Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

September 2006 - Posts

  • It's Time For a Change

    You may have noticed that I've been really quiet over the last few weeks. One of the reasons is that my company just landed a big consulting client, and I've been heads-down with working on planning for a very complex application migration. Some of it has to do with Vista testing... there are only 30 days left before RTM (approximately), and I want to make sure I submit as many bugs as I can so that they are, at the very least, on Microsoft's radar... even if they will closed within 15 minutes as "Not Reproducible".

    But the reason I'm more excited about has to do with this site. You see, tomorrow is the three year anniversary of Doesn't seem like it's been that long, but three years ago, Robert Scoble gave me an idea for a place where people could talk about Longhorn. Since then this site has been a vent for my excitement and frustrations about Microsoft's oft-delayed operating system.

    Nearly a year ago, Microsoft ditched the name "Longhorn". It's about time we did the same. Come tomorrow morning, will be no more.

    In its place will be something much closer to my initial vision for the site. Its taken a while to get here, and I'm really excited. But don't worry, your aggregators won't be broken, and your favorite posts won't be lost. Please come back tomorrow morning and check out what we've done with the place.

  • An Update on Visual Studio Support in Windows Vista

    Last night I posted about Visual Studio Support on Windows Vista. Scott Guthrie, GPM from the Developer Division, had this to say on a blog this morning:

    The big technical challenge is with enabling scenarios like advanced debugging. Debuggers are incredibly invasive in a process, and so changes in how an OS handles memory layout can have big impacts on it. Vista did a lot of work in this release to tighten security and lock down process/memory usage - which is what is affecting both the VS debugger, as well as every other debugger out there. Since the VS debugger is particularly rich (multi-language, managed/native interop, COM + Jscript integration, etc) - it will need additional work to fully support all scenarios on Vista. That is also the reason we are releasing a special servicing release after VS 2005 SP1 specific to Vista - to make sure everything (and especially debugging and profiling) work in all scenarios. It is actually several man-months of work (we've had a team working on this for quite awhile). Note that the .NET 1.1 (and ASP.NET 1.1) is fully supported at runtime on Vista. VS 2003 will mostly work on Vista. What we are saying, though, is that there will be some scenarios where VS 2003 doesn't work (or work well) on Vista - hence the reason it isn't a supported scenario. Instead, we recommend using a VPC/VM image for VS 2003 development to ensure 100% compat. Hope this helps - even if the answer isn't entirely what we'd all like it to be, Scott.

    So all the developers out there need to take a deep breath and chill out. Microsoft isn't trying to screw you. The Windows platform changed on so many levels that the advanced capabilities of the VS debugger are difficult to support, especially under UAC. That's why a fix is going to have to be put out for VS2005. VS2003/2002 will still run, it just won't be supported. Look, a lot of companies are going to have to put out service packs for their apps to improve compatibility with Vista. Did you honestly think Vistal Studio was going to be any different?

  • The Truth About Visual Studio Support on Windows Vista

    I was briefed earlier today on Visual Studio support on Windows Vista, and I wanted to clear the air... because there seems to be some confusion.

    • Visual Studio 6.0 - Supported on Windows Vista
    • Visual Studio 2002 - Not supported on Windows Vista
    • Visual Studio 2003 - Not supported on Windows Vista
    • Visual Studio 2005 SP1- Supported on Windows Vista, currently has UAC-related compatibility issues that may get in your way. This issues will be fixed after Vista RTMs. (I suspect if you shut UAC off you won't have these issues... but of course I don;t recommend that)

    What does this mean for developers? Well, it's important to remember that the .NET 1.1 runtime will still be compatible with Vista, so your apps themselves will continue to run fine. But for the tools, it would take a lot of work to bring those apps up to speed, and Microsoft has to make hard choices on how it allocates its resources.

    If you're in a large organization, and you still have to support .NET 1.1 code, chances are pretty good you're on Software Assurance, and you'll have a copy of Windows Vista Enterprise. Time to utilize one of your 4 VPC image license and fire up your development environment in Virtual PC. If you're not in a large organization, Virtual PC / Virtual Server is still free. Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 Beta 2 (say that 5x fast) has a new utility called VHDMount that lets you mount a VHD as a physical hard drive on the host. You can store all of your source code in a separate VHD and access it from both the host and the guest.

    UPDATE: Don't forget about MSBee, which lets you compile to .NET 1.1 on VS2005.

    The other solution is to migrate most of the organization to Vista and keep the developers on XP/2003. You can still develop for .NET 3.0 on those platforms, so most apps shouldn't have a problem (unless you're hooking into something like dwmapi.dll)

    Anyways, is Microsoft trying to purpously force people to upgrade to .NET 2.0/3.0? Absolutely not. But you have to ask youself a question: Would rather Visual Studio "Orcas" be delayed until the end of 2007 to get 2003 running on Vista? I know my answer is "hell no", and yours probably is too.

    It's a bad deal, but in the end, it's the right call to keep other products on track. I wish Microsoft baked VPC into Vista like virtualization was built into OSX for OS9 compatibility... but I'm just a crazy man.

    Anyways, HTH.

  • What's the deal with all these analysts?

    For the life of me, I cannot understand why most industry analysts are anti-Microsoft lately. You'd think a company like "Directions on Microsoft" would want to have a pretty good bead on where Microsoft is headed. Well, maybe they'd be better off searching for binLaden, because they, along with Gartner, don't have a clue what's going on in Redmond. Vista's a month away from RTM, whether they want to acknowledge it or not. The global marketing machine is already in full swing, and Microsoft won't let a blantantly anti-Microsoft EU stop a launch in the US.

    I don't know what incentive these companies have for putting out anti-Microsoft FUD. I will tell you one thing though. I won't be buying another subscription to the DoM newsletter.

  • Windows Vista Install Fest: Arizona

    Microsoft Developer Evangelist Tim Heuer has put together a really great event in Microsoft's Phoenix Office on October 6th. I wanted to go, but I can't since I'll be in Redmond for the Vista TechBeta Tour. But attendees will get the latest build of Windows Vista Ultimate & Office 2007 Professional Beta 2 TR. If you're in the area, you definitely want to be there... you'll get a surprise there that will DEFINITELY be worth it. But be sure to register, first.

  • Take Vista's Font Issues Into Your Own Hands

    DISCLAIMER: Proceed at your own risk.

    Chris finally put his money where his mouth is. He's been unhappy with Vista's inconsistency issues for ages. So he decided to do something about it. He created a registry patch that redirects system calls to legacy fonts (Tahoma, Arial, Times New Roman, etc) to Vista's Segoe UI. It has a pretty nice effect on all of your installed applications: they look consistent. Dialog boxes look cleaner, web pages are easier to read, etc. But consider yourself warned: it redirects ALL calls. That means websites, Word documents, and anything else that uses these fonts will now display Segoe UI instead... but only certain sizes. You are guaranteed to see unpredictable results outside of Windows apps. But IMO, it's totally worth it.

    Download the Vista Fonts Fix now!

  • Rory Blyth - The Exit Interview

    Rory Blythe is insane. Seriously. He's probably one of the craziest people I know. Well, he's leaving Microsoft. Apparently he's starting a blog for a jean company or something. I dunno. Watch the interview though... if you can handle it.
  • Increase Vista Adoption Through... Comedy?

    Those guys on the Vista marketing team are definitely thinking... creatively. I give you Comedy Central Live: Demetri Martin "These Are Jokes" Tour- Presented by Windows Vista. It's a name only Microsoft could come up with. No word if there will be Vista DVDs passed out when you walk in. Also no word if the tour actually contains jokes, although if you have to point out the fact that they are jokes...
  • Mary Jo Foley: The Exit Interview

    Alright, I admit it. I knew what was going on all along. Mary Jo Foley dropped a bombshell this afternoon, announcing she was leaving MicrosoftWatch to branch out on her own after 11 years at ZiffDavis. What are her plans for the future? I have the exclusive Exit Interview.

    RWM: You’ve been covering Microsoft for ZiffDavis for a very long time. What made you to decide to go solo?
    MJF: It just seemed like the time was right. It’s a bloggers’ market out there. Blogging is the future of journalism, in my opinion. More and more bloggers are not just reacting to – but actually breaking – news. I wanted to try my hand at running a business that was blog-centric from the get-go. So I decided to take my show on the road.

    RWM: Does this mean you’ll be moving back to Redmond? Will we be seeing you in the cafeteria of Building 10 anytime soon?
    MJF: I am an East Coaster by birth and plan to stay one for the foreseeable future. So I will continue to do my job of watching Microsoft from the Right Coast, in NYC. But you might see me in the Building 10 cafeteria; some folks report that they’ve seen me flipping burgers there in the guise of a line cook :). Truth or urban legend? I take the fifth.

    RWM: What is your favorite memory of covering Microsoft the last 11 years?
    MJF: The day that Windows 95 was released to manufacturing is my favorite memory. Back in the stone age in 1995, the Web wasn’t the main place to break a tech news story. That still happened in print. Leading up to Windows 95, my job with PCWeek was to write one story every week -- for almost a full year – about the latest happenings with “Chicago,” a k a Windows 95. The day that product RTM’d, I felt a big relief (since I had just finished a print story claiming Microsoft had RTM’d the product – without Microsoft confirming that fact). I also felt a big sense of accomplishment, in that I had been able to bring readers the blow-by-blow story about Windows 95 through a big part of the development process. (Remember: This was in the pre-transparency, pre-pro-blogging era at Microsoft.)

    RWM: Least favorite?
    MJF: I’d have to say being blacklisted by Microsoft for writing a story based on an internal memo penned by Mark Lucovsky (now with Google, ironically) that acknowledged 63,000 bugs were still left in Windows 2000 when the product shipped. I was barred from executive interviews at the Windows 2000 launch as a result of my story. My “punishment” lasted for a few years. Certain Windows execs refused to speak to me or meet with me for ages because of that story. I believed, and still believe, that I was just doing my job as a reporter.

    RWM: Why are you sticking with covering Microsoft? There are so many other companies doing cool things… isn’t Microsoft on its way out?
    MJF: There still is no other company in the tech space, IMHO, that matters as much as Microsoft. Because of its position in operating systems, Microsoft’s strategies and policies affect nearly every hardware, software and services company in this business. And with Microsoft slowly but surely diversifying, I believe the company will continue to play a big role in a variety of markets for quite some time. It would take a really big screw-up on Microsoft’s part in the order for the company to cease mattering.

    RWM: What do you see as Microsoft’s biggest challenge in 2007?
    MJF: Microsoft needs to convince users that Vista and Office are worth upgrading to. That could be an uphill battle, given the skepticism that currently prevails regarding the stability of Vista, and the extent to which both of these products represent compelling upgrades over their existing counterparts. Microsoft is going to need to prove that Vista and Office 2007 are as good as the hype.

    RWM: What can we expect to see from you now?
    MJF: On my new blog,, you can expect to see lots of Microsoft news, rumors, tips and pointers to the most interesting Microsoft stories of the day from all around the Web. I also have some other interesting new projects in the works, so stay tuned :).

  • Who's Watching the Microsoft-Watcher?

    I was just over at Microsoft-Watch, trying to dig up some Microsoft news for the week, and Mary Jo's picture is conspicuously absent on the site. In it's place is a picture of Peter Galli, linking to an article he wrote for the site today. So the question is... where is Mary Jo?
  • Toshiba Drivers for Windows Vista RC1

    Filed under: ,
    WOO HOO!!! Toshiba finally got off their ass and put out their Vista drivers for a couple of their laptops and tablets. They are currently supporting the Tecra M4, M5, Portege M400, And the Qosmio G35. The M4 support even includes the infamous BIOS update that Toshiba has been sitting on for WAY too long. FINALLY! One less thing I can hate Toshiba for. GO GET IT!!!
  • Why Vista's UI Isn't Cooler, or Take a Deep Breath Chris

    Filed under:

    Larry Osterman (ya, the same Larry Osterman that got bit by the Audio bug) has a great post on why XGL isn't as useful as Chris Pirillo thinks it is. Can you imagine the tech support calls from the receptionist at XYZ Paper Company in Diluth, complaining that her app keeps crashing when it's really on the other side of the "desktop cube"?

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: OS X can afford to take creative liberties with it's OS' visual stylings because a) most of its users are right-brained creative types that value visual appearance over usefulness, b) its userbase is so small that drastic changes only have minimal overall impact, and c) even fewer businesses rely on Macs, so the retraining issues there are minimal as well.

    The bottom line is, pretty does not always equal practical. Plus, Microsoft has other considerations, like the financial impact of UI changes on companies adopting their software. (Too bad calculating this impact is not as simple as it was in 1995). The Windows UI is the victim of Microsoft's monopoly success on the desktop, plain and simple.

    I would think that, being a savvy businessman, Chris would understand this. Personally, I think Chris has a lot of valuable things to say (and while singling out Chris, I'm also speaking to other UI detractors as well). As well founded as his UI gripes may be, his feedback on Vista would be far more valuable if he accepted the reality of the situation and focused on problems that actually stand a chance of getting fixed at this point in the game. Acknowledging the fact that Microsoft has made huge strides in the fit & finish department might also be appropriate.

  • From The 'Steaming Pile of Crap' Files... in, "Movie studios are insane if they think that consumers will allow this to happen". has a story that claims new DVDs and DVD players are on the verge of being produced that use RFID track the legality of the DVDs you insert and report them back to a central system.

    The technology, which can also be used for Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs, will allow movie studios to remotely track individual discs as they travel from factories to retail shelves to consumers' homes.


    RFID readers will then be built-in to home DVD players to extend the anti-copying technology into homes as part of a digital rights management system.

    I have several issues with this story:

    1. The story makes no mention on how these players will be connected to the internet to monitor a person's use.
    2. How will I play home movies burnt to DVD from my computer on these drives without it "reporting" me and locking me out?
    3. Where the hell is Al Sharpton and the ACLU on this one? Oh my bad, they're too busy fighting discrimination through BS lawsuits.

    Man, these movie studios really want to alienate users. That's ok, I guess the rights of multi-billion dollar entertainment conglomerates are more important than my privacy. That's ok, as long as I can still burn my ISOs from MSDN...

  • Microsoft's Setting Up Shop At Disneyland

    I would think that Microsoft would put up a press release about this, but instead I found out on the Disney-enthusiast site MiceAge. It turns out that Microsoft just signed a two-year agreement (scroll 3/4 of the way down) to spend $10 Million installing their Home of the Future inside "Innoventions" (the Happiest Home on Earth?). Apparently, the space formerly used by Compaq will feature some of the Microsoft technologies displayed at CES 2006 and the Microsoft Visitor Center on campus. No word on when it will be finished (or even started, for that matter), but something tells me they didn't invest $10M for it to be just a two-year stint.

  • Windows Vista RC1 Customer Preview Program Available!

    Windows Vista RC1 is now available for everyone who participated in the Beta 2 CPP program. Microsoft won't be offering new product keys for a couple weeks. The website also mentions needing the Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh, but Microsoft has yet to release it.

    Windows Vista RC1, English 32-Bit Edition
    Windows Vista RC1, English 64-Bit Edition

    Signatures of the ISO files:
        MD5 hash: 22486e815a38feffd9667317dfeec55a
        SHA1 hash:  e00b4ebbc81fb420cf047973b95a9cfb7cdf51b7
        MD5 hash: f3a385aae6e4dea9226e31d9f1148b56
        SHA1 hash:  8e4de7a72c828a3543ff1663243eb0836da07eea

    Have fun!

    [via TweakVista]

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