Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

September 2005 - Posts

  • Exclusive Interview with NVIDIA's Windows Vista PM

    Many of you have read about my displeasure with NVIDIA's support for its graphics cards on Windows Vista. Recently, I got to speak briefly with Andrew Fear, Product Manager on NVIDIA's Windows Vista driver team, where I got to have some of my questions answered. While I wasn't entirely pleased with the actual answers, at least I know that the issues are being addressed, and we're not being ignored. Here's the rundown.

    RWM: Can you elaborate on a general timeframe for Vista support? IE: Can you give us general planned dates for new driver releases, if you plan on releasing updated drivers between betas, etc.
    AF: NVIDIA has already released our first set of drivers for the Vista Beta 1 release.  This can be downloaded here:  From now until the release of Beta 2, NVIDIA is working hard with Microsoft to deliver new drivers for the interim Vista releases.  Typically these releases only go to a small audience, not even the MSDN developer list.  Microsoft handles releasing the operating system builds to this audience so our job at NVIDIA is to continue our robust driver development and our drivers will reach that audience.  At this time, we are waiting to release our next public driver until the next public Beta release from Microsoft.  For that schedule, please speak directly with Microsoft on their release plans.

    RWM: Can you talk about specific issues regarding reported problems... IE are you guys watching the blogs, etc.
    AF: We would need more on specific issues he is reporting.  But we are actively processing bug reports from OEMs and Beta testers, and we do read Blogs to see what end users are experiencing.  The important thing to note about the current public Beta 1 is that the graphics subsystem isn’t close to the final release so often the bugs you may be experiencing are not even NVIDIA issues.

    RWM: How in-depth is your involvement with OEMs for supporting mobile displays?
    AF: Very involved.  We have programs ongoing right now with all Tier1 OEMs.

    RWM: Do you have an ETA on support for LDDM support on Toshiba tablets?
    AF: That is up to Toshiba.  We provide the source code, they provide the drivers.

    RWM: Can you tell us about any interesting features you guys are working on for LDDM? Are there any really neat things you guys can do with LDDM on the desktop that you guys are looking at?
    AF: The important thing about Vista is that the entire desktop is composited in 3D, so having a powerful 3D GPU is critical to get the full experience of the Windows GUI.  Our plan is to support all of our current Windows features on Vista and continue to add more as we learn more about the operating systems.

    I'm still digging into Toshiba and Microsoft's LDDM group to find out how they intend to deal with the display issues that currently exist. Hopefully I'll get some answers soon.

  • "Sparkle" Gets a Background

    John Gossman, one of the original members of the Expression Studio "Sparkle" team, gives us some insight into the first year of the product's life. It's interesting to think that the app has been around in some shape or form for 4 years now. That's quite a while to keep a secret. He also revealed that Lutz Roeder, of .NET Reflector fame, has been working on the project. Awesome. I'm personally looking forward to a similar background on the other three years as well. Keep it up, John!
  • Microsoft Musical Chairs

    Looks like Mary Jo was right on the money. Today, Microsoft announced a major reorganization of the entire company. Addressing criticism that the company had become too bureaucratic, Microsoft made the divisions bigger to make them more agile. Interesting concept.

    Todd Bishop breaks it down:

    Here's how the new structure works out:
    • Microsoft Platform Products & Services Division: Windows, Server and Tools, and MSN. Headed by Kevin Johnson and Allchin, as divisional co-presidents, until Allchin's retirement.

    • Microsoft Business Division: Information Worker (Office) and Microsoft Business Solutions. Headed by Jeff Raikes as president.

    • Microsoft Entertainment & Devices Division: Home & Entertainment Division and Mobile & Embedded Devices Division. Headed by Robbie Bach as divisional president.

    That's right. Jim Allchin is retiring after Windows Vista launches in 2006. In addition, Eric Rudder, with the most recognizable eyebrows at Microsoft, is moving on to work directly with Bill Gates. Newly minted Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie will now also be responsible for services strategy across all three divisions.

    My Take
    This reorg can be summarized very simply: Windows, Office, Everything Else. This strategy makes sense, and sounds a lot like strategy from back in the 90s. By uniting Windows Client, Windows Server, Development Tools, and MSN, Microsoft may once again be attempting to tightly integrate services into Windows. By bringing together Office and MBS, it would be theoretically easier to build applications that span all levels of business. By bringing entertainment and devices together, it is readily apparent that Microsoft intends to take the interaction between the Xbox 360 and devices one step further in the next release.

    This ought to make things interesting...

  • Exclusive: BillG Goes To College

    Filed under:

    You want it, we've got it. The camera work is a little bumpy, but here's the spoof video that was shown at PDC 2005... uncut. Some highlight screenshots are below...

    Update: For those of you wondering, it was shot with an HP Photosmart R707 digital camera.

    Update2: I've moved the file to my streaming server. I know this file is popular, and I need to conserve bandwidth, so I've limited the number of incoming connections so not everyone is trying to hit it at once. I'm not trying to limit people seeing it, I just want MS to let me keep it online.

    Update3: Feel free to mirror the file if you downloaded it before I moved to the streaming server. All I ask is that you link back to this article in your post, and you mirror it unedited. Depending on my bandwidth usage over the next 24 hours, I may add more connections and post a higher-quality video. Thanks!

    Update4: The video is now hosted on The link has been updated to point there. It now has 3 quality streams for Windows Media, Real, and Quicktime. Thanks guys! Stay tuned, we might be able to improve the quality of the footage soon.

    Update5: Unfortunately, I had to take the video down. Apparently, the studio owns the copyright on the video, not Microsoft. They would keep it online if they were allowed to, but the only reason the studios do these deals is if MS agrees to show it to limited audiences. Personally, I think that's ridiculous, but I like the access I get for playing nice, so down it goes.

  • Microsoft Gets a New 'Expression'

    Microsoft proved today that they really can keep some secrets. "Quartz" Web Designer came out of nowhere. To my knowledge, no one talked about it, and no one reported on it. It looks great... congrats Microsoft. One thing that didn't get mentioned... Brian Goldfarb told me that the capabilities of the Quartz designer will be integrated with Visual Studio "Orcas". So you'll be able to get all the standards-compliance capabilities built into the high-end product moving forward.

    To explain the product positioning, it works like this:

    • Expression Studio "Acrylic" is designed for building graphical elements that can be exported to bitmap or vector files.
    • Expression Studio "Sparkle" is designed to use those bitmap or vector files to enable graphic designers to build Avalon user interfaces.
    • Expression Studio "Quartz" is designed to use the bitmap files to enable graphic designers to build ASP.NET 2.0 applications.
  • Clarification on "The Goods"

    The other day, I posted about what people would be getting at PDC. I pretty much got it right, I just wanted to take a second and clarify a few things...

    • Office "12": It's not Office Vista yet, so hold your horses. It wasn't handed out in The Goods cause it's not in beta yet. All attendees will get copies once it hits Beta 1.
    • Windows Vista - September CTP: While the demos and screenshots show off the Sidebar, it is not included in Build 5219. They wanted to get it in, but it wasn't signed off on in time to make the cut. The build that was demoed is Build 5229. At this point, Microsoft is saying it won't show up in public builds until Beta 2.
    • IE7: There will be interim builds between now and Beta 2. No word on a schedule yet. The build that is in Vista is post-Beta 1, but it does not include all the new UI elements that were demoed in the keynote. QuickTabs will not be in public builds until at least the next CTP, if not later.
    • Visual Studio 2005: The development team hit the RC1 milestone, and they are planning on handing out bits before we leave.
    • SQL Server 2005: Same as above.

    Basically, the bits they put together are all compatible with each other. The new stuff that is being handed out here won't be compatible with Windows Vista, AFAIK. And yes, VS2005 RC1 is not covered under the Beta 2 "Go Live" license.

  • Microsoft Announces Windows Vista Monthly CTP Program

    Earlier, I posted about how builds work. I hinted about the process around releasing interim builds between betas. Today, Microsoft announced that the Community Technology Preview (CTP) program that has been so successful with the Developer tools will be extended to Windows Vista, starting today.

    CTPs are like snapshots of the work that is currently being done on a build. They aren't extensively tested, like betas are. Microsoft basically just runs it through a series of automated tests that each build goes through, and then compiles the setup routine into a DVD-ROM image (also known as an ISO file). They may be revised a couple times in between to fix things, but it's not that extensive.

    Betas, on the other hand, are extensively tested by humans and machines for performance, features, and stability. They represent the end of a longer development process made up up several development "milestones". I'll talk more about how milestones work in a future article.

    So now, Microsoft will be putting out monthly builds of Vista for people to check out. It represents a significant shift for the Windows team. We've been bugging them publicly and privately about this for months. We have it now. It will be available to everyone very soon. It's not quite on MSDN yet, mostly because the build was only signed off on 2 Fridays ago. I would expect to see it online in the next 72 hours.

  • Update on my Sister: Monday

    First off, I wanted to thank you guys so much for your support. I've had a bunch of calls and e-mails, and it has definitely helped. Please continue to keep her in your prayers.

    At this point, here's where the situation stands, and what we know thus far:

    Meghan is a senior in high school in Monument, Colorado. Thursday afternoon, Meghan found out that she made callbacks for the school musical. Friday morning, her friends decorated her late-60s Volkswagen Beetle and filled it with balloons to congratulate her. She had taken it to the car wash to remove the shoe polish, but she left the balloons in the car.

    She stopped by the house to talk to my mom for a few minutes, and then left to go somewhere... I'm not quite sure where she was headed. They live in a large wooded area, and each lot is a couple acres, so the houses aren't exactly close together. She got approximately 5 houses down before she ran off the road into a pole. There were no skid marks at the scene. We don't know yet if the balloons got in the way, or something else happened.

    The car didn't have seatbelts. She struck the pole on the passenger side. Thank God no one was with her, cause they would have been killed for sure. She slammed her head into the ceiling, and her chest into the steering wheel. It punctured her chest 3 or 4 times, and went into her lungs. She broke her jaw in 4 places, and inhaled a molar, which embedded itself in her lungs. She broker her nose too, and several other bones in her face.

    That's not the worst of her head trauma though. As I mentioned before, she broke the C2 vertebrae in her neck. Thankfully, it's called a "hanging break". It's completely broken, but the bone didn't slip into the spinal cord, so miraculously, she's not going to be paralyzed.

    She was found by the Schwann Ice Cream guy almost immediately after it happened. Her head was bent so far backward, that she could not breathe. The Schwann guy tilted her head forward just enough for her to start breathing and coughing up blood. That saved her life. It's completely amazing that he didn't paralyze her in the process. They got her in the ambulance within 15 minutes of the accident, and she was able to hang on long enough to get to the hospital in Colorado Springs.

    Since she's not paralyzed, she's been able to move her arms and legs around a bit. When she's awake, she's been able to talk in Sign Language to the doctors. She took it as her foreign language credit in high school, and it has really come in handy. She's able to answer yes or no questions, and she's been finger-spelling for a couple of nurses that kind of understand the letters. I was really wanting to talk to her before I got here to LA, and by luck, I called the nurse's station while they were in her room. I got to talk to her, and she got really excited and made the sign for "I love you", which made my weekend.

    She goes to St. Francis Catholic Church in Denver, and she ended up in St. Francis Catholic Hospital, so there's no doubt in our minds that God's been taking care of her. The hospital staff is amazing, and have been extremely professional. They're keeping her cleaned up and as comfortable as they can, given the circumstances.

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot. They put her into a halo. It's much better than the alternative. My mom say's it's hard to look at sometimes. There are complications right now... they say she's bleeding internally. I know she's gonna be alright, but it's really hard without being there. I'm sitting in the press room right now, getting ready to write the overview that I can't publish until tomorrow, and I'm really not into it. Hopefully the demos tomorrow will be awesome enough to keep my mind off the mess.

    This is the last time I'll post on here about personal stuff. I promise it's Vista only from here on out. Thanks for all your calls and e-mails of support, and please keep her in your prayers.

  • Tips for Beta Testing Internet Explorer 7

    If you've interested in beta testing IE 7, you should know that there are some definite issues with some websites and applications. This is by no means a complete list, but it should help you out with a couple of the major ones.

    Websites: While most websites work with IE out of the box, some websites look for a specific browser version to work. Fortunately, Microsoft put out a couple Registry files that adjust the string that IE sends to all web sites while requesting information. You can use then in IE6 to simulate IE7, and vice versa.

    Trillian: There is something in IE7 that interferes with Trillian connecting to MSN. Cerulean Studios has put out a fix that solves the problem. Download the file below, backup the msn.dll file in the Trillian\plugins folder, and then replace the default version with the new one.

    These couple fixes have made my testing life much more palatable.

  • Paul's Wrong on Windows Vista Editions

    Paul Thurrott has posted what he thinks are the editions that Windows Vista will be released in. I don't believe that he has what he thinks he has. Here's why:

    • Too few editions: Several sources tell me that there are over 20 possible editions up for consideration. Paul names too few for his list to be accurate.
    • Too much functionality: Microsoft makes too much on the Tablet edition and the MCE edition without continuing to offer them separately. There's no way they'd only bundle them in some "mega-edition".
    • Too early: Confirmed information from Microsoft official sources tell me that editions are not locked down yet. There is only one edition that is confirmed, but I can't talk about that until Tuesday morning.

    I should also note that SKUs will NOT be announced at PDC.

    I should note that details are still being worked out for PDC. PR may decide to announce editions at the last minute. As of the time of this posting, this information is correct.

  • Status Report on my Sister

    Meghan's alive, thank God. She's not out of the woods yet, though. I had a post explaining the situation a bit ago, but my laptop died and I'm exhausted, so I'll keep this short. She has massive head trauma. She "more than fractured but less than broke" her C2 vertebrae. She's in a halo right now, and they think it will heal on it's own. She came extremely close to being permanently paralyzed from the head down, but at this point, it looks like she will eventually make a full recovery. She was driving an old Volkswagen Beetle, and she hit a culvert. She didn't have a seatbelt. The steering wheel went through her chest and punctured her lung.

    At this point, she's not going to be conscious until Tuesday, so I'm keeping my plans as they are. Please continue to pray for her. As you can imagine, I'm exhausted, so I'll give more updates in the morning. Please keep my sister in your prayers.

  • My Sister's Been In An Accident

    I don't usually do things like this, but this time I need your help. I just found out that my little sister was in a car accident in Colorado. She is in critical but stable condition. She has a punctured lung, her face is pretty messed up, and she broke the C2 vertebrae in her neck. They said she could move her right arm and her left leg before they put her in a chemically-induced coma. She's alive, and they say she's gonna be alright.

    I don't know how this is going to affect my travel plans. My mom said she doesn't want anyone coming out there, but I don't know if I'm going to listen to her or not. But if you guys could please pray for her, it would mean the world to me. Thank you so much guys, and I'll keep you posted.

  • Vista Beta Testers get a TIP

    FINALLY... Microsoft released the Vista Beta 1 Tablet Input Panel to MSDN Subscribers today. Not sure exactly what took so long, but Ian LeGrow gives more details
  • "The Goods" You'll Be Getting at PDC'05

    Microsoft has already announced (scroll down) over 10GB of bits that PDC attendees will be given. Here's more details on what you can expect:

    • Windows Vista: Paul Thurott already revealed that this build will be 5219. I haven't had a chance to confirm or deny this, but I'll post it when I do.
    • Office 12 (Office Vista): It hasn't been publicly released that a pre-Beta 1 build will be in the goodie bag, but with the number of sessions devoted to it, it's a relatively safe bet that it'll be in there. That is, however, speculation.
    • WinFX: The PDC build was finalized on August 18th. The build number is 6.0.5215.50818. It will NOT run on Windows Vista Beta 1... presumably it will only run on the Windows Vista build that will be delivered at PDC. It will come with an updated SDK, updated Visual Studio Extensions, and some previously unannounced goodies.
    • Visual Studio 2005: I'm not sure that anything newer than the August CTP, which is on MSDN, will be delivered. That build is version 8.0.50727.7. It is also tagged with an "RTM" code in the description. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Visual Studio 2005 RC1 will be delivered at PDC, although that is just speculation and not based on any insider information.
    • WinFS: With the beta release just a few days ago, I doubt there will be an updated build. I haven't installed it locally yet, so I'm not sure about version numbers or compatibility.
    • SQL 2005: I haven't heard anything about a new release yet, but if they put out VS2005 RC1, then they'd probably but out an RC of SQL Server 2005 as well.

    Some of this stuff hasn't been confirmed yet, so I'm going to hold off on talking about inter-release compatibility until I've had more time to investigate.

  • What Does "Forked" Mean?

    Recently, Paul Thurrott talked about the build of Windows Vista attendees can be expecting for PDC. One of the questions that is often asked by people is: What does it mean when a build is "forked"? Well, I'm going to tell you about it.

    A "build" is the result of "compiling" human-readable computer code into instructions that a computer can understand. Usually, the computer code is managed by a "source control" program, so people can track how the code has changed over time.

    To understand conceptually how the code is stored, most source control programs use a "tree" metaphor to describe a computer program. When computer code is "forked", it means that a new "branch" of the tree is created. That branch contains specific parts of the tree that are going through a growth process of some kind. When the code is refined and completed, the branch is "merged", or re-combined, back into the "trunk", or the main part of the code.

    So, at a certain point in the development process, Microsoft decides that it's time to publicly release a new version of a program that's still in development. That build is called a "beta". When that decision is made, the code is forked, and so is the development team. Most of the team continues working on the original code, adding new features to the system, while others "lock down the build", or stabilize the existing features so people testing the beta can have a decent experience. When the beta team finished their stabilization work, the code was combined with the new features that were added, so that time wasn't wasted.

    This means that, even though people were testing Windows Vista Beta 1, Microsoft had newer versions of the code that were being worked on internally. That build was part of the "Beta 2" milestone.

    So, a several weeks ago, Microsoft forked the Vista code again. This time, some people would work on stabilizing the new post-Beta 1 features for the PDC refresh build, and most everyone else would continue working towards the Beta 2 release.

    So, even though Microsoft has most likely already begun printing the DVDs to put in the PDC giveaway bags, there are newer builds that have more features that will be released to private testers in the weeks ahead.

    Believe it or not, that's just a brief explanation of the process. I understand Brandon will be diving into this in more detail very soon.

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