Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

August 2006 - Posts

  • Could This Be The UI Trick Up Microsoft's Sleeve?

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    I don't make a habit of posting wild rampant speculation. I could give you some "higher purpose" excuse, but it would just be BS. I don't post it because I don't like being wrong. It's bitten me in the past, so I try to stay away from it. I'm gonna post this one tho, because I need YOUR help in proving or disproving these pictures. hey, bloggers have exposed fakes in politics and entertainment lately, so why not technology?

    I came across this Flickr site in the newsgroups, and I've been staring in amazement. There are elements of truth here, but I lack the Photoshop expertise to make a ruling with absolute certainty. So I'm going to post this and issue a challenge: to clean up the pictures enough to read the build information in the bottom left-hand corner.

    Reasons why I think they could be legit:

    • If it IS a hoax, it's a pretty elaborate one. IMO, the quality of certain elements seems too professional to be fake.
    • Microsoft has been hinting that there is still more to come in the UI department for quite a while now.
    • The gadgets in the sidebar are in the current builds (save for the Media Player one).
    • Some of the screenshots contain visual elements and styles that I've seen before but can't discuss further.
    • The "Documents" menu shows the real Office 2007 document icons.
    • I can't sharpen the pictures enough to read the text with certainty, but the built text in the corner appears to read: "Windows Vista (TM) ____ <new line> Evaluation Only. 570X_____________________"
    • I want them to be real (hey, that can be a reason, can't it?)

    Reasons I think it they could be fake:

    • The person went through all this trouble to get these, and not ONE clear picture of a build number?
    • They COULD be pictures from a monitor, intentionally adjusted to appear to be projected onto a screen (the one on the end of the second row has weird banding)
    • There is absolutely no EXIF information in the file (not sure if flickr wipes this out on upload or not)
    • A lot of the training content for Vista has already been generated (including videos in the new Help section), and I don't know that MS would spring a brand new UI like this at the last minute.
    • UPDATE: Logged in user is Mikey but there is no "Mikey" user on the Login screen.

    So break out your Photoshopshop skills, and prove these pictures real or fake... all I ask is that you provide proof of your claim either way, and not opinion. Sleuth on!

    UPDATE: What better proof can you have than the author of the original images? Vista testers everywhere shed tears of sadness as a skin designer tells how his art was used in the hoax. That's what I get for sticking my neck out.

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  • Time to Clean Vista's House

    No, I don't mean it's time to fire people. I mean it's time to dust off some of the legacy baggage in Vista. Have you seen the size of the ISO lately? I mean, it's great that Beta 2 was 3.2GB and that RC1 will only be about 2.6GB (most of the debug code has been removed)... but Vista still has too much junk in the trunk. Case in point: I was spelunking through the Vista binaries with a resource viewer, and what I saw shocked me. THOUSANDS of old bitmaps and icons remain compiled into Vista dlls and executables. Some of these files refer to Windows codenames, and should have been taken out when the codename got a real name. Case in point, this little gem from a version of XP that has been assimilated by Vista. Can you guess what it is from?

    I can understand keeping a few things around for compatibility, but this? Microsoft built a dependancy analyzer for XNA Build... can't they build one for Windows binaries? Yeah, I know what the response is going to be... "Some third party applications use our resources and we don't want to break them." Personally, I think breaking them is the only way you're going to find out who is using them, so that they can maybe repackage it to use their own dang resources. But that's just my uneducated opinion. What do YOU think?

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  • Could RC1 Drop Soon?

    Paul Thurrott seems to think so. (I know, I'm actually linking to him. It was hard, trust me.) Office System guru Steve Marsh seems to think so too. InfoWorld seems to think it might happen as early as today. I might need a new F5 key before this week is over...

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  • Leveraging WCF from VB.NET

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    Kirk Allen Evans has a cool demo of how WCF abstracts away some of the service implementation details from an application. Now all he needs to do is put it together into a sample app and attach it to his post...

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  • The Mechanics of Pricing Additional Vista Licenses Lower

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    Nick White of the Official Windows Vista Blog asked me about the mechanics of putting additional Windows Vista licenses at a lower price point. He may be playing Devil's Advocate here, but I'll bite anyways. But since I already discussed many of the mechanics, I have some things for you (and the rest of Microsoft) to think about.

    So here's the big question: Would you rather have millions of copies sell for less than retail value, or have millions of copies pirated? Microsoft's solution is to sacrifice up the millions of other computers that won't get upgraded because you're worried about the edge cases that might abuse the system? Doesn't that go beyond the 80-20 rule (80% of the people won't abuse the system)? So what if a friend buys it for someone instead. You've sold another copy of Vista that you might not have before, whatever the price. Isn't your goal to get everyone off 95/98/ME/2000 and onto Vista?

    Besides, you can install Office Student and Teacher on up to 3 computers... you think the only people buying that version are students? You think OfficeMax checks for valid college IDs at purchase time? You think teachers have to bring their teaching certificate into Staples to get it? (I can buy it online with a lick of proof that I'm enrolled as a student anywhere) You think college students aren't going back to their dorm and installing it on their roommate's PC too? But Office sales went UP after that edition came out... how can that be?!?!?

    What about OS X's home pack that lets you install on 5 machines for $199? That strategy doesn't seem to be hurting them at all. It seems like Microsoft's the only OS with a MAJOR piracy problem. And let me tell you... iron-fisted activation schemes aren't going to fix the problem. You think WGA in Vista is ironclad? It will be hacked, it's only a matter of time. This pricing scheme for additional licenses just means it will happen sooner.

    A $16 discount? On a $160 product? When I bought one copy already? Ooh, I get 10% off. Big frickin whoop. Target gives me 10% off every week just for the "privilege" of sending me an e-mail. Who do I have to jerk off around here to get a decent discount on another piece of paper allowing me to install this thing?

    The Windows Anytime Upgrade infrastructure is already in place. Extend it to allow the purchase of additional licenses. From a programmatic standpoint, it wouldn't be that much bigger of a deal to implement. Look, you guys have some of the smartest minds on the planet working for you. It's not an unsolvable problem. But you have to TRY FIRST. Limit each CD key to 4 additional licenses. Maybe the request is tied to a Windows Live ID account, and maybe they have to all be coming from the same IP address. Maybe the license has to be encrypted on a USB key, and it only has a 24 hour activation window.

    I think maybe you guys are busy chasing elusive $100 bills when there is a shitload of $20s right in front of you. Because by your logic, Wal-Mart should have failed because too many people would go there to shop.

    Look, Microsoft. I've invested the last 3 years of my life into evangelizing this "Vista" thing. I WANT to see it work. But you just made it infinitely harder for me to convince a family that they need to drop the price of a new computer down to upgrade all of their existing computers to Vista. And this is exactly what I was afraid of two months ago when I brought this up in Redmond. This was argued for the better part of an hour, and it was pretty clear that the Pricing guy we talked to wasn't interested in hearing our opinions anyways, so I'm probably talking to hear myself talk at this point.

    I guess Microsoft just doesn't want a piece of that $900 Million in potentially lost revenue after all.

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  • Windows Vista US Pricing and Launch Date Revealed!

    Well, the big to-do for the day has been Vista pricing. Apparently Microsoft Canada's not the only company that's going to have someone fired today. Amazon.com has all prices online for pre-order. They've also listed a launch date, which apparently is January 30th, 2007.

    I've broken it down a bit to make it easier to understand.

    Edition

    Regular Price

    Additional License

    Upgrade Price

    Additional License

    Ultimate

    $399.00

    $359.00

    $259.00

    $233.00

    Business

    $299.00

    $269.00

    $199.95

    $179.00

    Home Premium

    $239.00

    $215.00

    $159.00

    $143.00

    Home Basic

    $199.00

    $179.00

    $99.95

    $89.95

    You know what? I think the regular and upgrade prices are totally reasonable. The upgrade price on Home Premium was even $100 cheaper than what I expected. But obviously Microsoft didn't listen to a damn word I said when I talked about the discount for additional licenses. This is pure and total crap. Microsoft has completely screwed the pooch on an outstanding opportunity to get everyone to upgrade to Vista legally and inexpensively.

    I know one family that wants to move to Vista… they have 4 computers. There's NO WAY IN HELL they're going to pay $588 for an upgrade copy of Home Premium plus 3 additional licenses. It's just not going to happen.

    I'm not even going to mince words here. Microsoft, you REALLY boned this one up. I'm really glad that 40 influencers in one room telling you about how important the additional license problem was meant absolutely nothing.

    [via Microsoft Monitor]

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  • TV Shows on Xbox Live: The Future Is Here

    Forget iTunes. Microsoft makes it's first foray into television content distribution with a full-length episode of Battlestar Galactica.

    Now, listen up Microsoft. You have a golden opportunity to make some serious inroads on subscription-based entertainment here. Don't f%^$ it up.

    Here's what I want from an Xbox TV Service:

    • Downloading: I'm not going to wait 45 minutes to start watching a TV show. Spend two minutes downloading a buffer and then let me start watching. You guys can fix this.
    • Schedules: Let me subscribe to a series and automatically download every new show that is available.
    • Pricing: Each show should be less than $1.99 a piece. There is no way in hell that I'm going to pay $45+ for the "priviledge" of watching a complete series on my computer. I can pay that much for the DVD, and they're no physical media or distribution costs. Gimme a break. 75 Points a piece would make them $0.94 USD a pop. That sounds fair.
    • Portability: Let me transfer it to any computer on my home network. Let me compress it and watch it on my Zune device. This would mean that I don't have to worry about the hard drive space on my 360. With Xbox Live Anywhere, this is completely doable.
    • Media Center: Make it compatible with Vista Media Center so it shows up on my Recorded TV list.
    • Sharing: Let me see what people on my friends list are watching.

    That's what I want from Microsoft. What would you want?

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  • Don't Believe Everything You Heard At TechEd Australia

    So there were two really big pieces of Microsoft news last week, that were talked about on practically every Microsoft website. Both were about feature cuts. Both came from TechEd Australia. And both were grossly inaccurate. I dunno what the MS guys are doing down in Australia, but apparently checking facts was not very high-up on the to-do list.

    For me at least, it's another reminder that I need to always make sure my facts are straight before I open my mouth. But it just goes to show you that most journalists nowadays would rather be first than right. It's a sad state of affairs.

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  • Windows Vista 'Pre-RC1' Available Now

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    So while my download of 5536 is rocketing along at way faster than it should be, I'm gonna take a minute to say I told you so. If you're in the TechBeta, go ahead and download it. While you're waiting, here's what you have to look forward to.

    *DISClAIMER* This is just based on my experience with the last few private interim builds. I'm saying all this in anticipation that this build has improved since those builds. Of course, your mileage may vary. I'm not liable for any hurt feelings, bad experiences, broken expectations, etc. 

    Five Reasons Why 5536 Will Rock:

    • Performance: HOLY CRAP. My first-boot memory allocation went from 850MB in 5492 to 603MB in 5520. Applications are responsive. Explorer opens quickly. IE rarely crashes. I can run two instances of Virtual Server machines with memory allocated at 1GB apiece and still have the OS be responsive on the remaining GB. I can be, God forbid, productive. I can't even wait to see what 5536 will bring.
    • UI: While the enhancements that Brandon is looking for have been pushed back, you'll see a significant change in UI from 5472. WinSAT now runs as a full screen animation on first boot. New icons are all over the place (Check the Control Panel and MMC)
    • Quick Install: 22 Minutes from CD insert to first boot. Can't beat it. (MS, please feel free to try)
    • Media Center: Lots of bugs and issues resolved. You should see a MUCH better experience here (thanks to a very dedicated Media Center team).
    • A Great Experience: Going back to XP gets harder and harder with every build. Vista's design feels very professional, and every time I go back to XP I hate it.
    • BONUS - Better Video Drivers: Now, if the video card drivers fail, (more often than not) the driver will take a minute and reset itself without bringing the whole system down. It's pretty sweet. But it happens less often because for the most part, the drivers are improving.

    So how is it possible that I could feel so different than I did a couple weeks ago? Well, Microsoft didn't check some major performance enhancements in till late in the game. Their build process changed as part of the SDL, and now code isn't checked in till it's finished and been reviewed, etc. Sometimes teams can go five weeks or more before their works gets checked in. Too bad they neglected to tell all of us that.

    Is Vista finished yet? HELL NO. I still feel very strongly that "release candidate" should mean "we think we're done with the product", but for whatever reason, the Windows Client team doesn't operate that way (the server team does, tho). Still, the 5500 series builds give me a lot of hope for RTM. Hopefully the stuff that is still coming has enough time to be thoroughly tested.

    So kick the tires. Give it a go. Most of you will have a great experience with it.

    Great job, Windows Team. Bring on RC1!!!

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  • All This Brouhaha Over a Freakin Sound?

    I'm going to ask forgiveness in advance, but I have to get something off my chest.

    The blogosphere proves once again that it has nothing better to do then argue over stupid, minute details. Now people are arguing over whether or not you should be allowed to disable the startup sound in Windows Vista. Yeah, I'm not kidding.

    Yeah, the XP startup sound is annoying. Have you heard the new UAC sound yet? How about the new shutdown sound? The Vista sound will be a lot more mellow. So you won't blast the startup sound over your speakers. Plus, you can't shut the startup sound off on Macs, or other hardware devices... so what's the problem?

    Are you seriously going to be in the store going "What, I can't turn the startup sound off? Screw those bastards! I'm buying a Mac. <pause> Oh, you can't turn it off there either? Screw those bastards! I'm off to spend 14 hours configuring Ubuntu Linux!" and walk out?

    Complain about performance, complain about usability, complain about compatibility... Fine. But about a freakin sound? 99% of the world's population doesn't care about the damn sound, they just want to do what they need to do without something going wrong.

    It's like saying that I can't talk about Christmas because YOU don't believe in it. Look, exercise your right to hit your mute button and get on with your day. Ugh. Seriously man, if you guys put this much effort into changing the rest of the world, maybe it wouldn't be so screwed up.

    <end rant>

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  • Sony Apparently Can't Make Much of Anything Anymore

    5.9 Million Sony laptop batteries have been recalled between Dell and Apple in the last week. (Ed Bott asks "Who's next?") Now Japanese financial analysts are predicting that Sony won't even hit 50% of it's 2 million unit PS3 launch target. Is this the beginning of a pattern? It's looking to me like Sony is having a hard time getting any aspect of their manufacturing business right.

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  • Waiting for that New Build? Get Some Fresh Air!

    For all of you waiting for that "Pre-RC1" build that was supposed to go out last week... you can stop hitting that F5 key now. My sources tell me that it won't be out till later in the week (think Friday). So relax. Take a walk. Spend some time with your kids (if you have them). The world is waiting just outside your front door!

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  • IE7 Locked Down, RTW Is Near

    On the IEBlog, Markus Mielke, Program Manager for Internet Explorer, tells us that IE7 is now locked down. He then proceeds to list, in exhaustive detail, all of the changes that have been made to the CSS platform in IE7.

    Since IE7 is finished, I would expect to see it RTW some time in the relatively near future (possibly before Vista RTMs in October). If you're in IT and haven't downloaded the IE7 Blocker Tool, better get started!

    On another note, the IE team has done a complete 180 when it comes to openness. They've made HUGE inroads on changing minds in the open source community, and other teams should take note. Hopefully the trend will continue through IE 7.1 and beyond.

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