Sidebar Geek

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

  • 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.

  • New Sidebar Gadgets in Build 5342

    The Sidebar Team has introduced new Sidebar Gadgets for Windows Vista in Build 5342.

    The new Gadgets are:

    • Calculator
    • Minesweeper
    • Number Puzzle
    • Picture Puzzle
    • Timer

    Take a look at the new Gadgets in the Gadget Picker here.

    There seems to have been some changes to Settings for the Clock, RSS, and Recycle Bin Gadgets in this build as well. Also, the "Add" button and the page arrows for the Sidebar are no longer displayed on the bottom of the Sidebar but now displayed on the top. See this picture of my Sidebar here for an idea on what I'm talking as well as a few of the new Gadgets.

  • New Taskbar Network Icon: Yay or Nay?

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    In Build 5342, Microsoft shows off a new Taskbar Network Icon - different than what we've previously seen:

    I can't get my Wireless to work (reasons I'll blog about later on) so I can't show you the Wireless version of the new icon.

    So what do you folks think of the new icon?

    I like the white icons on the taskbar when Glass is enabled. The concept is similar to how Apple has their network icon displayed at the upper right hand corner of the Apple menu in OS X. Menu icons in OS X are all the same. No flashy colors, just simple one color icons next to the clock. Windows has always had a rainbow of different types of taskbar icons. I hope Microsoft intends to set the standard for the type of taskbar icons we are going to see. Maybe software developers will follow in their footsteps. I imagine that we'll continue to see a rainbow of icons in our taskbar though.

  • EXCLUSIVE: Office 2007 and Aero Glass

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    I'm going to try this "exclusive" thing out and show you guys Office 2007 using Windows Vista's Aero Glass.


    Click on the above screen "clip" for a larger screenshot.

    I was able to get the Office 2007 Beta 1 Technical Refresh to install just fine in the latest Windows Vista release - Build 5342. I've had no issues as of yet with major application crashes although its apparent the UI still needs some tweaks to look good in Vista.

    ALSO: Anyone else notice in Build 5342 that when a window is maximized, instead of getting the plain Black UI you now get the Glass UI carried over to the maximized window? Take a look at what I'm talking about here.

  • Bumpy Ride coming for Vista? Nah.

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    Josh over and WindowsConnected talks about some anonymous comments made over the Mini-Microsoft blog in regards to the current state of Windows and morale on in the Windows Division. He goes on the assumption most of the anonymous comments made are most likely from Microsoft employees - signifying a "in for a bumpy ride from here on out with Windows Vista and related products".

    I disagree.

    Personally, I think these anonymous comments are a mere shadow of the Windows Division - full of hundreds of employees. A few negative comments by some employees doesn't mean the entire Windows Vista team or Windows Division thinks the same way or we're all in for one "bumpy" ride. If these anonymous folks do work for Windows, why the hell are they spending time knocking Vista when they should be working on getting it out the door or making better?

    I think this delay is being blown to far into the negative - with folks not looking at the positive. Microsoft is getting far more feedback from its beta testers than ever before on the development of Windows Vista - and getting ALOT of it too. Allchin says that feedback from testers was part of the reasoning that has caused Microsoft to rethink its Windows Vista Roadmap. This is a good thing. I''ve heard from years from bloggers and technology websites about how bad Microsoft is about actually listening to their customers and the folks that use their software. Well, now they are listening. They've gotten a ton of feedback and are wanting to make changes that accomodates that feedback. I see this as a very positive thing for Microsoft.

    Some readers have pointed out I sometimes may be overly positive when it comes to Microsoft but I'm one to not focus on the negative too much. I will admit these delays have hurt Microsoft bad. But I feel its the earlier delays that have hurt Microsoft more than the current delays. Why? Because the earlier delays, such as the so-called "reboot" - was Microsoft's fault. They had no customer feedback. They figured out Longhorn sucked and had to reboot. That's when Windows was having a bumpy ride. These delays wouldn't have been such a problem now if Microsoft didn't have their stuff together for Longhorn. Let's hope that when Steven Sinofsky takes over with "Vienna", it will be different - which I have no doubt it will.

  • Steven Sinofsky to lead future Windows and Windows Live Development

    Microsoft announced today that Steven Sinofsky will be joining the Platforms and Services Devision (PSD) at Microsoft to lead Windows and Windows Live development. According to Microsoft, Steven will help better align the Windows and MSN "assets" with the Windows Live strategy.

    Is this the management shake-up folks were talking about a few days ago? Maybe.

    According to Paul Thurrott, Microsoft is "getting ready to shake up the management team in its Windows Division and bring in Microsoft Office head Steve Sinofsky to put Windows back on track". Mr. Thurrott hints that perhaps the recently announced delay for the Windows Vista launch has caused Microsoft to switch gears, shifting around management to see that no more delays occur.

    A Microsoft spokesperson today was able to confirm for me that this isn't the case. "While Jim (Allchin) and Brian (Valentine) finish the work on this year, Steven and team will be squarely focused on the future planning for Windows and Windows Live," the Microsoft spokesperson tells me. Think of it as if Steven Sinofsky taking charge right at Windows code-named "Vienna". I would assume that any development beginning on "Vienna" now will be supervised under the direction of Sinofsky while Allchin focuses on just getting Vista out the door. The spokesperson for Microsoft continued - telling me Jim Allchin is fully committed to seeing the development of Windows Vista through to RTM and its launch: "Jim will remain co-president of CSD and is committed to staying on until Windows Vista ships. He realizes the importance of this product to the world, and knows that when Windows Vista is released it will create new opportunities for innovation and growth across the broader industry and partner ecosystem."

    I look forward to see what direction Steven Sinofsky takes Windows after Vista ships. Previously, Steven had been in charge of the Microsoft Office development.

  • Windows Management changes coming at Microsoft?

    The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Steven Sinofsky is tapped to take over as lead Windows honcho for the development of Windows. They report Microsoft wants to "inject" a more managed way of developing Windows.

    I think it would be interesting and refreshing to see a new face in charge of Windows. Jim Allchin has been there for quite some time. I can't really think of anyone else at Microsoft that would be more interesting to see in the front seat that Steven Sinofsky. Steven has his own blog here. Would love to see him post more.

  • Gadgets Showcased at Mix 06

    InfoWorld has done a really neat article on Windows Vista's Sidebar Gadgets - showcased at Mix 06 this week. Microsoft's goal behind Sidebar or Desktop Gadgets is to offer rich content that runs "beyond the browser" and enhanced the overall Windows user experience.

    I really do think Sidebar Gadgets will definately enhance the user experience in Windows. Exclusive content can be developed for Gadgets that Windows users download and run on their desktops. Lets take one of my favorite bands, the Foo Fighters. Let's pretend the Foo Fighters launch a exclusive downloadable Sidebar Gadget off their website. I download it and add it to my Sidebar. Then the Foo Fighters now have an opperunity to allow me to see exclusive content right on my desktop. They could do anything from letting Gadget users listen to a new single before its out to offering exclusive news on concerts and upcoming albums.

    Yahoo showcased a Gadget of their own at Mix this week:

    This Yahoo! Music Unlimited Gadget gives you access to Yahoo's Music store right from your desktop. Its an impressive little Gadget - but sorry Yahoo, I'm waiting for URGE.

    I'm hoping as we move forward with Windows Vista, vendors such as Yahoo will come out and let us Beta Test their Gadgets for them in Windows Sidebar. I would expext as we get near the time of the next CTP, we'll see several vendors offer us a chance to give their Gadgets a test run.

  • Windows Vista End-User Beta Coming Next Quarter

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    A Microsoft spokesperson was able to elaborate a little more on a few things concerning today's news of Windows Vista's "delay".

    They are on track to deliever a end-user Beta to over 2 million users next quarter. That means between April and June, a major end-user Beta (expected to be Beta 2) will be released.

    "The industry requires greater lead time to plan and deliver Windows Vista on new PC’s during the December selling season. Industry partners have asked us to commit now to a roadmap that ensures predictable execution through this period.  Current feedback is that we may need additional time to get quality where we want it to be. To optimize for the most predictable plan for the industry and prioritize around customer and partner satisfaction, we are updating the Windows Vista Roadmap," the Microsoft spokesperson tells me.

    They are targeting:

    • Making Windows Vista available direct to their business customers in November via Microsoft's Volume Licensing program.
    •  Broad consumer availability and new PC availability in January 2007.

    From what it looks like, it seems that with the current feedback being provided by TAP and Technical Beta Testers - Microsoft needs more time to take in the feedback and boost Vista up to the quality desired before RTM. I'd like to point out with more frequent builds (with Community Technology Previews) and more beta testers, Microsoft is getting much more feedback during the testing process ever seen before in the development of Windows. Looking at the feedback and stepping back and saying they need more time shows Microsoft is after quality of the Windows Vista release.

  • January 2007 Availability for Windows Vista

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    Last week, some folks on the Microsoft Connections blog accidentally let slip of a Novembmer Launch for Windows Vista. Today ActiveWin reports while Novemember might still see the launch of Windows Vista, only businesses will have access to the RTM Windows Vista. General consumers can expect to see retail versions of Windows Vista hitting shelves in January 2007 as quoted by Jim Allchin himself by ActiveWin. Read ActiveWin's original post.

    The information from ActiveWin has been confirmed by Microsoft's Press Release here.

    So I guess the main question remains: when will Microsoft hold a official launch for Windows Vista? In November when businesses get access to it or closer to January when the general folks can get their hands on it?

  • Beyond the Browser at Mix with Sidebar and Gadgets

    You can take a look at Joe Belifiore, Microsoft's Vice President for the eHome division, talks about technologies that take the Windows User Experience "beyond the browser" with technologies such as Windows Sidebar and Desktop Gadgets. He showed off a pretty impressive Yahoo Stock Gadget which was pretty cool as well as a Yahoo Music Gadget. I'm guessing Yahoo is one major company that's going after the new platform with Desktop Gadgets in Windows Vista - which is great to see. Joe really showed off some very impressive uses of new Vista technologies such as WPF. I can't wait to see all this mainstream.

    Take a look at the video at Virtual MIX.

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