Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

May 2006 - Posts

  • I'm SO jealous...

    My sister graduating high school is definitely more important than WinHEC. Still, I can't believe I missed this. Sounds like it was a blast. And a copy of Vista signed by Jim? Too cool. Yeah... I'm a geek, I know. I have a gold stamped CD of MSN9 AutoPenned by BillG... come on, I gotta make myself still feel cool somehow...

  • Beta Day - First Thoughts

    Well, it's been 12 hours since Microsoft released the largest slew of beta bits it has ever churned out, and the dust is still settlling. But I've been running 5381 as my sole OS since it was released last week, and I definitely have some observations.

    The news of two weekends ago was that Microsoft was paying bonuses for finding bugs in Windows over the Mother's Day weekend. At that time, I observed it was a hail-mary effort to make Beta 2 as pain free to consumers as possible. Yeah, that's my "I snort the Kool-aid every morning at breakfast" way of saying that 5381 was a dog, and MS needed to fix it or get beaten up like an ex-CTU agent. While I can't confirm anything, 5384.4 was built on the 18th of May (last Thursday) at 2:55pm... 4 days after that weekend bug bash. From what I have seen so far, this build could very well be the result of those efforts. It's not without problems, but compared to what it could have been... it's much better that I expected.

    Performance in 5384 has been fantastic. One of my bigger beefs with 5381 was the way the desktop presented itself on bootup. The desktop would already be visible for several seconds before the "Windows Start" sound would appear. Now, the "Preparing your Desktop" screen stays visible until my desktop is almost completely loaded... which is a much better experience. Performance is improved everywhere. IE7 ditched that REALLY FREAKIN ANNOYING flicker that made me want to punch my screen...which was really nice for my anger management classes. Creates far less homework for me.

    Tablet PC
    I've had a tablet for almost a year now, and I hardly ever use it to write with. Why? Because handwriting recognition on XP was too hamstrung by the combination of a poor correcting experience and bad OOB handwriting recognition. Vista's tablet functionality changes all that. The last post I made was my first time using the TIP in this build, and I only had to make 3 corrections. And the recognition is lightning fast. I'll definitely be using that more often.

    Office 2007 Beta 2
    Aside from the very visible mistake of selecting a third party to build the download system (especially when you have 2 perfectly capable ones already), Office 2007 is about as solid a beta as you can get. Even though past releases have been built under the Cone of Silence, Steven Sinofsky has opened up the team and done an outstanding job in this version. I'm already looking forward to seeing what Steven does with the Windows team for Vienna.

    Outlook 2007 Beta 2
    WOW. This is the first time I can use the words "Outlook" and "performance" in a sentance that isn't derrogatory. Outlook in Beta 1 was so bad I didn't even use it... I stuck with 2003. The Technical Refresh was more stable, if still really slow. I have a 350MB OST file and a 1.1GB archive file, and Outlook has never opened faster. I was completely dumbfounded. It takes less than two seconds to open Outlook, complete with a fully-loaded Preview Pane. If the next 4 months are going to focus on stabilization and performance, I don't know what they're going to be working on.

    The Bad Stuff
    There's a lot more I like, but it's late and I have ranting to do. Just to prove I'm done snorting Kool-aid lines for the day, here's the stuff I don't like thus far:

    • Heat - Forget chemical castration for sex offenders. Most of these guys are hooked on internet porn anyways... just give them a laptop with a free net connection and a souped up graphics card running Windows Aero. Use sensors and that new FlexGo system to make sure they can only use the laptop when it's in their lap. After their nuts melt to their legs, they won't be able to do bad things to people anymore. The heat problem is so bad, I'm seriously considering modding my Toshiba Tablet Dock II for liquid cooling and/or fans.
    • Downloads/Connect - Connect still sucks. I'm sorry guys, I really wish I could be more constructive for you, but after a year of this, I can't. I mean, you can't even sort the downloads list so the newest ones are on top. It's like 4 additional letters in a SQL statement. I'm seriously considering writing a better one myself using ASP.NET 2.0 and Atlas and documenting what it takes. Microsoft has a whole web development division, and they're re-inventing the wheel on the Windows side of the house every time they want a website. Fortunately, the builds were all up on MSDN at the same time, and their servers can handle the load. If I had downloaded from connect, it would have taken me 8 hours. MSDN had Vista bits in my hand in 90 minutes. Oh yeah, and what the hell ever happened to Avalanche?
    • Multiple Monitors - Really, guys... how tough is it to extend the taskbar across both screens? I mean... come on. I was at a new potential employer's office over the weekend, and several people have 3 or 4 monitors. If I had to traverse 2 screens with my mouse to get to the Start Menu, I'd jab my eye out with my tablet stylus.
    • Heat - Did I mention Vista makes my laptop scalding hot yet?
    • Compatibility - Nero, .NET Framework 1.1, Virtual CD Control Panel, device drivers.... all DOA. Someone's gotta step up to the plate here...
    • Toshiba/Nvidia - WTF? Are you gonna just sit there and let ATI walk all over you? Or are you going to get off your collective butts and update your drivers for the next major Windows release? Do you need some kind of written invitation? Here, I'll make it for you: You are cordially invited to make sure that the thousands of people testing Vista on your crap might spend their money on you again. Don't worry though, my wallet will be avoiding you like you've got Bird Flu.
    • Disk Space - 8GB? I sure hope MS plans on scaling that down a bit for RTM. I know there are several directories that are duplicates. WIM is cool and all, but if I don't install a feature, why should it be sitting on my hard drive?
    • Battery Life - Windows Vista and Aero chew through my battery life like Veruca Salt in a gumball store. I get 90 minutes, if that. Where's a fuel cell battery when you need one?
    • Heat - if I put a pot of water on my laptop, I could cook spaghetti. And if I put it in my lap, the meatballs would be cooked at the same time. Man, Windows Vista really does make life easier!

    There it is... my thoughts so far. I'll have more observations as I outfit the rest of my family with the new betas this week. Happy testing!

  • Driver Hell Avoided... For Now

    As I mentioned in my earlier post, Windows Vista Beta 2 does not have WDDM drivers for the video card in the Toshiba Tecra M4. For a second, I was experiencing deja vu, but that's beside the point. Anyways, I had created a version of the 5381 build in Virtual PC, so I was able to re-install the [terrible but survivable] GeForce Go 6600 TE drivers that were in the last build bat removed in this one. Ahh... lap-scalding transparent eye-candy goodness!
  • Vista Beta 2: The Return of Driver Hell

    <sigh> Looks like driver support for the Nvidia GeForce Go 6600 TE isn't in the install package for Vista. It's also not in the new ForceWare drivers Nvidia put out today. I thought Microsoft solved this problem? Grrrr. How I've gotta try to dig the drivers out of the ISO for 5381...

  • New Windows Vista and WinFX Developer Centers

    Tom Archer gives us some insight into the integrated redesign of the Windows Vista related websites on
  • Introducing!

    Microsoft has just announced a new community solely centered around IIS. is THE place to go to find out all the information you need about Microsoft's next-generation web server. It features the TechCENTER, which give you access to a weath of information in the form of articles, blogs, webcasts, and the link, on any version of IIS.  The Downloads section has Visual Studio Starter Kits to get you programming modules quickly. You can even test drive IIS administration (in the near future) courtesy of Microsoft Virtual Labs.

    Best of all, if you have an existing profile at, these sites share the same membership database, so your login works on both sites. If you want to learn more, go check it out!

  • Beta Downloads Now Available

    Windows Vista is now available to download on Connect, and you can also download Office 2007 Beta 2 here.
  • Office 2007: Why Testers Should Have Gotten Beta 2 First

    Sometimes I hate Microsoft. OK, so MS had a ton of problems with people overwhelming their servers with downloading the Office Beta 1 Technical Refresh. So this time around, they deployed an alternate solution to downloading Office 2007 Beta 2. It's called SmartSource, and it's built by some company that hardly anyone has ever heard of before.

    SmartSource is built on .NET 1.1, which is totally stupid in and of itself, because Office 2007 relies on .NET 2.0, and Vista has it preinstalled. It's further stupid because the default .NET 1.1 runtime does not install on Vista, it throws compatibility errors. I'm presuming there will be an updated release that will work at some point, but right now there is not.

    But the lack of foresight goes one step further, because even when you use Windows XP Service Pack 2 compatibility mode, and run the installer as an Administrator, the package installs, but the application throws an unhandled expection (error). When you try to add standard .NET compatibility tags to the application config file (to make it run on .NET 2.0, which should have been in there in the first place), it still doesn't run.

    So, when you're registering for the Beta 2 downloads (And you're running any Vista build), don't click the "Continue" button once you get your product keys. Instead, click on the name of the app, which is also a hyperlink, and download it that way.

    If Microsoft had kept us in the loop and released it to their trusted testers before general availability, we could have worked with them to make sure that this didn't happen. But at the end of the day, why Microsoft didn't test the experience themselves on Vista builds is beyond me.

    <smacks forehead>

  • Windows Connect Now = Windows Rally

    Found this poking around the WinHEC site:

    The Windows Rally™ program provides access to Microsoft technology, streamlined licensing, and technical guidance for hardware manufacturers, software developers, and service providers who want to use a common platform for state-of-the-art connectivity products and services for customers.

    Using Windows Rally technologies (formerly "Windows Connect Now") enables hardware and software developers to focus development resources on product differentiation rather than connectivity fundamentals. For our mutual consumers, the result will be a dramatic reduction in complexity. Connecting a network device to a PC will be effortless, reliable, and more secure.

    Windows Rally Technologies Papers

    White Paper Discovery, Plug and Play Integration, and Web Services for Network Connected Devices
    White Paper Introduction to Network Connected Devices
    White Paper Video-Capable Networking Guidelines
    White Paper Windows Rally Technologies  
    WHDC Portal/Nodal Portable and Network Connected Devices

    Awww, but I was so liking "Connect Now" as a name... not. I wonder what the reasoning behind the name was. Kinda makes you want to enter a race or something. It would be nice to see what's coming on the Web Services for Devices front. Maybe Brandon can help shed some light on this in his WinHEC coverage. 
  • MTV's Urge Reviewed

    Even though all Vista beta testers currently have access to the new Urge service inside Windows Media Player 11, the plethora of NDAs I'm under with Microsoft prevent me from sharing specific details about it until it is publically launched. Fortunately for me, C|NET Reviews is under no such obligation. They reviewed the service yesterday, and had some very positive things to say. They rated Urge 8 of 10, to Napster's 7.8 of 10 (with a User rating of 6.5 of 10).

    I keep seeing information from CNET that says WMP11 and Urge are launching today, but I have yet to see anything from Microsoft on the matter. I have noticed that, in the last 48 hours, the "beta" tag from Urge's logo in the player has disappeared and reappeared a couple times. Not sure what that's all about, but oh well. Hopefully we'll see the product today, but I'm not holding my breath till Wednesday.

  • Cash for Bugs? What It Means for Testers picked up a blog on the MSDN blogs (as also reported by ActiveWin) that said employees are getting paid $100 for every bug they fix in Vista this weekend. So the (potentially literally) $64,000 question is: what does this mean for testers who've installed 5381? Well, with WinHEC looming, Microsoft has until the last day of the show to deliver DVDs to attendees. It takes about 48 hours to print the CDs for that many people (based on the distros at PDC last year), which means that Microsoft has plenty of time to put out another build. I think this contest was a kick in the butt to get as many problems fixed in the shortest amount of time possible. With Mother's Day being today, though, the timing was pretty bad. Memorial Day's next weekend though, so it wouldn't have been much better.

    Personally, I think there is a 60/40 chance that 5381 won't end up being the Beta 2 build. And that's probably a very good thing. 5381 is not bad, but it would be nice to see more clean-up work done before 2 million people install a beta OS.

  • AdSense for RSS: A Waste of Time

    I'm currently working on upgrading our infrastructure here at to CommunityServer 2.0. Along with several other changes, one major change is that we'll be dumping the AdSense for RSS from our feeds. Even though I spent several months working with Google on developing this solution, it has actually decreased our revenues per click to the point where utilizing the technology no longer makes any sense. I may switch to another provider, I may take them out entirely... I haven't decided yet. All I know is, I'm done with AdSense in my feeds.

    Has anyone had better luck with another system? Please leave me your feedback...

  • Feeling the URGE?

    Well, if you've got Windows Vista Build 5831, you can experience it too. I'm at the hotel in Belleview, and it seems to be working at the moment. Three words: It's friggin awesome. I don't think the release was planned, but it is available to everyone.

    UPDATE: WindowsConnected has screenshots.

  • Office 2007 Student/Teacher Included in Vista Home Basic?

    I think so, if I read the second-to-last bullet point in this article correctly. If that is correct, it's something the SKU guy neglected to tell us yesterday when he briefed us on features.
  • Gadget Integration Confirmed

    Microsoft has always said that Gadgets between and the Sidebar would be integrated into one codebase, but backed off from discussing it several months ago. The team confirmed today that gadgets built for will also work in the Sidebar without any changes by RTM.
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