Sidebar Geek

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

February 2006 - Posts

  • New CTP SKU's arriving soon to Connect

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    Microsoft looks like they will be putting online new SKU versions for the February CTP Build 5308 on Connect in the near future. Product Keys for Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Business have shown up for Build 5308 on Connect today. This is going to be the first time testers are able to test specific SKU's other than Ultimate.

    I probably won't be giving these new SKU's a try. The current Ultimate version of the February CTP is doing just fine for me and it has all the features the others have. But I might change my mind later.

  • Officially Announced: Windows Vista Product Line-up

    Microsoft has released the Windows Vista Product line-up this evening. For the past few weeks, the SKU's for Windows Vista have been much speculated about.

    • Windows Vista Business
      • Aero Capabiity.
      • Tablet PC capability.
    • Windows Vista Enterprise
      • Aero Capability.
      • Includes Windows BitLocker, Virtual PC Express, and Sub-system for Unix Applications.
      • Only Available under the Software Assurance Program or Enterprise Agreement.
    • Windows Vista Home Basic
    • Windows Vista Home Premium
      • Aero Capability.
      • Windows Media Center capability.
      • DVD burning and creation.
      • Tablet PC capability
    • Windows Vista Ultimate
      • Pretty much comes with everything.
    • Windows Vista Starter
      • Very Basic features.

    So going by what Microsoft released tonight, Windows Media Center won't be available in every SKU, rather only the Home Premium and Ultimate Versions. No mention of Media Center for Buiness and Enterprise were made. Also, it looks as though Aero won't be included in Home Basic and of course Starter. I wonder what the different between Home Basic and Starter is?

    It also seems BitLocker is going to be available only to the Enterprise edition - but will it be included in the Ultimate edition? I attended a web conference last Novemember and Microsoft representatives said that the Enterprise edition will offer features for the Enterprise not available in any other SKU. I wonder if BitLocker is one of them?

    There is no mention of any "N" Versions for Windows Vista at this time.

    All versions will be availalbe in 32bit or 64bit.

  • New Sidebar Gadgets to download

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    Kristan from put online two new Gadgets to download and install for Windows Sidebar.

    Google Search Gadget
    Dictionary and Thesaurus Gadget

    I've downloaded and installed both of them. They work perfectly.

    Too bad I can't say the same for my Xbox 360 Gamertag Gadget. Not sure why that's not working yet.

  • I need a new monitor...

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    I installed the CTP at work yesterday on my PC with a 19inch flat panel monitor. Ran at 1280x900 resolution and looked sweet. Then I come home to my standard 19inch CRT tube monitor that takes up half the desk - doesn't quite have the kick the 19inch flat panel did.

    If anyone knows where I can get a decent and cheap 19inch flat panel monitor, let me know! I'm thinking of going out and getting a Dell flat panel but not sure yet. I want to look at all my options.

  • Sidebar Gadgets VS Gadgets

    There might seem to be some confusion between Windows Live Gadgets and Windows Sidebar or Desktop Gadgets. They are two DIFFERENT types of Gadgets currently. Windows Live Gadgets are designed to run on Windows Sidebar or Desktop Gadgets run on the Windows Vista Desktop and are able to be "pinned" to the Windows Sidebar.

    Sidebar Gadgets run on the Windows Vista Desktop while as Windows Live Gadgets run within the browser on

    Robert and I had been discussing this back and fourth ourselves and it seems Microsoft may have added to the confusion by directing folks who want to download more Desktop Gadgets for Windows Sidebar to - a website (until recently) dedicated to the development of Gadgets.

    I guess we can think of as the ultimate source for both Sidebar Gadgets and Gadgets but it will be interesting to see how Microsoft clears up the confusion.

  • Windows Sidebar Feature Preview Online

    Today I've put online my latest Feature Preview for Windows Sidebar (with screenshots). You can check out my earlier Feature Previews by heading here. I will be updating the older Feature Previews in the near future to accomodate any changes we see in the latest build.

    Want to start building Desktop Gadgets for Windows Sidebar? Head on over to Brian Teutsch's "official" whitepaper for developing Gadgets for Windows Sidebar at

    Want to build an Xbox 360 Gamercard Gadget for Windows Sidebar? Head on over to Steve Makofsky's post on his blog. He'll show you how. Steve recommends checking out Lou Amadio's blog first for some basics on developing Gadgets (but also take a gander at the above mentioned whitepaper).

    Lot of things happening with Desktop Gadgets now that Windows Sidebar is in the hands of testers. I intend to dip my hands into developing a few Gadgets myself in the next few weeks.

  • Non-Aero Themes in Vista: Part 2

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    Installing Windows Vista on a PC that doesn't have the graphics support needed to run Aero Glass get a metallic theme instead (which I am going to call "Scrap Metal" - being touted Aero Express. With this CTP, I've decided to run Vista on my laptop again. No, this isn't another "my laptop sucks" rant. My laptop works just fine and I shouldn't have any reason not to install Vista on it. Glass shouldn't be the one reason holding me back. I'm forcing myself to get comfortable without running Glass.

    But I can't help but look at Microsoft's non-Aero "Scrap Metal" theme with disappointment and disgust. It looks really bad. Its horrible. From the screenshot above, you can see it sports a nice "unfinished" look. The upper right hand maximize and minimize buttons are way too small. This theme just doesn't fit Vista. Compare this non-Aero theme to Windows XP's Media Center theme "Royale". Vista's "Scrap Metal" theme is a step back not a step forward like the operating system should be.

    There are going to be folks who will upgrade to Vista who won't go out a buy a expensive graphics card. There are going to be folks who have laptops, such as myself, who can't upgrade their graphics. I would think Microsoft would put atleast some effort into fixing up a non Glass theme for users who are less fortunate. Its as if Microsoft is punishing those who can't afford nice graphics.

    The only comments I've been see from Microsoft regarding this matter is that they don't have time to develop "more themes" for Vista. In the current CTP, it has only 2 themes. Glass and "Scrap Metal". I would like to see Glass (which is very nice), and a equally nice non-Glass theme for users.

  • Windows Sidebar and Desktop Gadgets are here

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    The Windows Sidebar Team has posted at regarding today's CTP Release with Windows Sidebar and Desktop Gadgets.

    "Today is a big day – the first public release of Windows Sidebar is available as part of the Windows Vista February Community Technology Preview (CTP)! The entire team has been charging hard to make this happen and we’re looking forward to your feedback on this exciting feature and platform. After you have taken Windows Sidebar and gadgets for a test drive, try your hand at developing your own gadgets. We’ve posted the Windows Sidebar SDK and a sample tutorial to help get you started creating your own gadgets. Remember that this is a preliminary release, so the Windows Sidebar APIs are subject to change."

    You can submit feedback and bug reports to as well although they may not be able to reply to each and every email.

    Windows Sidebar and Gadgets have been a feature I've been following for quite some time and am very exciting to see it finally out.

  • Windows Vista "Enterprise" February CTP Available - Kind of...

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    Microsoft has put online on Connect the February "Enterprise" Community Technology Preview for Beta Testers. Unfortunately Connect seems to be having a TON of problems trying to download the new build.

    "Error: The system has encountered an unexpected error. We apologize for the inconvenience. The issue will be addressed as quickly as possible."

    I guess Connect is getting hammered right now. Never had these problems before.

  • Vista SKU's not official...yet

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    Paul Thurrott was able to get Microsoft to respond to the accidental leak of possible SKU's for Windows Vista on a Beta site for Vista Help and Support.

    "Microsoft recently posted a web page designed to test the Windows Vista help system that included incomplete information about the Windows Vista product line up," a Microsoft spokesperson told me Monday morning. "This page has since been removed as it was posted prematurely and was for testing purposes only. We will share more information about the Windows Vista line up in the coming weeks."

    Hence why when I talked about the leaked SKU's this weekend why I titled it "Possible Windows Vista SKU's?". One thing I've found is that something cool accidentally leak from Microsoft but turn out entirely different later on. So my thoughts are this, until Microsoft has a press release up on their Press Pass website - I wouldn't take anything as fact just yet. But it was neat to get an idea on what Microsoft is thinking in terms of possible SKU's for their next operating system. It will still be interesting to see what they eventually decide to go with.

    On a personal note, I don't really care about the SKU's really. I just want the SKU that comes with everything!

  • Where is Windows Media Player 11 and URGE?

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    I am wondering when we can expect to see Windows Media Player 11 and URGE for Windows XP? I guess it won't get me anywhere by asking but I feel that URGE has gone virtually unspoken about since its announcement at CES. From the CES announcement, I've been quite excited to give URGE a try with Windows Media Player 11.

    I've been playing with Windows Media Player 11 extensively on Windows Vista and am almost set on moving over to Windows Media Player as my default music player.


    I like the enhancements they've done with the Music Library. I like the arrangement of the UI of the player. I don't like that it doesn't give me the ability to subscribe to Podcasts. Is this feature coming? I hope so.

    I guess I got the urge to use URGE. Haha - ok that't wasn't funny.

  • Possible Windows Vista SKU's?

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    Look what the folks at ActiveWin discovered earlier today: a Windows Vista Help and Support (Beta) Page.

    Here are the list SKU or Windows Vista Versions this site reveals:

    • Windows Starter 2007
    • Windows Vista Home Basic
    • Windows Vista Home Premium
    • Windows Vista Business
    • Windows Vista Enterprise
    • Windows Vista Ultimate
    • Windows Vista Home Basic N
    • Windows Vista Business N

    Microsoft has yet to officially confirm these SKU's despite this website being public off Microsoft servers. They are all probably subject to change. This is definately a good find though.

    I'm leaning on sticking with Windows Vista Ultimate when Vista RTM's although the Windows Vista Enterprise SKU is said to offer some neat and interesting tools for the Enterprise.

    NOTE: I'm not sure exactly what Neowin had put on their site a few days ago, but earlier last week Neowin had posted a SKU list which was eventually removed. I wonder how this list and theirs differs if at all?

    UPDATE: Apparently Neowin was asked by Microsoft to remove the SKU's from their site but in light of current discoveries, they have re-posted the SKU's. I wonder how Microsoft will respond this time?

  • Talking about InfoCards

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    InfoCards are a new technology Microsoft is putting in place that Bill Gates hopes could eventually end the need for usernames and passwords. Banks and other sites issue you a unique InfoCard that you add into your InfoCard Collection. The technology is expected to debut with Windows Vista later this year and will be available on Windows XP via WinFX. Microsoft hopes the deployment of InfoCards will be adapted cross-platform.

    You can give InfoCards a try right now by downloading the latest WinFX CTP. By installing WinFX on Windows XP and the latest Vista CTP, WinFX puts in a new new Control Panel applet used to maintain your InfoCards. You can also create your own InfoCards, although at this point I am unaware of where you can use them. I am also unaware of any sites that use InfoCards at present time.

    Screenshot: Digital Identities Control Panel Applet
    Screenshot: Managing InfoCards
    Screenshot: Creating a InfoCard

    Kim Cameron, spearheading Microsoft's InfoCard effort, talks with CNET in a Q&A on InfoCard and what InfoCard is and Microsoft's Goals. Its a very interesting and informative read and I suggest taking a look at it.

    I have to wonder if InfoCard may end up replacing Microsoft's Passport service a few years out. I can't really make any comparisons yet until I can use InfoCards out in the real world in real-world situations. I look forward to hearing more from Microsoft on who their partners are on using and deploying InfoCards.

  • Tidbits on the upcoming February CTP

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    Here's a few tidbits I caught within the past few days regarding the upcoming Community Technology Preview of Windows Vista that stuck out:

    Sean Alexander hints at some cool things to see (he's going to Japan on Sunday):

    "The small bummer is that by going, I missed out on an opportunity to show our execs and leadership some of the new features we're working on in media for upcoming Vista CTP (Customer Technology Preview) releases. Let's just say the next CTP release will be exciting, but it's going to get even better much faster from there. Sorry, I can't say more than that at this time. But when we can, I'll make sure to set up a geek dinner with some members of the teams and we'll take your feedback. Timing is TBD."

    Hope you have a safe trip Sean and can't wait to see some of these exciting things in our upcoming CTP release.

    Bink says we can expect to see the CTP on Tuesday:

    "Microsoft invited hundreds of TAPs (Technology Adoption Partners) — its pool of elite beta testers—to the Redmond, Wash., campus on Jan. 24 and 25. There, according to participants who asked not to be named, Microsoft officials said the next Vista CTP was slated for Feb. 21. TAP testers said the follow-on release, the Customer Preview Program CTP, is slated for April."

    We'll see on that one. Then we got BetaNews talking about the upcoming Office 2007 Technical Beta Refresh and February CTP:

    "Time is running out for Microsoft to ship the February CTP, which is expected to be the first 'feature complete' build of Windows Vista. The much-anticipated Windows Sidebar is expected to make its first appearance in the release. Microsoft did not say what changes the Office 2007 Beta 1 Refresh will bring, but it is expected to be required for use with the new Vista CTP."

    I'm quite excited to hear a Office Beta is targeted for use on Windows Vista although Beta 1 worked ok for me on most of the CTP releases so far. With Windows Vista being feature complete, maybe the Office Team can start safely putting in features and enhancements into Office 2007 that will take advantage of some of Vista's features and technologies.

    These are some of the things that stuck out at me tonight browsing through my feeds.

  • Building Sidebar Gadgets

    Want a heads up on how to write a Desktop Gadget for Windows Sidebar? Head on over to Lou Amadio's blog. He explains how a Gadget is put together and gives some code examples on writing your own Gadget. I caught this over at Steve Makofsky's blog.

    I think I am going to site down and take in this code and see what I come up with. Also: keep your eyes on Donavon West - he's been doing a ton of Gadget for Windows Live. I'm sure he will be diving into Desktop Gadgets here in the near future. I can't wait. Have you see his Torino Olympics 2006 Medals Gadget?

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