Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

October 2006 - Posts

  • Brandon's Right, Vista's Photo Import Sucks

    Brandon posted the other day about the severe limitations of Vista's Photo Import tool. It's a huge step backwards from Windows XP, and doesn't even let you specify which pictures you want, or let you group photos into events pre-import, so they can be put into proper folders. I bugged it back in July as well, when it was closed as "won't fix, by design" (as usual).

    I echo Brandon's hope that this is one of the "surprises" Microsoft has planned for RTM. But at this point, if you're copying photos from your computer in Vista, I wouldn't even bother with the Photo Import Wizard. Better to use the new thumbnail features in Windows Explorer to do the copying instead.

  • Microsoft ASP.NET AJAX Beta Sets New Standard for Releases

    It is my firm belief that Microsoft's Developer Division is the best at at shipping software. They were the first team to distribute interim releases outside the normal beta cycle (the original CTPs), and were also the first to leverage virtualization for their CTP drops.

    Today's announcement of the ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 Beta is firm proof of that belief. Over the last few months, Microsoft has been re-architecting their "Atlas" platform into a product worthy of release. In the process, they significantly improved the performance and decreased the size of the JavaScript libraries, among other things.

    But the change that I think sets the standard for Microsoft releases to come is the way they've cut features for release. You might think that's weird, but bear with me a second.

    You see, "Atlas" had a ton of functionality in it. It was a constantly moving platform, but the ASP.NET team had prototyped a bunch of cool things that made the platform really interesting. Well, in moving to a release product, Microsoft cut some of those features from the officially-supported first release. But instead of ripping them out of the V1 release alltogether, they moved it into another "value-added" CTP release and shipped them anyways.

    According to Scott Guthrie:

    This redist contains the additional higher-level features that were in previous CTPs of “Atlas,” but which won’t be in the fully-supported 1.0 “core” redist. These features will continue to be community supported as we refine them further and incorporate more feedback. Over time we’ll continue to move features into the “core” download as we finalize features in this value-add package more.

    That is a hell of a release strategy. You get all the benefits of the fully-refined core, without sacrificing features that were already in earlier "alpha" releases. Kudos to Scott and the rest of the Developer Division, who have proven once again that they are the gold standard of shipping software at Microsoft.

  • Needs To Start Citing Sources

    Earlier today,, Neowin, and ActiveWin all reported about a post from NvidiaFreak on about the fact that Yahoo posted the IE7 final build before they should have. I linked to ActiveWin, because Bink temporarily took his post down to revise it.

    So this afternoon, CNET posted a story about it. As usual, the only links contained in the post were their own (with the exception if the actual download link, of course).

    I brought this up with CNET a couple of weeks ago, when they reported on my story about Microsoft opening a display up at Disneyland, without citing me as the source of their tip. I knew they had that story from me, because my source was a Disney enthusiast site that my sister posts on.

    In response, CNET had this to say:

    Thanks for your note on CNET's linking policy. In general, our policy is to link to whatever may be relevant for readers, to link whenever possible to original source material, and to link whenever possible to the page on a Web site most directly related to the subject.

    As is standard journalistic practice, reporters will refer to the first report of news, if they are unable to source it themselves. (In this case, that was the MiceAge item.) That holds whether the report is in a newspaper, a blog, TV broadcast or other outlet. Typically, we would not refer to an intermediate report, as in "The New York Times reports that the Financial Times is saying that Company X has merged with Company Y."

    I can understand that, when you word it that way. But it's not clumsy to say "Yahoo has released IE7 early, says a report on"... just like every other blogger who reported it. Linking to place you originally read your news item is a matter of respect to the people who reported it before you. Not only that, but it makes CNET look like it was their crack journalism that got the information, which is quite often not the case. It's almost like stealing an interview and reporting it as your own. It's just not right.

    Bloggers aren't going to do the journalistic dirty-work for main news outlets to steal it as their own. found a way to link two of their other IE7 articles into the entry, the could have found a way to link in their primary source. Anything other than that is just irresponsible. And the only way they're going to change is if the policy is discussed in public.

  • IE7 Released... Sort Of

    Filed under:

    If you don't mind all the extra stuff Yahoo installs with IE7 (Yahoo Mail, Toolbar, etc), you can get the final release now. (Apparently, if you use WinRAR and extract IEsetup.exe, then you don't get the extra stuff.) Otherwise, you'll probably have to wait a couple more hours for the official release.

    [Thanks ActiveWin]

  • Microsoft WILL NOT Budge On PatchGuard

    Joe Wilcox can't stop talking about PatchGuard. Look, I was right in front of Jim when he was talking about PatchGuard, and the look he gave me said everything. Jim is 110% focused on security, and he's not going to budge on this one. Not now, not after he leaves, not ever.

    HELLO!!!! Lest we forget, PatchGuard has been around for a long time, and Microsoft didn't pull this one out of their ass. Microsoft has been very open with partners on this one for the last 5 years. McAfee and Symantec are complaining because they still haven't come up with a decent way to secure Vista beyond what Microsoft has already done... so they need to spread FUD so their products stay relevant.

    I've seen McAfee's code. I've seen Symantec's code. And I've seen Kapersky's code. Their products open up more vulnerabilities than they fix, and their products will never touch mine or my families machines. Period.

    But, companies like Kapersky get it. You haven't seen them bitching about it. They know their security software sucks, and they're too busy working to fix it to complain. I predict that they will see the biggest turnaround in their products by the end of the decade, and Symantec will merge with McAfee to try to stay afloat.

    Look, the bottom line is this. Microsoft is a huge company that has to do new things to continue to make money. That means, at some point or another, Microsoft will invade any software company's territory. It's the beauty and the curse of being a Microsoft partner: you'll fill in their gaps until they fill them themselves, through development or acquisition. Yesterday's Desktop Pack is a PERFECT example of this.

    There are a billion problems to be solved by technology, ESPECIALLY around security. As a software company, you're not constantly evaluating which ones you'll try to solve next when the environment changes, then you're stupid and your company deserves to die. That's how innovation works.

  • Xbox 360 HD-DVD + Vista Media Center = Cheap HD Goodness?

    Will you be able to plug your USb-powered Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive into your Vista Media Center and rock out movies in hi-def? Engadget seems to think so.

    I've wondered about this same question on this blog before, and after listening to Major Nelson this past weekend, I shot him an e-mail about it. He e-mailed me back and forwarded it on to Albert... who will hopefully have an official answer soon.

    If it IS possible, then personally, I think it makes HD-DVD even more compelling. Why buy a $500 player if you already own an Xbox 360 and can get a $200 external drive? I'll be able to take it with me on trips and watch HD movies in my hotel room. Sweet!

  • Microsoft Combines Acquired Technologies for Software Assurance Enhancements

    Alex Heaton of the Official Windows Vista Blog just announced the strategy behind the recent slew of Microsoft acquisitions: more benefits for Software Assurance customers. The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance combines the technologies from Softricity, AssetMetrix, DesktopStandard, and Winternals into the following components: 

    · Microsoft SoftGrid, an application virtualization and streaming solution that can deliver applications to users in seconds, without being locally installed, on any PC they login to. Virtualization also resolves many application compatibility conflicts because each application can run with the version of a supporting file that it needs.

    · Microsoft Asset Inventory Services, which analyzes all programs on employee PCs, reducing the labor and guesswork that often stymies attempts to inventory the applications on the PCs within an organization and turns that into intelligent reports and analysis.

    · Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management, which provides versioning, history, and rollback of Group Policy settings, along with delegation and role based administration.

    · Microsoft Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset, designed to help IT departments quickly pinpoint the causes of PC troubles, recover lost data, and reduce future downtime with post-crash analysis.

    Sound great for businesses that fork out extra for the benefits of Windows Vista Enterprise. No word if these solutions will still be available separately for non-SA customers... a prospect that will more than likely lead to much wailing and mashing of teeth.

  • Official Clarification on Licensing Coming Shortly

    I just got an e-mail from Nick White, of the Official Windows Vista Blog. He said that my interpretation of the EULA was basically accurate, but there is "more to the story", and that he'll be posting more information on the OWVB after they've finished processing all the feedback that Ed's and my post generated.

  • Clarifications on the Licensing Stuff

    I'm still waiting for an official clarification from Microsoft on what the new Vista  licensing terms mean, but here is what has developed since then.

    In my attempt to very simply summarize the changes for people, I think I oversimplified the situation. There were a couple points specifically that were misunderstood. I think I assumed people would actually go and read the EULA starting on the page I specified, but that may have been a false assumption.

    Anyways, I wasn't very clear on the whole ISO thing. Apparently some people read it as you wouldn't be able to mount ISOs to the system in Vista Home Basic or Home Premium. That is an incorrect characterization... no where in the entire article did I ever use the word "mount". Anyways, here's what the license says:


    ADDITIONAL LICENSE TERMS. The following additional license terms apply to Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate.

    1. STORAGE. You may store one copy of the software on a storage device, such as a network server. You may use that copy to install the software on any other device to which a license has been assigned.

    This clause is not in any other sections. So, given all that, here's how Dumb Robert interprets it:

    [Dumb Rob] In Home Basic and Home Premium, you can't make an ISO or other digital copy of Vista and put it on another storage device, such as a hard drive (networked or otherwise). It does say you can make one copy of the physical media for backup purposes... but no digital copies. In Ultimate, you can make an ISO, or copy the contents of the DVD to a hard drive.

    Why do I say "copy the contents of the media to a hard drive"? Because the next clause of the EULA talks about actually installing the OS to the network for thin client scenarios:

    NETWORK USE. Instead of installing the software on the licensed device, you may install one copy on a storage device, such as a network server. You may use that copy only to run the software on your licensed device over an internal network.

    Now, IMO this section is ambiguous too, because I don't know of any thin client scenarios where you'd install 30 copies of the same OS on a server for Thin Client stuff... I would think you'd install it once and buy 30 licenses... but that may be outside the scope of Ultimate anyways... not sure.

    Next is the whole thing on Virtualization. I'm inclined to agree with Ed that the license means you can't reuse the same license inside a VM on Home Basic and Home Premium. But if that's what the license meant, than it should have been more clear. Because the wording is a bit clumsy, I think the message is ambiguous. Because I'm not a lawyer or licensing expert, I'm going to err on the side of caution, and continue to stand by my original recommendation until someone from Microsoft tells me otherwise.

    And finally, i just want to make sure I'm clear either way about using DRM in Vista. You'll be able to use DRM content on the physical installation of Vista, but it won't be legal inside the VM. I'm currently putting together a test to see if Vista actually blocks you from using DRM inside a VM, or if you're just "not allowed to". More on that soon.


  • Awaiting More Details On Vista Licensing Changes

    Just wanted to let you guys know that I e-mailed Microsoft asking for some clarifications on the post I wrote yesterday about the new licensing restrictions on Windows Vista. I'm concerned (as are others) that my interpretation may not quite be accurate, so I want to make sure I have all the facts.

  • Launch 2007 e-Learning Courses

    Here is a comprehensive list of all the free Microsoft e-Learning courses for Launch 2007. Most of them are centered around Office, but my guess is there will be much more for Vista later on. I'm already going through the 9 hour course on .NET 3.0 (at the very bottom). They're only free for a limited time, so sign up today!

    New 2007 Microsoft Office System - Home & Office Users
    Free for 90 Days!

    Course 4622: What's New in Microsoft® Office Access 2007
    This online course introduces the new features and functionality in the latest version of Microsoft Office Access. There have been substantial changes to the user interface in this database application, and this course can help you get up-to-speed quickly.

    Course 4623: What's New in Microsoft® Office Excel® 2007
    Summary: This online course introduces the new features and functionality in the latest version of Microsoft Office Excel. There have been substantial changes to the user interface in this spreadsheet application, and this course can help you get up-to-speed quickly.

    Course 4624: What's New in Microsoft® Office InfoPath® 2007
    This online course introduces the new features and functionality in the latest version of Microsoft Office InfoPath. Designing and publishing Web-based forms has been made even easier in the latest release of this application, and this course can help you get up-to-speed quickly.

    Course 4625: What's New in Microsoft® Office OneNote® 2007
    Summary: This online course introduces the new features and functionality in the latest version of Microsoft Office OneNote. All of your text-, voice-, and TabletPC-based notes can be saved in one easy to manage application and shared with others, creating a collaborative work environment.

    Course 4626: What's New in Microsoft® Office Outlook® 2007
    Summary: This online course introduces the new features and functionality in the latest version of Microsoft Office Outlook. In addition to managing e-mail, schedules, and contacts, the latest version of Office Outlook provides enhanced task-management capabilities.

    Course 4627: What's New in Microsoft® Office PowerPoint® 2007
    Summary: This online course introduces the new features and functionality in the latest version of Microsoft Office PowerPoint. There have been substantial changes to the user interface in this presentation application, and this course can help you get up-to-speed quickly.

    Course 4628: What's New in Microsoft® Office Word 2007
    This online course introduces the new features and functionality in the latest version of Microsoft Office Word. There have been substantial changes to the user interface in this word processing application, and this course can help you get up-to-speed quickly.

    Course 4697: Introduction to the New Microsoft® Office User Interface
    Several applications in the latest version of Microsoft Office feature a new user interface, making the most frequently-used commands just a single click away. This online course explains how the different elements of this interface are organized, and how to use them to accomplish your everyday tasks.

    Course 4698: Getting Started with Microsoft® Office Groove® 2007
    Summary: In this online course, you will learn how to create and manage Workspaces with Office Groove 2007. You will also learn how to share files and project information using the Workspace, as well as enabling effective team communication and collecting information using forms.

    New 2007 Microsoft Office System - IT Professionals
    Free for 90 Days!

    Clinic 3041: Deploying Microsoft® Windows Vista™ and the 2007 Office System Client Products (Beta)
    Summary: In this clinic, you explore Windows Vista deployment scenarios and the technologies and tools included in Windows Vista to simplify deployment. In addition, you explore the 2007 Office System Client deployment and migration scenarios and the tools available to simplify deployment.

    Clinic 3199: Getting Started with the 2007 Microsoft® Office System (Beta)
    Summary: In this clinic, you explore the 2007 Microsoft® Office System to understand how it provides many benefits to an organization including enhanced collaboration, personal productivity and an effective enterprise content management solution.
    You are also provided with an overview of the server and client components that make up the 2007 Office System.

    Clinic 3369: Getting Started with Microsoft® Windows® SharePoint® Services 3.0 (Beta)
    Summary: In this clinic, you explore the features and technologies new to Microsoft® Windows® SharePoint® Services (WSS) 3.0.
    You are also provided with information about deployment, configuration and migration to WSS 3.0.

    Clinic 3370: Getting Started with Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 (Beta)
    Summary: In this clinic, you explore the 2007 Microsoft® Office System to understand how it provides many benefits to an organization including enhanced collaboration, personal productivity and an effective enterprise content management solution.
    You are also provided with an overview of the server and client components that make up the 2007 Office System.

    Clinic 5045: Inside Look at Developing with Microsoft® Windows® SharePoint® Services 3.0
    Summary: In this 2-hour premium clinic you will learn about the rich capabilities that Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 offers to developers. The clinic will focus on Architecture and List Management, Building and Extending Windows SharePoint Sites, and Packaging and Deploying Windows SharePoint services solutions.

    Clinic 5046: Inside Look at Building and Developing Solutions with Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007
    Summary: In this 2-hour premium clinic you will learn about the rich capabilities that Office SharePoint Server 2007 offers to developers. The clinic will focus on Fundamentals of Building Solutions with Office SharePoint Server 2007, Building Business Solutions with Office SharePoint Server 2007 and how to Incorporate Office SharePoint Services into Business solutions.

    .NET Framework 3.0 - Developers
    Free for 90 Days!

    Collection 5134 : Developing Rich Experiences with Microsoft® .NET Framework 3.0 and Visual Studio® 2005
    This collection of 3 2-hour premium clinics teaches Enterprise Developers and Software Architects about the new capabilities provided by the .NET Framework 3.0.

  • Important Windows Vista Licensing Changes

    Ed Bott tells us about changes to the Windows Vista EULA. But that's not the whole story. Starting on Page 11, here is a synopsis of what I believe are the most far-reaching changes, as I have interpreted them:

    • Home Basic
      • Can't copy ISO to your hard drive
      • Can't install to a network server
      • You may share files, printers, etc with a maximum of 5 network devices
      • You MAY NOT use Remote Desktop, only Remote Assistance
      • You MAY NOT use in Virtual PC | Virtual Server |VMWare
    • Home Premium
      • Still can't copy ISO to your hard drive
      • Still can't install to a network server
      • Sharing for 10 network devices
      • Still no Remote Desktop
      • Still no virtual hardware
      • 5 simultaneous Media Center Extender sessions (up from 3 in MCE 2005)
    • Ultimate
      • Can copy ISO to your hard drive
      • Can install to a network server (I'm assuming for Terminal Server scenarios)
      • Sharing for 10 network devices
      • Can use Remote Desktop
      • Can use in a virtualized environment, BUT
        • Can't use DRM-protected content if Vista Ultimate is the "guest" OS
        • Can't use BitLocker if Vista Ultimate is the "guest" OS
      • 5 Media Center Extender sessions

    I'm not sure how I feel about this yet. On one hand, I don't have a problem with it, cause I'll be using Ultimate anyways... but I have a feeling that other people probably will. Either way, I'm thinking maybe they should put this stuff at the top of the EULA, instead of burying it at the bottom. These are important things that people in a purchasing position need to know about.

    Well, you saw it here first... don't forget to Digg it ;).

  • and IE7

    Why the hell does always take F O R E V E R to load in IE7? WTF, man? Every single version for as long as I can remember. I don't know if it is Microsoft or Adobe causing the problem... but whoever it is, needs to fix it. I can't ever download Adobe Reader off the website the first time... UGH!!!

  • First Week Reflections

    Filed under: , ,

    Holy crap, it's been a busy week. Launched a new site, practiced my interview skills on one of the top guys at Microsoft, spent 2 days with the people that beat up Vista every day... absolutely crazy.

    First off, I wanted to thank everyone for all their positive comments about the site and its design. I've been acutely aware of all of's shortcomings, and I'm glad we were able to address most of them in a way that you all seem to like. If you have any issues, please don't hesitate to let me know.

    Second, I wanted to thank Jim for letting me sit down with him, and the great people at WaggEd for putting it all together. It was an experience I'll never forget... and an interview that everyone will be talking about.

    Third, I wanted to thank Paul Donnelly, Wedny Stidmon, and all the people at Microsoft that came out to talk about Vista & Longhorn for the Techbeta Tour. It was two days of some of the most informative briefings I've ever had at Microsoft... and by far the most productive in terms of being able to give feedback to the various teams.

    Finally, I wanted to thank all the TechBeta testers for making the event so fun. It was a pleasure meeting all of you, talking shop, and comparing cell phones ;). Can't wait to do it again next time.

    I have a lot that came up during my trip to Redmond that I'll be talking about over the next couple weeks... plus I'll be editing the podcast together over the next several days. So stay tuned... we're just getting started.

  • WGA and SPP: Normal People Don't Care

    Joe Wilcox has a long and interesting post about Windows juxtaposed against the offerings of Web 2.0 companies, in respect to Microsoft's recently announced Software Protection Platform. He thinks that Web 2.0 companies have the better business model. Web 2.0 business models are great, but I don't think they'll last. Why? Because most rely on advertising to generate revenue. The concept is wonderful, as long as the economy is doing well. But as soon as the economy tanks, and companies scale back their spending, those Web 2.0 companies will take a hit.

    And as socialist/communist as techies want to get regarding the concept that ideas/concepts/software should be free, the bottom line is... the bottom line. Human nature is best suited to free market economies (history proves this well), and it costs money to operate all those Web 2.0 organizations. And instead of just taking hits from a few big clients, these companies need to consider also taking hits from lots of smaller clients (consumers), or they won't survive through the next wave of innovation.

    Besides that, he's comparing apples to oranges. Web 2.0 sites are hosted once and can run anywhere. Operating systems have to be installed on individual machines... making the ecosystem far more difficult to distribute/operate/maintain.

    But that's not the real issue here. The real issue is the value of open v. closed models. When it comes to the Software Protection Platform / Activation / WGA, etc... most normal people don't care. It's something they have to deal with once when they buy a computer, and they've accepted it as a necessary aspect of dealing with something that is so easy to make an inexpensive exact duplicate of. It may be a rallying cry for techies who would rather have all the coolest stuff without ever having to pay for ANYTHING, as well as for the media companies who target them... but people like my Mom do not spend all day thinking about this stuff. And, I hate to burst that self-important bubble that most techies have blown up around themselves, but non-techies make up an overwhelming majority of computer users.

    These people just want the stuff they buy to work. The only time they care is when it doesn't, or it doesn't allow them to do what other technologies do. DRM is a prime example of this. DRM deals with the same issue, but centered around media platforms. Most people don't care about DRM... until it interferes with the Right to Fair Use. If you buy any other product... be it a gun, a car, a chainsaw, a pen, or a knitting needle... you can do whatever the hell you want with it... because it is yours. DRM-protected content is the only product out there that prevents you from doing absolutely anything except for the original intent of the product. If I want to be able to move it to another machine that I own, shrink it for a handheld device, edit out the commercials (all things that the Right of Fair Use allows)... whatever... forget it. And THAT is what makes normal people mad about DRM.

    IMHO, as long as SPP/WGA does not throw false positives with Vista & beyond, most consumers won't care that their machine will automatically activate itself within the first 72 hours of setting it up. They acquired it legally, and it's not a big deal. The ones that are pissed off are the ones that abused the old system, which was far more open. And now that is is closing, they are screaming bloody murder.

    So where does "Fair Use" come into play in regards to Windows? Licenses, keys, and activation are in hundreds of thousands of other applications out there, not just Windows. Do people honestly think that you should be able to install a software product on an unlimited number of machines?

    The answer to that question is "no". Most people know that you can only use the software you buy on one computer. The REAL reason why people are mad about SPP/WGA/etc is because the cost of acquiring additional Windows licenses for a single household is prohibitively expensive. You shouldn't have to pay twice as much for something that was only manufactured, distributed, and stocked once... there is zero additional cost involved. So most families unknowingly turn to "gray piracy" and install a single license of Windows on multiple computers. SO if that problem is solved, who is left to be mad, the Asian software piracy market? Oh darn... I feel your pain.

    I spent a good portion of my time lobbying for Microsoft to correct the family licensing issue while I was in Redmond last week, and the feedback that I got was very encouraging... I think the right people are now aware of the problem. All we can do is wait and see.

    In conclusion, I think Joe's article is interesting and thought provoking (at least it provoked a lot of thoughts for me). But I think the assessment is way off base. The Web 2.0 model has yet to see any long-term validation, and is not a valid platform for comparison against the Windows operating system.