Sidebar Geek

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

April 2006 - Posts

  • Microsoft to Launch Calendar Assault

    As many regular readers may know, Windows Vista's new calendar application Windows Calendar is one of my favorite new additions to the Windows operating system. In recent days, there has been alot of talk about Calendar technologies up and coming which is pretty exciting to me. Google just released a beta of their new online Calendar service - Google Calendar. Mary Jo Foley takes a minute to discuss Microsoft's future plans for Windows Calendar coming with Windows Vista as well as Microsoft's plans to launch an online calendar service - most likely called Windows Live Calendar. Here's what she has to say:

    Like other AJAX calendaring applications, the calendar that is part of the Windows Live Mail beta includes basic sharing and alert capabilities, MSN officials said. Google Calendar, for its part, features shared contact lists, cell-phone text notifications and built-in search, according to Google officials.

    "We've simultaneously been improving our Calendar to complement our suite of Windows Live services," the MSN spokesman said. "Calendaring is an area where we will innovate, so stay tuned."

    On Microsoft's Windows Live Web privacy page, Microsoft already has an entry for "Windows Live Calendar and Contacts," describing the pair as a place for storing "contact information you enter there about yourself and others including calendar appointments, email address, first and last name, nickname, home address, work address, phone number, and birthdate. You may view, edit, and share that information with your friends and acquaintances."

    So it looks like Microsoft is planning to move full speed ahead with Calendar technology. What's even more exciting is that Windows Calendar might play a interesting role in Microsoft's upcoming plans. Windows Calendar allows you to subscribe and publish calendars to the web. Imagine having a service to publish your calendars to and giving folks in your Windows Live Contacts permission to subscribe to your calendars, or even make them public for all to see - all from Windows Calendar. The potential is there with Windows Calendar and I can't wait to see what Microsoft does with it.

    In the mean time, Shawn Morrissey who is leading work on Windows Calendar, comments on Google's Calendar service:

    Yes it’s interesting.  Yes, I think the Windows Live calendar is very competitive.  Yes, I think there are some features that could be added to make it even more competitve.  Yes, I am glad that the work we’ve been doing on a calendaring app for Windows is still on track to be included in Vista.

    I look forward to seeing where Microsoft's Calendar efforts lead to in the near future.

  • Windows Defender Beta 2 Refresh

    The Anti-Malware Engineering Team is called the latest build release of Windows Defender Beta 2 a "refresh". Adam over at their blog talks about some of the changes we can see in this Beta 2 Refresh:

    First off, we have added a checkbox option to continually display the system tray icon. We heard your feedback loud and clear on this one, so those who want to see our icon with the little green check in their system tray as a sign of system health can now do so. We have also improved Windows Defender's ability to report more accurate data about potentially unwanted software through SpyNet so that we can help create better definition updates.

    Its great to see some updates pushed out from feedback offered from users. ActiveWin first mentioned the updated build yesterday.

  • Windows Defender Beta 2 Build 1347

    ActiveWin reports that Microsoft has released a minor update to Windows Defender Beta 2 - Build 1347. You can download it via Microsoft's Download Center or also through the Microsoft Update engine.

    I'm not too entirely sure what's changed but my guess is they did some bug fixes.

  • Charlie Owen's Desktop Wallpaper Now Available

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    Due high demand and requests, Charlie Owen has made available the desktop wallpaper seen from this screenshots of Build 5355. You can download the wallpapers at 4 different sizes here. If you're using Windows Vista Build 5342, or the February CTP, Charlie suggestions downloading his wallpaper and taking a screenshot of your desktop and put it online for everyone see. He thinks it might be fun to see how folks are configuring their Vista desktops. I agree.

    Charlie took this photo of the "Leaves and Water Droplets" at Washington State's beautiful Deception Falls.

    I personally think this wallpaper is amazing and should be included with Windows Vista when it RTM's. His camera really captures the color and its very sharp almost as if you can reach out and touch the leaves. This is now my desktop wallpaper on all my machines.

  • Windows Vista R2: Code-named "Fiji"?

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    Mary Jo Foley has posted a very interesting article regarding the latest Windows Vista delay (announced in March) also delaying post-Vista releases. What's more interesting is she reveals a new code-name for us to get familiar with: Windows Code-named "Fiji". According to Mary Jo, some folks are calling "Fiji" Windows Vista R2.

    I've heard the idea of having R2 releases for the Windows Client. Currently, we've seen R2 releases for Windows Server and Server-side applications. I will admit, I have been pretty apprehensive in believing there would be a Windows Vista R2. But in light of Mary Jo's recent article, I'm thinking maybe I should re-evaluate the possibility. I'm curious if Microsoft intends to do client-side R2 releases how this will effect Service Pack releases. Traditionally, Service Packs have been a combination of importat bug fixes and hotfixes. Will Client-side R2 releases offer us enhancements to already existing features and introduce us to new features? Maybe Microsoft intends to give us WinFS in Windows Vista R2?

    There's alot to speculate about at this point on post-Vista plans for Windows. Mary Jo's article certainly brings up some interesting possiblities and also some very interesting questions.

  • Want a Peak at Build 5355?

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    Head over to Charlie's blog - he takes some time going over the Windows Vista UI and highlights some major improvements to the UI users should find to their liking. He uses screenshots from Build 5355 to support his statements. You can see the use of a new background and user image on the Start Menu in this build. Look even closer and you may notice a few other things as well.

    CORRECTION: The background in the screenshots is a personal shot taken by Charlie. Charlie looks to be a very good photographer. Would love to see him make the wallpaper available to download!

  • Windows Contact Store?

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    Microsoft has developed a RSS Feed Store system built right into Windows Vista using Internet Explorer 7. This feed store can be accessed using other applications such as Outlook 2007 and any other application designed to grab feeds from the store.

    Why can't Microsoft do this with Contacts? Why can't there be a centralized Contact store where multiple email applications and IM applications can tap in and grab the same contacts which can be managed by Windows Vista's Contact system? I would love to see this. Then also see the ability to sync up with perhaps Windows Live Contacts too?

    I wanted to bring this idea up with the community and see what kind of response this brings if any.

    UPDATE 4/9: Thanks to davidacoder, he brought to my attention that Microsoft has indeed designed a sort of Contact store built in to Windows Vista. Called Windows Contacts - there is a specific set of API's designed for developers to use to create applications that takes advantage of the new Windows Contact system. You can check out more information here at MSDN.

  • Turning a corner with Windows Vista

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    Charlie Owen reports he was able to install a newer build of Windows Vista on his Toshiba M200 Tablet PC - getting Aero Glass to work on a 32MB nVidia Mobile 5200 video card. He hopes that its not a "anomaly". Me too. Charlie suggests this is possibly an example of Vista finally turning the corner it needs to be turning at its stage of development.

    Its exciting to hear about performance improvements in Windows Vista as we inch closer to Beta 2. Beta 2 should be awesome.

  • New Windows Application: Code-named "Monaco"?

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    Microsoft may be working on a competitor to Apple's GarageBand software for Windows Vista, according to Mary Jo Foley. Code-named "Monaco", the new sound mixing application is expected to take advantage of Windows Vista technologies such as the Aero UI.

    Its unknown at this time if "Monaco" would be included with Windows Vista or offered seperately. Like Apple's done with their OS X, Microsoft is including a set of applications in Windows Vista to give users a rich experience - such as Windows Calendar, Windows Sidebar, and Windows Photo Gallery. Mary Jo also mentions Microsoft's ongoing development of a photo-sharing application code-named "Max". Apple also offers iLife seperately for users who want more - sold seperately in stores. Could Microsoft be developing a set of enhanced Windows applications, similar to Apple's iLife suite, to offer Windows Vista users? Could "Max" and "Monaco" fit into those plans?

    Its certainly something worth watching out for.

  • Windows Vista Parental Controls

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    The UAC Team has posted an indepth article on Windows Vista's Parental Controls. The Parental Controls appear to be quite extensive. I don't think it will be useful to me, as I am not a parent, but for folks wanting to use the benefits of Windows Vista in a family setting should check out their post on their blog. I'm half tempted to give Parental Controls a test run by setting up a pretend profile for a pretend child. Not sure yet if I'm going to do it.
  • Introducing Windows PC Accelerators

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    Microsoft today announced several new names for Performance Features coming with Windows Vista later this year.

    Windows PC Accelerators is the new term that encompasses Windows Vista’s new performance-enhancing technologies.  The Windows PC Accelerators are:

    Windows® SuperFetch™
    Windows® ReadyBoost™ (formerly code-named “EMD”)
    Windows® ReadyDrive™ (formerly code-named “Piton”)

    Feature descriptions and sample usage follow:

    Windows SuperFetch™ is a memory management innovation in Windows Vista that helps make your PC consistently responsive by tracking what applications are used most on a given machine and intelligently preloading these applications into memory.

    Windows ReadyBoost™ (formerly code-named “EMD”) makes PCs running genuine Windows Vista more responsive by using flash memory on a USB drive, SD Card, Compact Flash, or other memory form factor to boost system performance. 

    Example: Windows ReadyBoost™ is an easy way to make my computer feel faster.  I just put in a USB key and follow the instructions on the screen.

    Windows ReadyDrive™ (formerly code-named “Piton”)  enables Windows Vista PCs equipped with a hybrid hard drive to boot up faster, resume from hibernate in less time, and preserve battery power.  Hybrid hard drives are a new type of hard disk that integrates non-volatile flash memory with a traditional hard drive.

    Sample Usage: I want to be sure my next laptop has a hybrid hard disk so I can use Windows ReadyDrive™.

    I'm pretty excited to see these features come to light. It also clears up some misunderstanding on my part. I guess SuperFetch is Vista's enhanced memory managment while ReadyBoost is the technology that is able to take your USB Memory stick and turn it into memory for your PC.

  • USB Memory Sticks for Windows Vista's SuperFetch

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    As many of you may know, or may not know, Windows Vista incorporates a new technology called SuperFetch that allows you to use USB Memory sticks to add more memory instantly to your computer. You got a 512MB Memory stick with nothing on it, when using Windows Vista all you need to do is plug it in to your USB port and you've got some more memory. I'm not sure how well is measures up compared to real memory but I would imagine its not as high end. I've tried it with my little 256MB memory stick and it worked in Build 5308 real well.

    Andre asks what types of Memory sticks you would recommend for him to use for SuperFetch. If you've tried it out, head over to his blog and give him some recommendations. He's looking to get a USB Memory stick for SuperFetch himself. My USB Memory stick is a generic stick. Not sure really what brand it is, it was given to me at a Microsoft event.

  • Apple Boot Camp Public Beta

    Apple has released a public beta of a product called Boot Camp - a program that will allow you to natively run Windows XP on your Intel-based Mac. Now, this is very cool. But not what I had in mind. I'd like to natively run Windows on a Mac without having to also have OS X installed. If I understand Boot Camp correctly, it needs to be installed within OS X and can only be used if OS X Tiger is installed. Its also only for Windows XP - I wonder if any thoughts have been given to Windows Vista. I'd like to see Beta testers try and see if they can get Vista installed using the Boot Camp Beta if they have the Intel-based Mac hardware. I don't have an Intel Mac otherwise I'd try it myself.

    I can honestly say that hands down, right now I am seriously considering making my next PC an Intel Mac. I'm holding off a bit though for the simple reason that Vista isn't supported and I am still a little sketchy on the whole situation where OS X still needs to be installed for me dual boot into Windows. But I'm so tempted right now. So very tempted.

    Thanks to Steve Makofsky for the heads up. He's currently installed Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition on his Macbook. He'll be posting more information soon after he's done with some updates. Keep your eye on Steve's blog.

  • Welcome Center Should be a Gadget

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    I was thinking about the Welcome Center earlier this week and came to the conclusion that I think Welcome Center could be more useful as a Desktop Gadget. A full customizable Welcome Center Desktop Gadget could be configured for OEM's and also configured by the user themselves to cater to the things they would like to see at Start-up of their PC. For example, I'd like to configure Welcome Center to display my most important applications I use as well as maybe tell me how many unread email messages I have and what not.

    I mean, you could still implement a great Welcome Center without it being a Desktop Gadget too.

    The way Welcome Center is currently is useless to me, and I would assume useless to other folks as well. My questions to you are would you use Welcome Center more if it was customizable to your liking? Do you think it would be better as a Desktop Gadget? I look forward to hearing some comments on this.

  • New CTP on the horizon?

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    Josh over at Windows Connected responds to a email recently sent out - the "Windows Vista and Office Beta Newsletter No. 2". In the newsletter, Alexander Holy states: "It is April now and the next CTP (Community Tech Preview) of Windows Vista still a few weeks out. If you do not have access to the latest CTP (February CTP, Build 5308) you can still download WinFX and the Windows SDK and start developing WinFX applications on Windows XP." Alexander Holy is with the Developer and Platforms group at Microsoft.

    This is what Josh says:

    In this note he refears to the next drop as a CTP which is unlike the 5342 build we got recently. A CTP build would mean they forked and stabelized the build for at least some small amount of time to reach the CTP quality bar. Additionally, this quality bar typically means that MSDN and other subscribers will recieve the build as well.

    I look forward for any news in the next few weeks regarding a possible new CTP. Build 5342 was an unexpected release, there is no reason to believe Microsoft won't unexpectedly release a CTP.