Sidebar Geek

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

April 2006 - Posts

  • New York Times Embraces Vista

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    The New York Times has developed a desktop application for reading your news called Times Reader. Times reader takes full advantage of the technologies in Windows Vista. Here's a bit from the Press Release:

    Overall, the Times Reader enhances the onscreen reading experience through Windows Presentation Foundation, Microsoft’s advanced display technology in Windows Vista. The text in Times Reader is displayed in columns and formats to fit the size and layout of any computer screen and enables readers to customize the display according to personal preferences, such as font size and content relevance. The Times Reader also uses the same font styles as the printed newspaper, extending the strong brand identity of The New York Times.

    “The Times Reader is a powerful example of how companies can use software to forge new types of customer connections that span beyond the browser to the desktop and mobile devices,” said Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft. “The New York Times is setting a standard not only for media organizations, but for all companies looking for new ways to interact with consumers through software.”

    They also list some of the features expected to come with Times Reader: ability to annotate documents, slideshow of images for each issue of the Times, and locally stored archive for up to 7 days.

    I can't wait to try Times Reader out. The application faintly reminds me of Microsoft Code-named "Max".

  • What's up with Internet Explorer 7+?

    In the latest build of Windows Vista (Build 5365), users have noticed that in the About information for IE 7 it displays the name "Windows Internet Explorer 7+". I decided to do some digging as to what the + means.

    According to a Microsoft spokesperson, the IE 7+ is a "internal, working name we have considered calling the browser in Windows Vista, but no final decisions have been made". "We are still referring to the browser in Windows Vista as IE7.  The browser in Windows Vista will have some enhanced security features Protected Mode and Parental Controls that utilize some of the platform enhancements being introduced in the new operating system; however, the majority of features will be the same for both IE7 in Windows XP and IE7 for Windows Vista," the spokesperson elaborated.

    Whether the + sticks or not when Windows Vista RTM remains to be determined.

  • Windows Mail Tray Control

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    My good friend Kristan from felt Windows Mail in Vista needs a Tray Control feature so he decided to make one himself! I was one of his beta testers and found the new Tray Control tool he created actually quite useful.

    Head over to his blog and download Windows Mail Tray Control (also available for Outlook Express) and give it a try yourself!

    Kristan is also know for several Sidebar Gadgets he's created such as his Dictionary Gadget and Thesaurus Gadget. You can check those out here. I believe they do still work with 5365 as well.

  • Windows Vista Preview on 10

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    Microsoft's 10 Show does a Windows Vista Preview. Here's what they say about the Preview:

    "Microsoft Windows Vista! Are you kidding me? We get an inside look at Microsoft's new operating system. From music to digital photos to new search capabilities to Internet Explorer 7. Can you say 3D? Maybe you can but you're going to have to watch 10 to find out what the heck I mean when I say it. See ya on the other end."

    If your someone who wants a real quick sneak peak at Vista and what's to come, this is a great video to watch and recommend it strongly.

  • Windows Internet Explorer 7.0 Beta 2 Now Available

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    You can now test Windows Internet Explorer 7.0 Beta 2.

    You must uninstall any previous Beta 2 Previews before proceeding to install the full Beta 2 of IE 7. After installing Beta 2, you will notice the UI is the same has seen to some extend from the recently released Windows Vista Build 5365.

    I just installed Beta 2. I haven't noticed any significant improvements just yet but give me a few days with it. At this point I've noticed that IE 7's memory usage is still high compared to that used by Firefox 1.5 which disappointments a bit. But it seems to respond quite a bit quicker than the previously released Beta 2 Preview.

    Also: an x64 version of IE 7 as well as IE 7 for Windows Server 2003 are also available.

  • Windows Sidebar Review, Updated Timeline and More

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    This evening I've put together an extensive Review of Windows Sidebar in Build 5365. Windows Sidebar is one of my most-watched features of Windows Vista. In this build, we see a few new Gadgets appear as well as enhancements to the performance of Windows Sidebar. I talk about what I like and dislike about the new Gadgets seen in this build.

    Check out my Windows Sidebar Review here!

    I've updated my Windows Vista Beta and CTP Timeline to account for Build 5365's release yesterday evening.

    Kristan Kenney has created a Windows Vista Build 5365 Tips and Tricks article worth checking it. If you want to see the network activity animation, this is where you can find out how to enable it!

    Build 5365 is a big improvement over Build 5342 and 5308. Its an very much-needed preview to the upcoming Beta 2 which is expected to be released late next month. I've been running 5365 all day today, including setting up Office 2007 Beta 1 Technical Refresh and I'm having great system performance. I've had minor issues with IE 7 viewing webpages, for some reason IE 7 flickers while viewing pages that, well, shouldn't flicker. I like IE 7's new UI change. And the best part is most of my hardware came right up after install without any extra driver installations.

  • Windows Vista Build 5365 - Beta 2 Preview

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    This evening, Beta Testers for Windows Vista were given a new interim build - Build 5365 - to test. Microsoft is atleast a month away from releasing Windows Vista Beta 2 and this interim build showcases several enhancements we can expect to see coming in Beta 2. There seems to be alot more UI refinement in this build as well as some great performance enhancements. Setup has also be refined to let you see what stage the setup is at during the process. I can say that setup was a little bit faster this time around but there's still alot of work in this area to be done to get the setup time down even more. Let's take a quick look at a few things we'll see in this build:

    Windows Internet Explorer 7:

    The UI has been updated a bit from previous builds. The browser seems to perform faster and take up less memory usage. I've not had a great deal of time to play with the major features of this build of IE 7 just yet but I'm impressed by how quick it responds. I only wished IE 7 on XP performed as great. IE 7 in this build also sports a new start page for being ran for the first time after install.
    Screenshot: Windows Internet Explorer 7

    Windows Contacts:
    The UI for Windows Contacts has been updated quite a bit, and works even better in my opinion. Windows Contacts, and the new underlying store for Windows Contacts, is a new feature in Vista I'm very excited about.
    Screenshot: Windows Contacts

    Logon UI:
    The logo UI has been updated. It now has the new "swoosh" logo that we've seen hints of at The "swoosh" logo is also showcased in the Welcome Center and Explorer windows. I'm not sure exactly what to call the logo really other than "swoosh" because its animated and goes - well, swoosh. I'm interested in hearing what the folks at Microsoft are calling it. They even trademarked it.
    Screenshot: Logon

    Explorer UI Changes:
    The dark green color at the bottom of the Explorer windows seen when browsing your computer is no longer that dark green but rather a nice brighter gradient of white/green which I think is a major improvement. There is also a line seperating the folder list with the contents of the folder.

    Windows Sidebar Gadgets:
    New Gadgets are available in this build. Refinements to older Gadgets have also been made. The new Feed-Watcher Gadget is supposed to allow you to monitor multiple feeds instead of the previous RSS Gadget that monitors only 1 feed. I'm not a fan of the dot-matrix printer theme they are using for this Gadget. I wish they went with something more professional looking. I don't want my desktop filled with cheesy looking Gadgets that look like printers. For the most part, I've noticed Sidebar is more stable. Unfortunately Sidebar doesn't start-up as graceful. When it started up for me for the first time, all the Gadgets were all layered upon each other in the top right hand corner of the Sidebar. I had to restart to restore it to its nice looking layout.
    Screenshot: Windows Sidebar Gadgets

    Windows Calendar:

    Windows Calendar has updated UI featuring a more refined toolbar. Subscribing to Calendars is also alot more usable. Another feature I'm really excited about.
    Screenshot: Windows Calendar

    User Access Control:
    User Access Control responds differently than previous builds. I am hoping we will see a decrease in the amount of clicking a user must do just to access a simple application. UAC has become a pain in my side, at the same time its a well needed feature. Microsoft's spending alot of time refining this feature.
    Screenshot: User Access Control

    These are just a few of some of the changes to features and noticable refinements to Vista users will experience with this build. I'm going to take a look at individual features later throughout the weekend and into next week. There are new backgrounds, performance changes to Windows Media Player 11 (including hints of URGE), impressive Desktop Search capabilities that seem more refined.

    At first glance, Build 5365 is a nice improvement and change for me from Build 5342. I look forward to putting this build to the test and seeing what its fully capable of doing.

  • Introducing the Windows Vista Team Blog

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    Members of the Windows Vista Team will now be contributing to a official Windows Vista Team blog - which has the tag line "The official and authoritative resource on Microsoft Windows Vista". Their latest articles are "Windows Defender Explained" and my personal favorite "Consumer Photo Features".

    Check out the Windows Vista Team Blog!

  • Here We Go Again: Interim Build Release Expected?

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    Paul Thurrott is still sticking to his guns about getting a interium build release sometime in the near future. I would have to agree that it seems likely we'll get another interium build to play with. I was able to get a Microsoft spokesperson to confirm a few days ago Microsoft was in fact considering releasing a new build, probably similar in fashion to how Build 5342 was released.

    Microsoft has yet to officially confirm a specific build or date when they intend to release the possible interim build so until then, build numbers and release dates are speculation at best.

  • Matt Goyer Explains Media Center Changes

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    Matt Goyer talks about Microsoft's changes to Media Center in Windows Vista. He makes some interesting statements concerning some features and changes current Media Center users may or may not like.

    Yes, we’re changing the interface, and existing users will have to spend some time getting aquainted with the new interface. But given our new distribution strategy of bundling Media Center with Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate, Media Center will go out to orders of magnitude more users; new users. Users who have never used Media Center before. Users who likely aren’t going to care that we’ve changed the interface.

    As a current Media Center user, I happen to like the changes seen in Windows Vista's Media Center. I am particularly fond of the left-right, right-left scrolling of photos, music, videos etc instead of the tradition up and down scrolling.  Matt says alot of the design into the interface places bets that users will have 16x9 displays. I agree. I believe 16x9 displays are quickly finding themselves standard.

    Matt says "Don’t get too hung up on look and feel and fit and finish in the early CTP builds". So for those unhappy with the Media Center UI, let's see what Beta 2 brings us.

  • Using Google Calendar with Windows Calendar

    Shawn Morrissey has a guide online for using Windows Calendar to access your Google Calendar. What's really cool about this is that Google Calendar uses, just like Windows Calendar, the iCalendar file format standard. So if you're testing out Vista, give Google Calendar a try and subscribe to your calendar in Windows Calendar.

    If you want, go ahead and share your Google Calendar with some other folks you know who are using Windows Calendar and try subscribing to each other's calendars.

  • DOWNLOAD: Windows Media Player 11 Wallpaper

    Sean Alexander posts a very cool Windows Media Player 11 Wallpaper for download off his site.

    You can download the entire set of different screen resolutions from Sean. He says he'll make more at other resolutions if requested enough. The Hive is also offering this desktop wallpaper download.

  • June brings Windows Media Player 11 for XP

    Ed Bott reports of a CNET article on Windows Media Player 11 which tells us we can expect the player to fall in to the hands of XP users sometime in June. Check out what Ed has to say. Ed also reveals a list of features that the XP version won't have in comparison with its Vista companion and that the XP version will look a bit different than what we're using currently in latest Windows Vista builds:

    When running on Windows XP, the following Windows Media Player 11 features are not available:

    • Playing content (including DRM) on your PC from another PC or device
    • Viewing content from the Vista Media library on other PCs or digital devices, such as Tivo
    • Playback of High Value video content
    • Shell integration with Windows Media Player
    • Content Indexer change notification to sync My Music and WMP library
    • DVD Fullscreen playback enhancements
    • DRM Transcode
    • High quality video streaming over home networks
    • Media foundation for playback

    The question I have is whether or not the player we see released in June for XP is going to be a Beta or is Microsoft going full speed ahead?

    This is how CNET describes Windows Media Player 11:

    The software, which will be built into Vista, is designed to offer better synching with portable devices, make it easier to scroll through long libraries of music, and be tightly integrated with Urge, a new subscription and download music service co-developed by Microsoft and MTV Networks.

    I'm really anxious for this release. I've already started pushing myself to use Windows Medid Player 10 in preparation.

  • CONFIRMED: No New Windows Vista Build Today

    Ryan over at Bink has posted a confirmation from Windows Beta Team guru Paul Donnelly that there will not be a new interim Windows Vista release today and that testers won't be getting Build 5365.

    "We are considering releasing updated Windows Vista code to Windows Vista Technical Beta program participants as well as select TAP customers," a Microsoft spokesperson tells me. "In addition to the CTPs, we sometimes provide a select group of testers with current pre-release versions of Windows Vista based on their feedback and testing needs. These builds are not CTPs. As we have said, the next CTP will conclude the Beta 2 process and will be called Beta 2. We are on track to deliver Beta 2 in the second quarter of this year."

    So here are the facts we have currently: No new interim build today. Microsoft is "considering" releasing another possible interim build. No current date of release or build number has been decided or publicly revealed.

    I am curious whether or not Microsoft ever even intended to release a build today at all. By the sound of Paul Donnelly's comments over at Bink, he sounds a bit irritated people thought a new build was coming. "This is not the plan and it seems some people out there that have popular Windows rumor sites have gotten some bad information," Paul says.

    Thanks to Ryan from Bink for the heads up.

  • New Interim Build of Vista coming Monday?

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    Bink is reporting of the possibility of seeing another Interim build of Windows Vista (from which seems to be down at the moment) to be released to beta testers Monday. This won't be the first interim build between CTP's. The previous build, Build 5342, was also an non-CTP interim build. According to what's being said, testers can expect to see Build 5365 heading their way.

    I guess we'll find out Monday if we're really getting a build or not. It will be nice to get another suprise in between CTP's. Its good to get previews of what we can expect for Beta 2. I'm always up for a new build!

    UPDATE: Paul Thurrott feels left out because he reported news of a possible new build for Monday during his Friday Short Takes before anyone else was reporting news of a interim build. I feel bad because there have been times where I've said something first on one of my blogs but get over-shadowed by someone else so I know how it feels. Problem is Paul, you very rarely link to other people so why should people link to you? I would really like to see you start sharing the credit and linking to folks. Having a positive open dialog with other community members always helps.

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