface, they are pretty much copying the Outlook interface to a certain degree of course with Vista UI enhancements thrown in such as the search box in the upper right hand corner of the program.

    The Windows Mail Team has also devised a much easier way for the user to back up their email. Outlook Express pretty much blows when it comes to trying to back stuff up. Now there is only one directory you really need to back up: /mail/. This is fantastic.

    What the Channel 9 Video here!

    I personally think that Windows Mail is very promising for the home end user. Do I think I'll go to Windows Mail after using Outlook 2003 (and have had an great experience) for so long? Perhaps. I am willing - and more definately will - to give Windows Mail a try.

    Another thing, I give big kudos to Microsoft for steamlining the naming in Windows Vista. I like the "Windows" application name theme they seem to be going with such as "Windows Mail" or "Windows Calendar" and so fourth. Its easy to remember, its consistant, and it makes sense. When I start talking to people about these applications, they will probably more likely to remember and understand its name.

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  • Robert interviewed at BetaNews!

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    Our very own Robert McLaws was interviewed for the awesome BetaNews article "Building the new Windows Experience". He talks about the new Expression tools Microsoft is offering developers.

    "Unlike its previous efforts at building design applications, Microsoft says Expression is targeted toward the professional. The real focus at PDC 2005 appears to be on Acrylic and Sparkle, and Microsoft hopes developers will latch onto the new tools in order to make better user experiences.

    And there's a reason for that, says developer Robert McLaws, a Microsoft MVP and author of LonghornBlogs. "It's not always the case, but more often than not developers are not great communicators. Building user interfaces is all about communicating intent," McLaws told BetaNews at the conference."

    Very cool Robert!

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  • Is this Windows Media Player 11?

    The OSNN PDC'05 Blog has posted some shots of what looks to be Windows Media Player 11 running on Windows Vista.

    Head on over to the OSNN PDC'05 Blog to check out more screenshots!

    UPDATE: My guess is Microsoft made them remove the pictures, sorry folks!

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  • Official Microsoft Windows Vista Website Updated!

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    Thanks to the OSNN PDC'05 Blog for the heads up on this one: the official Microsoft Windows Vista Website has been updated with some crazy-cool graphics and new links to new pieces of information!

    Click here to vist the Microsoft Windows Vista Website!

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  • Microsoft PDC 2005 Screenshot Gallery

    Microsoft has released an official screenshot gallery at the Press Pass website for their new releases being show at PDC 2005.

    Check out the screenshots of Windows Vista, Internet Explorer 7, Expression, Office 12 and more!

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