Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

August 2005 - Posts

  • Microsoft Releases WinFS Beta 1

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    For everyone that thought WinFS was dead... ha! The WinFS team has been hard at work refining the WinFS system, and is pleased to announce WinFS Beta 1 is available for download for MSDN Subscribers. It's all the way at the bottom of the "Tools, SDKs, and DDKs" section.

    WinFS Beta 1 runs on Windows XP SP2 ONLY. It does not run on Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista Beta 1, or Longhorn Server Beta 1. It requires a newer version of the .NET Framework than VS2005 Beta 2. You can download v2.0.50215.322 here.

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  • It's Time for the Other 99%

    I've been thinking a lot about this over the past couple weeks. Paul got me going a couple of weeks ago, and now this whole "Web Feeds" or "RSS" naming crap has really set me off. Sometimes I like to ramble a bit to set up my premise. Today, I'm going to cut right to the point, because I'm installing a new Windows Server 2003 network for a client in a few hours.

    Geeks like to create controversy. Everything has to be a big deal. I know that I'm as much to blame for this as anyone else. It's time for a change. We're moving into the third generation of the computer industry. I'm not talking about generations of systems... we know that changes every 18 months. No, I'm talking about the third social generation of the computer industry. The first generation was about getting the concepts of computig down from a technical standpoint. The second generation was about pushing that hardware and software to it's limits.

    The third generation is about making computing a simple and seamless part of everyday life, without hassle or frustration. It's about connecting technology to people. It's not about geeks and nerds and people who eat, breathe, and sleep technology. It's about the other 99% of the population that just wants to get what they need and doesn't need anymore hassle than that absolutely necessary.

    WHO THE HELL CARES what RSS is called? The other 99% doesn't care if it was called Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary or Really Stupid Standards. The term "Web Feeds" is better than "RSS" or "ATOM", because it encompasses both technologies. Personally, I think they should come up with a word other than "feeds", cause most normal people don't understand what that means. The average person hears "web feed" and says... "so it's information that's fed to me from the web? You mean I don't have to go looking for it, it comes to me? I get it!" It's better than Mozilla's "Live Bookmarks" naming convention anyways.

    Don't you guys get it? If Microsoft puts time and money into making the technology truly mainstream, it won't matter what it's called. MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WILL BE CONSUMING YOUR CONTENT. It doesn't matter whose name is attached to it, or whose brain crapped out the idea. And Microsoft shouldn't back down just because Dave Winer doesn't want any of his brain turds messed with.

    Case in point, Dave Winer's quote (emphasis mine):

    “Like it or not Google, the format is RSS 2.0... Go all the way, and just give it up, and accept the gift, the way it was presented, without trying to edit, revise, fold, spindle or mutilate.”

    So to Dave thinks that RSS was his "gift" to the world, and that no one should ever mess with it because it's perfect in every way. As if that mentality wasn't already apparent in the text of the spec. Look, Dave isn't the Jesus Christ of XML item description formats. Innovation involves people taking ideas and making them better. It's happened for millennia.

    Just think of where we'd be at if someone wasn't allows to take the invention of the wheel, and expand upon it. We wouldn't have had buggies, chariots, trains, cars, trucks, RC vehicles... I could go on and on.

    Look guys, most of us weren't the cool kids in school. I know as well as anyone that this whole "tech blogger" thing is all about filling a void from our awkward childhood. Ok, great. It's time to grow up now. It's time for us 1% of the population that can't live without this stuff to start focusing not on ourselves, but on the other 99% of the population, who more often than not would rather live without it.

    This is where I'm headed. I know Chris is with me. Who else will join me?

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  • Xbox 360 Pricing Announced!

    Microsoft PressPass has the official announcement on pricing for the Xbox 360. It will come in 2 SKUs: Xbox 360 will come with practically everything and be priced at $399, and Xbox 360 Core, which has the console, a wired controller, and a cheam A/V cable, weighs in at $299.

    More expensive than I originally thought, but I don't care. Looks like I'm stopping by GameStop this morning to preorder mine :).

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  • The ONLY Reason I'd Buy a Mac

    I hate Macs. This is not news to anyone. Everyone thinks I'm a Windows zealot, and that's fine. But I started out my young computing life on an Apple IIc. My first program was written on that huge wedge. I have one of the first 1000 units of the first Macintosh model sitting at home. I had one of the first "portable computers", too. It was basically an Apple IIIc with a handle and an RCA adapter to plug into the TV. I grew up playing "Oregon Trail" on Apple computers, and saving BASIC programs to massive floppy disks that really were floppy.

    Then Apple fell into a huge hole. It started with "Hypercard". It was a ridiculous way to build programs. I could never understand it. Then it was their refusal to run Mac software on IBM computers. Then it was all the free love-esque artsy people who hijacked it as a "looks mean more than functionality" machine. After that, I was done.

    So now Apple is moving to Intel hardware. Now IBM is left with pretty much only Microsoft and Sony keeping the PowerPC architecture alive for their gaming platforms. And that's fine. It doesn't matter to me anymore that Apple won't license their OS for non-proprietary equipment, even though they're completely stupid for not doing so. They'll let users install Windows on their Macs.

    So what are the only ways I'd buy a Mac? If I could get Windows Vista running on either the new Mac Mini or the G5 with the computer built into the flatscreen display. And maybe that's exactly what Apple wants.

    Now if only Dell, Toshiba, Asus, and others could come up with cool, trendy, well designed cases and form factors for PCs (and not the lame ones I keep seeing with lights and crap for gamers) I could continue my ideological boycott of Apple going indefinitely.

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  • 'Longhorn' Server has a Name?

    NOTE: This is pure speculation on my part.

    I've been hearing some things that lead me to believe that Windows "Longhorn" Server now has a name. Again, I have to state that this is just speculation... nothing has been confirmed yet. I've tried to refrain from rampant speculation over the past few weeks, with the "Vista" virus that never was and everything...

    Rumor has it that the new name is Windows Server Vista™.

    Now, if this rumor is true, there's no real surprise there. I honestly thought it was going to be Windows Server 2007. We'll see.

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  • Google is the New Microsoft

    Do No Harm. It's been the first tenet of medicine since Hippocrates introduced the concept in his work Epidemics. More recently, it became Google's mantra for their IPO.

    Over the past few years, it's been interesting to watch Google become the media's wonder company. Hardly a negative word was written about them in the mainstream press for about as long as I can remember. So I find it funny that Google has bitten the hand that fed them by refusing to talk to News.com after they published a story about how easy it is to use Google's tools to violate someone's privacy.

    It seems to me like the whole thing is basically a hissy-fit from Google CEO Eric Schmidt. He freaked out because his own tool was used against him, and issued a "decree" that will be referenced in every News.com article about Google until this time next year. Without thinking about the rammifications to his company, especially from a PR standpoint.

    It brings up a very interesting point in today's "right to privacy" society. Google's tools search my e-mail to deliver ads, and index my blog posts for the same purpose. But what if there is information about me online that I don't want to be part of the search results. Shouldn't I be able to tell Google what I want seen and what I don't? I bet you Eric Schmidt is having his personal information removed from the index, but the rest of us hardly have the luxury that he affords himself.

    But that's hardly the first time that Google has violated it's own tenet. Recently, Google tried to patent the process of placing advertisements in RSS feeds. Having been a part of the development process of their AdSense for Feeds product, I was keenly interested in what exactly they were trying to patent. It turns out, they're not even trying to patent their own implementation. They're trying to patent the process that ZiffDavis, Kanoodle, and BlogAds uses.

    But that's not all. Google's wanton disregard for the law in the theft of Kai-Fu Lee from Microsoft is a perfect example of their lack of respect in the industry. They KNEW what they were doing was wrong, and they did it anyway. And they were stupid enough not to cover it up properly. In other words, they didn't care who found out about it, because they feel they can do whatever they want.

    I could go on and on. But what it boils down to is this: Everyone talked about how Google is the next Microsoft. About how wonderful Google's technology is, and about how much great work they're doing for the industry. And congratulations, Google, you did it. You did in 4 years what it took Microsoft 20 years to accomplish. You went from media darling to tight-lipped, evil empire in 1/5th the time. That's an amazing feat.

    Do No Harm. What happens when a company forgets its founding mantra? What happens when money and power corrupt people with once good intentions? Microsoft learned from it's mistakes. The question is, can Google learn from them (or their own) too? Well, history does tend to repeat itself. Personally, I think it will get worse before it gets better. For Google, anyways.

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  • Two Boot Managers when Dual-Booting Windows Vista and Windows XP

    One of my biggest pet peeves about dual-booting with Windows Vista Beta 1 is the fact that I always get two boot managers if I want to boot to Windows XP. Apparently I'm not the only one, because it has been validated 50 times by other beta testers in the Connect program. One beta tester by the name of Waresoft came up with this solution:

    This assumes you have two or more partitions set up. Windows XP is on partition 1, which is mapped to Drive C, and Windows Vista Beta 1 is set up on Partition 2, which is mapped to whatever drive you want.

    1. Copy x:\Windows\System32\winload.exe to c:\Windows\System32\, where x is the drive Windows Vista Beta 1 is installed.
    2. Open c:\boot.ini, and add the "/USENEWLOADER" switch to the Windows XP (multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS) entry under "[operating systems]"

    When you reboot, you should only get one boot manager.

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  • OT: First Podcast from Space

    I was just watching NASA TV's coverage of the shuttle landing, which is going on as I type this. In fact, they just missed the first landing opportunity, and aren't going to land until later this morning. Anyways, I popped over to nasa.gov to check and see if anything interesting was posted, and it appears that STS-114 Mission Specialist Steve Robinson transmitted the first podcast from space yesterday. It's definitely worth a listen.

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  • De-Facto Hypocrisy

    Thursday, I talked about the Standards Stand-Off, and how the climate of the industry in the 90's lead to an animosity against Microsoft that is the crux of the Open Source movement. A perfect example of this is the current hype around AJAX. You can't hardly go to a developer site these days without someone talking about it. It poisons the ASP.NET Weblogs so much that I can hardly stand to read the site anymore.

    This is the perfect example of a technology that Microsoft invented that was not a part of a standards process. Wikipedia has some great articles on Internet Explorer and AJAX's underlying technology, XMLHTTP. Here's what Wikipedia says about the history of XMLHTTP (emphasis mine):

    The object was originally invented by Microsoft, used since Internet Explorer 5.0 as an ActiveX object, which is hence accessible via JavaScript, VBScript, or other scripting languages supported by the browser. Mozilla contributors then implemented a compatible native version in Mozilla 1.0. This was later followed by Apple since Safari 1.2 and Opera Software since Opera 8.0.

    ...

    Similar functionality is covered in Document Object Model Level 3 Load and Save Specification, which is already a W3C Recommendation. However, as of 2005, no web browser fully supports this specification. XMLHttpRequest is expected to remain as a de facto standard for the forseeable future.

    So, lets summarize. XMLHTTP, the underlying technology behind AJAX, was a Microsoft invention for IE5, which Wikipedia correlates to September 1998. While never "standardized", every major browser added support for it later (note no specific mention of Firefox). The W3C has recommended a standard, which no one supports at this time. So Microsoft's invention remains the standard to this day, and will for "the foreseeable future."

    But wait, I thought standards bodies had to define the standard for everyone to implement it?

    Here's the big question: Why did it take 7 years for AJAX to become mainstream? Why was it virtually ignored by everyone outside the Outlook Web Access team for a complete generation in computer years? Because that was the same time that Microsoft didn't want to work with developers. So, because MS didn't want to work with anyone to make the standard, no one built apps for it. Funny how this specific technology was still implemented by every other browser anyways, but oh well.

    So when did the technology finally take off? When some nobody wrote an article that basically took everyone else's work and wrapped it up in a cute little acronym. He can be credited with hiding the Microsoft aspect of the technology so that the Open Source would could put it up on a pedistal as their Next Big Thing. And because Google used it for their mapping system, they became the demi-gods of AJAX. It's amazing how so many people can hijack someone else's idea and so blatantly get away with it.

    As a side note, while researching this article I came across another intereting tidbit from Wikipedia. Again, emphasis mine.

    Internet Explorer 3 was the first major browser with CSS support, and it could handle the PICS system for content metadata. The improvements were significant, compared to its main competitor: Netscape Navigator. At that time, both Microsoft and Netscape tried to establish de facto standards before the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) had come up with official ones.

    Ironic, isn't it, that this information came from an "open source" encyclopedia. It's also funny what happens when zealots drop their emotional baggage and start working for the betterment of the other 99%.

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  • Toshiba and nVidia: Your Customers Demand Answers

    I really want to be able to go to bat for you guys with this. I've made several calls, and left several e-mails about the issue. So far, no response.

    Your customers are unhappy. We want to get the full Aero experience on Windows Vista Beta 1. There is no support for your mobile cards from yourselves or your OEMs. The cards that are supported are terrible. They work like they were written by little kids. You guys have had PLENTY of time to get it done. ATIs support works fine, and I haven't heard a single complaint. You said at WinHEC that support would be there immediately. I have one of the most powerful mobile graphics cards because of that claim. As far as I'm concerned, you lied.

    I don't care if you consider it an OEM issue. My Tablet has an nVidia sticker on it, which means its your problem. You should be goading your OEMs into acting, and there should be links on your page to your OEM's support information. And don't think you're getting out of this Toshiba. I can't find information about it on your site, either.

    If you ran into problems, were late getting out the gate, or just don't care, I don't mind. But TELL US. I want to know when my hardware will be fully supported, in a graphics mode where the pixels don't stretch off the screen. Come on, that's amateurish. We all would have gladly waited another week for you to fix that kind of problem.

    Toshiba & nVidia: We live in a time where you can't be reactive in taking care of your customers. You have to be proactive. It's been a week of silence. I think we deserve to know what your plans are.

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  • The Standards Stand-Off

    Now, I'm gonna get ripped a new one by people smoking whatever Paul was on, but I don't care. I'm trying to have a discussion about an idea. Maybe it's a discussion that can take place without vulgarity... but I doubt it.

    All the coverage of Paul's whining this week got me thinking about the concept of standards in technology. Too many times, I think people forget about the reason "standards" exist in the firstplace. They are there to make life easier for computer users. NOT GEEKS. Maybe 1% of the computer-using population is technologically-savvy enough to be able to write a standard in the first place. Why are there standards for wireless networking? Because people don't want 80 different incompatible technologies. What is the one company that probably has the most influence over the standards process in wireless networking? Probably Cisco. Maybe Intel. Between Cisco and their Linksys division, these guys sell a lot of wireless products. Many of their innovations become industry standards over time.

    So, what if a company makes a standard, and no one else shows up to support it. Is it still a standard? When does reach make an idea a de-facto standard? You could argue that because IE has by far the highest market share among average computer users, it's features set the standard among web browsers, based solely on reach. I don't want to hear the argument that "Microsoft illegally bundled the browser with Windows, and that's the only reason they got market share", because it's just an excuse. There were just as many choices back then as there are today.

    Back in the IE6 days, Microsoft came up with some new ideas about browsers. It was their product, so they didn't need any kind of approval from anyone to put it in there. Microsoft was on top of the world back then. They thought they could do whatever they wanted. But that wasn't the case. The browser wars, hostile takeovers, and a focus on the technology itself and not the people it affected, created a lot of ill-will in the industry. That ill-will combined with Microsoft's (perceived or real) lack of concern for his customers, created the "Standards Stand-Off" that we've dealt with today. It's a pissing match between the former bully and the people that were once bullied. (For the most part... I'm not talking about you WaSP, I'm talking about the zealots who are still firmly entrenched in their camps).

    So the purpose of web standards is to make it so that the other 99% of web users who don't know or care what RAM is can use whatever browser they want, and get a predictable experience. Microsoft's implementation of CSS is no different than Linksys' implementation of their new SecureEasySetup button for WiFi routers. For better or worse, it's their interpretation of they way they want things to be. The Acid2 test is a test of how other browsers perform as a group of individuals would like them to be. And that's also fine. Microsoft has proven before that it doesn't have to listen to WaSP to achieve an overpowering market dominance.

    Paul and others don't get the fact that their gerrymandering doesn't help the situation any. Microsoft WANTS to work with the standards people now. They understand that it's not about what Microsoft wants, it's about what END USERS want. Further, Paul still doesn't get, and has not responded to, the BUSINESS reason IE7 can't fix everything because of compatibility. If I spent money trying to implement Microsoft's old "my-way-or-the-highway" approach, which pissed me off enough already, and then broke my stuff AGAIN now that they want to play nice, don't you think I'd be even more pissed? It's easy to throw out the old code and force people to write new code. It's even more difficult to make software do new things while still perserving (where possible) the hacks that made old stuff work too.

    Microsoft can't undo the fact that they screwed up 5 years ago. For all the power they have in the industry, they can't change the past. Maybe MSR is coming up with a time machine, I dunno. But Paul's trying to accomplish the same thing by giving Microsoft an inaccurate and unwarranted headache over a non-issue. He's trying to piss Microsoft off to the point that they give up and go back to the way things were. Staying the way you are is easy... it's the change that's difficult. Microsoft is making inroads and wants to work with people who have ideas on the way things should be. It may not be perfect, but its a start.

    I'm not saying we have to have a big group hug over the whole things and declare the browser wars over. Lets just get back to the idea that differenciation between products can be a good thing... a sign of healthy competition. Just like I am more likely to buy Linksys cause I can push a button and set up wireless security... can't to that with DLink. Maybe DLink will come up with something better. Ahh... the wonders of a market-driven economy.

    Really guys. Stop getting butthurt about it. As developers and influentials, we need to grow up and start doing what's best for the other 99% of computer users out there.

    And Paul, since you didn't even give me the courtsey of responding directly through the precious hyperlinks you work so hard to protect (even Scoble links to people who think he's an idiot), I have a final thought for you. The real point of my last post on this subject was this: your precious "hardly hacked because it's not even out of diapers yet, let alone potty trained" Firefox browser doesn't even have a clue when it will pass Acid2. Saying you support something and actually supporting something are two totally different things. If your newly corporate browser backed up what it said with action and a defined timeline, you might have had some credibility. But your response was childish and immature. Whatever the sheen you put on the outside, as you explain it, your response really meant "You should have listened to me 8 years ago, and you're still not listening, so screw you." And now you and John C. Dvorak have your own secret handshake for the "irrelevant hacks" club.

    Hope the membership card gives you a discount at the local Sizzler.

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  • You Know You've Hit It Big When...

    ...Microsoft gives you your own shortlink. :). I just got Microsoft's bi-weekly TechNet e-mail, and they linked to LonghornBlogs.com in their "Top Stories" section. Way cool. We're also linked up on TechNet's Windows Vista homepage, as well as MSDN's Vista page. So, welcome to anyone who has joined us from Neowin or TechNet this past week.

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  • New Blogger Welcome

    Just wanted to give a warm LonghornBlogs welcome to our newest blogger-in-crime: Brandon LeBlanc. Brandon ran/runs MSTechToday.com, an informative and visually attractive site about upcoming Microsoft technologies, including Xbox 360 and Office 12. Brandon's been contributing some great content over the past few days, and I'm looking forward to see what else he has up his sleeve. Welcome to the group, Brandon!
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  • First Mainstream Press Sighting of Windows Vista

    I don't know if this is the first time a news outlet that regular people read has written about Windows Vista, but its the first time I've seen anything in the mainstream press. The story was just posted a few hours ago on MSNBC.com.
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  • More on Paul's Tirade

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    You thought I was bad? Ryan Hoffman just laid into Paul Thurott with a zeal that leaves me in awe. He really hit him where it counts: the standards he so vehemently "defends". Emphasis his:

    Let’s get into standards now.  Guess what, Paul?  Your site, winsupersite.com currently has 124 validation errors, according to the W3C’s Markup Validation Service.  Even worse, the page which contains your “Boycott IE” story currently has 207 validation errors.  Both pages don’t even define the page’s doctype, which is almost always the first line of the web page.

    Way to go, Ryan. You made your point better than I made mine.

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