Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

November 2006 - Posts

  • Vista's Antitrust Complaints Just Hit a Snag

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    Adobe's gonna have a lot harder time proving that XPS infringes on its territory, after the Justice Department announced today that Windows Vista and IE7 passed a thorough anti-trust review.

    According to the report, Microsoft and the technical committee have been offering a downloadable program that is designed to help Microsoft's competitors in the fields of Web browsers, e-mail and instant-messaging clients, and media players to make their programs "Vista-ready" before the new operating system ships.


    Since the last status report filing in May, government attorneys said they received 25 complaints alleging antitrust concerns about competing middleware but said they concluded that none of those gripes had merit.

    I'd like to think that puts the Adobe matter to rest, but I doubt it. My take: if they didn't want Microsoft to make a PDF exporter for Office, they shouldn't have made it a royalty-free standard.

    But something tells me that Adobe will press on anyways.

    As a side note, the original name of "The Technical Committee" was "The Visually Appealing Committee", but the name was rejected after the lawyers failed to adequately define "appealing".

  • What are YOU Doing with Vista and Office?

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    Listen up! Are you building cool things with Vista, Office 2007, or Exchange 2007? Do you live and work in the Southwest US? Then Microsoft wants to hear from you!

    Microsoft is looking for customers who are building great solutions on top of the Launch 2007 platforms, and they asked me to help get the word out. The customers building the most compelling solutions may get to participate in a local launch event, where you'll get to demo your solution onstage. It's free publicity people! So, if you live and work in one of the following cities/states:

    • Las Vegas
    • Utah
    • Colorado
    • Arizona
    • New Mexico

    ... fill out the attached Word document (it's in the post's footer under the date) and e-mail it to launch2007 at windows-now dot com with the subject "(your city/state) Launch 2007 Customer Profile". Your submissions will be reviewed, and you will be contacted if a slot is available for you. The deadline is December 15th, so get to it!

    Disclaimer: Submitting a profile does not guarantee your participation at launch.

  • Consumers Must Force Change in the Cable Industry

    Starting in February, a sea change is coming to your living room. The major computer manufacturers are preparing an onslaught of new systems running Windows Vista that are meant to take that dusty place on your entertainment center away from your existing DVR. Dell is already offering Media Center options with most new models (with Express upgrades to Vista Home Premium), and will be adding Digital Cable Receivers (aka OpenCable Receivers) to that lineup soon.

    But there is one thing that is significantly holding that sea change back is, you guessed it, your cable company. You see, Digital Cable Receivers use CableCARDs to decrypt the cable signal. This process requires a decryption key that is unique to each CableCARD. Windows Vista will store that key, and use it to DRM-enable your recorded content. Among other things, this means that you won't be able to A) edit the commercials out of your shows, and B) you won't be able to view the shows on other computers in your own network.

    But the cable companies don't just want to keep your content locked down in Windows Vista. When I went to CES last year, I asked someone from Scientific Atlanta, the major cable box manufacturer that was acquired by Cisco, when they were going to enable network connectivity on their DVRs. There response was "We will never allow people to get content off their DVR through any method other than their television." When I asked why, the representative said "Because that's not what our consumers want."

    Now, if anyone has their pulse on the American consumer, I'm sure it's the cable companies. Yeah, I'm sorry, I can't even be sarcastic there. Cable companies don't have a frickin clue what we want. They just want to prolong their business model for as long as possible. That's why they tried to block the FCC's decision to mandate CableCARDs, and lost.

    Do you honestly think the cable companies are looking out for your interests as a consumer?

    So, when your DVR breaks, do you want to be able to move your content to your new DVR? Do you want to be able to use your existing DVR as a Windows Media Center Extender? Do you want to be able to get on-demand digital programming on your Media Center? Then contact your cable companies and cable-box manufacturers, and let them know. And call your elected representatives, and let them know that they need to hold the cable companies feet to the fire, otherwise they'll keep delaying the mandatory CableCARD rules as long as they can. 

    Cable Companies:
    Time Warner Cable
    Cox Communications

    Set-top Box Manufacturers:
    Motorola (Comcast)
    Scientific Atlanta (Time Warner Cable & Cox)

    And if they don't listen, let the power of free markets speak for you, and buy a Media Center computer instead of your cable company's STB. I'll be at CES 2007 this year, and I've made it my mission to get answers to these questions while I'm there.

  • From Monitoring to Watching

    I was wondering what happened to Joe Wilcox. Ed figured it out. His Microsoft Monitor blog has been silent for a while now. After Mary Jo left Microsoft Watch, I stopped reading the site (especially after I read the garbage that was on there the first few days), so I had no idea that he had been writing for them.

    Joe is a great reporter, but I felt his analytical pieces were short on analysis and long on supposed business reasons for delaying the adoption of Microsoft products. I think that was more of a function of sticking to Jupiter's "party line" than it was his own opinions. So I've re-subscribed to Microsoft Watch, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say at his new job.

    I do agree with Ed though, your personal site is painful to read. It'd be better if you left the background around the edges, and left a white or gray background in the middle...

  • 19,500 Vista Drivers on DVD, 11,700 on Windows Update

    Jim Allchin reports that Vista's gonna have a buttload of new drivers by the time it is in consumer hands. 31,200 to be exact. And as Jim points out, some driver packages actually contain the code for many devices, so that number is even higher.

    I was just notified through Windows Update yesterday of new drivers for my Nvidia graphics card. Unfortunately, the secondary display system hasn't worked since Beta 2, and still doesn't work today. Hopefully they can get their crap together by RTM, but I doubt. Makes me glad I'm switching to ATI next year...

  • And You Thought I Had An Ego

    Speaking of people who know what they're talking about, Wil Shipley bet Bill Gates that Microsoft couldn't ship Vista on time. And I quote:

    You said, "If the feedback from the beta tests shows it is not ready for prime time, I'd be glad to delay it." Glad? Really? Well, get used to happiness, I guess. Because you know that, if you're lucky, in January you're going to squirm and weasel and release a "limited version" that you "recommend" only for, uh, say, professional IT guys who only have one eye, and suicide kings. Then, when you get a bunch of press on how crappy that version of Vista is, you'll quietly cut more and more features from it until you end up with the "home" version, which will look mysteriously like XP with some new paint.

    But what do I know? You're the billionaire, I'm just some dude with a blog and a fistful of design awards.

    So put your money where your mouth is, big guy. I'm calling you out. I'm steppin' to you. You just got served. If you really believe what you said, this is a slam-dunk. This is money in the bank, baby. Unless, uh, you know full well there isn't a chance in hell you can ship that giant spaghetti monster to consumers "on time". (Where "on time" means "only six years late.")

    If you've never heard of Wil Shipley before, that's ok. You're not the only one. What does Shipley know about shipping software? Well, he works for Delicious Monster. Hello, they're only like the biggest company on the planet. Duh. Anyways, they write software for the Mac. So they're very familiar with Vista and it's development. And didn't you know that you have to have a minimum of 4 graphic design awards before you can run a Ship Room?

    Personally, I think he should have to follow through. I also think it should be videotaped. And since Bill would probably put it in his foundation anyways, i don't think Señor Shipley should be able to write it off on his taxes as a donation.

    [via Windows Connected]

  • The Worst Windows Vista Review Ever

    Ed Bott has been pointing out terrible reviews lately. Long Zheng railed against bandwagoners complaining about the Zune on Thursday.

    But today, I officially read the worst Vista review ever.

    When you switch to Windows Vista, you'll be figuring out how to cope with questions as little as why 'My Documents' turned into just 'Documents' and as big as where to get a new driver for your old printer--if you can get one at all. Your old security software won't work, so you will have to find, pay for, and install replacements. You'll be tearing your hair out every time you encounter new features that work differently from the old familiar ones for no apparent reason. And if you're a particularly early adopter, you'll probably be googling frantically in search of others who have run into problems similar to yours.

    I'm not masochistic enough to test Microsoft's betas and release candidates. The final product is usually rough enough; and as I write, that's not yet available. But I've seen the demos and read the propaganda and first looks. Vista promises a lot of potentially useful new stuff. But for now I can think of only one reason to worry about the thing: It will come with your next PC. [Emphasis mine]

    Unless that machine is a Mac, in which case you'll be offered a new OS every year or two with a couple of modest features that pretend to change the world and claim to be worth $130. But at least you'll waste less time in the upgrade process.

    So you haven't actually seen it, you've just read about it. And that qualifies you to be able to report on it? Did you happen to pass a reporter doing an interview one day, and decide that you were a journalist, too?

    Just one more reason why journalists should need a license to practice their craft, just like lawyers.

    And yes, the first two comments at the end of the article are mine.

  • CRN Apparently Dreams Up 'Fresno'

    Late Thursday afternoon, CRN Magazine reported that Microsoft was coming out with a Windows "Longhorn" Server appliance code-named "Fresno". The idea was that Microsoft would use it to compete against Linux by not making people connecting to the device have a Client Access License.

    Well, a day later, that rumor is supposedly false. Joel Sider from Windows Server Division posted this commment on

    "The Windows Server team here at MS has noticed a few articles speculating about a Windows Server-based product code-named “Fresno”.  We’re not sure where the claims originated, but we wanted to help set the record straight and let the community know there is no such product in planning."

    Joel Sider, Microsoft Windows Server Division

    For the record that Microsoft told me that the Vista launch date I uncovered at was inaccurate too, and they've denied the existance of many things that eventually turned out to be true. So was CRN on the money? I guess we'll find out next year, won't we?

  • WPF/E CTP Due Out Soon

    BetaNews is reporting that the first CTP of Windows Presentation Foundation / Everywhere (WPF/E) is due to be released soon.

    "WPF/E came about not as a "me too" but as the result of candid conversations with Microsoft customers," explained developer Joe Stegman over the weekend. "So at the core, WPF/E is about something fundamentally different than a "me too" technology - it's about providing a continuum for developers/designers/CTOs across the full Microsoft developer/designer product offering."

    Stegman adds that although WPF/E has been designed with a broad group of developers and usage scenarios in mind, it must be consistent with other Microsoft product offerings. "Obviously, this is not something the Flash Platform can or should be," he said.


    "Although we've been silent, we have been working non-stop since I presented at Mix 06 last year," Stegman added. "We've released several Microsoft internal versions of WPF/E and will be releasing an external Customer Technology Preview (CTP) soon."

    I for one can't WAIT to see what kind of bad-ass software people will be writing for mobile devices with WPF/E. I'm curious though... is that what is running Windows Sideshow is running? Maybe that's why the PocketPC/Smartphone version of Sideshow hasn't been released yet. Anyone know anything about this?

  • Windows Live in the Washington Post

    You know, it's really sad when a newspaper does a better job marketing Microsoft than Microsoft does. This article from the Washington Post does a better job articulating the Windows Live strategy than Microsoft ever has. Did you know executives from Yahoo, E-Trade, and are now on the Windows Live management team? Maybe I've been in a cave for too long, but I sure didn't know that. Where can I go on the web to read about these people? Why is it that Microsoft put all the Live bloggers in one place so that they can articulate their vision? The marketing team is doing a horrible job getting the message straight... why not let the people involved do it themselves? Isn't that what Live was supposed to be about in the first place?

  • Microsoft Rewards Vista Beta Testers Handsomely

    Today, along with availability on MSDN and TechNet, Microsoft posted the final RTM bits for beta testers on Connect. In a surprise move, Microsoft is making free copies of the Business or Ultimate editions to "any invited technical beta tester who submitted a bug. Period." (Sorry CPP members, that's not you).

    In an interview with Paul Donnelly, Test Manager for Windows Beta programs, he said "It's a balance, and I decided to err on the side of customer happiness in requiring only a single bug to qualify." In stark contrast, Office beta testers got the shaft when it came time to reward testers for their efforts.

    So if you were on the TechBeta and just relied on Windows Error Reporting to send your bugs in for you, you're SOL. Even if you ended up beating your head against the desk for a bug you could reproduce a hundred times that got closed as "Not Reproducible", you get a product key to complement you're now-flat forehead.

    That's thousands of free copies of Windows, folks. At $399 a pop. You do the math. If 5,000 beta testers got a free copy, that's almost $2M in free software. How's that for a thank you?

  • Windows Vista RTM Available on MSDN and TechNet

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    As Josh, Ed, and Bink already reported, Windows Vista is now ready for download on MSDN and TechNet. You can download both x86 and x64 versions, and one ISO contains every edition. Don't forget to generate yourself a product key, too.

    We'll be posting a bunch of RTM related content shortly, so stay tuned!

  • My Ideas for Windows Sideshow

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    Long Zheng reminds us that Windows Sideshow is (still) coming. His last picture shows one of the prototype detachable devices that can dock to the lid of certain notebooks. We've been seeing this one for a while, and the next few months will show if anyone is actually going to ship these to consumers.

    This led me to an idea... how cool would it be if you could get a Zune dock as an option on your laptop, and your Zune could also run Windows Sideshow? Between that and the Xbox 360 integration... I think it would be a "must buy" product for a decent percentage of people. And the orange already matches the Zune UI. Not convinced? Here's some Photoshop fun:


    Wouldn't THAT be sweet :). Is it a coincidence that the Sideshow device and the Zune are almost the exact same size? I don't think so.

    Anyways, here's one more Sideshow device that I'd pay for... a Picture Frame that could double as a WiFi connected Media Center display that I could use to watch TV through while I'm working on my computer, without sacrificing screen real estate. Here's what it might look like, using the Living Picture momento 100 as an example:


    Those are some of my thoughts. There are plenty of other Sideshow devices coming, like remote controls, drive-mount displays, and keyboards. But I think the best use would be a Sideshow-integrated wall-mounted home security/automation system. Think about it. Give it a keypad and mount it to your wall, and after you enter your security code, you can check to see if the kids left any messages, check which TV shows are recording tonight, and set the music you want to listen to while you get dinner ready. Now THAT would be cool.

    Oh yeah... what ever happened to the PocketPC/Smartphone version of Sideshow? I thought a beta was supposed to be released a while back? I'd really like to be able to see this on my phone (not Photoshopped):

    Alright. I'm done with the gratuitous pictures. For now ;). What device would YOU create for Windows Sideshow?

  • Interesting Automatic Updates Statistics

    Did you know that 46% of all of Windows XP SP2's Automatic Updates are installed at system shutdown? I sure didn't, but Jim Allchin brings us interesting tidbits like that about what to expect for the update mechanism in Vista. In a word: Drivers.


    Lemme tell ya... I have a hard enough time during the day to post as infrequently as I do... Jim's insanely busy, and I have no idea how he does it. I hope he writes a book when he retires.

  • Java vs .NET Just Got a Lot More Interesting

    Robert Scoble breaks the news that Sun has GPL'd Java. Tim Bray has the details.

    Now, some would argue that this is a reactionary move (albeit a rather delayed one) since C# is already an ECMA standard, and the .NET Framework has been released under the CLI Shared Source Initiative.

    But whatever side of the fence you are on, let no one say that great innovations aren't happening in the developer space at both companies.