Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

November 2006 - Posts

  • Live Search Mobile Rocks!

    Microsoft released Windows Live Search for Mobile yesterday, and it has instantly vaulted into the killer app for my Samsung i730 Smartphone. Gizmodo did a side-by-side comparison with Google Maps and came to the same conslusion.

    I've been using the Virtual Earth Mobile application, which was a great effort, but marginally useful while driving. But this new app, in beta, is phenomenal. It's like they took all my favorite features of the new Yahoo maps and made them mobile friendly. Having live traffic data on the Phoenix freeway system fed to my phone in real-time.... wow. And how many times have I been downtown and wanted to know what restaurants were around.

    I mean, yeah I know I could get a GPS for my car, I just haven't gotten around to buying the Bluetooth adapter for my Microsoft Streets & trips GPS unit. (BTW, WLS4M works with GPS units too.

    But the feature that shows the most attention to detail is a simple one: when you rotate the screen from Portrait to Landscape mode, the D-pad on my phone switches too... so everything scrolls the way it's supposed to.

    Looks like I might have to go get that Bluetooth GPS sleeve after all...

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  • Check Me Out in USA Today

    The other day I got a random phone call from Jon Swartz at USA Today. He told me he was doing a piece on the Windows Vista launch, and wanted to ask me about Vista's security features. I explained a bunch of stuff, and he gave me a little plug in the resulting article (I'm the last quote before the section "It's Microsoft, after all). It's a very small quote, but that's not gonna stop me from putting it in my scrapbook... if I can find it. I'm not sure exactly what day it appeared in print.

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  • CNET Editor and Family Missing - Updated 4 Dec 2006

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    I don't usually post stuff like this, but tech journalists take care of their own.

    CNET Editor James Kim went on a road trip with his family last week. They were supposed to be back Sunday, but haven't been heard from since. There are conflicting reports on where he was last seen, with CNET reporting Saturday in Seattle, and Engadget and the official police report say they were in Portland on Saturday.

    Either way, they were driving a 2005 silver Saab station wagon with California personalized plates of "DOESF."

    Those with information about the Kim family's whereabouts are asked to contact the SFPD immediately at (415) 558-5508 during normal business hours and at (415) 553-1071 after-hours. The Portland Police Department can be reached at (503) 823-4000.

    We at Windows-Now are praying for their safe return. We'll keep you posted.

    UPDATE: Chris Pirillo has more information:

    The last known contact from James was at around 5:45 PM on Saturday. A hotel clerk at the Tu Tu Tun lodge in Gold Beach, Oregon took a call from James. He said he was about five hours away. The hotel clerk said she would leave the keys out for them as the lobby would be closed after 10. The keys were still in the same place the next morning. The clerk believes James referred to being near Salem, Oregon at the time.

    UPDATE2: Crave posted an update this morning:

    As of 9 a.m. PST Friday, investigators said they were narrowing their search to Oregon's Highway 38 as the family's most probable route to their destination of Gold Beach. The Kims last spoke to an innkeeper there by phone about five hours before they planned to arrive.

    UPDATE - Friday: News.com finally did a full-blown story on the piece:

    Ryan Lee, a longtime friend of the Kims, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had brunch with the Kims in Portland Saturday. The Kims told their friend they planned to stop by a clothing boutique in Portland before driving to Gold Beach on the Southern Oregon Coast, where they said they had a hotel reservation for Saturday night.

    The hotel reportedly received an early evening phone call from the Kims saying they would be arriving at the hotel later than expected. They never showed up.

    Lewis said the last call recorded from James Kim's cell phone was made to a friend in San Francisco at 3 p.m. and suggested that the call to the hotel may have been made from a landline. She said the SFPD is still waiting for credit card information to come in.

    UPDATE2 - Friday: The Oregon National Guard sent a Blackhawk helicopter to join the search. KATU.com has video updates from their 5pm and 6:30pm newscasts. The second video has a picture of the car they were driving.

    UPDATE - Saturday: The Kims were last spotted at a Denny's in Roseburg, Oregon around 8pm on Saturday, Nov. 25th. News.com and KATU have more details.

    UPDATE - Monday: The search continues. It finally received the national press coverage it needed this morning, with articles popping up on MSNBC here and here. The Today show did a 2 minute piece on the search that interviewed Kati's mom. I really hope they are found soon.

    UPDATE2 - Monday: Kati and the kids have been found. James is still missing.

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  • What the Cell?!?? My Next-Gen Gaming Wii-view

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    Speaking of Joystiq and the Xbox 360, they have a very interesting series of comparisons between the Xbox 360 and the new PS3. The results aren't very encouraging for Sony. I've had a chance to experience all three next-gen consoles, and here's my opinion on the subject. Not because you asked, but because I can ;).

    PS3
    Two words: total crap. Not just because I'm a Microsoft fanboy. Because I played it and I don't like it. First off, the thing is frickin huge. Way bulkier than the first Xbox. Second, I've been using force feedback controllers since the Nintendo64, and I'm used to it. Not feeling the force of the action in my controller just makes it feel cold and hollow. The menu system is terrible. It's like a PS3 trying to be a PSP trying to be an iPod. The visuals are minimalistic, and boring. Since I've had my Xbox 360 since January, there wasn't anything about it that was compelling enough to make me want it. And definitely not anything that would make me cough up an extra $200 for.

    And let's face it people, Blu-Ray is the new MiniDisc. Sony hasn't come up with a format that stuck since the CD. They've invented a lit of formats since then, none of which stuck in the marketplace. It might work well in Japan, but not in the US, and I think the main reason will be because HD-DVD is well-named. People already know what DVDs are, and they already know what HD means. But you say "Blu-Ray" and most people don't know what the hell you're talking about. Brand recognition is everything, and the Sony brand ain't what it used to be.

    So I played MotorStorm, which is basically a truck rally game. Not impressed. Kind of like I was not impressed with "24: The Game" for the PS2. MotorStorm was sluggish and the control was not very realistic. I lost interest after about 4 minutes. Am I basing my Playstation experience on crappy games? Maybe. But I tried Madden 07 on the PS3 too, and I thought the graphics looked better on the 360.

    Nintendo Wii
    I tried this out the other day at a local GameStop, and it was a lot of fun. The games were straightforward, and it's kinda hard not to get engaged when you're waving the Wiimote around (which is a lot smaller than I thought).

    The biggest problem I have with it is the UI... it's kinda childish. I mean, that's cool for kids, but it would be nice to play simple games without feeling like a simpleton in the process. And conspicuously absent on the controller were the "Select" and "Start" buttons, which left me no way to back out of games in Wii Sports effectively. And they could have packed a bit more graphics power in there, I mean, visually it's kind of a letdown. But that won't keep me from buying it, especially once they start filling the Virtual Console pipeline.

    Admittedly, I didn't get to play too many Wii games. I'd love to be able to try Zelda or Red Steel, but I'm gonna have to wait until Nintendo puts out better demo discs. I'll probably pick up a Wii once the price comes down a bit, and the Virtual Console library hits critical mass. I'd rather save my $249 for an Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive.

    Xbox 360
    Downloadable game demos. Live Arcade. Video Marketplace. Vista Media Center Extender. Come on. Of course it's the best. Now if Microsoft would stop being stubborn about hard drive space, it'd be fantastic. Drop the 20GB hard drive price to $69.00, and introduce a 60GB HD for $139.99. My hard drive is loaded up with Arcade games and demos... stop making me choose between demos and HD movies.

    But that's just my opinion. But don't take my word for it. This guy has more Playstation experience than I do.

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  • Welcome to Hell, can I get you a sweater?

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    I think Hell just froze over. And no, I'm not referring to the Vista launch in New York. Nor am I referring to the 30+ degree temperature drop in Phoenix the last few days. I'm referring to BetaNews Ed's article covering today's Vista Launch in New York.

    Analysts such as JupiterResearch's Michael Gartenberg say there is no reason for businesses to wait to deploy. In the past, he has recommended waiting for the first service pack, however he has changed his tune for Vista.

    "I don’t think that’s warranted this time around. I’ve been using every version of this OS, from early Longhorn builds all the way to RTM and so far, it’s been secure, rock solid and works well once you get used to the new UI," he said.

    Hmmm. That's not the typical Jupiter party line at all. Could that be the reason that Joe Wilcox left, because his opinion was at odds with the official line Jupiter was planning on taking, so he didn't want to sacrifice his principles? I haven't had a chance to talk to Joe about it yet, so I don't know.

    What I do know is that Jupiter's abrupt about-face means that Hitler will be layering their garments for the near future.

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  • Spare the Rod, Spoil the Xbox 360

    Been a victim of the Red Ring of Death lately? Apparently it's not broken, just in need of some "re-education".

    The red lights are simply the way the Xbox 360 communicates to the user that it doesn't feel like playing. But, like any misbehaving child, give it a good whack on the backside and it'll straighten up. You paid $400 (or $500 if you got suckered into the official wireless adapter) for the machine; it works for you, not the other way around.

    Don't believe me? Watch this:

    [YouTube:cIARuzFOExc]

    [via Joystiq]

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  • Zune Grabs 2nd Place After 1st Week

    CNNMoney.com is reporting that the Zune music player from Microsoft edged out SanDisk for the #2 spot in the portable music player department. This, after only 4 days of sales (it came out mid-week).

    Shawny Chen, a research analyst for Current Analysis, says that in order to become a serious contender against Apple, Microsoft will have to make further adjustments to the Zune, especially considering the number of unfavorable reviews the device has received so far.

    "Microsoft will have to come out with an improved Zune that touches on the very features that people are disappointed with this model, such as the limited WiFi capability," said Chen.

    Kathleen Maher, a senior analyst at Jon Peddie Research, notes that even if the Zune is off to a slow start in the MP3 player market, Microsoft has had a lot of success launching a new product, tweaking it and ultimately satisfying consumers.

    "It doesn't bug them to dump a bunch of money into an experiment and rejigger it along the way," said Maher, pointing at the success of the Xbox. "It's worked reasonably well."

    Fortunately for Microsoft, the Zune was built on the same concepts as the Xbox 360, so firmware updates will be able to resolve a lot of issues. One issue Microsoft definitely needs to solve is updating the Zune Marketplace to be based on the final WMP11 bits, instead of being based on a pre-RTM build like it supposedly is now. They should also give you an option for making it visible in WMP11 when plugged into machines where Zune Marketplace is not installed.

    [via Search & HPC Blog]

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  • PowerTogether.com - Get Vista & Office for Watching Webcasts

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    Microsoft wants you to experience the Zen of Vista & Office together. So, if you watch three webcasts each for Windows Vista and Office 2007 within 30 days of registering, 6-8 weeks later you'll get shiny new DVD cases at your front door. Only one free copy of each product per person.

    Microsoft created this video to explain it. Well, it doesn't really explain it. But I don't think Microsoft wanted you to see it. Or did they?

    [YouTube:-SZzAT-S5DQ]

    I think they beat the joke to death. Anyways, there are currently a bunch more webcasts for Vista than for Office, but I expect that to change here pretty soon. Anyways, if you haven't scored a free copy from MSDN, TechNet, or Connect yet, here's your chance.

    The whole Zen logo is kind of a neat idea. I'm surprised Microsoft hasn't used it more often. Then again, they still haven't shown off a lot of Launch stuff yet...

    UPDATE: For anyone that doesn't think it's real, a Microsoft Technical Evangelist (read: employee) sent me an e-mail about it. MSDN did something very similar a while back with their MSDN webcasts series. It's legit. I promise.

    UPDATE2: For the people that didn't believe me, Mark Brown, an MS employee from the Developer & Platform Marketing Team, has confirmed that this is a legit site with a legit offer. He also addresses the issue of it being a US-only offer. So no, I wasn't trying to get people sucked into a phishing scam. I mean, come on guys... the site looks awesome. What phisher would spend the kind of money it would take to come up with this design? But way to be safe surfers.

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  • 'Longhorn' Server End of the Road for 32-Bit Servers

    Yep, you read right. Not sure if this was out there before, but ZDNET UK caught Bob Muglia at the TechEd IT Forum in Spain, and they talked for a bit... 64 bits to be exact.

    We will ship "Longhorn" in the second half of next year, and we will ship a 32-bit and a 64-bit version. That will be the last time we ship a 32-bit version. From that point, the next release, which will be roughly two years later, that product will only be available as 64-bit.

    Muglia also revealed that the Hypervisor, codenamed "Viridian", can only be managed on 64-bit versions of "Longhorn" Server, but will be able to run 32-bit "child" partitions.

    There are two distinct parts of the Hypervisor, the management partition and the guests, The guests can be 32-bit or 64-bit, but the software it runs on will be 64-bit, so technically it will be 64-bit.

    I think Microsoft enjoys the fact that they can control the adoption of 64-bit much more effectively in the server space than they can on the client. Part of the issue is memory... servers are memory hogs. Most home computers can't justify the need gor 8GB of RAM... at least not yet anyways. But servers quite often need more and more memory, and the only way around that is 64-bit.

    I wonder if Microsoft will take the same position with "Vienna"...

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  • Introducing GamesForWindows.com

    Microsoft is on a mission to re-invigorate the PC as a gaming platform. Today, Microsoft launched GamesForWindows.com, the new home for the PC gaming experience. Aiming to do for the PC what Xbox.com does for the 360, GFW.com is a one-stop shop for information about making the most of your Windows gaming experience, from the latest keyboards, controllers, and video cards, to the first details about GFW Live.

    Information is relatively sparce at the moment, but expect Microsoft to really hype this up aroud the consumer launch of Vista.

    Microsoft wants to know what you want to see on GFW.com, so check it out, and then tell them what you think.

    [via GamerScoreBlog]

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  • Licensing the Office 2007 UI? Read This First

    Yesterday, Microsoft made a landmark announcement that it would be licensing the Office 2007 UI to non-competing applications. They also released a 106-page specification that licensees will be required to follow. Now, the Office UI has been the benchmark by which applications have been designed for years, but in the past, Microsoft pretty much just looked the other way. Officially sanctioning the use of their research work is a bold move for Microsoft, whose ramifications should not be underestimated in the developer space.

    My friend Tim Dawson has been re-creating Microsoft UIs in reusable packages for years (he had WinForms dockable menus long before Microsoft built them into .NET, and has the best WinForms window docking component on the market). He was one of the early adopters of the Office 2007 UI license, and his SandRibbon component is by far the easiest way to get jump-started on the Office 2007 UI. If you're doing .NET development and want to use the Ribbon, then you should take a look at the hard work Tim has done to comply with many of the guidelines as possible.

    DISCLAIMER: This is not a paid endorsement. I am recommending this solution of my own volition, because I've tested several different Ribbon components and I think this one is the best.

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  • Ok, Maybe Office Does Have a Kill Switch

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    This copy of NWiT is not genuine. Click the picture for NWiT Genuine Advantage validation.

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  • Xbox 360 Selling Too Many Games?

    Apparently, the Susquehanna Financial Group (sucksawhata?) says that selling 5 games for every Xbox 360 console is too high.

    The bean counters find this number troubling because a very high attach rate usually matches the shopping habits of hardcore gamers, a group too small to sustain a mass market gaming console.

    Analysts like to see lower attach rates that coincide with casual gamers buying into a console, and buying one or two games, because this would reflect that a console maker is gaining ground in the marketplace.  The folks at Susquehanna go on to explain that the Sony PS3 might experience similarly high game-to-console ratios, because of a shortage of consoles to penetrate the market.


    The report concedes that growth in attach rates and high rates early in a consoles cycle can be good, but if it doesn't even out over time it might indicate that a console is stalling at retail. 

    Or maybe it just means that there are a lot of fun, compelling games for the Xbox 360? I may be an idiot here, but 6 million consoles ($1.8B in console sales) x 5 games a pop = 30 million games. Multiply that by an average MSRP of $49.95 = $1.5B for the industry. Tell me again... how exactly is that bad?

    [via Planet Xbox 360]

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  • 'Indigo' Goes Mobile With WCF-CE

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    Microsoft (and by "Microsoft" I mean an employee who has posted to his blog three times in the last two years) announced today that it's taking Indigo on the road with "Windows Communication Foundation - Compact Edition." It's a subset of WCF that runs on top of the .NET Compact Framework and allows, among other things, disconnected "push" data scenarios using e-mail as a message channel.

    Well, .NetCF team has been very busy since we shipped CF 2.0. A number of exciting things are happening here.  Earlier Mike gave away some "hints" about what's coming: "the NET CF team is working on WCF subset for the next release, with some interesting support for transiently connected networks." I think it's time to elaborate on what that really means.

    We are bringing a subset of WCF (Windows Communication Foundation, formerly known as Indigo) to devices. WCF provides a new unified programming model for building connected applications with managed code. The cool thing I like the most about WCF is its' extensible channel architecture. It allows building applications that can work on top of completely different transports and protocol channel stacks. Using WCF programming model, now I can send and receive data in my application equally easily using HTTP, TCP or e-mail.  In many cases I can maintain identical or very similar communication logic code - sending and receiving the data works on top of various channels (only the initialization part will be different, as different channel stacks need to be constructed).

    Using a human messaging system to pass data to a mobile device? Genius. Does that mean WCF-CE is like Blogmailr on crack? (Sorry, I've been meaning to plug this cool service for a while, and it seemed approproate here).

    Can't wait to hear more about .NET CF 3.0...

    [via Vibro.NET]

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  • Beating a Dead Parrot

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    I'm just curious... when was the last time a Microsoft analyst/reporter installed Office all by themselves? Apparently, it's been quite a while, because the behavior they keep calling a "kill switch" in Office 2007 is the exact same behavior that has been there for the last 6 years, since Office 2000. BetaNews tells us more:

    Microsoft yesterday afternoon rejected the characterization of RFM as a "kill switch," citing that RFM does not completely disable Office. But reporters have counter-argued, if you can't save and you can't edit, that's as good as killing it, isn't it? The ensuing argument is starting to take on the characteristics of Monty Python's classic "Dead Parrot Sketch." Is Office dead, or is it just resting?

    ...

    One problem, Microsoft's spokesperson told us Monday evening, is that reporters may be confusing product activation with product validation, the latter process taking place through the aid of a feature called Genuine Advantage. While some have pointed out in the past that Microsoft may be working to merge the two features together at some point, potentially endowing Office with the future capability of reducing functionality for Windows if activation is declined, others seem to be under the impression that this has already happened. It hasn't, BetaNews was told, and it might not happen for quite some time, if at all.

    "Product Activation technology is not new to Microsoft Office, which has had Product Activation since Microsoft Office 2000 SR1," the spokesperson told us. "It is important to note the distinction between activation and validation. Failure to validate your copy of the 2007 Office system as being genuine does not result in moving to reduced functionality mode (RFM) or de-featuring the product. However, if the product is not activated, it will go to RFM after starting up a Microsoft Office application 25 times."

    Beta testers might want to do a little investigating before they start "reporting" their bugs as feature changes. I haven't had a single problem with Office Activation or OGA, and I've used Office 2007 since Beta 1.

    This is not news. The sky is not falling, and it's not going to slow the adoption of Office 2007 (I guess I was wrong, Joe). People may not like it, but they're used to Product Activation. The only ones that don't like it are the ones that have problems with using it, legitimate ("my activation file was corrupted") or otherwise.

    In closing, Scott Fulton said it best:

    The lack of new revelations about activation, however, may not end the argument, though it may yet somehow be prolonged. While significant problems with validation may persist, after seven years, there remains no evidence of a sinister motive behind the activation process. And that's what I call a dead parrot.

    Well said.

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