Sidebar Geek

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

September 2005 - Posts

  • Official Microsoft Gadget Site now Online!

    Check this out - earlier today Microsoft introduced the new Windows Sidebar in Windows Vista which includes new technology that incorporates "Gadgets" into the Sidebar, which can sit within the Sidebar or be dragged out onto your desktop.

    Well, Microsoft has now made available their official Microsoft Gadgets website!

    According to the site, Microsoft Gadgets will come in three flavors: gadgets for Windows Sidebar (in Vista), Gadgets for and Gadgets for Windows SideShow (Auxiliary displays on Laptops and handheld devices).

    Gadgets for Awesome! I am curious how this is going to be implemented. I am reading alot of information right now and will continue to blog as much as I can when I find out new things.

  • Microsoft Code-named Max Released!

    Max utilizes the newWinFX technology to allow you to create awesome slide shows of your Photos and create Photo lists to share with your family an friends! In order for Max to work, you must have the current CTP of WinFX Runtime and Windows XP Home or Professional with SP2.

    Head over to the Microsoft Code-named "Max" Official Website to download the Beta software!

    I am currently installing and testing Max out myself and will post about my experiences later tonight with screenshots, so keep checking back here!

  • Windows Vista Sidebar - Introducing Gadgets

    As I am watching the PDC 2005 Live Video Feed of the Keynote Address, they just got done introducing the new Build of Windows Vista - Build 5219 which we all already knew.

    I want to talk about the Sidebar specifically. Microsoft has chosen to persue the Sidebar again after dropping it for a few builds in Vista.

    The Sidebar is back and in full force.

    Chris Capossela shows off the new Sidebar with Gadgets at PDC this morning. The image is from BetaNews' Live PDC Coverage.

    The Sidebar allows developers to write what they call "mini-apps" that take advantage of the Sidebar technology built into Vista. You can write DHTML, XML and scripts to do this and have mini-apps running on the Sidebar.

    These mini-apps can run in the Sidebar are you can write them as what Microsoft calls "Gadgets". It looks like these Gadgets run like Apple's Dashboard Widgets run on OS X. You can have the Gadgets run within the Sidebar or drag them out onto your desktop.

    I'm so freak'in excited about this I'm going crazy and I'm not even at PDC right now!

  • New Build 5219 Features Revealed

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    Paul Thurrott reveals some interesting new features we'll seen within Build 5219.

    Paul takes some photos of a computer running Windows Vista Build 5219 and PDC today and we see a few new things not seen in Beta 1:

    Windows Calendar: A calendar application built into Windows.
    Microsoft Code-named Max: Paul says this is a new Microsoft Photo-blogging program! How cool!
    Windows Photo Library: A library organization program for you to organize you photos.
    Phone Book Service: A phone book in Windows, neato!

    You can read this information from Paul's Blog and can see some photos of some of these features here!

  • Introducing Office 12!

    I never expected to see such a drastic change to the Office programs, but take a gander at the new Word 12 menu:

    This is so damn cool its not even funny! They really are going all-out to build Office into a better Productivity Suite, going beyond the same old user interface we've seen for years. This is quite a big jump. Now, of course, Office 12 has yet to become Beta so all this is very preliminary. I'm not sure how much of this we'll really see in Office 12.

    To see some more screenshots including some of Outlook 12, head on over to!

    UPDATE: Neowin also has some good Screenshots of Office 12!

    Yeah I am that big of a nerd: I can actually get excited over a few screenshots.

  • More Build 5219 Screenshots

    In Build 5219, Microsoft has unleashed some of IE7's new look. The icons are updated, the RSS Feed button now says "RSS" instead of being some sort of funky radar thing and the tabs are a pretty cool blue that's blended into the top menu's blue background and when clicked upon, they glow a brighter blue!

    Click here to see the entire menu.

    Take a look at this and more at! They have a really cool set of Build 5219 screenshots!

    Thanks goes out to the folks at for putting this online for people such as myself who could not attend PDC!

  • PDC Build IS NOT Beta 2!

    I guess there might be some confusion on Build 5219 of Windows Vista being released at PDC tomorrow. When installed, it does say Beta 2 on the desktop, but this does NOT mean its Beta 2.

    This build is definately by far NOT BETA 2! Think of it as a Beta 2 Preview.

    To understand the "building" process of Windows Vista, stay tuned because I'm getting ready to release my really neat article on what Builds are and how they fit in the software development tree. I am hoping this article will clear alot of misunderstandings concerning the Build process.

  • Microsoft Command Shell Beta 2 Released

    Microsoft released Beta 2 of Microsoft Command Shell (MSH) Code-named "Monad" to the general public today. Microsoft Command Shell is a new command-line that gives administrators better abilities to automate things via scripts and so fourth. My understanding is Microsoft wants to have a command line within Windows that's powerful and similar to the abilities of what Bash does in Linux. My understanding could be flawed as I have no real idea how to use MSH. I'ved used Bash on Fedora Core 3 and 4 to navigate through the Linux system for certain things, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how MSH does the same things as Bash aside from maybe the scripting stuff. No worries though, MSH is intended for the more advanced and technical administrator so this isn't my cup of tea.

    For those interested, here is the link to download the public Beta:
    Download Microsoft Command Shell (Code-named "Monad") Beta 2*
    *Requires .NET Framework Version 2.0 Redistributable Package Beta 2

    Currently, MSH is not slated to ship with Windows Vista. But word is MSH wil be a very neat feature for Exchange 12.

  • Build 5219 - Windows Vista Ultimate Edition?

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    From the screenshots posted earlier, you can see something very interesting along with the expected new Windows Vista branding within the System Properties window:

    Its Microsoft Windows Vista - "Ultimate Edition".

    Now recently Paul Thurrott has supposedly revealed the new SKU's or different editions of Windows Vista that we should expect to be hitting store shelves once Vista is complete in late 2006. But our good bud Robert was able to talk to his sources and reveal that Mr. Thurrott may be on the right track, but missing a few editions and other bits of info, on top of the fact that its too early for Microsoft to finalize this type of thing anyways. Apparently, Microsoft does not intend to reveal the new SKU's at PDC this year but of course this could all change at last minute. I guess one thing is for sure through all this: we know there will be an "Ultimate Edition".

    To be honest, Robert says that we could expect to see as much as 20 different editions of Windows Vista. This, personally, puts me off a bit. I really don't like seeing so many renditions of one thing. I mean, to satisfy my needs and to get all the features, I'm going to have to get this so-called "Ultimate Edition" which will probably cost an arm and a leg. I'd rather see Microsoft sell different component sets for Vista seperately and at a cheaper price and allow us to buy the base operating systems (Home or Professional). For instance, Microsoft should offer a Business Feature Bundle, Home Media Feature Bundle - just to name a few examples. I mean, seriously, how many versions of Windows Vista do we really need?

  • The Sidebar has Returned

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    Today, tidbits regarding the PDC Windows Vista Build came into full force with the first screenshots regarding the build which has somewhat been confirmed to be Build 5219.

    And within Build 5219, not only do we seen more "Vista" branding but the branding of "Beta 2" as well. Also, the Sidebar has made its return.

    I have yet to play with the new build just yet as I was unable to attend PDC at the last minute. I'm hoping to get my hands on the new build sometime in the very near future to begin testing.

    I will post more as more stuff pops up om blogs at PDC. I will also be posting another Vista Feature Preview and my article on Builds here in the next few days! Stay tuned!

    UPDATE: The link to the screenshots does not work. I apologize, I guess they ran out of bandwidth. Be patient, more screencaps should appear online definately by tomorrow or the next day!

  • Vista Feature Preview: SafeDocs

    Tonight we begin my new segments on Windows Vista Features. I'm going to do little Previews of pieces of Vista and its features for the online community hopefully allowing some of the non-techies to visit our site and get an idea on what's coming up from Microsoft in terms of their next operating system. I apologize for those who re very technical, I won't be getting too technical in these Previews although I welcome any technical information you could add either in the Comments section or via email!

    Tonight I begin with Windows Vista's new backup program SafeDocs - what will most likely become Windows Backup.

    SafeDocs is a really big leap from the current backup utility bundled with Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. It allows you to back up your files directly onto CD-RW or DVD-RW - you are not binded by having a backup drive or floppy. I would imagine writing to DVD-RWs will be much more prelevant in the time when Vista actually hits store shelves. I've never gotten the current backup utility to work quite right in Windows. SafeDocs worked real well for me right from the start.

    SafeDocs opens up into a very simple screen which lacks in Microsoft's usual graphics and branding. This should change in Beta 2 of course. From there, you are able to configure scheduled backups, which type of media, which drive, and best of all: do you want incremental backups. Incremental backups will backup only changed files after the intial first backup. Incremental backups is THE feature that makes this new backup utility exciting for me. I've wanted Windows to do this from a long time. I want to be able to back up my Documents folder and schedule backups and have it continue to backup files and back up only changed files and time progresses. I don't want to have to backup my entire Documents folder every time. And writing to DVD-RWs allows you to rewrite and of course in a larger medium than CD-RW although those of you who will use Vista but have no desire to have a DVD-RW drive - you will be able to backup to CD-RW no problem.

    I should have played with SafeDocs alot more than I did. I'm still not sure what kind of warnings, if any, SafeDocs gives the user before a backup is ran. I would imagine Microsoft will want to have the user alerted before a backup occurs so that user can ensure the correct media is loaded into the designated drive (I surely hope they do this!).

    All in all, this new utility is going to be wonderful in the home environment.

    Screenshot: SafeDocs Main Window
    Screenshot: SafeDocs Scheduled and Automatic Backups
    Screenshot: SafeDocs Backup Schedule

    Next Vista Feature Preview: Windows Search

    *Updated the goof in the title...said "SmartDocs" and should have said "SafeDocs"

  • iTunes 5 and Vista

    Apple today released iTunes 5 and QuickTime 7 for Windows. I thought "Hey, new software to test with Vista!" so I installed both on my Windows Vista Beta 1 installation.

    As I reported previously, the QuickTime 7 Preview ran just fine under Vista as did iTunes 4.9 with only one minor issue I could see: everytime you use any of these two programs, the Aero Glass effects shut off while the program is running.

    I was thinking maybe iTunes 5 and the full release QuickTime 7 might fix this problem, as Vista Beta 1 had been out for several months. Who knows, maybe Apple took advantage of this?

    Nah. No such luck. iTunes 5 runs as good as iTunes 4.9 and the same with QuickTime 7 - both shut down Aero when running. But hey, its not an end of the world issue. To be honest, it doesn't slow down my PC at all or cause any other issues with Vista.

  • Windows Vista Beta 1 Catch-up

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    I'm going to post a little "catch-up" of my experience with Windows Vista Beta 1, since we are weeks away from seeing a new Build.

    So far, I'm pretty impressed with the stability of Beta 1. I was able to install it and go with it - with only minor problems and crashes. I was able to use Beta 1 for most of my everyday work such as web browsing, email, word processing and and even graphics editing. I was able to test out the basic features represented within Beta 1 to familiarize myself on what's come pretty successfully.

    That being said, now I can see why Microsoft said Beta 1 isn't for technology enthusiasts. The features within Beta 1 are pretty limited and Beta 1 itself is lacking in some of the major features being talked about to ship with Vista. On the outside, it feels like a really cool update to Windows XP. On the inside, it feels refreshing and different. But most end users are going to look on the outside. I'm not going to go as far as say I am bored with Beta 1, but I will say I'm ready for the PDC Build coming up in the next two weeks.

    Being part of the Technical Beta Program for Windows Vista, I've grown very disappointed in myself for not reporting any bugs thus far into testing. I also am disappointed in myself for not putting in any suggestions. I have this mind set that I'm not technical enough and whatever I report, the Windows team will shrug off and irrelevant to the development of Vista. I'd rather keep testing.

    But if I were to put in a suggestion as this moment, my suggestion would be (and I assume someone already suggested this anyways) Microsoft needs to demonstrate consistency within the operating system. A small pet peeve of mine is seeing alot of the 16bit icons mixed with the new XP style icons in Windows XP. Microsoft - please don't let his happen in Vista! I can already see it in Beta 1. I am not worried at this stage, but if you take a look at Apple's OS X or some Linux systems, you'll find alot of consistency within the operating system on how things look and feel. Windows definately needs this. Windows needs to be redefined, especially when its compared to operating systems like OS X. Apple put alot of hard design work graphically in their operating system. Its as if they had their coders do the coding then they hired artists to go in and make the OS look awesome. Microsoft says Avalon and Aero will do this in Windows Vista. I am keeping my hopes high on this. I absolutely love what I see with Aero in Beta 1. The transparencies may be a little too much, but the concept is what's exciting. If this is what Microsoft can do, I can't even imagine what this next generation user interface will be like.

    Also, in Beta 1, I opened the Task Manager up and was amazingly suprised to see so little tasks and services running. But my hopes were destroyed when checked "Show processes from all users". XP does this but by default it has tons of services running anyway so checking that check box in XP barely makes any different. But in Vista, it made quite a big difference. I urge Microsoft to try and get rid of the unnecessary services running in Windows and maybe combine a few so a very minimal amount of services actually run. How many services do you need that relate to the UI? I would think only 1. But I see three in Beta 1. The Task Manager itself can use a little upgrade. It displays the .exe file but doesn't tell me which service it is. How about fixing that so it displays the service name. Allow me, as a user, to right click on that service to see further details if needed such as what .exe file is being used for that service. I also believe services that are unused for more than 24 hours should be automatically shut down by Windows. If a program requires a specific service to run and needs to start it, maybe use UAP to allow administrators to say "ok". Alof of malware likes to install weird services.

    And what's happening with the antivirus and antispyware front in Windows Vista? I am testing OneCare and wanted to test OneCare on Vista but the OneCare team told me that Vista will have its own set of features to do what OneCare does in XP. If this is the case, lets see it. If not, port OneCare over and let me test it on Vista!

    That's my little catch-up with Windows Vista Beta 1.

    I sincerely apologize for those who are more technical than I who have bigger underlying issues within the operating system's code and structure that are probably more pressing.

  • TechEd 2005 reveals new Vista Build

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    APC Magazine has posted photos of a demonstration of a Windows Vista post-Beta 1 and pre-Beta 2 Build.

    This Build demonstrated some interesting features such as a scrolling ctrl-alt-tab feature (allows all windows to be viewed open all at once and you can scroll through to pick a program window you want to view). You can also see some of the 3D effects Avalon will offer in Vista.

    There was no mention of any sidebar or build number or any other features we didn't already know about.

    I'm curious as to how far in between Beta 1 and the PDC Preview Build that this version of Vista is. It makes me wonder whether Paul Thurrott's recent Short Takes, which reveals the PDC Build number as 5219, is accurate. Of course, I'm hoping he's right cause I'll love to see the sidebar make its return. Also, I am also curious why this is being called a "Beta 2 Preview". Beta 2 is quite a ways off just yet and is suppose to reveal the new next generation user interface (atleast from what's been said by Microsoft). I don't see that user interface within this so-called preview. Of course, Microsoft is probably keeping it tight-lipped due to the same reasons it didn't want screenshots of the WinHEC build of Longhorn to be shown last spring - trademark, copyright, intellectual property rights and all that fun stuff. 

    Its refreshing to see a new Build though! Can't wait for the new PDC Build of Vista that's for sure!

  • goes live!

    All of a sudden today, was being all weird and then the format changed a bit and instead of it being its now! So if you go to, you'll be able to access the website in full.

    For those of you unfamiliar with, is a web-based RSS Reader. I've gotten all my important RSS Feeds configured within and have been using it for months. So if you have a bunch of RSS Feeds you want to track, make your default homepage and configure all the RSS Feeds you want! It also allows you to log in using your Passport to save your settings so whenever you go someplace else and want to access your RSS Feeds, just log right in to your Passport and it will load them up for you!

    Screenshot: Main Window
    Screenshot: Old Window format

    UPDATE: Head over to the Blog! They're released some cool new fixes and featues to like automatic refresh for the RSS Feeds! Fantastic!